Britain at Christmas

There is plenty to see and do in the UK this Christmas for people interested in festive traditions. In Cambridge, King’s College Chapel hosts the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols, the annual Christmas Eve choral service held in the college’s beautiful gothic chapel. This year marks the centenary of the festival, which started in 1918. The service is broadcast on BBC radio, but if you are in Cambridge and prepared to queue up at 7.00am, you could bag a coveted ticket.

Christmas markets are relatively new to Britain. They have become popular with visitors, with some boasting fabulous historic locations. Bath’s Christmas market (22 November – 9 December) sits between the ancient abbey and the Roman baths. There are some 200 stalls, many selling products made by local artists and suppliers. Winchester’s Cathedral Close (17 November – 20 December) hosts 100 wooden chalets, making it one of the largest in the country.

Salisbury’s medieval Guildhall Square (29 November – 23 December) combines the market with musical performances and a lantern parade. Leeds Castle holds a gift fair in its grounds on the four weekends before Christmas.

In London, the festive street decorations are among the best in the world. On Christmas Day most of the city shuts down for a well-earned rest. There are, however, a bunch of brave souls who jump out of bed, head down to Hyde Park and plunge into the lake. The Serpentine Swimming Club’s Christmas Morning Race, held every year since 1864, is open
to members only, so there’s no risk of being tempted to join in.