The Culture24 Guide to Christmas Grottos 2009

By Culture24 Staff | 11 December 2008
A photo of a man in a Santa outfit standing on a steam train

Durham's Bowes Museum hold their grotto in the annual Christmas Market on December 20 (10am-4pm, call 01833 690606), where you’ll also find seasonal crafts and entertainment.

The rival industrial heartland of Wakefield's National Coal Mining Museum accommodates an underground grotto 140 metres underground, rewarding children with presents and adults with mince pies once they've reached the Christmas chamber on December 11-13 and 18-23 (£6/£4, includes Santa tour and gift for children under 12, hot drink and mince pie for adults, all children must be accompanied, booking essential, call 01924 848806.)

The Yorkshire Philharmonic Choir will be performing Christmas carols in the vault (December 13 and 20, 2pm-4pm) and for those who resurface there’s a Reindeer Hunt in the Museum itself (£1 per sheet, subject to availability.)

A photo of a Christmas market with sheep in a pen

The Rural Life Centre

A Victorian Grotto at the Museum of London Docklands runs from December 12-23, set in 19th century Sailortown (£5, call 020 7001 9844).

The Rural Life Centre, near Farnham, is running Santa Special days (10am-5pm, £5.50-£7.50, family ticket £22, call 01252 795571), ushering visitors in to meet gnomes, elves and fairies by steam train, as well as donkeys, calves, sheep and reindeer under fairy lights and seasonal music. Time slots are provided to reduce waiting times for the popular celebrations, which were attracting bookings as long ago as July.

The River and Rowing Museum has a grotto run by Mr Toad, inviting the public to make and decorate Christmas crackers inspired by the Museum’s Wind in the Willows exhibition on December 12 (10.30am-12.30pm for 4-7 year-olds, 1.30pm-3.30pm 7-11 year-olds, £8.50, call 01491 415600.)

A one-day special also takes place at Colchester Castle on December 16, where carols, a grotto and "festive treats" will be taking over the historic setting courtesy of the Castle Park Rangers (3pm-8.30pm, grotto visits £2 including gift, call 01206 282939.)

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex has a Medieval grotto (admission £2.60-£5.80, family ticket £13-£14.50, plus £6 per grotto visit, booking advised, call 01580 830196) and a Christmas Challenge with guests Jack Frost and the mysterious Snow Queen.

The glamorous country weekends of 1930s high life will be recreated at Mottisfont in Hampshire with a society party and a Christmas grotto trail for children on December 12-13 and 19-20 (11am-5pm, £3.60-£8, family tickets £18-£20, call 01794 340757.)

A photo of children in Christmas outfits at a festive market

The ubiquitous bearded one is appearing at multitudinous venues this month

The downstairs of the hall and garden at East Riddlesden Hall will be draped in Victorian decorations as a green Santa Claus and helpers take to the West Yorkshire site on December 12 and 13 (£10, booking essential, call 01535 683800). Storytelling and hurdy-gurdy music are also on the agenda in an afternoon of fun for 3-13 year-olds.

Wallington, the Northumberland mansion and gardens, welcomes Santa to the house and gives Mrs Santa a storytelling slot in a courtyard grotto (booking essential, £4.40-£9.70, family ticket £22-£24.20, call 01670 773600.)

The interactive Whitehaven Museum, in Cumbria, has Christmas Craft sessions with Santa on December 21 and 22 (11am-12pm and 2pm-3pm, £5 including gift, suitable for 3-12 year-olds, under-8s must be accompanied, booking essential, call 01946 592302.) It also has a grotto on December 23 (11am-4pm, suitable for 3-8 year-olds, £3 including present, all children must be accompanied.)

Sizergh Castle, which was a fortunate recent escapee of the flooding in Cumbria, has Santa's Woodland Grotto on December 19 and 20 (11am-3.30pm, £5, call 01539 560951) with Christmas treats in the café.

A photo of a young child in a Santa's grotto

Most events offer gifts and wisdom for young visitors

Cornwall's National Maritime Museum has a Christmas Grotto with carols and gifts on December 19 and 20 (12pm-3.30pm, £6-£8.75, free for under-6s, family ticket £24, adult supervision required, call 01326 313388.)

There's a 1930s theme at Castle Drogo in Devon on December 12 and 13, 19-21 and 22-23 (11am-4pm, £3.72-£8.20, family ticket £11.18-£20.50, plus £2 per grotto visit, call 01647 433306).

The National Slate Museum, in Llanberis, has decided to hold an event closer to Christmas this year, throwing a party on December 21 with a grotto and craft workshops (12pm-3pm, free admission, some additional costs for grotto visits and workshops, call 01286 870630.)

Chirk Castle, near Langollen, beats a woodland trail to Father Christmas's secret cabin, hidden between Elves Workshops, Wishing Trees, country craft stalls and local mulled wine and roast chestnuts (£6.50/£3.25, £2 per grotto visit including present, call 01691 777701.)

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