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TEN RETREATS FOR THE CHRISTMAS BREAK

Dinah Hatch

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Who wants to spend Christmas making beds up, cremating turkeys and following complicated Jamie Oliver recipes? If you think you have been taken for a yule fool too long, let someone else do all the hard work this year...
Lainston House

Forget the overdone devils on horseback and soggy sprouts, let new head chef at Hampshire's Lainston House Olly Rouse cater for your every whim this Christmas. Olly's pedigree involves being head chef at Michelin-starred Coworth Park and a spell as sous chef at Petrus under Gordon Ramsey so he knows a thing or two about laying on a festive feast. Fab food aside, stunning 17th century country house Lainston is pretty much the perfect place to celebrate Yule, with its blazing lobby fire, drawing room afternoon teas, Christmas Eve church choir carols and four-course meal plus minibus to Winchester Cathedral for Midnight Mass all laid on.

Great Fosters

Let me set the scene of a Christmas at the former royal hunting lodge Great Fosters Hotel in Egham, Surrey. Think four poster beds, mullioned windows, classic wood-panelling, heavy Flemish tapestries, portraits and paintings, moulded ceilings, damask furnishings and blazing log fires in Jacobean fireplaces. Then add fairy lights strung artfully across beams, champagne and caviar to whet your appetite and then a whopping great meal at a stunningly decorated table (we love the giant red bows on the chair backs). The wonderful gardens with their elegant Japanese Bridge make for the perfect Christmas Day afternoon stroll too or head into smart Windsor to take in a panto at the Theatre Royal or raise a toast to her Majesty's Speech in a traditional old pub a stone's throw from the famous castle.

Rudding Park Hotel, Spa & Golf

Sometimes it's just blissful to sit back and let someone else take care of your whole Christmas agenda. If this takes your fancy, nose the motor Yorkshire bound and head for grade I listed country house Rudding Park, Harrogate, where they're currently fine-tuning your festive extravaganza. Here's what's in store (deep breath): welcome Christmas Eve afternoon tea, family treasure hunt, evening champers reception followed by black tie dinner (or a family night with entertainment). Next up is a carol service in the hotel chapel, then mulled wine and mince pies. Get your beauty sleep while Santa does his deliveries then wake up to breakfast and a six-hole golf competition. Then it's more champagne, Christmas lunch, a turn around the grounds before games and cards in front of the fire. There's also a private cinema for the screening of Christmas classics. Sorted.

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