12 Festive stately homes to visit at Christmas

Christmas is the perfect time to visit England’s grand stately homes. As November turns into December, giant trees go up and twinkling lights and festive trimmings deck these historic halls.

With lots of Christmassy things to do, visiting a stately home is a wonderful way to get into the Christmas spirit. Wander beautifully decorated rooms, admire spectacular trees, enjoy festive markets, walk through illuminated winter light trails or enjoy family activities like wreath-making workshops, afternoon teas and visits from Santa.

Visiting one of England's grand historic houses is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit
Visiting one of England’s grand historic houses is the perfect way to get into the Christmas spirit

In this post you’ll read about 12 festive country estates and castles in England that are perfect for getting into the spirit of the season – from Chatsworth’s bustling Christmas market to Tyntesfield’s elegant Victorian Yuletide decor. Which stately home will you visit this Christmas?

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Christmas at Bamburgh Castle is a magical experience
Christmas at Bamburgh Castle is a magical experience

Perched high on a rocky outcrop, guarding the stunning Northumberland coastline, Bamburgh Castle is one of England’s most iconic strongholds. The foundations date from Anglo-Saxon times over 1,400 years ago, making Bamburgh one of the country’s oldest continuously occupied castles. It has been privately owned by the Armstrong family since 1894, and it’s still their family home.

Bamburgh Castle’s Christmas displays for 2023 take Northumberland’s myths and legends as their theme. The castle’s staterooms, including the magnificent Great Hall, have been bewitched by faeries, mermaids, dragons and mythical beasts for a magical Christmas experience.

The Christmas Kingdom at Bamburgh Castle is open until 7 January 2024.

Harewood House, West Yorkshire

Harewood House's Great Time Travelling Christmas puts a quirky spin on the traditional stately home festive decorations
Harewood House’s Great Time Travelling Christmas puts a quirky spin on the traditional stately home festive decorations

Harewood House is an imposing stately home between Leeds and Harrogate. Built between 1759-1771 in a Palladian style for Edwin Lascelles, the first Baron Harewood, the house contains magnificent Georgian interiors, the perfect background for festive Christmas decorations.

For this year’s Christmas at Harewood, they’ve moved away from the traditional theme that you’ll see at most other stately homes. The 2023 Harewood Great Time Travelling Christmas sees each of the state rooms decorated as a different festive era, from a classic Victorian Christmas, through retro 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s Christmases and the millennium celebrations, to what the festive season might look like in 2050, complete with genetically-engineered giant turkeys. It might not be what you’d expect from such a grand house, but it’s a lot of fun.

Once you’ve visited Harewood House, don’t miss the grounds, which were designed by Capability Brown. The woods below the house run down to the lake, with beautiful views across the rolling Yorkshire landscape.

You can visit Harewood’s Great Time Travelling Christmas between 8 November 2023 and 7 January 2024. Other Christmas events at Harewood include festive afternoon tea, wreath-making workshops and The Adventures of Peppermint, an immersive experience with Father Christmas.

Chatsworth Estate, Derbyshire

Chatsworth House is one of the most popular stately homes to visit at Christmas. Image courtesy of Chatsworth House Trust
Chatsworth House is one of the most popular stately homes to visit at Christmas. Image courtesy of Chatsworth House Trust

Contributed by Jenny from Peak District Kids

Chatsworth House is one of the grandest estates in the UK and the jewel of the Peak District. Set in expansive parkland where wild deer roam and backed by wooded hills, this stately home is utterly magical over the Christmas season.

Each year a different theme is picked. For the 2023/24 season it is ‘The Palace of Advent’, which runs from 4th November to 7th January.

24 rooms are beautifully decorated with the sounds and scents of the season. From candy cane arches, handmade stockings and mistletoe, and many clever and intricate scenes, it feels wonderfully festive. Pre-booking is essential.

The magic spreads beyond the house with an interactive light and sound trail in the garden, which leads to a spectacular animated light show that transforms the house into a giant advent calendar. There’s also ‘Storytime with Father Christmas’ for younger visitors, and the superb Christmas market (4th to 26th November), which is arguably one of the best Peak District Christmas markets

Castle Howard, North Yorkshire

A Christmas scene at Castle Howard
A Christmas scene at Castle Howard

Contributed by Hannah from Get Lost Travel Blog

Embark on a whimsical Christmas at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire. Nestled in the Howardian Hills, this stately home turns into a dazzling wonderland each Christmas.

Get ready for extraordinary festivities as each year unveils a unique theme—think Narnia, Into the Woods, and this year, it’s Neverland! Wander through lavishly adorned state rooms as a festive tale unfolds at every turn.

