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Decked-Out Hotels in the U.K. and Ireland to Get You Into the Festive Spirit

By Devorah Lev-Tov

11.26.18

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Lough Eske in Donegal is a converted 14th-century castle, with plenty of holiday charm to spare.

Photo by Ghorm Studio Photography

Lough Eske in Donegal is a converted 14th-century castle, with plenty of holiday charm to spare.

These hotels, with glamorous light displays, over-the-top trees, and even a gigantic gingerbread train, are sure to put you in a holiday mood.

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The holiday season brings joy, music, food, and lots of lights. For some of the ultimate in decorating inspiration, look to our friends in the UK and Ireland—they really know how to go all out, turning their inns, lodges, and grandes dames into true winter wonderlands. With trees adorned by world-famous fashion designers or Christmas-themed cocktail bars or perfectly placed ornaments, these bedecked hotels will impress everyone—grinches included. 

Diane von Furstenberg designed the Christmas tree at Claridge's in London.

Claridge’s

London

A legendary grande dame hotel in the Mayfair neighborhood, Claridge’s is known for its annual Christmas tree created by a famous designer. This year, longtime guest and famed fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg debuts “The Tree of Love” on November 27. The tree resides in Claridge’s lavish art deco lobby for the holiday season, where guests of the hotel and those just wanting to take a peek can admire it in all its glory. This is the ninth year the hotel has invited designers to style the tree—previous tree stylists include Karl Lagerfeld and Dolce & Gabbana.

For guests who stay over the holiday, the Christmas package includes a welcome bottle of Champagne, storytelling and crafts for children courtesy of entertainers Sharky & George, a horse-drawn carriage ride around Mayfair, caroling on Christmas morning, and a Christmas lunch. All suites include a decorated Christmas tree and adults’ and children’s stockings.

Carols sung in the chapel at Bailiffscourt is a highlight of the hoilday season.

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa

Climping, England

Nestled on 30 acres of private land on the Sussex coast of England, about 70 miles south of London, Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa is a cozy country retreat. Christmas here is all about invigorating walks on the beach, board games by the roaring fire, and unwinding at the spa in the afternoon.

The hotel gets decked out in classic red and green decor, but the 13th-century chapel—where caroling performances are held during the holiday season—is the must-see. Strung with hundreds of lights and covered in candles, the intimate stone chapel absolutely shines. On Christmas Eve, there’s a post–midnight Mass supper, and on Boxing Day (December 26) there will be a Champagne reception followed by a magnificent gala dinner in the candlelit Tapestry Restaurant.

A concierge puts some finishing touches on the tree at The Balmoral.

The Balmoral, a Rocco Forte Hotel

Edinburgh

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Gold is the thing this year at the storied Balmoral. For their decorations, the hotel partnered with Scotland’s noted jewelry house Hamilton & Inches, which created the property’s majestic clock in 1902. This year’s design is inspired by Hamilton & Inches’ upcoming Scottish gold collection, launching in early 2019. A 15-foot spruce takes center stage in the lobby of the hotel and is hand-painted with gold leaf in a nod to the pieces in the Hamilton & Inches showroom. The tree is dressed with 3,000 crystals and 2,500 lights.

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But the gilded adornments don’t stop with the lobby. They continue in the Scottish Gold cocktail at the recently opened Brasserie Prince Bar. And for those who want even more gold, dates are still available for overnighting in the hotel’s signature suite, the Scone & Crombie, which will also be given the Midas touch. Guests staying in the suite during the holidays can have the Golden Christmas Experience, which includes a trip to the Highlands to visit a working gold and silver mine; a stop at the jeweler’s Edinburgh showroom to meet with Master Jeweler Chay McClory; and a bespoke piece of jewelry made from Scottish gold.

It takes more than three days to decorate the Noble Fir Christmas tree at Ashford Castle.

Ashford Castle

Cong, Ireland

A glorious five-star hotel inside a 13th-century castle in County Mayo, Ireland, Ashford Castle, part of the Leading Hotels of the World, already embraces red and green in its decor, so it’s always Christmas-ready. But that doesn’t mean the hotel doesn’t go all out for the holidays with a 25-foot tree in the lobby that takes more than three days to decorate. Martin Slattery, the estate gardener, chooses the noble fir each year, while resident florist TJ Quinn is in charge of the traditional design, which incorporates lots of fresh evergreens, pinecones, spiced fruits, and red berries. This year, the tree will sparkle with clear glass baubles and figurines, warm white lights, and classic French red ribbon bows. Six wooden treasure chests with red poinsettias inside will be arranged under the tree.

Henrietta Hotel

London

For those who enjoy smaller boutique hotels, London’s Henrietta Hotel is just the thing. Opened in 2017 in Covent Garden inside a stylish town house, the hotel’s 18 rooms feature a sophisticated yet playful design.

Find coziness and a little kitsch at the Henrietta Hotel this season.

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And this year for the holiday season, the hotel will host the first ever Miracle Bar pop-up in London. Put on by Cocktail Kingdom, Miracle Bar features Christmas-themed cocktails like the Christmapolitan (with vodka, elderflower, dry vermouth, spiced cranberry sauce, rosemary, lime, and absinthe mist) and Nice and Naughty Shots. Miracle will take over the Henrietta Hotel mezzanine with a fun, kitschy atmosphere, featuring vintage-inspired adornments, lots of tinsel, colorful lights, and a rainbow of ornaments.

Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa

Donegal, Ireland

This 96-room, 14th-century castle hotel is filled with baronial furnishings and traditional Irish textiles, making it the perfect setting for a classic Christmas. Holiday decorations at Lough Eske Castle Hotel & Spa include multiple trees decked with lights and ornaments, a gingerbread train that requires about two weeks and two dozen trays of gingerbread, and pine and fir branches dotted with pinecones draped across the hotel’s many fireplace mantels.

Last year's life-sized gingerbread house at Lough Eske; This year, they'll make a train out of gingerbread.

The hotel has an annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony (this year on December 2); Teddy Bear’s Afternoon Tea Party for children and their teddy bears, which includes a visit from Santa (on three Sundays in December); and an extravagant Christmas dinner in Cedars Restaurant followed by live music in the Gallery Bar. The Red Drawing Room and Green Drawing Room are perfect for cozying up by the fire on Christmas Day; an afternoon spent at the renowned Solis Spa is the perfect treat. The lake outside looks especially majestic when it snows, and it’s worth exploring the 40 acres of grounds—even in the cold.

Guests at Hotel Cafe Royal in London will get special sights—and scents—of the holidays.

Hotel Café Royal

London

Luxury perfumers diptyque are partnering with London’s Hotel Café Royal for their first ever U.K. Christmas trees at a hotel. Diptyque’s Sapin de Lumière and Cyprès scents will welcome guests as they view two exclusively designed trees: one in the hotel’s newly renovated lobby, and another outside the historic Oscar Wilde Lounge.

The trees were created in partnership with Parisian designer and illustrator Pierre Marie—known for his Hermès scarf designs—and were inspired by nature and folklore. Bespoke ornaments recall Marie’s illustrations, as well as the diptyque aesthetic, including decorations in the shape of its oval logo and letters of the alphabet in its recognizable typeface. A collection of beautifully wrapped diptyque gifts will be at the base, ready for Christmas morning.

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