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31 OCTOBER 2011


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Article from BTNews 31 OCTOBER 2011

ON TOUR: Christmas in Shakespeare Country

Before we know it the New Year holidays will be upon us and for many an extended break.  This preview offers a whole host of festive activities in Shakespeare Country with spectacular Christmas lights, festive markets, traditional carols, candlelit tours, storytelling, craft fairs, cake decorating workshops, nativity shows, ghost stories and a Royal Shakespeare Company performance of The Heart of Robin Hood. 

Airbase and the Gaydon Motor Museum are both open during the period but for all the attractions visit the individual web sites to check opening times. www.shakespeare-country.co.uk details them all and also features accommodation if you are a visitor to the area.

Christmas lights provide the perfect backdrop for festive shopping.  The lights are switched on in Royal Leamington Spa on 20 November, in Stratford on 24 November and in Kenilworth on 25 November.  Visit Christmas Markets in Leamington held every Sunday from 20 November-18 December and every Thursday in Stratford from the 24 November until Christmas.  The popular Warwick Victorian Christmas Evening with over 60 craft stalls with traditional entertainment and attractions takes place on 24 November from 17:00-21:00 when the Christmas lights are switched on in the town.


Enjoy a magical performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company which presents The Heart of Robin Hood from 18 November-7 January 2012.  See the world premiere of this new play which is based on the myth of Robin Hood but with a definite twist as Maid Marion takes centre stage.  Great swashbuckling fun for all the family!  Go on a backstage tour, see inspiring art around the building with two exhibitions and drop in for fun activities for all the family.  Or take the lift to the top of the theatre tower and look out over the twinkling Christmas lights of Shakespeare’s home town from the 32m high viewing platform.


Christmas will be in full swing at Warwick Castle from Saturday 17 December.  Guests can see the Great Hall and State Rooms decked out for Christmas fit for a King!  Enjoy all the traditional trimmings along with festive food and drink served in the 13th Century Undercroft.  Children can visit Santa who will be making himself at home in the State Rooms.


See all the Shakespeare Houses dressed for Christmas from 1 December-6 January 2012.  Visit the beautifully decorated Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and discover more about festive traditions from Tudor to Victorian Times.  Experience a magical evening of traditional carols with mulled wine, mince pies and a rare opportunity to visit the beautiful Cottage in the evening on 3 December.  Wrap up warm and enjoy carols in front of the Cottage sung by the children’s choir from Temple Grafton School from 19:00.  Enjoy mulled wine, mince pies and shopping for Christmas decorations and gifts.  Christmas lights will brighten your way through the garden at Shakespeare’s Birthplace where traditional Christmas decorations of ivy, holly and spiced fruits will hang in the parlour and hall plus a Christmas feast will be set on the table.  On 8 December take a candlelit tour at Shakespeare’s Birthplace and enjoy a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie for the special entry price of £1. 


Ease yourself into the festive frenzy with Christmas storytelling in the dramatic setting of Kenilworth Castle on 3 & 4 December.  On 8 December join local sugar craft teacher Lynne Rigby who will show you how to perfect your Christmas cake decorating.  Bring along your marzipaned cake and learn techniques for decorating it then take it home to enjoy.  Take part in a traditional toy-making workshop with historical games experts Heuristics from 27-31 December plus carols, fun games, stories and refreshments. 


Enjoy a programme of themed events at Hatton Country World.  Wander around a Christmas Craft Fayre on 5 & 6 November selling handcrafted Christmas gifts.  Enjoy a host of free festive tastings at the Christmas Food Fayre on 12 & 13 November from delicious pates, wines, dips and nibbles to tasty cakes and puddings. Christmas shopping weekends with traditional nativity shows featuring live animals take place on 26 & 27 November, 3 & 4, 10 & 11, 17 & 18 December.  Enjoy roasted chestnuts, free mulled punch and mince pies whilst listening to the festive choirs.  Late night Christmas shopping is available on 2, 9 & 16 December with Santa on his sleigh accompanied by his adorable reindeer.


