The festive season is upon us and our historic places have lots to offer for the whole family this Christmas. Step back in time for a Victorian Noel with seasonal cookery demonstrations, live music and traditional fairground rides. Or enter a world of sound and colour with the return of our popular Enchanted events.
Did you know? 🤔
- William the Conqueror was crowned King of England on 25 December 1066, having defeated King Harold at the Battle of Hastings. Today you can explore the battlefield for yourself, and the abbey William built on the spot of Harold’s death.
- Charles Darwin set sail on the HMS Beagle from Devonport on 27 December 1831, beginning his five-year scientific expedition. Instruments and notebooks from the voyage survive and can be seen today at Down House in Kent, the biologist’s family home.
- Nancy Astor was the first female member of the British Parliament, taking her seat on 1 December 1919 to represent Plymouth Sutton. She held the seat for 25 years. She is commemorated with a blue plaque at 4 St James’s Square, her home during this time.
1. Enter an enchanting world of light and sound 💡
This month, our popular Enchanted events return for another year. As the night draws in, our gardens will transform into a wonderland of light, colour and sound for you to explore. Find hidden fairies, meet the magical talking trees and get hands-on with our interactive lighting.
Plus, afterwards, treat yourself to a glass of mulled wine and a toasted marshmallow from our vendors as you listen to festive music, have fun on a traditional fairground ride and visit our shop to stock up on original Christmas gifts.
Tickets are now available and we recommend booking early to avoid disappointment.
2. Hit the trail on a historical winter walk 🌲
With a fresh chill in the air and frosty ground under foot, the winter is a popular time for setting out on foot in the English countryside. So to help you get inspired, we’ve highlighted some of the country’s best walks and hikes around historic places.
In Devon, take in four miles of the John Musgrave Heritage Trail from Berry Pomeroy Castle to Totnes Castle and enjoy wonderful views over the market town of Totnes. Hike from the spectacular ruin of Rievaulx Abbey to Helmsley Castle in Yorkshire. Or—for a more urban adventure—explore historic York on a walk from York Cold War Bunker to Clifford’s Tower for panoramic views of the city.
3. Discover wondrous winter gardens 🌸
While historic gardens are more associated with spring, the colder months are a great time to explore these places in a different light.
With frost on the ground and a freshness in the air, discover the unique plants and flowers that can only be seen at this time of year — from snowdrop carpets at Audley End House to the festive ‘Christmas rose’ at Brodsworth Hall which comes into flower in late December.
4. Help to save England’s precious wall paintings 🖼️
We look after the largest collection of wall paintings in the country. But these beautiful and delicate treasures are in need of urgent care.
We’re inviting you to play a part in saving these amazing images for future generations to enjoy. From the vibrant panels seen at Bolsover Castle, to the intricate domestic wall paintings at Longthorpe Tower, which will you choose to protect?
5. Step back in time this Christmas 🎄
Discover how Christmas was celebrated in times gone by with our historical Christmas events this month. Join the cooks in the kitchens at Audley End House as the prepare the staples of a Victorian Christmas, including mince pies, Christmas pudding and gingerbread biscuits. Or get the full festive experience at Osborne on the Isle of Wight, with live music, roasting chestnuts, daring jesters and traditional carousels.
There are also carol concerts in historic settings, expert-led wreath making workshops and much more to explore at our Christmas events.
History through your lens 📸
We love this photo from _la_zingara_ on Instagram this month, showing Silbury Hill surrounded by rainwater after a wet few weeks.
The largest artificial mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids. Probably completed in around 2400 BC, it apparently contains no burial. Though clearly important in itself, its purpose and significance remain unknown.⠀
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