After last year’s cancelled Christmas plans, a family gathering this year will feel all the sweeter. But you’re not the only ones planning a big festive get-together: UK holiday rental bookings for the Christmas week are already five times higher than they were last year, says accommodation company Guesty, with the likes of Cornwall, Devon and Pembrokeshire – the summer honeypots – proving most popular once again.
Prices, too, are increasing: the average nightly rent is some 47 per cent higher than it was pre-pandemic, and rising.
The moral of this festive fable? Be quick: because the quest to find a property that’s Christmas-worthy – with log fires, a beautiful location and space for large families – will only get tougher. The timing of Christmas makes things trickier too, with the 25th and 26th falling squarely on a weekend – not to mention the arrival of international tourists, as the UK’s border rules continue to ease.
Whether you’ve set your sights on the UK’s countryside, coast or city, the following properties still have availability for the Christmas period – with plenty of room for large families.
Devizes Castle, Wilshire
With a history dating back to 1080, Devizes Castle has served as a royal retreat, a political prison and a Civil War stronghold… and is now a richly-storied private rental for groups of up to 10 people (across seven bedrooms). Surrounded by private landscaped grounds, it feels more rural than it actually is, while the antique accoutrements – including a suit of armour and four-poster beds – bring its history to life. (Dec 20-26: £10,804; vrbo.com)
Winnow Mill, Scottish Borders
It may be up in the Scottish Borders, but Winnow Mill is incredibly cosy – with an open fire (and vast log store), underfloor heating and private sauna. It’s set in a 100-acre estate, which is open to guests, and features tennis courts and stirring valley views. The house itself is a 19th-century stone-built mill, sleeping 10 guests in four bedrooms (each with its own bathroom), and features both a snug and a vast living room, as well as a cosy shepherd’s hut in the garden. (Dec 24-31: contact for price; luxurycottages.com)
Laburnum House, Somerset
If your Christmas isn’t complete without a long, bracing family walk, Laburnum House in Somerset has a wealth of options nearby – with woodland rambles through Hawthorn Dene Nature Reserve, coastal jaunts on the National Trust coastal footpath, or simply a two-minute yomp to the nearest village pub. Inside, you can gather round the inglenook fireplace on leather Chesterfield armchairs, and soak in the wood-fired hot tub. Sleeps 10. (Dec 21-28: £1,999; big-cottages.com)
Quarry House, Devon
Overlooking the Salcombe-Kingsbridge estuary, Quarry House sits in the South Devon AONB – putting seaside strolls within easy reach, on the likes of Slapton Sands (10 minutes’ drive), Salcombe (15 minutes) and Bantham Beach (20 minutes). With four bedrooms, a large terrace and open-plan living room with woodburner fire, the house sleeps eight guests – and has a shepherd’s hut (with log burner) and hot tub in the garden. (Dec 22-29: £3,050; salcombefinest.com)
The Tower, Devon
Also in Salcombe, The Tower is a local landmark that dates back to 1795 – now with a sleek new-build addition, sleeping 12 guests across six bedrooms. In the manor of a mini fortress, its stone turrets loom over the harbour and yacht club: a stirring rooftop setting for festive bubbly, with views of the sandy beaches, rolling hills and wide estuary waters beyond. Optional extras include local yacht charters, private catering and VIP concierge service. (Dec 22-29: £4,000; salcombefinest.com)
Old Pear Tree Barn, Cornwall
Ideal for smaller families, Old Pear Tree Barn is set in a quiet hamlet on the north coast of Cornwall, within walking distance of Newquay’s best beaches. The renovated two-bedroom cottage sleeps four guests (plus up to three pets), with original features including exposed timber beams and a vaulted ceiling – plus underfloor heating, Sky TV and a Bose sound system. It’s just a short walk through the orchard garden to Cubert, and its thatched 16th-century pub – The Smugglers Den Inn. (Dec 20-27: £2,450; luxurycoastal.co.uk)
Shipwrights Cottage, Pembrokeshire
Just a few metres from the beach at Tenby, Shipwrights Cottage gives you no excuse for skipping the Boxing Day Swim – the town’s fearsomely chilly charity dip, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Luckily there’s a log burner in the four-bedroom cottage, and a freestanding bathtub to defrost in. As well as having the restaurants and pubs of Tenby close by, this is a great base for exploring the wider Pembrokeshire National Park and coast. Sleeps eight. (Dec 23-27: £1,391; snaptrip.com)
Calton Hill apartment, Edinburgh
Arriving in Edinburgh on December 23, you’ll find the city’s Christmas markets and festivities in full swing, and this Calton Hill apartment puts you a short walk from the action. It sleeps up to eight people across three bedrooms (all en-suite), with rich claret-coloured interiors and plush leather Chesterfields – plus a huge kitchen, featuring two fridge-freezers for all your festive grub. (Dec 25-30: £2,476; holidu.co.uk)
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