It’s the most wonderful time of the year and at Shire we’re all busy getting our Christmas on! In case you need a little extra help on your way to feeling fully festive, we’ve rounded up our recommendations for leading up to the big day
1. Whether you’re looking for a family outing or planning an office celebration, it isn’t Christmas without a festive party or two thrown in the mix. Many people head to Chester for a Christmas night out. One great option in the city is 1539 Restaurant & Bar. The sumptuous Christmas menu is available throughout the week and features refined dishes, from succulent butter-roasted Cheshire turkey with winter berries to rich, chocolatey desserts. Another great venue in the city is The White Horse at Chester Racehorse, where you’ll find a festive option to suit any jovial gathering, from the sumptuous traditional festive menu to a buffet ideal for office Christmas parties. Father Christmas will also be taking time out of his busy schedule to visit The White Horse on 15th December to entertain younger visitors.
2. If you’re looking for a family friendly festive night out, make sure a trip to the panto is in the diary. You can check our What’s On section for the full round-up, but one of the best in town is the annual offering from Venue Cymru in Llandudno. This year, the show is Cinderella, with a cast including The Wanted’s Tom Parker as Prince Charming, West End sensation Natalie Winsor as the Fairy Godmother, Chris Bewsher as Dandini and Carly Burns as Cinderella.
Alternatively, head to the Wirral’s Floral Pavilion for Aladdin, starring Bill Ward of Coronation Street and Emmerdale as the evil Abanazar. He is joined by Andrew Agnew from Balamory as Wishee Washee, and Bradley Judge as Aladdin, while Michael Chance will be providing laughs and jollity as the gorgeous Widow Twankey.
3. Chester Zoo has stunning visual treat for visitors this Christmas, with a parade of animal-inspired illuminations. Running on selected nights from 23rd November to 23rd December, the heartwarming event raises funds to help support zoo’s work as a conservation charity fighting to prevent extinction around the world.
Visitors arriving at the zoo enter the Garden Of Delight, filled with illuminated 10ft flowers and giant friendly snails, before meandering through a series of fairytale worlds.
In the Moonlit Meadow, you’ll find favourite animal lanterns from years gone by, including giraffes and lions, as well as all-new sun bears and cheetahs. There are also Christmas trees, markets and Santa, and the whole experience ends surrounded by penguin lanterns in the zoo’s new Ice Kingdom.
4. Llandudno Christmas Fayre promises to be a better than ever for visitors and exhibitors alike from 15th to 18th November. The focus of the event is Trinity Square and the grounds of Holy Trinity Church, where you’ll find wooden cabins and open-fronted marquees, and the Christmas theme to the fore with Santa’s Grotto, a virtual reality simulator of Santa’s sleigh and rides for children on Santa’s train.The Y Pafilion stage and entertainment area will host dozens of performances every day, with a seating area to allow people to sit and enjoy the entertainment, or to sample the wares from the many food and drink stalls that will be dotted around. TV personality and hill farmer Gareth Wyn Jones will once again be the fayre’s ambassador, and the event will focus on his mission to highlight the importance of buying local produce. This is backed up with more stalls than ever selling locally produced food, including a number of micro-breweries selling their beers.
5. Many of us like the idea of enjoying cosy night out in a country pub at this time of year, and where better to do so than in the 19th-century Yew Tree Inn in the idyllic village of Bunbury, near Tarporley. A regular home for locals, this gem of a pub offers a warm welcome and a fabulous range of local cask ales, as well as wines and spirits from around the world. There is also delicious, locally sourced and home-cooked food to suit those looking for a memorable evening out or just a light bite. To celebrate the festive season, on 1st December the charming pub will be holding its first pop-up Christmas market, inviting local small and artisan businesses to the pub to show their wares at the start of the festive season. The market will be open to visitors from 10.30am to 2.30pm, with Christmas carols, festive stalls and, of course, a mulled wine bar.
6. If you fancy food and festive fun in a fairytale location, look no further (phew!) than the annual Food & Craft Festival in Portmeirion, which takes place from 30th November to 2nd December. The Italianate village’s Christmas event is a showcase of the best local food, drinks, gifts and entertainment, with more than 120 artisan stalls. In addition to local delicacies and crafts, there is a full programme of entertainment, including cooking demonstrations from celebrity chefs, musical entertainment and Santa’s Grotto. This year promises to be bigger and better than ever, so soak up the atmosphere, have a mulled wine and maybe find the perfect gift while you’re at it.
