Get in the Christmas Mood!

So the time is drawing on. The local Christmas lights have been on for days. The supermarket's playing wall-to-wall Wizard and Slade and the kids are drawing up their lists for Santa. But somehow, even though you've planned your menu for the big day, located the decorations in the loft and checked that the lights are all working, you're just not 'feeling it'. What you need, to really get in the Christmas mood, is to go on a Christmas trip.

In recent years countless stately homes, museums and other visitor attractions normally closed during winter have opened their doors in the lead-up to Christmas allowing us inside to see spectacular decorations, perhaps to try food and drink and traditions from days gone by. And even if you don't have access to a car, or just don't fancy making the effort, many local coach companies offer organised trips to such Christmas attractions all over the country. So there's no excuse not to go!

In my native Derbyshire there are a number of locations offering Christmas events. And each year we make sure to visit two in particular.

Haddon Hall, a few miles from Bakewell and situated alongside the A6, opens for just a few days in early December. The gorgeous fortified Tudor house and its chapel is decorated lavishly with natural foliage, berries and flowers collected from the Haddon estate. Oranges studded with cloves, floors strewn with pine that releases its oils each time visitors step upon it and the ivy and flowers that decorate fireplaces, staircases and so on, combine with log fires to make Christmas at Haddon a fragrant delight. Much is made of the hall's Tudor traditions and Tudor Christmas food and music round out the experience. Seasonal food and drink is available to buy both in the restaurant and in a heated marquee erected in a courtyard.

Traditional Tudor Christmas food on display at Haddon Hall

Haddon's decorations are made from natural foliage taken from the estate

Chatsworth House, located not far away, has long been providing visitors will a full-on Christmas experience. What is surely the most glorious private estate and elegant house in the country is filled with sumptuous decorations which each year are based around a specfic theme from the Twelve Days of Christmas to Hans Christian Andersen. The 2010 theme is a Russian Christmas.  I'll be visiting over the next couple of weeks, so will be adding photographs of this year's display very soon.

 A festive fireplace at Chatsworth

Sumptuously decorated trees at Chatsworth befit the opulent surroundings