Planning a festive family day out away from the crowds of your local shopping centre? Head to the National Trust's Polesden Lacey near Dorking.
Yesterday I did something I haven’t done for a very long time. I took a day off during the week to spend time with my kids. I wanted to do something with a Christmassy feel to it, and something that ideally didn’t involve queuing up for hours at the tills.
We went to Polesden Lacey, the National Trust property that was the country retreat of the well-known Edwardian socialite Margaret Greville. It was perfect pre-Christmas day out.
The stunning Edwardian manor is set on a 1,400 acre estate, and dogs are welcome in parts of the garden and grounds, so we took the pooches along too.
We did a circular walk through part of the garden (where dogs must be kept on a lead) and then out into the wider estate, parts of which are run as working farms. There were no cows or sheep in the fields we crossed, so we were able to let the dogs off their leads.
Mrs Greville, the former owner, was a dog lover so four-legged friends are made really welcome. There’s even a dog walking club which meets on the second Tuesday of every month (at 9.30am outside the Cowshed Coffee Shop).
After a walk, and with the dog’s suitable tired out, they snuggled into their beds in the car (it wasn’t a hot day!) while we had a quick stroll around the formal gardens before a bite to eat. There are two cafes to chose from – the Cowshed is the smaller more informal of the two offering sandwiches, coffee and cake, and the Granary Cafe offers cooked lunches.
There’s lots going on at Polesden Lacey in the lead up to Christmas and through to the new year. Inside, the house has been decorated for Christmas in a 1930s party theme with at least 10 Christmas trees sparkling throughout the house. Mrs Greville was known to throw many a festive soiree during the 1930s, for both members of high society as well as a special party each year for her servants – and many of the National Trust volunteers are dressed for the party in the glamorous Great Gatsby flapper style from that era.
The house looks gorgeously festive with trees in most of the rooms and 1930s music playing. In the entrance hall, there’s a tray of Champagne glasses set out, creating a real party vibe. I almost helped myself before I realised they were all part of the display. Oops!
This Saturday and Sunday (22 and 23 Dec) there will be horse drawn sleigh rides at the front of the house (from 11am-4pm, cost £3 adults, £2 kids). There will also be festive music in the Stable Courtyard by local choirs and bands.
After Christmas (from Thurs 27 Dec until Thurs 3 Jan), the party will continue with the Cat’s Grin Theatre Company bringing actors into the house to really bring it to life. Visitors to the house will encounter small vignettes as they journey through the house during the free-flow opening each day.
Polesden Lacey, Great Bookham, near Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6BD. nationaltrust.org.uk