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Getting into the holiday spirit can be difficult without getting away from everyday life. The demands of a desk job, the routine of running a home, and the responsibility of kids or a relationship don’t stop just because the festivities start. Which is why we suggest you reset this year by booking one of these pre-party weekend getaways, sure to have you in the right frame of mind before the tree goes up and the family arrives. After all, what’s Christmas without a little treat for yourself?
Cosy up in the country: The Cotswolds, England
Nothing says ‘it’s Chriiiiiistmas’ quite like the Cotswolds. The picture-postcard part of the world, favourite of Kate Moss and her rock ‘n’ roll squad, is like something straight out of The Holiday. Spanning five gorgeously green counties – Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire – it’s hardly surprising that these lush rolling hills have been designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Good taste extends to the houses, too, all honey-coloured hues and Farrow & Ball accents, while the shops are boutique, the restaurants Michelin-starred and the clientele like something straight off the catwalk. Plump for plush pillows to bed down on at The Wild Rabbit in Kingham, set in an original 18th-century inn, with luxuriously appointed bedrooms and a remarkable restaurant serving strictly organic food.
Even better, go with a group of friends and book The Chicken Shed, a stone outbuilding that serves as a cosy and intimate private dining room with its own wood-fired oven. The pub, meanwhile, has everything you need to evoke Christmas charm, including a roaring open fireplace to snuggle beside, leather armchairs to sink into and artisan beers to sip. Close by is sister venture Daylesford Organic, a knowingly middle-class supermarket also owned by the Wild Rabbit, where you can peruse all manner of premium produce to take back home so you can play host with the host. Sure to help you replicate a little rustic charm back in the city.
Up your shopping game: Copenhagen, Denmark
There’s something supremely stylish about the way Scandis do Christmas. White-washed décor. Understated table settings. Gorgeously wrapped gifts. And nowhere is it more sleek and sophisticated than in Copenhagen, where the historic Tivoli Gardens – an amusement park originally opened in 1843 – come alive with no less than 60 stalls selling sugar, spice and all things nice during the months of November and December.
Set against a beautiful backdrop of twinkling fairy lights and jaw-dropping light shows, it really is the season to eat, drink and be merry as you wrap up in chic, cosy woollens, buy gifts you just can’t get back in the UK and stroll hand-in-hand with someone special. Afterwards, slip between fine thread-count sheets at nearby Nimb, a majestic five-star stay whose palatial exterior is clad in hundreds of dazzling lights. It’s like staying in one big Christmas tree, only this time you’re the star. Opt for a suite with a fireplace for toasting toes after a day pounding the pavement then flit between the huge number of restaurants and bars on-site. Our favourite is the glamorous cocktail bar, where you can sip a crisp flute of vintage champagne beneath dazzling crystal chandeliers, while the brasserie will warm your cocktails with seriously elevated comfort food: the Danish crown sirloin on the bone to share is sure to reignite the flames of passion.
Escape the crowds: Bryher, Scilly Isles
There’s seclusion in spades on the Scilly Isles, a unique archipelago off the Cornish coast, where just five of its islands are inhabited – and even then, the chances of spotting other people (let alone Santa) are slim. Head to Hell Bay on Bryher, the smallest of the islands, which you’ll need a train, coach, plane, mini-bus and boat to get to. But it’s worth it because, once there, you’ll be welcomed by complete peace and quiet, the tranquillity echoed by calming cream and blue interiors and white-painted windows that look out onto the Atlantic. Set in its own cove, there isn’t much else to see on the island – save for a smattering of New England-style houses – so there’s nothing else to do but enjoy some long walks along the craggy rocks and grassy knolls before returning to the hotel to refuel on local crab and lobster at the restaurant. Switch off your phone and switch off your mind – there’ll be the chaos of Christmas to get back to at home.
Kickstart the party season: Brighton, England
There’s no point in starting a fitness regime before the festivities. So take the opportunity to indulge in all-out hedonism from now until New Year, completely guilt-free, with a break in Brighton. Dubbed ‘London-on-Sea’, it is a city largely dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure – and not just for students. The recent arrival of the British Airways i360 (www.britishairwaysi360.com), a 138-metre observation tower on the seafront, has recently reinvigorated the interest in this historic seaside town. Ping up for sweeping panoramas of the British coast and enjoy a glass of homegrown bubbles in the Nyetimber Sky Bar.
Once the sun has set, it’s on to dinner at The Set, a restaurant dedicated entirely to seasonal, British food across three set menus. Treat yourself to number ‘three’ (£36) with highlights like plaice, parsnip, cheddar and egg; partridge, beetroot, red cabbage and chocolate; and cereal milk, spelt granola and milk-ice cream. Once dinner is done, head downstairs to the low-lit basement setting of The Curious Mr. Hanbury, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar serving drinks until the small hours. With both restaurant and bar housed in the Artist Residence hotel, it would be remiss not to retreat to one of its rooms post-party. The sea-view rooms are the best of the bunch and feature king-size beds and roll-top baths. So even if you do pop the cork on one too many bottles, you’ll still be feeling fresh for the forthcoming festivities.
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