From lights, baubles, and swags to towering Christmas trees, Castle Howard’s decor is outrageously over-the-top, reaching new heights of grandeur year upon year. The showstopper is a magnificent tree in The Great Hall, stretching up to the domed ceiling!

But it’s not just about visuals. The show will immerse you in the fantasy with sounds, lighting, and projections. Picture walking the decks of a pirate ship in a stately home!

Beyond the themed trail, grab a few gifts at the Christmas shop, or savour a scrumptious festive afternoon tea.

Christmas in Neverland, Castle Howard’s 2023 extravaganza, runs from 11th November 2023 to 7th January 2024.

Tyntesfield, near Bristol

Inside Tyntesfield at Christmas
Inside Tyntesfield at Christmas

Contributed by Justine from Wanderers of the World

Tyntesfield is a 540-acre estate on the outskirts of Bristol. While today it’s looked after by the National Trust, in the 1800s, Tyntesfield was home to William Gibbs who commissioned the Victorian Gothic architecture you see today. And it’s this connection to the Victorians that’s celebrated every year via Tyntesfield’s “Very Victorian Christmas” event.

I love seeing the traditional Victorian decorations at Tyntesfield – from bouquets of poinsettias, garlands and wreaths to Christmas stockings at the foot of the beds. There are also usually multiple Christmas trees to find downstairs; each individually decorated to go with the style of each room.

This year, you can also look forward to festive crafts on selected dates throughout the event, such as making your own Christmas crackers, cards and wreaths.

In previous years and whenever I’ve visited, you’d also find actors playing the Gibbs family throughout the house. Fingers crossed they’ll be there again this year!

While Tyntesfield is open year-round, this year’s Christmas event runs from 2nd December 2023 to 3rd January 2024.

Highclere Castle, Hampshire

Highclere Castle's Christmas events are more exclusive than those of other stately homes. As it's still a home, no photography is allowed inside.
Highclere Castle’s Christmas events are more exclusive than those of other stately homes. As it’s still a home, no photography is allowed inside.

Contributed by Tabitha Bailar from Travel Compositions

Any fan of Downton Abbey cannot pass up the opportunity to visit Highclere Castle for Christmas! 

Admire the ornate festive decorations throughout the castle and marvel at the real Christmas tree in the great hall, which stands at nearly 30 feet tall!

As Highclere is still the private residence of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, public access is very limited during the Christmas season, and no photography is allowed inside, but that makes it even more magical and exclusive to visit!

There are two particularly exciting events at Highclere this Christmas. The castle tour and shopping event will take place on 5th, 6th and 7th December. On 19th and 20th December, you’ll be able to watch a reading of the famous festive story A Christmas Carol, read by the great, great grandson of Charles Dickens.

Stourhead, Wiltshire

One of the beautifully decorated rooms at Stourhead, a wonderful stately home to visit at Christmas
One of the beautifully decorated rooms at Stourhead, a wonderful stately home to visit at Christmas

Contributed by Sarah from Slow Travel

Stourhead is an 18th Century Palladian mansion in central Wiltshire, set in one of the most beautiful landscaped gardens in the country. It’s the quintessential stately home with countless rooms, grand staircases, walls covered in fine art and kitchens filled with gleaming brass pans and servants’ bells.

A house such as this is perfect for the festive season and they really do know how to show it off to its best. There are countless Christmas trees through the rooms with presents wrapped up underneath, boughs of holly and ivy decorating the mantelpieces over roaring fires, rooms laid out for dinner parties, and everywhere the twinkling lights reflected in the gold picture frames and the sparkling chandeliers.

The 2023 festive season at Stourhead is from 24th November to 23rd December. As well as the beautifully decorated house, they have events such as Story Time with Father Christmas, wreath making workshops and of course, their famous illuminated trail, which is only open when the house is closed. Add in winter walks round the lake and through the grotto, and you have the perfect festive experience.

Burton Agnes Hall, East Yorkshire

Burton Agnes in East Yorkshire is beautifully decorated for Christmas
Burton Agnes in East Yorkshire is beautifully decorated for Christmas

Contributed by Sinead from York Travel Expert

Burton Agnes Hall is a grand, privately owned stately home in Driffield, East Yorkshire, approximately a one hour drive east of York. If you are in York at Christmas and would like to visit one of the several decorated stately homes in the region, I highly recommend visiting the lesser known Burton Agnes. Part of this elegant four storey stately home dates back to the 12th century and has been owned by the same family throughout the centuries. 

This Christmas, you can tour the house and see fully furnished rooms packed with homemade decorations, many of which are made using dried greenery from the estate garden. Kids can try to find a hidden felt snowman in each room.