Visit Compton Verney and re-kindle the magic of a traditional Christmas.  The mansion will be decorated with Christmas trees and sparkling lights.  Christmas themed weekends take place on 3 & 4 and 10 & 11 December.  Enjoy drop-in Christmas decoration and card making workshops, festive music in the galleries,  Christmas storytelling and a children’s Christmas trail in the galleries.  On 4 & 11 listen to Musica Figurata sing seasonal carols.


Coughton Court’s Winter Festival takes place from 26 November-4 December.  Festive stalls will sell local produce, crafts, and gifts.  Enjoy mulled wine, mince pies and roasting chestnuts.  Visit the house dressed for a traditional Victorian Christmas and see the Green Father Christmas.  Listen to your favourite carols being played on the baby grand piano.  The festive celebrations culminate on 10 & 11 December with a Christmas Wassail with stories and carols from Birmingham Crescent Theatre.


On Christmas Eve, enjoy ghost stories by lantern light at The Falstaff Experience in Stratford where mulled wine and mince pies will be served. Santa will also be paying a visit to his Secret Grotto accessed via the magical cobblestone courtyard.


Santa Claus will be in his magical workshop at the Creaky Cauldron from 17 November-24 December and then for those who have had enough by Boxing Day – Ebenezer Scrooge will visit from 26-31 December.  Assisted by his team of helpers, children will be able to wander through a magical winter wonderland stopping off at Magic School and the Enchanted Manor before a visit with the great man himself in his magical toy workshop.  Santa’s Magical Victorian Frost Fair runs from 17 November-24 December.


Enjoy a Victorian Christmas at Hill Close Gardens in Warwick on 3 December from 16:00-19:00.  The gardens will be decorated with lights plus there will be a large Christmas tree and festive stalls.  Take part in a Christmas raffle with prizes donated from local businesses.  Children can enjoy a Christmas Workshop on 9 December with Christmas related activities.


St John’s House Museum is hosting a special Contemporary Craft Fair on Sunday 11 December where you can shop for handcrafted gifts in festive and historical surroundings!  Create a unique handmade wreath to adorn your door on Saturday 3 December.  On the same day visit the Warwickshire Record Office and listen to Richard Churchley, musician and local historian perform local folk songs from a rich heritage of traditional songs.


Purchase handmade crafts at Upton House’s Christmas Market on 3 & 4 December.  Enjoy the Christmas celebrations for the servants of Lord and Lady Bearsted at Upton in the 1930s Servants Hall with a Christmas Ball during weekends in December.  Father Christmas will be in his magical grotto to greet children with a Christmas gift on weekends in December.


See the Great Hall at Sulgrave Manor swathed in seasonal greenery and listen to the Lord of the Manor and his Cook tell tales of feasting, festivity and frolicking.  Visit the Manor for its Winter Wassail on 27 December.  Sing, dance and make a lot of noise in the orchard to wassail the apple trees to ensure a good crop next year.  Hear stories of the 12 days of Christmas and discover the ancient customs of the Lord of Misrule and Plough Monday.


Take part in a workshop about Edible Gifts at Hidcote Manor Gardens on 1 December.  Learn how to make sweet and savoury treats that make ideal gifts.  Walk up and over the impressive Meon Hill with stunning views of the Cotswolds followed by a festive three-course lunch on 3 December.  Discover how to make a stunning table centrepiece on 15 December at Green Grows the Holly workshop.


Make Vintage Cupcakes at Farncombe Estate on 4 December.  Christmas is the perfect time to let your creative skills go wild and produce a beautiful tray of 12 cupcakes to take home and admire.  And on 11 December make creative cupcakes shaped like Christmas baubles, Christmas puddings, Christmas trees, and much more! 


Drayton Manor’s Magical Christmas, which runs from 26 November-2 January 2012, will see Thomas Land transformed into a winter wonderland with festive music, spectacular decorations and snow machines.  New for 2011 is Santa’s Magical Workshop, where children will experience the North Pole by travelling through the ice caves and enchanted forest where the talking Oak Tree will guide them to see Santa hard at work, with his elves making all the Christmas toys.  Another new offering for Christmas will be the Christmas market, with log cabins and marquees keeping customers warm. www.shakespeare-country.co.uk

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