The best places to eat, stay, shop and visit in the South West

Christmas breaks in the South West

Cancel the turkey order and start making excuses to the in-laws: 2019 could be the year to indulge in that "selfish" Christmas you've always dreamed of
Fistral Beach Hotel
Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa, Cornwall

Cancel the turkey order and start making excuses to the in-laws: 2019 could be the year to indulge in that “selfish” Christmas you’ve always dreamed of. Kathryn Lewis reveals some of the most enticing Christmas breaks in the South West

Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa, Cornwall

The Christmas break is generally the one guaranteed moment in the year when you can take time out for some much-needed R&R, and this adults-only hotel on the shore of Fistral Beach is the perfect place to do just that. Arrive a couple of days early to make the most of the spa, explore the dramatic Cornish coastline and work your way through the Bay Bar’s tempting cocktail menu.

The Fistral team know that, come the big day, it’s not presents their guests really look forward to, it’s tucking in to the cornucopia of festive treats of the edible variety. A golden crown of West Country turkey will be joined by cranberry and sage stuffing, plump pigs in blankets, duck-fat roasties and seasonal veggies.

Chewton Glen Hotel & Spa, Hampshire

Recalibrate any preconceptions you may have about treehouses, as Chewton Glen’s collection of suites is the epitome of uber-luxe lodging.

Christmas Day at one of the treehouses, which are nestled in a secluded corner of the AA Hotel of the Year’s spacious grounds, is best started with Buck’s Fizz in the balcony hot tub before glamming up for the pre-lunch Champagne reception at the main house. Decadent celebrations continue with a sharing-style feast of mini beef wellingtons, salmon carpaccio, duck and quail scotch eggs among other divine treats, before the main event of beer-brined New Forest bronze turkey.

Gara Rock, Devon

The 180° views of south Devon’s rugged coastline make a striking backdrop to Christmas Day lunch at Gara Rock. However, those planning on taking part in the traditional Boxing Day morning swim may not want to study the frigid surf too closely.

Letting go of formalities and embracing new festive rituals is all part of the magic of a Christmas break at this effortlessly cool hotel. There’s no dress code for dinner or prescribed timetable of activities; instead, guests are encouraged to slip into the easy-going vibe with a session in the spa, a stomp along the coast path or a film in the boutique cinema.

Whatley Manor, Wiltshire

Mum’s roasties may be hard to beat, but the offer of Christmas lunch cooked by one of the country’s top chefs is an invitation too tempting to turn down. Whatley Manor’s executive chef Niall Keating picked up a second star in Michelin’s 2020 announcements, an impressive feat for a young chef who collected his first accolade for the Wiltshire manor house only two years earlier.

While Niall’s usual cooking style is avant garde, his menus for Whatley’s four-day Christmas House Party are grounded in tradition (yet still feature full-on finesse). The push-the-boat-out-package (rooms start at £3,750) kicks off with a 12 course feast on the 23rd, peaks with a classic Christmas lunch, and rounds out in style with a glitzy Boxing Day gala dinner.

The Nare Hotel, Cornwall

If your idea of a perfect festive getaway involves a touch of tradition with a twist of seaside glamour, a few nights at The Nare Hotel overlooking Carne Beach is just the ticket. The family-owned country house recently became one of only two hotels in Cornwall to be awarded the full five stars by the AA.

Join the team in celebrating their award success with a glass of Champagne in Ken’s Bar before feasting on dramatic views of the Atlantic and the finest local produce in front of the picture windows in The Dining Room. The hotel’s off-the-beaten-track location means there’s a good chance you’ll have the beach to yourself for the Boxing Day yomp.

Star & Garter, Cornwall

Always dreamed of running away from family formalities for a low-key Christmas with someone special? Star & Garter’s trio of uber-cool apartments – complete with harbour views, welcome box of scrummy local cakes and jacuzzi bath – makes ditching tradition an easy decision this year.

The Falmouth dining pub will be closed on Christmas Day, giving its overnight guests the freedom to roll out of bed at any time and the opportunity to rustle up a laid-back feast in the kitchen. You’ll be thankful for the lie-in following the Christmas Eve revelry (think festive cocktails, cosy log burner and music) in the lively bar downstairs.

Alexandra Hotel, Dorset

A number of South West destinations include a trip to the local church for midnight mass in their Christmas offering, yet few have their own chapel for such ceremonies. This festive season, guests at Lyme Regis’ Alexandra Hotel are invited to its 18th century chapel for carols, poems and prose before a Christmas Eve dinner prepared by new head chef Chris Chatfield.

The next day, celebrations start in a rather leisurely (and luxurious) manner with breakfast in bed featuring Buck’s Fizz, smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Most guests then head out for a stroll along the pebbled beach to The Cobb to muster an appetite for the seven course Christmas lunch that follows.

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