Country Life rounds up the best things to see, do and book over the next couple of weeks.


December 16, 17 and 23 – The Giant Cheeseboard Festival, Studio 338, Boord Street, London

Visitors will explore a giant, immersive cheeseboard, sampling artisan cheeses from across Europe served by man-sized mice, with a large baked camembert at its centre. In this ‘cheesy, melty, mulled-wine-fuelled reality’, there will be unlimited cheese, biscuits and mulled wine. Tickets from £30.

Christmas market, fairs and fun

Until January 1 – Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London

Hundreds of stalls, dozens of rides as well as circuses, shows, ice skating and a vast big wheel, plus all sorts of (mostly Bavarian-inspired) food and drink in London’s enormous winter funfair. It’s been taking up a huge chunk of the park between Marble Arch and Hyde Park Corner for over a decade each year and is enduringly popular.

Open 1am to 10pm and entry is free; rides vary from a reasonable £2 to a steep £9, but the latter are full-on rollercoasters and so on – including one with consecutive loop-the-loops in the shape of the Olympic Rings. And unlike most theme parks, the squeamish don’t have to pay for the privilege of spectating.

December 16–17 – Christmas Antiques & Collectables Fair, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Devon

Stallholders from across the South-West will be selling a variety of antiques and collectables that are perfect for last-minute Christmas presents. Saturday 10am–6pm, Sunday 10am–3pm, standard garden admission applies.

December 9-20 – Father Christmas in Belgravia, London

Father Christmas

Children and their parents are whisked to the snowy depths of the North Pole through a corridor of a house on Elizabeth St, filled with northern light projections, festive scents and sounds, while elves lead them into Father Christmas’s cosy living room to meet the man himself. There are also Christmas stories and a treat for each child from Peggy Porschen’s nearby bakery. Tickets are £5 for the 30-minute session (accompanying adults free) – all proceeds go to the Beanstalk charity.

Until January 3 – The Frosted Fairground at Dreamland, Margate, Kent

The amusement park is transformed into a winter wonderland for the festive season, with an undercover ice rink, appearances by The Snowman and The Snowdog, Father Christmas’s grotto, choirs, carol singing and pop-up pantomime. Wristbands from £7.

November 18–December 24 – Lapland UK, Whitmoor Forest, Ascot

Four-hour immersive experience during which families can visit the toy factory, write letters at the post office and ice skate as well as meeting elves, huskies, reindeer and, of course, Father Christmas. Invitations from £65pp.

November 22–December 17 – Christmas shopping at Highgrove, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Skip the hustle and bustle and shop for presents with a glass of Champagne in hand. Ticket options include morning shopping (£5.95), afternoon shopping, which includes a cream tea (£7.95), or the lunch package with a two-course meal (£29.95)

0333 222 4555;

Walking off your Christmas turkey

December 26 – Boxing Day Walk, RSPB Scotland Crook of Baldoon, Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway

Put on your walking boots, grab your binoculars and walk off the Christmas excess with a refreshing stroll on the saltmarsh, home to whooper swans, redwings and fieldfares. 2pm–4pm, adults from £4, children from £1.50.


December 26–27 – 32Red Winter Festival, Kempton Park Racecourse, Sunbury-on-Thames

Twelve top-quality jump races over two days, with three Grade 1 races, including the Christmas Hurdle, the Kauto Star Novices’ Chase and the 32Red King George VI Steeple Chase. Tickets from £15.

December 12–18 – Olympia Horse Show, Kensington

World Cup showjumping, dressage and driving form just a part of the festive family entertainment, alongside displays from the Chilean Huasos (or cowboys), the Shetland Pony Grand National and dog agility. Tickets from £20.

Ice skating

November 15–January 14 – Skate at Somerset House, The Strand, London

Ice-skating sessions in the neo-Classical courtyard beneath a 40ft Christmas tree, with DJs, hot-chocolate fountains and shopping in the Fortnum & Mason Christmas Arcade. Tickets from £7.50.

020–7845 4600;

Afternoon tea

From November 27 – Christmas afternoon tea at Westminster Abbey, London

The Cellarium Café & Terrace at Westminster Abbey has a specially-curated festive themed menu, with an assortment of classic afternoon tea items made with traditional Christmas ingredients. There’s a Brussel sprout and stilton tart, a chocolate ganache-topped gingerbread star, Christmas spiced teas and an optional  cranberry Bellini. Daily 12-4pm, £21.50 per person (£25 if you opt for the Bellini).


December 7–21 – Forde Abbey’s White Christmas, Chard, Somerset

Experience an enchanting trail around the gardens after dark, with lit long borders and illuminated trees casting a warm glow over the house. The Great Hall, the chapel, the private dining room and drawing room will all be decorated and Father Christmas will be in attendance on December 16 and 17. Mulled wine, mince pies and other treats will be available in the tearooms. Every day except Mondays and Tuesdays, 3.30pm–8pm, children £5, adults £10.

November 17–January 6 – See how our garden glows, RHS Garden Rosemoor, Devon

The illuminated garden trail is back for a second year and is some five times longer, taking in the Formal Gardens, the Stream Field, the Long Borders, the Hot Garden and the Winter Garden, too. Hot drinks and snacks will be available. Normal garden admission applies, with a discount after 3pm.

