UK Travel: A Festive Minibreak

We wanted to get into the Christmas spirit this month after a stressful November at work, so we booked ourselves a couple of nights away in early December, complete with two lovely festive activities.

Christmas at Blenheim Palace

I’d absolutely loved the Christmas at Dunham Massey event in 2018, and after noticing that several other National Trust properties had similar events this year, we booked tickets to Christmas at Blenheim Palace. Oxfordshire is a lovely part of the country to visit at any time of year but especially at Christmas, with lots of lovely towns, Christmas markets and shopping spots to visit in the area. Actually though, our only stop on this occasion was Blenheim Palace for the lights, and I’d recommend booking early for all of the National Trust Christmas trails, because they do get booked up!

Blenheim Palace
My Christmas Trails, National Trust
Christmas at Blenheim Palace 2
Christmas at Blenheim Palace 3
Christmas at Blenheim Palace 4
Christmas at Blenheim Palace 5

Christmas at Blenheim Palace is an illuminated walking trail set to music around the beautiful grounds of Blenheim Palace after dark. If twinkling Christmas light displays and Christmas music gets you feeling festive, then this would definitely be up your street! And as well as the festive woodland walk, there is also a lovely Christmas market at the start and and of the trail. This was the only Christmas market I had chance to visit this year and I actually loved it because it was spacious, not over-crowded, and just as magical as I’d hoped. There were plenty of hot food and drink stalls on offer, and many chances to warm up with a hot chocolate on a cold December evening.

My photos cannot possibly do the light displays justice, but hopefully they’ll give you some festive vibes.

Oxfordshire Hotel: Macdonald Bear

We stayed in the quaint village of Woodstock for our visit, and as a happy coincidence our hotel, The Macdonald Bear, was just 3 minutes walk from the entrance to Blenheim Palace grounds. This luxurious country inn was exactly what I’d hoped for, with a huge four-poster bed, roaring fireplaces, and hearty food on offer in the bar – the perfect thing to follow our long evening walk around Blenheim. They also offered a much fancier dining option in their restaurant, but we just wanted burgers and pasta! The village of Woodstock is worth a walk around too. It has a Hogsmeade-type vibe, with a few cute shops and pubs, and it turned out to be the perfect December stopover for us.

Woodstock village, Oxfordshire
Macdonald Bear Hotel
Macdonald Bear Hotel Bar
Woodstock Village Market Street

Hogwarts in the Snow

Our second festive activity was the Warner Brothers Studio Tour (The Making of Harry Potter). It is located about 1 hour’s drive away from Woodstock, so staying over the night before was much more convenient than driving down from Manchester on the day.

I’d visited the Harry Potter tour about 5 years ago (check out the photos from that visit here), but my husband had never visited and was intrigued. There were also so many new additions since my last visit that I was due another, and I really wanted to see everything looking festive this time, so we booked tickets to go during the Hogwarts in the Snow event.

As I mentioned, everything was decked out for Christmas during our visit, including Christmas trees, a festive feast and the Yule Ball stage in the Great Hall, Christmas pieces and snow added to key sets, and a beautiful dusting of snow over Hogwarts itself at the final showstopping moment of the tour. There was also a really interesting “Snow Station” where experts talked us through all the different ways snow and and fire effects are created in the films.

Harry Potter Yule Ball Ice Sculpture
Hogwarts in the Snow 1
Hogwarts in the Snow 2

As well as all the Hogwarts in the Snow additions, the updates since 2014 were some of the highlights for me this trip, including the Hogwarts Express, Platform 9 3/4. The Forbidden Forest and Gringotts (seriously, that dragon though!)

Platform nine and three quarters

So our festive roadtrip was a definite success, and really got us in the Christmas spirit, as well as getting us to binge watch all of the Harry Potter films for the millionth time! I think it might have to become one of our Christmas traditions to go on a December minibreak.

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