Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review

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Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review

We visited Cragside over my birthday weekend in December and had such a lovely day. Cragside is open daily throughout December and I honestly think a visit is going to be an annual tradition for us now.

It is one of those days out where there is something for everyone and it isn't all just about the kids. There are beautiful decorations to admire, choirs to listen to, roaring fires, beautiful winter walks to enjoy, delicious food, gifts to buy and if you are lucky, a visit to see the main man himself too. 




Christmas Decorations at Cragside House 



Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Making mince pies in the kitchen

There are only selected rooms open in the house at Cragside throughout December but don't let this put you off - it is still more than worth a trip. The decorations are simply beautiful and you really get a feel for what a (wealthy) Victorian Christmas is like.

We had serious house and decoration envy - I wonder if the National Trust volunteers are available to decorate my house next year?

Each room in the house has been decorated and set up as if it is Christmas Eve in the Victorian period.

The first room we visited was the kitchen which really is a feast for the senses - a cook was baking mince pies using a traditional recipe and was handing out samples to visitors. SO delicious.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Victorian kitchen

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Victorian recipe mince pies

There were bowls on the table with various Christmas ingredients and we couldn't resist a little sniff.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Christmas ingredients

Next up was the dining room with the most magnificent tree. It literally took my breath away! Sometimes visiting National Trust houses can be a touch on the boring side for kids but the decorations really appealed to them and H, H and J enjoyed admiring everything just as much as I did.

The table is laid ready for a Christmas feast and the roaring fire adds the final piece to the jigsaw. Such a beautiful room.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Dining Room Christmas Tree

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review - Dining Table

More gorgeous trees, decorations and fireplaces in the various reception rooms downstairs. What I like about the Christmas decor here is that each tree is different. It is difficult to pick a favourite.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Christmas Tree

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Festive Fireplace


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Drawing Room Christmas Tree


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Snowflake Decorations on Fireplace

My Instagram followers will know that my grandad recently moved into a care home. He has lived in the same house for over 50 years and I even lived there myself as a child. He lived in a council house and giving it up was really tough on us all - we have so many memories there.

Anyway, one of those memories is playing bagatelle at my grandparents house with my cousins during holidays in the past - we spent HOURS playing this as children and the game at Cragside is almost identical to the version my grandad made. Such a lovely trip down memory lane for me and we couldn't resist a little turn. It definitely brought a smile to my face.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Bagatelle Game



Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - warming hand by fire

Our final surprise was stumbling upon an Orchestra upstairs. We could hear the music as we walked around the house but I just assumed it was a pre-recorded tape. What a treat!

I think whether you will hear live music is volunteer dependent and I can't see any details on the Cragside website - it really added to our visit though and was so lovely. I couldn't resist joining in with Good King Wenceslas as we walked around the final rooms.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Live orchestra playing carols


Winter Walks at Cragside 



Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - walking routes


The grounds at Cragside are dog-friendly (on leads) and there are lots of walks to choose from. The gardens are simply beautiful and a quick family walk in winter is a lovely way to blow away the cobwebs.

If you head to the Cragside Information Room next to the tea room, there are 12+ walking routes displayed on boards - all with various difficulties and lengths, there is something for everyone. Refreshingly, Cragside don't provide walking route maps and instead, they encourage you to photograph the boards instead. A much better idea I think.

There is also a Lost Puppy winter trail running through the grounds (not suitable for pushchairs). The trail is free to try and involves following beautiful boards illustrated by Jenny Bell. The trail begins at the visitor centre.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Outside Cragside House

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Cragside House in Winter


We didn't follow a set walk on this occasion and just preferred a gentle amble through the gardens between activities.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Winter Walks


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Woodland Walk at Cragside

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Lakeside Walks

The grounds were a little muddy - trainers / walking boots / wellies are recommended. Heidi and Jack ventured down to the lake to say hi to the ducks and birds and we found some friendly sheep too.

If you are feeling active, you can walk from the main car park up to the play area - it is an easy route, around 2 miles (and uphill) with the most beautiful views.

We have done this a few times. Alternatively, you can drive through the estate to the Crozier Car Park (it is well signposted and just next door to the playground). Playgrounds are not just for summer! We used to take the kids often when they were younger (and in all weathers).

The labyrinth is open too and always a good laugh. The kids were begging to go in but as time was getting on I was worried about getting lost again and it turning dark (read about our experience of getting lost in the labyrinth here).

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - playground


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - winter playground

Festive Lunch in the Tea Room 




Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Tea room setting

Cragside Christmas Lunches are available in the tea room daily from 12noon - 2pm until 22 December 2019. These lunches must be pre-booked ahead by calling 01669 620333. If you have not pre-booked a table, other festive light bites are available from the counter including Christmas sandwiches, scones, mince pies and treats.

I would highly recommend booking a table though, especially if you are visiting over a weekend as it was pretty busy on the day of our visit.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - christmas lunch menu

If you pre-book a Christmas lunch, your table will be decorated with Christmas crackers and you are welcomed with a glass of warm fruit punch which was a nice touch. The tea room is decorated, there is Christmas music playing and a fire on the go. It is lovely and really got us in the mood for Christmas.

One family next to us were here with their babies and grandparents - the dads had been on a walk around the grounds with the babies as the ladies enjoyed a wreath making class before the all met up for lunch which I think sounds like a lovely idea.


