Pack away your seasonal stresses and leave the festive rush behind. Chrissy Harris rounds up some top coastal Christmas breaks, guaranteed to spread some much-needed cheer…
Feel the magic of the English Riviera: say what you like about Torquay – and lots of people do – but this place is pretty special at this time of year. The Bay of Lights event is a recent and very welcome addition to the Riviera’s festive programme. Stroll hand-in-hand along the 1½-mile illuminated trail along Torquay’s seafront and see the famous palm trees in glittering splendour. Other light-filled events are taking place across Torquay, Paignton and Brixham.
Also make time to explore the coastal walks, award-winning beaches and decent restaurants in a part of Devon determined to be taken more seriously as a destination. Yep, the English Riviera is about much more than a certain 1970s hotel sitcom.
Where to stay:
The 25 Boutique B&B has won both national and international awards for excellence. It’s absolutely fabulous – even Joanna Lumley has stayed here. Hosts Andy and Julian Banner-Price are offering pre-Christmas breaks here for the first time this year. the25.uk
The Cary Arms and Spa over the other side of town in Babbacombe is another multi award-winner. Enjoy great food and awesome views at this luxurious spot. caryarms.co.uk
More romantic Christmas breaks:
Swan’s Nest is a cosy retreat in Torcross, Devon. From here, stride out along the coast path to Beesands, Hallsands and Start Point. Dartmouth and Kingsbridge are also within striking distance.
Marshall Meadows Manor House in Berwick-upon-Tweed has got your Christmas and Hogmanay all sewn up. Choose from a variety of festive afternoon teas, lunches, party nights and luxurious two-night stays. marshallmeadowsmanor.co.uk
Everyone is hyper and prone to tantrums at this time of year– and that’s just the grown-ups! Keep everyone distracted during that never ending run-up to the Big Day with a fun family seaside break.
Eastbourne has got the festivities sorted with pantos, parties and presents galore. Shopping events and an ice rink are just some of the delights coming to a town recently named by Time Out magazine as the best place to visit in the UK. And don’t miss the chance to meet the man himself at Drusillas Zoo Park. They go large at the much-loved Eastbourne attraction with a sparkly Santa’s grotto, 24-foot Christmas tree, festive photo opps, husky dogs and singing reindeer.
For some retail therapy, head to the quaint Victorian shopping streets of Little Chelsea to pick up some unique gifts (for yourself). There are loads of independent shops to browse. On December 1st, the area hosts a festive fun and fireworks event, with live music, street food rides and more.
Where to stay:
Go all-out and book The Grand, one of the very few five-star seafront hotels in the UK. Their festive package this year includes plenty of food and fizz, plus a children’s party. The kids also get tickets reserved for the Beauty and the Beast pantomime at the Devonshire Park Theatre on Boxing Day. grandeastbourne.com
More family Christmas breaks:
Lot of you this year? Can’t be bothered to host and blow up all those airbeds? Then why not borrow a big house on the beach in north Cornwall? The five-bed Cornish Beach House is nestled in Booby’s Bay. The house has been furnished by restaurateur and interior designer Jill Stein. Available through thewowhousecompany.co.uk
Blakeney Hotel, near Holt, Norfolk is ideal for multi-generational family stays. If it’s dry out, the Norfolk coast is a place to run free, with wide beaches and big skies. At the hotel, there is a games room and indoor pool for rainy days. They’re offering a ‘four-day house party’ package for Christmas, which starts on December 24. bleneney-hotel.co.uk
What’s the greatest gift you could give your beloved pet? A week of wonderful winter walkies, that’s what. And they don’t come much more ruff and rugged than the beaches, waterfalls and lush valleys on the Isle of Skye. This world-class walking destination is the ideal place to escape the manic shopping and meal planning. After all, someone’s got to take the dog out.
Those in the know say winter is a great time to visit Skye because there’s hardly anyone else here and the light takes your breath away. Deep pink sunsets, rainbows and spectacular starry nights – it’s enough to make you want to burst into a rendition of Silent Night (but the dog might look at you a bit strangely).
