This Christmas, groups can experience the spirit of the Victorian festive season at three top English Heritage sites - Osborne on the Isle of Wight, Audley End House and Gardens in Essex and Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens in Northumberland
Osborne’s newly re-presented Durbar Room is set to make a starring role this year in a popular season of guided tours. Following a dramatic makeover, the Indian-inspired banqueting room, where Queen Victoria once hosted visiting royalty, now has a replica dining table dressed for a dinner for 24 guests, complete with starched white linen and a floral centrepiece. It will be given a festive feel for the annual programme of Christmas tours, led by expert guides and extended for winter 2015 to include mid-week tours exclusively for groups. Other ground floor rooms in the house will also be festively dressed. Groups embarking on the hour-long tours will hear all about Christmas traditions at Osborne House celebrated by the royal family and those who served them. Tours are available from 1000hrs to 1430hrs on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from November 18 to December 30 and on Thursdays from November 19 to December 17, 2015. Each tour can accommodate up to 20 participants and tour times will be staggered for larger groups. The tours can be combined with a stroll on Osborne’s terraces or down to Queen Victoria’s private beach.
Groups can also pre-book lunch in the waiter-service Terrace Restaurant, which will be given a fresh new look to accompany the festive tours. The shop and café in the Visitor Centre will also be open. On Saturday, December 5 to Sunday, December 6, guided tours are briefly suspended as Osborne hosts its annual Victorian Christmas Weekend, with sideshows and traditional entertainment. Pre-booking is essential for guided tours.
[i] Osborne, East Cowes, Isle of Wight, PO32 6JX
Telephone: 01983 200022
Festivities Above and Below Stairs at Audley End House and Gardens
On Saturday, November 28 to Sunday, November 29 and Saturday, December 5 to Sunday, December 6, groups can step back in time to celebrate the spirit of a traditional Victorian yuletide celebration below and above stairs at magnificent Audley End House and Gardens in Essex. Groups can wander around the beautifully decorated rooms of the grand Jacobean house and weave through the Service Wing as Victorian costumed characters prepare the house for the upcoming festivities. There will be a magnificent Christmas tree, traditional Victorian storytelling, festive music and carol singing.
[i] Audley End House & Gardens, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF
Telephone: 01799 522842
Mrs Beeton’s Victorian Christmas at Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens
Saturday, November 21 to Sunday, November 22, 2015
Belsay’s own Mrs Beeton will show visitors the ropes in the kitchen, giving hints and tips for Christmas. A costumed performer will delight audiences in the library with Victorian recipes and food to sample yourself.
A Christmas Carol at Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens
Saturday, December 5 to Sunday, December 6, 2015
This Dickens classic featuring the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, will be brought to life at Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens. Will Scrooge repent in time for Christmas or is he doomed to a life of misery?
Victorian Christmas at Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens
Saturday, December 12 to Sunday, December 13, 2015
Christmas at Belsay has always been a special occasion. The Middleton family first moved into the brand new Belsay Hall on Christmas Day, 1817. Groups can learn about Prince Albert’s influence in popularising the Christmas tree, and discover the origins of crackers, mince pies, carol singing and pantomimes. Shop for unique Christmas gifts and sample English Heritage’s own range of liqueurs and seasonal treats.
[i] Belsay Hall, Castle & Gardens, Belsay, Northumberland NE20 0DX
Telephone: 01661 881636
A number of popular group sites including Stonehenge and Old Sarum in Wiltshire, Kenwood House and Wellington Arch in London, Clifford’s Tower in York and Housesteads Roman Fort at Hadrian’s Wall are open all year round.
Although, some may be closed on select dates over the Christmas and New Year – please check dates with individual sites. Over 70 English Heritage properties are open every Saturday and Sunday during the winter season. Pre-bookable guided tours are available at many sites and visiting without the peak season crowds can often offer a more pleasurable and personalised experience for groups.
Group Booking, Discounts and Further Information
Pre-booking is essential for all special events to secure a group visit.
A 15% discount for groups of 11 or more paying visitors applies at all English Heritage sites (with 10% at Stonehenge). A tour leader and coach driver are admitted free. Free familiarisation visits can be arranged by calling the individual sites. To obtain further information, including details of group sizes, prices and opening times, call the individual sites or visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/traveltrade.