01805 626810;

November 22–January 1, 2018 – Christmas at Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond, Surrey

The brand-new illuminated trail, incorporates more than a million sparkling lights, hundreds of lit-up globes, a glowing ‘sledge tree’, singing trees and an ultraviolet walkway of moving bubbles. Adult entry from £16.

020–8332 5655;


November 24–January 1– 2018 Magical Lantern Festival Manchester, Philips Park

Following successful festivals in London, Yorkshire and Birmingham, this magical extravaganza of larger-than-life illuminated lanterns will include ‘Penguins on Ice’, ‘Ancient Temple of Heaven’ and ‘Footballing Lantern Recreation’. Adult tickets from £12.


December 16–22 – ‘Enchanted’, Jonathan Cooper, Park Walk, London

Somerset-based artist Alice Mary Lynch – formerly a designer for John Galliano, Christian Dior and Sonia Rykiel – presents some 15 new dolls. Her pieces are ‘a patchwork of different worlds and times’, inspired by fairy tales, poems and Nature and created from materials such as an old piece of Parisian silk or crystal from an old chandelier.

Until January 27 – ‘Round the World: A Christmas Festival of Small Paintings & Sculpture’, Bohun Gallery, Henley-on-Thames

New work by 25 of the gallery’s established artists, plus pieces by 20th-century British artists on the same theme of ‘Round the World’, including a Tuscan still-life by Mary Fedden and a canal scene by Julian Trevelyan.

November 17–January 18 – New works by Emily Young, Bowman Sculpture, Duke Street, London

A new series of stone heads, discs and torsos and rarely seen bronze works by one of Britain’s greatest contemporary stone sculptors.

020 7930 0277;


December 22–30 – A Christmas Carol, Middle Temple Hall, London

Award-winning theatre company Antic Disposition’s musical adaptation of the Dickens classic performed in a spectacular Elizabethan setting, with an original score inspired by traditional Victorian Christmas carols. Adult tickets from £35.

December 13–17 – The Wintershall Nativity Play, Bramley, Surrey

Join 50 volunteer cast in beautiful biblical costume, plus sheep, don- keys, horses and a sheepdog, to enjoy the retelling of the ultimate festive tale with songs and music. Mince pies and hot drinks available, adult tickets £18.

01793 418299;

December 16–30 – A Christmas Carol, Windsor Castle, Berkshire

New, immersive performance of the Dickens classic in the State Apartments of the royal palace. Admission from 6pm, suitable for children aged seven and over. Tickets from £25

0303–123 7340;

November 25–January 13 – The Secret Garden, Theatre by the Lake, Keswick

This family-friendly adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic features ‘a delightful score and a menagerie of puppets’. Tickets from £10.

01768 774411;

Until March 11, 2018 – Witness for the Prosecution, County Hall, London

Agatha Christie’s tale of justice, passion and betrayal is brought to life in a spectacular courtroom setting. Tickets from £10.



December 11–16 – ‘Elizabeth Macdonald-Buchanan MRBS: A retrospective’, Gallery 8, St James’s, London

Sculpture, drawings and paintings by the artist, who trained at the Ruskin School of Art, the Royal Academy Schools and the City & Guilds School and now lives and works in London and the Hebrides.

Until December 22 – ‘Nicky Philipps: Latest Works’, Fine Art Commissions, Ryder Street, London

A rare opportunity to buy fine-art paintings by the royal portraitist. More than 15 works will be for sale, including studio nudes, landscapes, still-lifes and an initial study of The Queen.

December 1–23 – ‘The Dog Show’, John Noott Galleries, Broadway, Worcestershire

A celebration of the unique bond between man and dog, with paintings and sculptures from the 19th century to today

01386 858969;

Until January 7, 2018 – ‘Small Stories: At Home in a Dolls’ House’, Weston Park Museum, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

The new exhibition, on tour from the V&A Museum of Childhood, explores the history of the home with 12 doll’s houses made over 300 years, from country mansions to council estates

0114–278 2647;

Until February 4, 2018 – ‘Codebreakers and Groundbreakers’, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

With an Enigma machine and archival documents on show, the exhibition will bring together Second World War codebreakers and those who deciphered Linear B.

Until February 10, 2018 – ‘Linda Brothwell: The Tool Appreciation Society’, Central Library, Hull

A collection of tools made by the artist in tribute to the skilled craftspeople of Hull and the wider world

Until February 2018 ‘The Art of Reflection’, Buckland Abbey, Yelverton, Devon

Eighteen sculptures by Andrew Logan placed throughout the house and gardens, including a new jewel and painted-glass portrait of Sir Francis Drake

01822 853607;

Until February 25, 2018 ‘Michael Morpurgo: A Lifetime in Stories’, V&A Museum of Childhood, Cambridge Heath Road, London E2

Celebration of the author’s life, work and characters. Joey, the life-sized puppet from the stage adaptation of War Horse, will be on display

020–8983 5200;