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Yorkshire’s Most Magical Places At Christmas

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There’s no place like Yorkshire at Christmas, as towns and villages, from big to small, truly sparkle for the festive season, writes Bethan Andrews

Askrigg

The tiny Wensleydale village might be a small and unassuming place, but it’s not one to steer clear of the true magic of the Christmas season. Small or not, the villagers go big every year and it’s a joy to walk around and soak up both the beauty of the Dales location, but also the community Christmas vibe and magic that is created because of it.

But what makes it so special? Naturally, it’s pretty easy to feel festive and twinkly when the surroundings are quaint, effortlessly beautiful and flanked by gorgeous countryside and the village is only made up of handful of houses along the linear street, but still boasting three pubs, a brewery, a tea room, an award-winning B&B and perfectly seasonal craft shops.

However, the real magic comes from the fact that the entire village of Askrigg creates an advent window for the month of December. Everyone loves the excitement of popping open an advent window for every day of the month, so what better than an entire village turning into an advent calendar? Each night, a new window magically comes alive and, with many an artist living amongst the community, you can expect some real spectacles to take in.

If that’s not enough, it’s also the home of Wensleydale cheese, and let’s face it, it’s not really Christmas without some Wensleydale.

Richmond
A snowy scene in Richmond

Richmond

Speaking of age-old traditions and things that really get people fully immersed in the magic and folklore that surrounds Christmas and New Year, the cobbled market town of Richmond in North Yorkshire has it all. As a real community hub and the gateway to the Dales, Richmond does pull out all the stops in the run up to Christmas. As a particularly theatrical and musical town, there are plenty of local carol concerts, as well as lovely small Christmas markets, independent shops and historic sights – there’s always a particularly magical feeling as you walk around the town.

But it’s Christmas Eve when the town truly comes to life. Take a day trip there and find yourself confronted by the legend of the Old Hoss, a hobby horse made with a real horse’s skull, which will be making its way around town. T’Owd ‘Oss (as he is known locally around the town) is a friendly beast and seeing him is said to bring good luck for the new year. The custom is believed to have pagan origins, with known records dating back to the 17th century.

You’re not short of festive walks in Richmond either and amazing independent shops, and you could always follow the walk along the legend of the Little Drummer Boy, so why not head to the pretty town to seek out all the magic for yourself? 

Knaresborough

Another particularly picturesque and quaint destination to make it onto the list, but when it comes to finding the magic at Christmas, Knaresborough and its surrounding areas couldn’t not be featured. The town always attracts attention for its prettiness, independent traders and brilliant hospitality and Christmas is, of course, no exception. But it’s what lies on the outskirts of the town that makes it a really magical Christmas day out.

Once you’ve finished your Christmas shopping in town, take a wander to the nearby Fountains Abbey ​​as the afternoon light starts to fade, and stroll through the ruins aglow with bright and colourful lights. You can even sing along to your favourite carols as festive music fills the air while you walk around, making for a spectacularly special atmosphere. Walk beneath the cellarium’s vaulted ceilings as choirs and bands will be performing in the cellarium from 2-3pm every Saturday in December.

If that’s not enough to get the magic going, the nearby Mother Shipton’s Cave also has their enchanted Christmas Village throughout the month of December – it’s a brilliant wonderland for those with children. 

Malton Christmas Food Market Credit Richard Ponter
Malton Christmas Food Market, photo by Richard Ponter

Malton

So it might not be a secret that Malton is one of the most magical places to head to in the festive season to get really into the foodie fever of Christmas – it’s the food capital of Yorkshire, after all. There really is something quite special about somewhere that so proudly celebrates local provenance, local makers and producers, and local talent in general.

You’ll find an abundance of different foodie offerings for gifts, from locally distilled gin to brilliant bakes. But, it’s also a lovely place to head at Twixmas, when you’re just not quite ready to let go of the over-indulgence of Christmas Day and want nothing more than to celebrate the season of mince pies, chocolates, mulled wine and cheese. Trust us, Malton will make you feel enveloped in cosiness, local love and a festive food frenzy. Oh, and once you’re done filling your boots, you could always pop to Christmas at Castle Howard to continue the magic. 

Whitby

For somewhere a little bit bigger and for a larger festive day out, Whitby is a brilliant option for immersing yourself in all things Christmas. Not only are the winding medieval streets beautifully twinkling with festive fairy lights and the abundance of independent and unique shops waiting and welcoming with their doors open for Christmas shopping, but there’s also the chance to make it a whole festive day out.

Why not take the 15 minute car journey outside of the town to the village of Grosmont and hop upon the Santa Express with North Yorkshire Moors Railway? This enchanting Christmas experience sees Santa and his jolly helpers pass through the heritage carriages, giving children a chance to meet the legendary man himself on board the train, and gifting a special present to all the children on board. Santa will visit you in your seat and check if you’ve been good or bad, and Santa’s Helpers will also be along on-board for plenty of fun and games!

Nymr Santa Specials Charlotte Graham
Photo by Charlotte Graham

Once back in Whitby, the Christmas Ice Rink is also a brilliant option for family fun and magic, and the annual Whitby Krampus Run from 3-4 December is a sure fire way to keep the magic of the season alight. The costumed street parade is an interpretation of the Alpine winter tradition with inclusion of local folklore and history to infuse a unique take on the Krampus legend and lore. The streets come alive this weekend with festive enchantment. 

York

You’d struggle to find a place that’s more magical than York at Christmas time. The city really goes all out with events in the festive period and the atmosphere is particularly special throughout December and into the New Year because of it.

York Market
York Christmas Market

There’s the obvious Yorkshire Winter Wonderland that the city hosts each year, but for something more traditional, York Castle Museum and Kirkgate celebrate a Dickensian Christmas – don’t worry, it’s the opposite of a Scrooge-like atmosphere. On 20-21 December, you can even join the Castle Museum on the snow-covered cobbles of Kirkgate for an immersive and intimate production of A Christmas Carol, which brings the magic of a much-loved Dickens classic to life.

On top of that, there’s the more alpine-style Christmas Markets and don’t miss the wonderful Advent procession at York Minster, too, which is always a magical way to mark the start of the Christmas period.

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