Crisper nights, duskier days; as the sparkling season approaches, it’s time to turn our minds from yuletide cheer to indulgent pre-Christmas retreats. To gathering together under one roof to delight in the midwinter appeal of saunas, sinking tubs, and state-of-the-art cinemas. This year the most sought-after winter getaways are all about warm water therapy, palatial living, and never missing out on poolside Champagne. Think massive country houses stuffed to the rafters with kith and kin, spending all day in fluffy robes, and living like a habitue of a health spa. The houses might be grand, but the purpose is simple — this year, we invite you (to invite them) to put the wrapping paper down and the feet up. Think Eat, Pray, Love on home soil, where stew and dumplings are passed around the table and familial meditations are had at the lakeside. It's The Great British Spa-cation.


Castle India

Castle India: a colourful and patterned living room with a doorway to a lounge

This is a place to party like Stevie Nicks, a house fit for a winter knees-up that would impress even the most rambunctious guild of gypsy souls. With walls sheathed in reams of House of Hackney wallpaper and wild rooms cosied with upholstered modular sofas, Castle India is an interior pick 'n' mix of patterns, where modernistic portraits sit above blushing pineapple light fixtures. Take to the dressed windowsills, noses pressed to glass, to seek out the first fall of fabled Cornish snow. With rare availability this Christmas and New Year's, a stay here will make its way into the family folklore; the one where we read and danced and lounged and ate our way through what is possibly Britain's most outlandish supersized dolls house.



Orpheus: a dramatic, wallpapered bedroom with a bath in front of an ornate window 

A historic manor by The Broads where off-duty A-listers go to let loose, Orpheus was made for the footloose and fancy free. There’s wall tapestries based on the Fêtes Galantes, dancing pairs and fruit pickers between the windows, and a powder room that’s a gilded artwork in its own right. Inside this Suffolk manor, which conjures images of glittering Champagne parties with a touch of royal flair, everything’s out of the ordinary. Think a state-of-the-art gym, high-spec home cinema, hotel-grade power showers, rooms decorated with Sotheby's antiques, and the same palatial bathtubs you would find in Buckingham Palace’s bedchambers. You'd be hard pressed to find another home with so much opulence in its outfitting.



Roserai: a red oast house-turned-home can be seen through the trees

A romantic 10-acre estate with a spa and boating lake in East Sussex, Roserai strikes a hard-to-find balance between Provençal chateaux and English country flair. Descend from beamed bedrooms to gather in front of the inglenook, sipping on tumblers of rosemary gin fizz while winter rushes past. Then, don bow ties and gowns for a visit to the world-class Glyndebourne Opera House; from Haydn’s greatest choral work to Christmas classics reimagined as orchestral showpieces, the property is within falsetto’s reach of the action. Then, back home for hours of luxuriating, swanning between the hot tub, sauna, and steam room before meditative laps on the boating lake.


Gulliver's Hall

Gulliver's Hall: a 17-th century, ornately-carved four poster bed

Gulliver's Hall is a home where familial cosiness abounds, and December is heralded with blankets and roaring fires and semi-centennial oak trees-turned-tables toppling with bottles of vintage fizz and truffle gougères. Some will spend their mornings meandering through the Cotswolds' collection of honeyed cottages, picking up clementines for the cocktails and pak choi for the seasonal stir-fry. But on blustery days, it'll be sunken spa baths and saunas, steam rooms and outdoor showers, and perhaps an Italianate supper from the outdoor pizza oven. All this while the young ones bundle together on marshmallow sofas to watch the judge rule that Kris Kringle is Santa Claus in the first pre-Christmas showing of Miracle on 34th Street.



Ariabelle: a luxurious spa room with a long, heated swimming pool

From sweet sapphire anniversaries to long overdue “frenaissances”, it takes dazzling homes to host dazzling events. Enter Ariabelle, a spa manor with mid-Victorian era cornice mouldings and floor-to-ceiling French shuttered windows, which brings joie de vivre to leafy West Sussex. If you’re a come-one-come-all group with children and dogs to boot, but still want all the feel of midwinter wellness, then this could-be private health spa in Midhurst will be just the ticket. Everything’s here; from an indoor heated pool to a tennis court, hot tub, steam room, sauna, gym, and a bar that brings "cocktail hour energy" to the chic health club interior. With any luck, the first dusting of snow might fall while your troop roasts marshmallows around the fire pit.


Anthology Farm

Anthology Farm: a long table laid for dinner beneath scallop-beaded chandeliers

Whoever said the Cotswolds was a place for summer never settled here in the depths of winter. With a tennis court, a cinema room, a purpose-built yoga studio, and a heated pool to rival the county's most luxurious spas, it has a snug-luxe aesthetic that brings hygge by the bucket. Anthology Farm whips up visions of a new kind of December ritual, of family R&R spent cannonballing and microwaving popcorn and practising child's pose with views over the valley. On the chilliest days, cloaked in wool, the group can wander the streets of trendy Cheltenham, picking up artisanal gifts and working up an appetite for its abundance of croissants and coffee. We call it "the place where Om meets home" for good reason.


Castle Trinity

Castle Trinity: a luxurious castle and grounds in Yorkshire

Not a castle in the air but a castle for pre-Christmas, this is a Yorkshire kingdom where young knights and dames peek through medieval arrowslits for hopeful sightings of their Toymaker in Chief. Pluck yourselves from the backdrop of Castle Trinity's plush fabrics and mulberry tones to wander the twelve acres of sprawling grounds, before returning for leisurely laps in the heated indoor swimming pool, and hours spent tip-toeing between the steam room, yoga space, and gym. With a herd of neighbouring deer to delight the little ones in the party, and a gurgling hot tub waiting to thaw garden-going adventurers, this castle has deep pockets with plenty to keep families of all ages amused.


Yuletide for two

A black wooden bothy on grass with views over cliffs and ocean

If your idea of a picture-perfect winter break is more about silent nights than raucous parties, we have a hideaway for you. Whether it’s just the four of you or a romantic yuletide for two, intimate December getaways are all about matching flannel pyjamas, staying in socks all day, and never missing out on second servings of apple pie and crumble. While mornings pass in a fizz of Champagne and croissants for no reason whatsoever, evenings are for cheese and biscuits and movies screened from the warmth of the hot tub. Our pick of the pack are this Cornish clifftop hideout, this sweet Pembrokeshire cable hut, and this remote Irish bolthole


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