With frost on the ground and festive spirit in the air, December is undoubtedly one of the most romantic months of the year. If you’re planning a wintery day out with someone special, here are a few of the best seasonal things to do together in Yorkshire now.
Experience the magic of a Victorian Christmas at Chatsworth House
A must-visit for lovers of Regency romance, Chatsworth is situated in the scenic Derbyshire Dales, a 30 minute drive from Sheffield. This handsome country house is said to have provided Jane Austen with the inspiration for Pemberley in her novel Pride and Prejudice, and it was used in the filming of the 2005 movie. Visitors might recognise its grand Painted Hall and Sculpture Gallery, where Elizabeth Bennet is seen admiring impressive marble carvings, including the Veiled Vestal by Rafaelle Monti. This December, Chatsworth has been transformed into a glowing ‘Palace of Advent’ that recreates the splendour of Christmas in the Victoria era. The house is trimmed with thousands of decorations, many of which are handmade, and its South Sketch Gallery is filled with a forest of ‘wish trees’. In the grounds, there’s a light trail to follow through the gardens and Chatsworth’s famous cascade fountain has been brought to life with music.
Admire the architecture of York Minster together
If you’ve often walked past York Minster but haven’t yet stepped inside, this incredible feat of engineering definitely deserves a closer look. There has been a church on or near to the spot where the Minster now stands for almost 1400 years, but work on the current building began in around 1080. It took close to 400 years to finish but grew to become one of Europe’s most majestic places of worship. The Minster boasts the highest and widest Gothic nave to be found in England and it is also known for its particularly beautiful stained glass windows. These include the famous ‘Five Sisters Window’, the Great West Window (also known at the ‘Heart of Yorkshire’), and the Great East Window, which is bigger than a tennis court. This month, the Minster will be preparing for Christmas and a spectacular Advent Wreath will appear below its Central Tower. This is made by volunteers using fresh foliage, including holly and ivy, and is always a wonderful sight to behold. Those visiting throughout December will also be able to see this year’s entries in the Minster’s annual Christmas Tree Festival and can vote for their favourite.
Explore the atmospheric ruins of Whitby Abbey
The seaside town of Whitby offers all the romance of the coast with a little extra intrigue in the form of its Gothic abbey. Climb the famous 199 steps from the characterful old town and you can explore the remains of this 13th century structure, which has stood up on the East Cliff for more than 700 years. The abbey, steps and many other aspects of Whitby’s architecture are known to have inspired Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula. Now managed by the English Heritage, the rambling ruins offer some atmospheric photo opportunities. After taking a walk through them, you can learn more in the museum and visitor centre, which resides in a stylishly converted 17th-century mansion. Here, you can discover unique historic objects from the abbey’s past, including mediaeval manuscripts, Anglo-Saxon crosses and even a rare signed copy of Dracula itself. Next door to the abbey, you’ll find the Lodge Coffee Shop where you can enjoy a tasty pick me up before heading back down into the town.
Follow a sparkling light trail at Wentworth Woodhouse and go Christmas shopping at Wentworth Garden Centre
One of Europe’s largest stately homes, Wentworth Woodhouse can be found in the South Yorkshire countryside between Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley. This Palladian and Baroque-style mansion is a romantic place to visit at any time of year but it becomes even more enchanting each December when it’s trimmed for Christmas. Between now and the 7th January, you can take part in a special visitor-led experience in the house’s extravagantly dressed state rooms, or follow a trail of lights through Acer Wood. There’s also a festive food village waiting to be discovered in the West Front gardens. Another popular attraction at Wentworth Woodhouse is the Wentworth Garden Centre, which sits on the estate in gardens that were originally used to grow food for the Fitzwilliam family. This one-of-a-kind family-run garden centre has a topiary maze, farm, two restaurants and a pets and aquatic centre to browse, making it just the place to do any last minute Christmas shopping.
Complete York’s City Walls Trail before sampling the tasting menu at The Bow Room
Providing the city with a valuable line of defence since the Roman times, York’s walls are the longest and best preserved in England. If you’d like to walk them, you can do so for free between 8:30am-dusk every day, unless the weather conditions make it unsafe. York’s city walls can be joined at one of the four main bars (Bootham, Monk, Walmgate and Micklegate), as well as from the three minor gateways and several other locations. The entire walk is 3.4km long and will take around two hours to complete when following the well-signposted City Walls Trail. You’ll be treated to some wonderful wintery views over the city and could even watch the sunset together from this special vantage point. If you’d like to make your evening even more memorable, The Bow Room restaurant at the Grays Court Hotel can be reached by leaving the walls at Monk Bar. This 3 AA Rosette-award winning fine dining restaurant offers an exquisite tasting menu that’s served from 7pm, shortly after the walls close. Each of its twelve featured dishes is flawlessly presented and many are crafted using ingredients from the restaurant’s own garden. These include dishes like Beef Tartare with Buckwheat and Wild Garlic, Scottish Squid with Crown Prince Squash, or Cauliflower Mushroom with Nasturtium and Radish, which can be accompanied by the perfect wine pairing when taking the optional wine flight.
Take a walk around Beverley followed by charcuterie at The Pig & Whistle
If you’re looking for somewhere new to visit this December, why not spend a day exploring one of East Yorkshire’s hidden gems? Located a twenty minute drive from Hull, the market town of Beverley has it all: Georgian architecture, a beautiful Gothic minster and a whole host of great independent shops to peruse. For an inexpensive morning out, you can go barge spotting along Beverley Beck, visit St Mary’s Church or admire the treasures that can be found at Beverley Antiques Centre. If you fancy getting some lunch afterwards, The Pig & Whistle is the ideal spot for lovers of cheese or charcuterie. This European-style neighbourhood eaterie has earned a place in the Sunday Times list of The 100 Best Places to Eat in the UK, and it serves sharing boards that are perfect for grazing, along with authentic tapas and a set menu featuring classic French Alpine dishes like Tartiflette and Raclette. To drink, you can choose from a range of wines, cocktails and craft beers, or warm up with one of The Pig’s signature mulled ciders. The bistro even has its own incorporated deli ‘The Pig Pantry’, which sells cheese, charcuterie, coffee, confectionery and tinned fish to take home with you.
Share afternoon tea on the terrace at Harewood House
Afternoon tea is always an occasion to savour but at Harewood House you can enjoy this quintessential British treat in the grandest of surroundings. Served on the house’s Italianate Terrace, or in the Billiard Room, Harewood’s signature afternoon tea has now been infused with the ‘warmth and wonder of Christmas’ and includes seasonal savouries such as Pressed Ham Hock with Mustard and Parsley Emulsion, or Pea Panna Cotta, Pickled Cucumber and Crispy Onions. You’ll also receive dainty sandwiches with fillings like Smoked Salmon, Orange Creme Fraiche and Chive, as well as a selection of cakes, including a Muscavado and Ginger Rocher and a Pistachio and Quince Tart. If you’re celebrating, or just want to start Christmas in style, you can also add English sparkling wine or prosecco. Afterwards, you can take a walk together through Harewood’s gardens, which were landscaped by Capability Brown in the 1770s. These feature plants from all around the world and there’s more than 100 acres to explore, with a serpentine lake and cascade, woodland to wander through and the ruins of Harewood Castle to discover. You could also visit the house’s ‘immersive, fun and slightly wild’ festive experience, which runs until the 7th January.
Images- @wentworth_woodhouse, https://www.chatsworth.org/events/christmas/, @thebowroomyork