No Tinsel, No Turkey: How to Avoid a Chintzy Christmas

North Foreland Lighthouse, Broadstairs, Kent
North Foreland Lighthouse, Broadstairs, Kent

Christmas is looming, but if you’re the sort of person who longs to escape the tinsel-and-turkey fest, and craves nothing more than some peace, a roaring fire and an over-sized box of chocolates, the good news is there are still plenty of boltholes available to book. Whether you want a cosy cottage in deepest Northumberland, or an exotic few days somewhere like Marrakech, it’s not too late to create the Christmas you want.

Rural Herefordshire offers a really tranquil escape; go walking in the lushly beautiful Forest of Dean, discover the 12th century castle at Goodrich and dip into picturesque Ross on Wye to pick up foodie goodies for your countryside escape. Or head west, to Dorset’s beautiful Jurassic coast, for glorious beach walks, cream teas and a pace of life that remains wonderfully slow, even during Christmas. Stay in the quiet village of Chideock, with a pub within walking distance and the dramatic cliffs of Golden Cap just a short drive away.

Devon is another good choice for a quiet Christmas; Dartmoor remains one of the least spoilt corners of Southern England, and its Dark Skies status means that there are wonderful starlit skies on clear nights.

For a Christmas cottage with added drama, book one of the UK’s spectacularly-located lighthouses – all of which come with vast skies, crashing seas and a sense of glorious isolation. Hop on the ferry to the Isle of Wight or head to coastal Kent – both have lighthouse accommodation still available. Or pack walking boots and fleeces for a festive Forest break – staying in a luxury lodge in Nottingham’s Sherwood Forest. Walk by the lake at Clumber Park, cycle through woodlands and come back for turkey sandwiches in front of the fire. Or hop on the ferry to discover the old-fashioned charms of the Isle of Wight; head for the West Wight, the quieter side of the island, and take a Boxing Day walk up on Tennyson Down, or along the beach at picturesque Freshwater Bay.

To really revel in glorious isolation, there’s nowhere better than the craggy glens and shimmering lochs of Scotland – at their most beautiful under bright winter sunshine. Make the most of quiet golf courses at St Andrews, or hole up in an cosy apartment for two near Oban, with mountain biking, walking and fishing all on your doorstep.

One of the easiest ways to avoid Christmas is to disappear off to a country that doesn’t celebrate it – at least to the same extent we do. Marrakech is an ideal choice – even in deepest December days are warm and the skies can be a flawless blue – the perfect backdrop for the rose-red city. Or head a little further afield with a jaunt to exotic Abu Dhabi for lazy days by the pool, combined with days out to places like Yas Island, home to the world’s first Ferrari World Theme Park, and a spectacular water park.

For something really unforgettable, there is one winter treat that can outshine any amount of Christmas twinkle and bling. Head north, to the Norwegian city of Tromso to see the glorious greens, yellows and reds of the Northern Lights. Join husky drives, build snowmen and spend nights gazing up at truly spectacular skies – the real spirit of Christmas.

Riad Hikaya Boutique Hotel, Marrakech
Riad Hikaya Boutique Hotel, Marrakech
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