A Christmas themed market with stalls selling all sorts of Christmas goods. There is also a wide range of food and drink available, from all the countries of the globe. Also, the Dairy Milk hot chocolate stall is not to be missed. Complete the festive experience by going ice skating - it's cheap and the most festive fun i've had in ages.
Every year on the days leading up to Christmas, Northern Sinfonia play the soundtrack to Raymond Briggs' The Snowman while the movie plays on the big screen. They usually have a local child sing the walking in the air solo and at this point there isn't a dry eye in the house among the adults! They also do an introduction to the orchestra and the different types of instruments before the movie starts. Our children love it and we go every year. It is a magical start to Christmas!
Outdoor ice skating rink at the Tower of London. The setting is fabulous and atmospheric with the Tower looming above. Go on Christmas Eve when the rink is flood lit for a particularly exhilarating experience.
There is nothing lovelier then a climb up Glastonbury Tor to when it is all white outside with snowflakes softly falling. At the top is the roofless St Michael's Tower and myth-inspiring views. At the bottom is a short walk to town to warm with a pint of ale by the fire at the 15th century pilgrim's inn, the George Hotel.
The Loch Ness Monster or Nessie as she is affectionately known. Was first brought to prominance in the early 1930s when a journalist for the Inverness courier published an item about sightings of a dragon or prehistoric animal carrying an animal in its mouth.
Since that time there have been many more supposed sightings many backed up with photographic and video evidence.
Whether she exists or not the Loch ness monster is one of scotlands leading tourist attractions and even if you dont see a monster, Loch Ness is still a very beautiful place to visit.
Dickensian Evening marks the beginning of Tavistock's festive season. The tantalising smell of mulled wine and mince pies lingers around the town centre. Christmas lights are switched on, children sing carols, and dance groups and jugglers perform in the streets. Late night shopping is done in an historical atmosphere as stalls line the streets and shopkeepers dress up in Victorian costumes. Dickensian Evening is bound to cure any Scrooge from his "Bah, humbug!" attitude!
Liverpool at Christmas is worth a visit by road or rail. Visit all the best shops in Liverpool One and Lord Street. At Christmas there is a large Continental Market full of foods from all over the world, an ice rink, excellent Christmas decorations and an Ice Castle with Father Christmas. Two Cathedrals have various Christmas programmes of music and services. Of course there are still the normal visitor attractions of the Albert Dock for eating and shops, The Liver Building neighbouring Cunard Building and Port of Liverpool Building on the Mersey River front with the new canal alongside, museums, art gallerys etc. There's the widest range of places to eat and drink in Liverpool so come and enjoy
Start at Maentwrog church by the stone (maen) thrown by the giant St Twrog to stop the villagers reverting to paganism. Then a brief dip into the archaeology of The Grapes where a stone carved ‘Marcus’, now built into the doorway of the bar, commemorates the centurion’s team building their stretch of wall in the nearby Roman fort. Up the Vale through the Cynfal Gorge to Llan (church) Ffestiniog. The Pengwern, an old drovers pub to re-open early 2011 as a community venture. Down the other side of the valley through the ‘forest of the wolves’ to the old coaching inn, The Oakeley Arms. Along the way: two churches, three pubs and four rivers.
A great literary place which I can recommend is the place I grew up in - the area of beautiful countryside round Stonehaven called The Mearns. This area featured in Scotland's favourite book - Sunset Song by Lewis Grassick Gibbon (who happened to be the cousin of an old family friend). The whole area is awash with history and scenic beauty. But I must admit that my abiding image of this great literary masterpiece is of the scene in the 1970's television series where the two lovers are cavorting at the base of the magnificent ruins of Dunnottar Castle. I have done a fair bit of cavorting there myself in my time!
Stonehaven, Kincardineshire AB39 2TL
+44 (0)1569 762173
Google map: bit.ly/eGp6EZ
Oban distillery was built even earlier than the town. Way back in 1794.
It is one of the smallest distilleries in Scotland, but it is very busy with tourists on the guided tour which takes just over an hour.
It is in the town centre quite close to the seafront and is well worth visiting.
The whiskey has its own unique flavour somewhere between the smoothness of the Speyside malts and the peaty flavours of Islay.