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - christmas lunch drinks menu

We ordered the pear, walnut and blue cheese to start which was very generous in portion size and delicious. The staff were really on the ball and super friendly - they kept sharing their favourite Christmas jokes which made us smile. The benefit of booking ahead meant that we didn't have to queue and could just relax as our lunch was brought out to us.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - blue cheese salad


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - christmas cracker joke

We all opted for traditional turkey for our mains (meat-free for Heidi). Jack declared the turkey to be the softest he has ever tasted (I think he meant tender).

Vegetables are brought out to share and there is an extra jug of gravy and homemade cranberry sauce too. The stuffing was particularly delicious. At £11.95, I thought this was a pretty good value Christmas lunch.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - turkey lunch


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - vegetable sides

My favourite part of the whole meal was the Christmas pudding. It was so light and just perfect. Could eat it all again now in fact.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - christmas pudding

Christmas Shopping at Cragside 


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - gift shop

National Trust are a charity and advertise guilt-free shopping, you can be assured that all profits from the shop go back into the charity and the work that National Trust do.

The gift shop is just across from the tea room and I was super impressed with the range of gifts on offer - as well as the traditional walking & outdoor gifts you would usually find, there are some beautiful decorations available to purchase (including these beautiful snowflakes).

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - decorations for sale

I also loved the selection of handmade soaps, candles and home fragrances on offer as well as local foodie gifts too.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - homemade soap for sale

Children aren't forgotten about either. If you are looking for a Christmas gift, definitely pop into the shop, their range is lovely.

Santa at Cragside 



Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - croft house

If you have already booked to see Father Christmas elsewhere, I love that Cragside don't make their festivities to be all focussed on seeing him here - you could easily enjoy a lovely day out at Cragside and not even notice that Father Christmas was there.

However, the experience is really good and if you are looking for a Father Christmas experience in 2020 (this year has sold out), it is one to keep in mind. Tickets were £16 per child (adults free) + regular admission and the experience is really well organised and lasts about 30 minutes in total.

Head to Croft House opposite the Tea Room a few minutes before your allotted time and you will be greeted by a lovely elf who checks you in and shows you into the Christmas Craft room.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - crafts with elves

I loved the little touch of a Christmas reading corner in here for those children who aren't keen on crafting.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - story corner

Heidi and Jack are keen though and with a little help from the elves created a festive woodland wand using natural materials and ribbon  - something a little different which they really enjoyed.

You can also enjoy Christmas colouring, create a tree decoration or write a letter to Father Christmas. There is no rush and you can do as many/few activities as you wish.


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - making woodland wands


When it is your turn to visit Father Christmas, the elves will lead you into his grotto which is lovely. Mrs Claus is in there too (she took the photos which was nice).

After posting these photos on Instagram, a few people messaged to say that this Santa is actually the old Fenwick Santa back in the day when it was free. He is lovely and super authentic (and yes, Santa is a Geordie).

We spent around 3-4 minutes chatting about what we would like for Christmas, posing for photos and receiving a wrapped gift (a soft toy which the kids loved). The meeting is pretty short but I like that it is private and that there are lots of photo opportunities. I absolutely loved the setting too - it feels really magical.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Santa in his grotto

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review - Father Christmas

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - Photo with Santa in his grotto

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - gift from Santa

The final part of our Santa visit was to visit the bakery and decorate some gingerbread cookies. Cragside really has paid so much attention to detail and again, the setting is perfect. I loved the little gingerbread house on the side.

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - cookie decorating


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - gingerbread cookie decorating

Santa visits have sold out for 2019 but if you fancy it next year, tickets usually go on sale mid-October. Keep an eye on the Cragside Facebook page around that time for announcements. 

Christmas at Cragside - Important Information & Booking



Cragside is open daily throughout December 2019 (closed 24 & 25 December). Last admission to the estate is one hour before closing. The carriage drive is closed every Thursday until 12noon (the house etc... is still accessible during this time).


Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - opening times


Entry to Cragside at Christmas is FREE for National Trust members or you can pay on arrival (see below for prices). Access to the house, gardens and tea rooms is included with admission. If you would like to enjoy a festive lunch in the tea room, you should book in advance - call 01669 622038 to book. Festive sandwiches, soup, scones and treats are available to purchase on the day. 

Christmas & Santa at Cragside Review  - admission prices

Father Christmas has now sold out for 2019 - tickets are usually released mid-October and can be booked online. In 2019, the price was £16 per child (+ regular admission). Adults did not need to pay. Price includes a Christmas craft, cookie decorating, personal visit with Father Christmas and gift. 




Cragside feels SO festive in December - I am so pleased we visited and like I say, I think it will be an annual tradition for us now. 

There were lots of different types of people visiting- dog walkers enjoying the grounds and a hot chocolate and mince pie in the Tea Room courtyard, families with children of all ages enjoying the decorations, lights and Father Christmas and couples enjoying a little December date day - Cragside really does feel like a lovely place to escape from the chaos of Christmas and enjoy some proper time with loved ones. 

Let me know if you fancy visiting. 


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2 comments

  1. How incredible is the Cragside Santa! He looks brilliant!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ah sounds lovely! we have been terrible at using our passes this year as the kids just moan so much about going to NT...but gonna drag them over the hols!

    ReplyDelete

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