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The interior of Salisbury Cathedral

5 things to do in the UK this December

It’s time to get festive! If you’re in London this month then head to the Charles Dickens Museum for the exhibition Beautiful Books: Dickens and the Business of Christmas. Or take a trip to Hampton Court Palace to enjoy the Christmas fayre and ice rink. If you’re after a Christmas market then head to the historic town of Winchester where you’ll find one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.  This is also a great time of year to visit one of the many great churches or cathedrals and we’ve selected a few of our favourites. Or if you prefer a castle to a cathedral then check out our list of great Scottish castles.

Charles Dickens at his desk

Charles Dickens at his desk

1   Visit the Charles Dickens Museum in London

The Charles Dickens Museum is in the heart of literary Bloomsbury, London. See the new exhibition Beautiful Books: Dickens and the Business of Christmas as part of its festive offer. This exhibition explores how the Victorians invented Christmas during a time of turbulent social and political change.

If that’s not enough Dickens for you then follow Blue Badge Guide Gina Mullett on a Dickensian tour of London. “London made Charles Dickens, and Charles Dickens made London”, says Gina. “No other writer has been so influenced by the capital, or so defined its story, to the extent that ‘Dickensian’ is the default description for the harsh conditions of the Victorian metropolis.”

Winchester Christmas Market

Winchester Christmas Market

2   Visit Winchester

Spend a day (or two) in historic Winchester this Christmas, discover activities, memorials, historic buildings and amazing sights that you (probably!) never even knew were here. It’s also less than an hour by train from London Waterloo.  The Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market is one of THE best Christmas Markets in Europe. Explore over 100 chalets nestling in the Cathedral close, with stunning views of the Cathedral as a backdrop.

Our guides offer private walking tours of this fine cathedral city. We’ll show you all of Winchester’s highlights, including the College Street house where celebrated novelist Jane Austen lived and died in 1817. The highlight of the tour is a visit to the Cathedral, where you can explore 1000 years of English history. See the beautifully illuminated Winchester Bible, 12th-century wall paintings, medieval carvings and the awe and wonder of this magnificent building and crypt with their fine Early English and Perpendicular Gothic architecture.

St Paul's Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral

3   Go to church!

There are few things we take more for granted than our cathedrals. And what better time to appreciate them than at Christmas. Blue Badge Guide Sophie Campbell investigates our enduring affair with great church buildings. “Unless it’s our abbeys and minsters. Even in the 21st century, they tower over our cities like stone dinosaurs – and I mean that in a good way. Relics of a lost world of masons and wall paintings and stained glass and belief. The one continuous thread is worship and in an age of dwindling congregations that can feel shouldered aside by secular demands.”  Take a tour of some of our favourite cathedrals from Lincoln to Durham to tiny St David’s, low on the Pembrokeshire coast to Ely, Salisbury, Canterbury and the mighty St Paul’s.

Hampton Court Palace (c) VisitBritain

4   Celebrate Christmas at Hampton Court Palace

Celebrate Christmas traditions from the past and present at Hampton Court Palace. There’s an ice rink, a festive fayre and a Christmas craft weekend.

For those arriving at Hampton Court Palace, walking towards the towering brick entrance gate (although it used to be two storeys higher!) into the expanse of the cobbled Base Court is like entering into another world – indeed a treasure trove of several other worlds. Blue Badge Guide Amanda Hutchinson takes us on a tour of the palace that has something for everyone – a vast ‘two for the price of one’ palace of two halves.

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland

5   Visit a Scottish Castle

Scotland is famous for its many castles, ranging from the palatial and stately – some still inhabited by their owners – to remote, romantic ruins by the sea. Each carries its own unique story and they all offer the drama of ancient buildings created many centuries ago as defensive fortresses. Blue Badge Guide David Tucker selects ten Scottish castles to visit this December.