Harewood House has opened its doors for the first Christmas in 5 years – inviting visitors to enjoy the delights of A Victorian Christmas.
South East Leeds Mumbler Alison & her family were lucky enough to be invited along to experience a festive family day out, read on to find how they got on! (They received a family ticket and 2 tickets to meet Santa in exchange for an honest review).
A Victorian Christmas opened on Friday 24th November for the festive season. Not wanting to miss a moment, we were there bright and early just after 10am on Saturday to see what exciting things they have on offer. Once you have collected your tickets from the gate, there is plenty of free car parking next to the adventure play area, just a short walk from the entrance to the house or gardens in either direction.
We decided to visit the house first, with great excitement to see the decorated staterooms. On entering the house we were greeted with an awe-inspiring Christmas tree in the foyer, and the kids (age 7 & 5) were given a festive ‘I spy’ sheet to complete as we went around hunting for things such as sugared almonds, nutcracker dolls and traditional tree decorations. This was a lovely idea, and really captured their interest, meaning that we spent over an hour looking around the house!
In every room, we saw a glimpse inside a Victorian Christmas, from decorations to dinner, the nativity and the toys received on Christmas morning. There were laminated cards to add detail, and a tour guide in each room to answer questions (of which the kids had absolutely loads!)
Below stairs, you could dress up in the pantry and pretend to be a servant, and in the kitchen, there was a festive cooking demonstration of parsnip soup going on. The demo varies daily and there was a selection of recipe sheets you could take away to try at home. The lady was very keen to chat with visitors and answer questions, as well as finding out the sort of things you like to cook at home. This really made the kitchen come to life in the children’s eyes, much more than a static display and gave them an insight into the differences from the modern day.
Fireside Father Christmas
Our next port of call was a truly magical one. We were greeted by a friendly elf and guided into a cosy room with a real fire, Christmas trees and beautiful decorations as a small group of around 20 visitors. The elf explained that we were all luckily on Santa’s ‘good list’ and we were going to have a very special visit from Santa. He arrived in old-fashioned dress, and literally took the kids’ breath away – they were absolutely convinced that this was the REAL Santa.
Santa sat by the fireplace and read a lovely story about the first Christmas tree at Harewood House, asking questions to the children and dealing with interruptions along the way. (It was quite a long story, and in my opinion, probably a little bit lost on the younger children in the group.) Children were then invited to write down a Christmas wish, and have a one on one chat with Santa where they received a gift.
The whole session felt very un-rushed, we must have spent 45 minutes there, and the kids had a lovely chat with Santa about their school plays, favourite Christmas songs and whether Rudolph had been good this year! It was definitely the most believable Santa experience my children have had, and for £7 I think it was worth every penny.
After meeting Father Christmas we decided it was time for lunch, and headed for the courtyard cafe, which is quite small (unless you are brave enough to sit outside) and understandably really busy. If you’re planning to eat in the cafe, I’d suggest you get in there for an early lunch. Or alternatively, come prepared for a winter picnic (which lots of people were!) with some blankets and flasks of tea in the car!
After lunch, we tried out the family festive crafts in the education centre, where you could make some Christmas crackers and cards, or do some festive colouring in. All materials were provided, with the option to leave a small donation, and a member of staff was on hand to help if needed. We especially loved making the crackers, and as you get to bring an instruction sheet home, we were even able to make some more later!
Unfortunately, we didn’t make it around the Christmas carol trail through the grounds on this visit, as we were distracted into the huge adventure play area to burn off some energy before dusk (the play area & gardens close at 3.30pm) There’s a handily placed stand selling hot drinks, snacks and marshmallows to toast on a fire pit just next to the play area, so parents can keep warm whilst the kids are charging about.
As we were leaving, the Salvation Army brass band were starting to play and the gardens and trees were lighting up with fairy lights. It felt very festive and magical, and in more of an understated way than many of the other Christmas attractions on offer. If you’re looking for something a bit different and more traditional this year, I would certainly recommend a visit to Harewood House this Christmas.
You can find out more, and book tickets via the Harewood House Website
Family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) £43
Children (age 4-17) £8
Fireside Santa £7 per child (with up to 2 accompanying adults free).