• Historic houses in full festive splendour with glittering Christmas trees, sweetie banquets and fragrant garlands.
  • Grottos and storytime with Father Christmas.
  • Winter trails inspired by fairytales and family favourites including the Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
  • Mulled wine, mince pies and handmade artisan gifts from Christmas markets.

The nights are drawing in, it’s getting colder, and Christmas isn’t far away. Which means it’s time to get into the festive spirit – and there’s no better way than visiting the National Trust in Surrey and Sussex.

See historic houses decorated in the style of Christmases gone by, wrap up warm and enjoy the crunch of frost underfoot on family trails or shop for stocking fillers under twinkling lights at Christmas markets. Plus, if you’re lucky you might spot Father Christmas on one of his annual visits.

Richard Grudzinski, Experiences Curator at the National Trust said:

“Whether it’s the mist rising on an early morning walk, the sparkle of baubles and the glow of fairy lights or the jingle of carousel rides, there are dozens of special moments just waiting to be enjoyed this Christmas with the National Trust.   

“Enjoy a taste of Christmas past with historic houses dressed with all the trimmings, including Standen, Petworth House and Bateman’s in Sussex. See fairytales come to life with decorations inspired by classic tales, including Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty at Polesden Lacey and the Snow Queen at Claremont Landscape Garden. 

“Or join in family favourites, including The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis at Hatchlands – or Mouse and Mole at Sheffield Park – on magical winter trails through historic gardens and parklands. Plus festive music and a selfie-sleigh at Bodiam Castle.”  

Here’s a roundup of some of the National Trust’s best Christmas events near you. For more information see www.nationaltrust.org.uk/surrey and www.nationaltrust.org.uk/sussex 

Celebrate Christmas in style at Polesden Lacey. The house is dressed for a fairytale Christmas extravaganza (25th November – 7th January) with a 20ft Christmas tree and immersive fairytale scenes from Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. Outside, ride on a vintage hand-carved carousel. Upstairs in the house, pre-book to meet Father Christmas, in an interactive experience filled with magic and wonder. Fairy stories appear through the gardens on a festive trail for families.

Step through the wardrobe into Narnia at Hatchlands Park (1st – 31st December) inspired by the classic story, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis. Tin Shed have brought their wonderful Narnian themed trail to Hatchlands, which attracted thousands to Mottisfont Abbey last Christmas. Take a magical, festive journey through the house into a Narnian wonderland created by award-winning visual artist Imogen Cloët. Explore the parkland on a family trail to the beaver’s cottage, Father Christmas’s sleigh and the throne room at Cair Paravel.

Claremont Landscape Garden is home to the Snow Queen this winter (25th Nov – 2nd Jan). The traditional fairy tale is transformed into a fun-filled family trail to enjoy this festive season. Find the eternal summer garden and the Snow Queen’s castle, have a go at the fun games and activities and stop for a photo at the selfie station. With festive treats in the café to enjoy this fantastic winter wonderland is where the magic really begins.

Bring the family out for a winter stroll and burn off that holiday energy on the Winter Welly Wander at Winkworth Arboretum (16th December – 3rd January). Pick up a trail sheet and play a range of welly-based games that will get everyone rosy-cheeked and smiling. Ask at the welcome kiosk when you arrive.

There’s even a Frost Fair at Box Hill (Sat 9th & Sun 10th December). Come along to this atmospheric Christmas market, showcasing the best of Surrey Hills artisan products including local food, drink, arts and crafts. Plus a host of free festival activities including family crafts and the new Frost fair trail. Browse the stalls for unusual gifts and local festive food and drink, enjoy crafts, winter walks and drink in the spectacular views from the summit of Box Hill.

Enjoy a magical Nutcracker Christmas at Nymans (18th November – 1st January). Sparkling Christmas trees, scenes from the tale, and giant Nutcracker soldiers bring this enchanting adventure to life. See costumes from Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! in the gallery – and sumptuous sweety banquets in the house. A trail in the garden takes families on a voyage through this magical world.

At Standen, step inside the imaginatively decorated Arts and Crafts home at Christmas, filled with twinkling lights and festive Christmas trees (18th November – 1st January). Gather the family together for a festive fun trail around the garden. Book ahead for the Christmas Experience at Standen: The Tale of Betwixtmas, by Spun Glass Theatre, with clowning, puppetry and music.

Celebrate Christmas with a tree-mendous visual display at Petworth House (25th November – 1st January). The Marble Hall is transformed into an enchanted winter garden. See showstopping trees in the house, inspired by Petworth’s magnificent collections. In the historic kitchens is a tempting dessert display, with playful mice. Plus a Christmas maker’s market, lates and workshops. Shortlisted for Tourism South East’s ‘tourism event/festival of the year’ category 2024.

Take a winter wander around Sheffield Park and Garden with the enchanting Mouse and Mole storytale (1st December – 2nd January). Join in with their irrepressible excitement for the festive season and help them prepare for Christmas. Events include Carol Singing in Oak Hall and felt making workshops.

Enjoy a magical Christmas at 14th century Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge, with trees lining the courtyard, twinkling lights and atmospheric tower rooms. Climb aboard Father Christmas’ sleigh for a family selfie, follow the naughty elf trail and write a letter to Santa (25th Nov – 1st Jan, closed 24th & 25th Dec. Normal admission, £3 per trail).

Or stop by Bateman’s, in Burwash, the family home of author Rudyard Kipling. See the house dressed for a traditional Christmas, with real Christmas trees, fresh floral displays, twinkly lights and golden decorations inspired by Kipling and his writing. Head into the garden for a new family trail about the Kipling family Christmas (18th Nov to 1st Jan, closed 24th & 25th Dec. Normal admission, £2 per trail, includes a small prize).

Events correct at time of issue, please check individual webpages for full details and availability

Image: Paul Harris/National Trust Images