I recommend leaving time to explore the gardens, including the walled garden. You can also follow the candy cane trail in the wintry woodland.

In 2023, the house is open from 14th November to 23rd December from 11 am to 5 pm. 

Hampton Court Palace, London

Christmas at Hampton Court Palace in London
Christmas at Hampton Court Palace in London

Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird

One of the best stately homes to visit at Christmas is Hampton Court Palace. Once home to King Henry VIII and his (many!) wives, this palace still knows how to celebrate. 

In the run-up to Christmas, there is an entire programme of activities and things to do. Inside the house, we enjoyed stunning traditional decorations, plus watched cooking demonstrations in Henry VIII’s kitchens and enjoyed musical performances from the Tudor period.

Outside, there’s even more to do. Every year there’s an incredible ice skating rink constructed in the palace grounds (booking ahead is a must) where we skated around with the illuminated backdrop of one of the most famous palaces in England. There’s also not one but two local fayres- one focussing on foods and the other on gifts and local produce. 

In 2023-24 the ice rink is open every day from 17th November to 7th January, excluding Christmas Day. The fayre and festivities are on 1st-3rd December and 8th-10th December, then from 16th December to 1st January, excluding Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Dyrham Park, South Gloucestershire

Dyrham Park is beautifully decorated for Christmas
Dyrham Park is beautifully decorated for Christmas

Contributed by Anne from The Platinum Line

Dyrham Park, which is on the edge of the Cotswolds, close to Bath, is one of our favourite places to visit at Christmas. The house was built by William Blathwayt in the 17th Century. He was a friend of William of Orange and the house and gardens were very much influenced by Dutch architecture.

The house is set in 270 acres of parkland and you get wonderful views over the southern Cotswolds and the Severn Estuary.

For Christmas, rooms in the house will be decorated in the style of five different eras, from Tudor times to the 20th century. Dyrham Park is well known for its pear orchard and outside there will be a selection of Christmas trees decorated with golden pears.

We love visiting the nearby church which is always beautifully decorated. For the weekends leading up to Christmas, local choirs will be singing carols.

This year the Christmas activities at Dyrham Park run from December 1st until January 7th, excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Doddington Hall, Lincolnshire

The Five Gold Rings display from Doddington Hall's 12 Days of Christmas event. Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire is one of England's best stately homes to visit at Christmas
The Five Gold Rings display from Doddington Hall’s 12 Days of Christmas event. Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire is one of England’s best stately homes to visit at Christmas

Contributed by Alex Trembath, Lincoln and Beyond

Doddington Hall is a magnificent Elizabethan Hall surrounded by six acres of walled sculpted gardens in the Lincolnshire countryside. It has been a family home for more than 400 years and is a fabulous place to visit throughout the year, but December is an especially magical time.

Doddington Hall’s interior is brought to life for the festive season with twinkling decorations to mark the “Twelve Days of Christmas”. Special scenes installed across the hall’s three floors are created through a collaboration between the hall’s staff alongside local volunteers, artists and Lincoln College students.

Most of the materials that are used to create the scenery are recycled or upcycled from around the grounds of the estate.

Doddington Hall is located around five miles outside Lincoln city centre and is easy to reach by car, with free parking for visitors. The Twelve Days of Christmas event is running from 18 November to 22 December in 2023.

Holkham Hall, Norfolk

At Christmas, Holkham Hall in Norfolk opens its doors for Holkham Hall by Candlelight
At Christmas, Holkham Hall in Norfolk opens its doors for Holkham Hall by Candlelight

Contributed by Anisa from Norfolk Local Guide

Holkham Hall, located near Wells-next-the-Sea in North Norfolk, has been the residence of the Earls of Leicester since the 1750s. During the Christmas season, the historic estate opens its doors for its Holkham by Candlelight event on select days.

We took a guided tour, but there is also the option to see the meticulously planned and uniquely curated Christmas decorations that take a year of planning by Lady Leicester and Christmas aficionado Catherine Zoll, independently. All visits to Holkham by Candlelight include a delightful offering of mince pies and prosecco.

Lady Leicester and Catherine actively seek inspiration at Christmas markets, incorporating trends into their designs. Emphasising sustainability, they often repurpose decorations from previous years.

While at Holkham, we like to visit the Courtyard for Christmas shopping and dining, Additionally, if the weather cooperates we like to walk around Holkham Park and the nearby Holkham Beach. Please note that guided tours for 2023 are sold out, but self-guided visits are available on some dates in December.

Will you be visiting a stately home this Christmas? Let me know your favourite festive places in the comments!

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