Stafford Street, Oban,
Argyll PA34 5NH
+44 (0)1631 572004
Google map: bit.ly/ei3BIr
Midnight Mass might actually be celebrated at midnight in a church nearby. Even for regular churchgoers it's a brief voyage out of the ordinary of Christmas, while strangers are part of the scene. In the unspoken cameraderie of having got there at all, usually by 11.30 pm, there's nothing to do except go with the flow of ritual, however professionally or amateurishly conducted; to be immersed in a story that has room for both the tragedy and wonder of human existence. Carols can be sung where they're meant to be sung, and mince pies are never so delicious as at around 1am with a sense of communal accomplishment. All for free, unless you feel like contributing to the charity of the night. And if it throws out next day's routine, so what?
Cirencester is a small town with narrow streets, but there is everything that anyone could wish in such a place. The usual shops WH Smiths, Next, House of Fraser, Superdrug, Fat face and New Look etc. Banks and travel agents and pubs.
The one thing that stands out about Cirencester however, is the Church of St John the Baptist, which is more like a cathederal than a church and dominates the skyline on your approach to the town.
With the Roman Amphitheatre and the white Cotswold stone buildings, Cirencester is a town well worth a visit and a good base for exploring the Cotswolds.
Google map: bit.ly/eyHYCB
It's only a tiny place near the Thistle Barbican among a row of small shops.
Me and a few friends used to come here on a Friday night after a few of pints in the white lion round the corner.
The staff don't know too much English but it's a pleasure watching them cooking the food on the gas rings in the back.
The food is always good with a wide selection.
For a takeaway its one of the best.
105-107 Lever St, City of London, EC1V 3RQ
+44(0)20 7490 8225
Google map: bit.ly/dKNhE8
The Rat and Ratchet pub in Huddersfield cask ale house with a large selection of handpulled ales.
The pub is owned by Ossett brewery (an independant west yorkshire brewery). As well as the Ossett beers there are a large selection of guest ales for its 14 handpumps.
The pub consists of one large room divided into a number of drinking areas. It has won several awards for its beers.
Also famed for its food, the Rat and Ratchet is a pub worth frequenting on any visit to Huddersfield.
40 Chapel Hill, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,
+44(0)1484 542 400
Google map: bit.ly/fNPggJ
Quite close to the university. The Kashmir is not the most attractive of curry houses. However they do serve an excellent curry at a price that even a student can afford. You have a choice of two doors. One to the slightly more presentable ground floor, the other to the larger and more basic basement restaurant.
There may be better Indian restaurants in Bradford, but when it comes to quality, quantity and value for money this place is hard to beat.
25-27 Morley St, Bradford, West Yorkshire
+44(0)1274 726 513
Google map: bit.ly/f4ATy7
The New Beehive in Bradford is not so new. Built in 1901 this unique gaslit pub has its own atmosphere being one of the few pubs in Britain to be listed on Camra's National Inventory of Outstanding Character Interiors.
The pub has regular jazz, comedy and poetry evenings and sells good quality real ale.
Part rugby scrum, part riot, occasionally a sprint, always social - the Kirkwall Ba' is a fixed part of Christmas in Orkney and has to be experienced to be understood. This is street football at its best. No rules, no limit on participants, games can last for hours. The Mens Ba' goes up at 1pm, after the Boys which takes place at 10am. The game will continue until one team manages to get the ball into their own goal (the harbour for the Doonies, a gable wall at the other end of town for the Uppies). This can take a while during which onlookers, shout and cheer, chat, shuffle and stamp to keep warm; ever mindful that if the ball heads their way it is vital to move quickly if you do not want to be caught up in the action. It is Christmas - but with a difference.
Kirkwall, Orkney. The Ba' is thrown from the Cathedral steps at the heart of the town on Christmas Eve.
Google map: bit.ly/gZl04s
For a truly authentic and atmospheric Christmas experience I am taking my family again to Butser Iron-Age farm nestling in the South Downs.
There they celebrate the generosity of an ancient winter festival with one of England's best known story-tellers in the Great Roundhouse and we make something beautiful from the hedgerows and animals on the farm to take home.
Munching pies and sipping mulled wine gazing into the fire in this stunning building takes me back to a distant and sustainable past that still holds magic for a hopeful future. The tales told are ageless and the children truly awed.
Great value for money and a relief from all the plastic and tinsel in the grottier grottoes!
Just a stone's throw from Bath Abbey, this long standing independent cafe knocks the socks off the big chains. Really great coffee and large portions. Known for its all-day breakfasts but also great eggs benedict and the best croque monsieur this side of Paris.
Roar with laughter is a comedy club at GJ's bar. Really good! Went there last night and saw Noel Fielding!
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