The Most Festive UK Hotels

The Most Festive UK Hotels

It's the most wonderful time of year, so make it even more special at one of these countryside hotels, from grand Georgian country houses to cosy restaurants with rooms and top chefs.

/ Emma

Christmas comes but once a year, and is undeniably the most magical time of year, but also sometimes it can be a slightly stressful time. So if you're usually the host and want to do something different this year, let someone else take it off your hands. Many hotels go all out at this time of year with wonderful festive feasts, visits from Father Christmas, twinkling lights, lofty Christmas trees covered in decorations and traditions galore to embrace the festive spirit.

Just imagine it – no jostling to get your turkey, no endless cooking prep, and best of all, no washing up. But with all that time on your hands, you'll need something to do. From festive walks in the snow to settling in to watch classic Christmas films, sipping on afternoon aperitivos, singing carols, or fully unwinding in a spa, whatever you're after, these country hotels have it covered.

Heckfield Place, Hampshire

This 18th century Country house hotel really nails the countryside elegance brief. It's relaxed, and feels more like a (albeit rather large) family home.

There's so much to do at Heckfield, or not do (if you prefer). While away afternoons and sink into plump sofas in one of the many reception rooms near large open fires with a puzzle, or an afternoon tipple. Or escape to the seriously impressive newly opened spa for some regenerative relaxation. Though, with over 400 acres surrounding the hotel, one of Heckfield's simplest pleasures is to meander through the huge estate (wellies are helpfully on hand to borrow).

Festivities include Christmas markets in the grounds, festive films in the private cinema and wreath making or tablescaping workshop with Heckfield's resident florist. On 24th, Father Christmas is due to make an appearance ahead of his big rounds, and a harpist and choir will light up the drawing room for drinks. Feasting is taken care of by the masterful Skye Gyngell, who you may also know from her restaurant, Spring, in Somerset House. Much of the food comes from Heckfield's own biodynamic market garden, and is sure to be the best Christmas dinner you've ever had, not least because you didn't have to cook it.

Thyme, Gloucestershire

If a classic Cotswolds festive getaway is on the cards, then Thyme will hit the spot. Beginning life as a cookery school, owner Caryn Hibbert has taken over the farmhouse, sheep sheds, and old barns to create a hotel, spa, pub, and restaurant, which she now accurately describes as a village within a village.

Thyme sits in the bucolic village of Southrop, and if you're lucky enough that it snows while you're there, you'll feel like you've just stepped into The Holiday film. Wrap up for a walk through the rolling hills of the 150-acre estate across the Leach Valley, swim in the springwater pool that's part of the extensive spa, or learn something new in the cookery school. Then get dressed up for dinner's festive feast created by Charlie Hibbert (ex Quo-Vadis in London), using the estate's organic produce. This is the first year the Ox Barn is open for Christmas Eve supper, as well as the night before. Then on the big day, join locals in the Swan pub over the road for lunchtime festive drinks.

The White Horse, West Sussex

Tucked away in rural West Sussex within the South Downs, this small but perfectly formed pub has recently undergone a makeover. It's been transformed into a real countryside bolthole, but think more restaurant with rooms, than a pub with rooms, thanks to La Gavroche-trained head chef Grant Jones in the kitchen.

The revamp is owed to tech entrepreneur Glen Manchester and his wife Asta who have fulfilled the modern country chic remit, with plenty of honey hues and sage green, parquet flooring, and a huge exposed brick fireplace to cozy up next to.

It makes for a superbly quiet but sophisticated festive break. Rooms are set behind the main building and overlook the surrounding fields and interiors have been designed by local Anna Hewitson, with pops of Indian-inspired block print fabrics. Everything is taken up a notch when it comes to the festive decor, which has been designed by Jane Wadham, who also did the famous Christmas decor at Annabel's private member's club in London. It embraces her signature style of more is more, with pastel-hued glass baubles galore.

The Fife Arms, ​​Aberdeenshire

There's something so whimsical, or regal even (Balmoral is just 15 minutes from here), about Christmas time in Scotland, especially when it snows. The Fife Arms is a baronial-style hunting lodge that's been turned into a rather wonderfully flamboyant and eclectic hotel. There are plenty of Scottish touches that are blended with modern art – a nod to art dealer owners, Iwan and Manuela Wirth – so don't be surprised to see the likes of Picasso, Lucien Freud, and Gerhard Richters on the walls, along with almost comedic taxidermy and the frescoed marble-style ceiling by Chinese artist Zhang Enli. It's also where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island and attracts art lovers, literary fans, those who adore the Highlands, and anyone in between.

Despite the name, it's not actually in Fife. Instead, it sits in the atmospheric Cairngorms National Park and is near the village of Braemar. The hotel's Ghillie takes guests on tours around the area, into ancient forests and past rivers. Head back and warm up with a tipple from the hotel's vast whiskey collection, while festive events include celebrating the Yuletide on the winter solstice, carols with the local community, and an Alpine fondue hut. Between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, its three-day stay takes care of all celebrations with plenty of eating and drinking, and the same can be done over Hogmanay too.

The Fox at Oddington, Gloucestershire

Created by the Bamford family who are behind the Daylesford empire, along with the Wild Rabbit, The Bell, and Three Horseshoes pubs, you know your Christmas celebration will be in safe hands at the Fox at Oddington. Opening just last year, it's one of the latest Cotswolds retreats that fits the Bamford recipe and offers up quality organic dining in a top-notch village pub setting.

Think local beers and plenty of organic produce sourced directly from the nearby Daylesford farm. Decor in their usual flare – full of rustic country charm, that's a little cottagey and feels effortlessly put together, which is the work of Lady Bamford who is the mastermind behind the pubs.

It's a pub with six rooms, plus a four-bedroom farmhouse over the road that's perfect for bigger groups of families. Come Christmas, the pub comes into its element where the Cotswolds are synonymous with long walks ending at cozy pubs with crackling fires – what more could you want?