When the hail, rain and wind hit, there are lots of places to find food, drink and a roaring fire to toast your toes with a wee dram.
Where to stay:
The Bracken Hide, which opened in April, is a ‘wilderness hotel’, designed to look as though it’s been uprooted from the landscape. Well-behaved dogs are welcome throughout the hotel, and in the stylish cabins on site. The hotel is within walking distance of Portree, Skye’s main town. brackenhide.co.uk
The luxury four-star Broadford Hotel in Syke (broadfordhotel.co.uk) is well set-up for people and their pets. Dog-friendly bedrooms include special treats and a ‘hound bag’ filled with useful accessories for your stay, including a tennis ball, poo bags, dog treats and a map of local walks. The Broadford Hotel is said to be the birthplace of Drambuie liqueur. And it’s Christmas. Just saying.
More dog-friendly Christmas breaks:
Chyvounder in Sennen, Cornwall, welcomes two dogs and is an ideal Christmas bolthole for six, with three bedrooms, three bathrooms and easy access to Gwynver Beach.
Beadnell Towers, Chathill, Northumberland, is a cosy boutique hotel in this small fishing village on the coast. Roaring fires and festive cocktails await human guests, while the four-legged variety can bag their own basket and food. beadnelltowers.co.uk
FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS
If getting together at Christmas just isn’t possible (or desired) then treat yourself to a getaway on your own. Lapped by the sea on three sides, Pembrokeshire on the south coast of Wales is an ideal part of the UK for solo travellers looking to enjoy some quality time with dramatic scenery.
Huge Atlantic storms and sparkling frosty countryside provide the wintry entertainment here. Birdwatching and stargazing are also must-dos. Then it’ll be time to retreat to somewhere with a woodburner and a glass of good red.
For a festive fix, St Davids Cathedral is worth a visit just to experience the music and beauty of this majestic place.
Pembroke Castle – Henry VII’s birthplace – hosts a Christmas market with more than 80 stalls selling art, jewellery, fashion, plus food and drink. Markets are also held at Cardigan Castle and Manorbier Castle (they do okay for castles here).
Bring your swimming cossie and plenty of stamina and take part in the Tenby Boxing Day Swim. There’s usually a beach bonfire and hot soup afterwards.
Where to stay:
Sunnycove in Tenby will put you right next to the Boxing Day swim, plus the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path runs right past the door.
The Swan in Little Haven is luxurious, within walking distance of the sea, the coast path and, most importantly, the pub.
More Christmas solo breaks:
The Corner House in Ventnor, Isle of Wight, is where urban luxury meets cosy cottage and is just a stone’s throw from the beach. And pop into Ventnor Botanic Gardens (botanic.co.uk). Nice for a stroll and the chance to take part in a wreath-making workshop, if you time your visit right.
Saffron Tower is a 12th century folly on the Anglesey coast and a perfectly sheltered oasis. There’s access to an indoor pool, hot tub and sauna, so it doesn’t really matter what is going on outside. Bliss.
5 FABS WAYS TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AT THE BEACH
- Go surfing – some of the year’s biggest waves tend to roll in at this time of year. Try Croyde beach in north Devon or Fistral in Cornwall.
- Swim – the traditional festive dip has got to be done, at least once. Events both formal and informal take place at many coastal spots over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Brighton beach brings the crowds and 500 normally take the plunge at Porthcrawl.
- Sing – the bandstand at Eastbourne has become the traditional Christmas Day meeting point on the south coast since 1935.
- Birdwatch – Leighton Moss is the largest reed bed in north-west England and home to a wealth of wildlife, including grey herons busy nest building in time to lay their eggs in January.
- Clean up – spend two minutes or two hours picking up litter if you’ve got time to kill before lunch. The gift of plastic-free beaches is one we can all enjoy. The 2-Minute Foundation has all you need to know – 2minute.org