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Christmas holiday rentals for the whole family

Bernadette John on the best large holiday homes and cottages in the UK that can fit your whole family – and we’re talking all the rellies.

Any day now the Christmas ads will start, with their Instagrammable images of relaxed and jolly gatherings of extended families. If your reality is closer to a cricked neck from sleeping on a relative’s blow up bed, a grumpy chef who thinks they’ve been left with all the work, and frazzled tempers from everyone being a little too close for comfort – then it might be time to decamp the family to spacious, neutral territory.

We’ve rounded up some festive season rentals where everyone can have a comfortable bed and there are post blow-out walks on the doorstep. Some will even do the catering for you.

Boxted Hall, Lavenham, Suffolk

You could play a real life version of Cluedo (without the murder we hope) in this moated manor house with a secret passageway from the library to the billiards room. There’s an oak panelled dining hall for feasting (a chef can be provided) and drawing room with grand piano for after dinner entertainments. Kids can bunk up in four attic bedrooms, and there are nine ensuites. You can roam the 1,000 acre estate and there are tennis courts on site.  Sleeps 26 and costs £8,000 for five nights at Christmas and New Year

Wortham Manor, Lifton, Devon

If you enjoy cooking for a crowd, you’ll relish the facilities here – previous guests talk joyously of pulling a 24lb rib of beef from the industrial oven and presenting it on the long table in the great hall.  Once home to a high ranking Tudor gentleman - parts date back to 1500 – it is now preserved by The Landmark Trust. The great hall with open fire will greet you back from wintry walks, and there’s room for 15 in eight bedrooms. Nearby, Jamaica Inn can provide hot toddies for the adults while the kids explore its smugglers museum. Five nights at Christmas £5,772

Castle Farm, Llanthony, Hay on Wye

If your crew includes teenagers, this one enables them to hole up in their own 10 bed studio barn. And they can make as much noise as they like – the only neighbours for miles around are the Black Mountains. There’s a further farmhouse sleeping 10, and cottage sleeping seven.  Brecon Beacons National Park is on the doorstep for bracing walks, or there’s mooching in bookshops in Hay, and foodie attractions in Abergavenny (including Michelin starred The Walnut Tree). The farm has its own stretch of river, and a local stables will bring horses over for trekking. Probably best for close family groups since there are only four bathrooms for 27 guests. £4,000-£4,500 for a week at Christmas or New Year.

Cairns House, Kirkhill, Scotland

Cairns House has room for 55, so why not cut the arguments about which in-laws are owed your company this year and take every branch of the family tree? Ring in the New Year in the grand ballroom with a minstrel’s gallery and then nurse hangovers with movies in the home cinema. Lots of romping at hand - 15 acres of grounds with a river, or you can go monster hunting at Loch Ness. Mini warriors might enjoy a trip to the Culloden Battlefield, and to Fort George, which claims to have the mightiest artillery fortifications in Europe. You can book a chef for one meal or to cater throughout. Five nights at Christmas £21,050 or £25,098 over New Year.

YHA Coniston Coppermines, Cumbria, Lake District

Get a head start on a classic Christmas walk here. This bunkhouse lies part way up the Old Man of Coniston, saving you 500 feet of the 2,630 feet climb to the summit. The house once belonged to the manager of the old copper mines, and there are glorious views across the Lake District’s rugged fells.  It sleeps up to 26 in five bedrooms, and you can book exclusive use. There’s a cosy lounge and self-catering facilities. If you tire of the climbs – or the cooking – there are lakeside walks, pubs and restaurants a mile away in Coniston. Christmas and New Year weeks from £3,593 to £4,193.

Sedgeford Hall, Sedgeford, Norfolk

The whole Queen Anne Hall can be opened up to accommodate 28, or smaller parties can hire separate parts sleeping 14 each.  An indoor heated swimming pool will keep the kids entertained. You can gawp at the Royals enjoying Christmas at Sandringham up the road or strike out on a four-mile walk to the windmill at Great Bircham, or to the seaside towns of Wells and Cromer. Bedrooms feature ornate carved four posters and there are gorgeous walled gardens (plus a meadow for kickabouts). You can order in an 86-pint barrel of local beer, and everything from a chef for one meal to a full complement of staff. Prices for Christmas week are £2,750 - £3,400 for 14, or £6,150 to sleep 28.

The Cotswold Manor House, Bampton, Oxfordshire

There’s an event barn you can hire to put on a party, or the local gastro pub, a mile away by footpath, will provide a private dining room and shuttle transport.  It will also deliver pizzas, fish and chips, and buffet meals to the house. A games barn with table tennis, pool and table football will be an attraction for the kids, along with acres of land for ball games and hide and seek, and ponds for dipping.  Sleeps 20 in seven bedrooms. Christmas and New Year, £8,000 for the week.

Longs Park Castle, Trowbridge, Wiltshire

Have a fairy tale Christmas in this folly castle. Princesses might be easier to get to bed than usual when they can climb a spiral staircase to sleep in Rapunzel’s Tower – don’t forget to check for any peas under the mattress. Six four postered bedrooms in the main castle, plus four more beds in the Clock House 50 feet away, where you can billet teenagers, or grandparents who might want a bit of peace and quiet.  Another spiral staircase from the main turret leads to the observatory – take binoculars to see whether you can spot Santa’s sleigh. Christmas lunch can be taken at the long dining table in The Great Hall, presided over by a suit of armour. Five days at Christmas for £4,348 (16 beds).

Broughton Hall, Skipton, Yorkshire

The full Downton Abbey experience. Cook comes in the form of your own chef and catering team who will create bespoke menus, and staff are on hand to arrange fly fishing, foraging days, clay pigeon shooting, archery or falconry. There’s an orangery where madam can wander wistfully, and some of the stunning rooms have four posters so high they have steps up to them, and gleaming copper baths. There’s even a pub within the 3,000 acre estate grounds.  Sleeps 28 in 17 bedrooms. You’ll need an aristocratic budget for five days at Christmas £33,600 (shorter stays are £6,000 + VAT per night).

Have you hired a large property for a big family Christmas? Let us know what you thought of it on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #chalkandchat

Chalk & Chat 2018


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