7. If you’re a bit of a gourmet, there’s a date in the Cheshire calendar that’s just for you. The Foodies Festival brings the Christmas spirit to Tatton Park on 16th, 17th and 18th November. Take home recipes and top tips from MasterChef winners Kenny Tutt and David Crichton, Great British Menu winner Adam Reid and top Cheshire chefs Gary Usher of The Sticky Walnut, Mark Fletcher from The Mere Golf & Spa, who will all be cooking up their festive favourites. There will also be appearances from Great British Bake Off contestants.You can also learn all the skills you’ll need to be the perfect Christmas host, with dozens of workshops and masterclasses in everything from canapes to wine appreciation, all while enjoying carols and music from renowned local choirs. With a VIP area, Vintage Tea Room and Champagne Ski Bar, Foodies Festival is the only place to kick off the festive season.
8. St Chad’s Church, Shrewsbury, is holding its annual Christmas Tree Festival, packing 50-plus perfectly pretty pines into the church from 15th December to 4th January.
Last year, more than 10,000 people visited to the church to admire the trees, which are sponsored by local businesses, social organisations, schools and other charities. This sponsorship in turn helps to support the work of St Chad’s, while each sponsor can also provide and fix their own decorations and LED lights to their tree – either traditionally or to reflect a theme relevant to their organisation.
Admission is free to this year’s spectacular display of decorated and illuminated Christmas trees, which are displayed on the ground and in upper gallery of St Chad’s. It’s a truly special experience to see the beautiful trees in the wonderful ambience of the church – a Christmastide treat.
9. If you have little ones, at this time of year the pressure is on to make their season full of magic and wonder. A great place to start is Magical Farm at Greenacres Animal Park, Deeside. Throughout December, the park opens its doors to welcome Father Christmas and his elves to the most magical farm in North Wales. Children can watch the elves at work in Santa’s Grotto, surrounded by wrapping paper, ribbons and lights, and receive an early Christmas present – and even take one of Santa’s tree lights home! They can also follow the Snow Queen’s trail to Jack Frost’s forest full of furry friends, as well as popping in to Mr Claus’s movie room, the elves’ craft workshop, a festive fairground and indoor soft play centre. There is guaranteed snow for all those magical Christmas family photos and over on Bauble Street an area will come alive with a traditional Christmas market.
10. It you need a little extra inspiration this year when it comes to festival decorations, be bedazzled at the gorgeous Hall at Abbey-Cwm-Hir. This grade II* gothic revival mansion and family home near Llandrindod Wells boasts stunning interiors, thousands of collectable items and beautiful gardens, all in a matchless setting above the ruins of the Abbey-Cwm-Hir. From 1st November to 6th January the house is decorated with individual Christmas themes in all 52 rooms. Tours are available of this true family home and in a family atmosphere. Given demand, early booking is recommended to get the tour date and time preferred.
11. It’s not really Christmas until you’ve got your tree – and it has to be a real one, complete with shedding pine needles. If you want to make an occasion of it, head to a place where all the trees are grown on site and cared for by a devoted family. Pentreclawdd Farm is a family-run glamping site in Oswestry that each winter is transformed into a Christmas tree wonderland. The Christmas shop sells everything from decorations to presents, while the huge variety of trees available should satisfy even the most picky of pine pickers.Tree varieties include all sizes of non-drop Nordmann fir and Norway spruce, as well as potted trees and tree stands. The trees are all locally grown, and include free netting to protect your tree until you get it home. The team at Pentreclawdd are members of the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association and abide by its code, ensuring you get a quality Christmas tree.
12. By now you must be pretty much switched on for Christmas – but before you flick the switch on your own celebrations, check out a local light display that is as inspiring as it is illuminating. This year is the sixth year of the Weston Light Display, when Graham Witter transforms his family home at Carters Green Farm – as well as the farm buildings and garden – into a magical winter wonderland and light spectacular. Santa visits every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening and the last few days before Christmas, and the atmosphere is completed with festive music, mince pies, sweets and chocolates. Graham first transformed the farm for his sister, Jessica Witter, who had multiple complex health needs. Sadly, she died in 2015 and the family now use the lights to raise funds for the team at Donna Louise Hospice in Trentham in her memory. So far, they’ve raised a staggering £65,000.