Travel Notebook

Holiday Happenings Throughout the UK

There’s just something so soul-stirring about the holiday season in the UK and Ireland … the twinkling lights, the heart-warming traditions, the seasonal delicacies. Here in the US, we have become accustomed to celebrating on just one or two important days during the season, whereas back home in England, the celebrations would just be getting started on December 25th and extending the full Twelve Days of Christmas.

Our friends at Original Travel UK have, as you may expect, their fingertips on the pulse of all the holiday festivities across the United Kingdom. No matter what kind of celebration you’re seeking, there is bound to be something marvelous in which to take part. Here, we borrow from their playbook and share with you the must-do and must-see holiday happenings:

Bath Christmas Market: Bath’s magical and award-winning Christmas Market lights up the Cotswold city between November 22nd and December 9th. The historic Georgian streets are filled with over 200 chalets selling handmade local Christmas gifts to take home to family and friends, as well as delicious festive treats and drinks (did someone say mulled wine?).

bath christmas market
Photo credit: Bath Cronicle

Christmas Choirs: Listen to world-renowned choirs and soak up the regal and gothic surroundings at two of England’s most historic and celebrated royal venues. Experience St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle (host of Prince Harry and Meghan’s royal wedding earlier this year) and London’s Westminster Abbey (host of Prince William and Kate’s royal wedding in 2011) like never before during a festive Choral Evensong ceremony which will enchant even the most avid bah humbug-ers.

Scrooge’s Christmas Adventure: London at Christmas is a magical place. This adventure will guide you through places that are filled with Christmas Spirit. Our adventurers, guided by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future must help Scrooge regain his love of the magic of Christmas. Starting in Mayfair and ending at Winter Wonderland, this is a chance to really experience festive London.

Carols by Candlelight at Usher Hall: Take a visit to Scotland’s only five-star concert hall for a sublime concert of carols and seasonal classics staged in full 18th-century dress in an atmospheric candle-lit setting. There really is no better venue for carols than in this beautiful Edwardian building with its magnificent acoustics. December 19th, 2018 at 7:30 PM.

christmas carols by candlelight
Photo credit:

Dalhousie Castle Afternoon Tea: Taking festive afternoon tea in Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle is a top-drawer affair. With a seasonal twist on their traditional afternoon tea, you can look forward to enjoying some beautiful homemade scones, sandwiches, savory tarts and sweet pastries with a choice of freshly brewed tea or coffee. For a really special Christmas treat, you can choose to indulge with a glass of bubbly. Set in this home-away-from-home fortress, the soaring Christmas trees and glimpses of snow through the arrow slits make it seem as if this place has been plucked straight from the pages of a fairy tale. 

Santa In-Residence in Ireland: Pay a festive visit to the main man himself, meeting Santa in his official Irish residence in a magical 19th-century cottage. Nestled in Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains, enjoy the spectacular light show before being invited on a private tour of Santa’s cottage with his little helpers leading the way. Tour around the elves’ workshop where they’ll be busily working away making toys ready for Christmas Eve and visit Santa’s Post Office where he receives letters from all around the world. Heading outside, say hello to Santa’s reindeers – there may even be some baby Rudolphs this winter!

Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden Light Trail: This botanical garden winter trail in Edinburgh’s city center is a place where fairytale and fantasy combine. As night falls, illuminated larger-than-life flowers rise high into the starry sky, leading you on a path towards tree sculptures with beautiful beads of light clinging to each branch. As you stroll, indulge in some mulled wine or hot chocolate while the aroma of roasting chestnuts fills the air. There are hidden surprises to look out for, too – watch out for frosty snowflakes, marching reindeer and gingerbread men all hiding within the grounds. Not to be missed are the Cathedral of Light and scented fire garden, and the grand finale on Inverleith House lawn, where brightly colored projections will dance in time to Christmas classics.

Royal Botanical Gardens Christmas
Photo credit:

Please be in touch if you have a fantastic festive experience to share. We are happy to put you in touch with Original Travel UK to help curate a holiday extravaganza for your clients. And, of course, we wish you and yours a joyful, peaceful holiday season.

Christmas at the Botanics 2018 from Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on Vimeo.