A vast Nordman fir twinkles in the light-filled octagonal room, the dining table is laid, fires crackle, and the smell of pine needles and warm mince pies wafts through the hallway. Christmas at Farleigh House is deeply special.
Farleigh is not a house or hotel, it is a home. A place for early morning coffees as the mist rolls through the fields, for kicking off muddy boots after a brisk walk around the estate, for silver-service lunches in the grand dining room or help-yourself kitchen suppers if you’d rather.
The elegant traditional interiors are fantastically smart, but not stuffy. Here is a 10-bedroomed, fully-staffed retreat with plenty of space to gather up a crew of friends and family for a blast of crisp country air, only an hour from London. There are countless sofas to curl up on, shelves lined with books you can actually read, a billiards room for after-supper snookering, sitting rooms to escape to, each with a roaring log fire and afternoon tea brought in on trays. And at this time of year, it is festive, delightful, utterly spoiling.
This is a don’t-lift-a-finger Christmas where all the help you need is on tap. What could be a better present than that?
On Christmas Eve, the festivities begin with carols by candlelight at the pretty church of St Andrew’s, followed by a delicious five-course supper. Children can help prepare a glass of sherry to leave out for Father Christmas as well as carrots for the reindeers. And night owls can venture out to midnight mass at Winchester Cathedral, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe.
On Christmas morning, after breakfast, presents are opened and the first glasses of champagne are poured. The fires are lit, the house is toasty and in the kitchen, preparations for a feast are underway.
Christmas lunch is a spectacle, kicking off with canapes and drinks in the drawing room. The dining table is laden with berries and boughs from the gardens, ready for a lavish seven-,course feast. The chef uses local seasonal ingredients and produce, the organic turkey is carved at the table and the final flourish is a homemade Christmas pudding.
Watch the Queen’s Speech in the cosy Library and then, as twilight draws in, pull on your wellies on for a romp around the grounds to gather chestnuts for roasting over the outside fire pit. The day ends with a light evening supper.
Boxing Day is equally as relaxing, beginning slowly with brunch, followed by a guided tour of the estate, returning for afternoon tea and a light supper.
A very British Christmas in stunning Hampshire countryside.