Your ultimate guide to festive days out and things to do this Christmas in the Welsh borders. This little lot will glide you through autumn and into New Year. It’s time to get your wreath on.
They say the landscape never stands still here up in the hills and that’s certainly true of the people, places and things to do in Mid-Wales this festive season. Whether you’re craving ice skating, carol singing, Christmas markets, a winter wonderland or a visit to Britain’s oldest mistletoe mecca, there’s plenty of heart-warming events, activities and free days out this Christmas.
1. Hay Festival Winter Weekend
The world famous literary festival returns to nearby Hay-on-Wye with a debut outing at the newly restored Hay Castle. See Philip Lymbery, author of Farmageddon, talk about the pioneers who are battling to bring landscapes back to life. Or if you’re at one with the dark side, dive straight into the spooky stuff with a screening of the 1922 Dracula film Nosferatu at the local church, complete with live organ music.
Thursday 24th November - Sunday 27th November 2022
Friday 25 November 2022, 6pm Venue: Hay Market Square, free
Hay-on-Wye is 30 min drive
2. Taste the best of Autumn at Pensons
Work your way through the sumptuous fruits of autumn at the Michelin-starred Pensons. Their menu is inspired by abundance, variety and local quality ingredients and their sustainability credentials are sky high. Feast on produce picked straight from the kitchen garden or local suckling pig and venison. Or get your chops around their much-loved five course Fish Feast showcasing the very best seasonal catch.
Pensons at the Netherwood Estate, Worcester/Herefordshire border
Fish Feast, Wednesday 16th November
1 hour drive
3. Pick up a bobble hat like no other
The Royal Welsh Winter Fair is stuffed full of independent local businesses and is perfect for picking up presents (and big tractors). Sample a selection of Welsh food producers or take a stroll along the artisan craft stalls. My fabulous mother-in-law Olwen will be there too - just look out for the stall covered in a technicolour display of knitted bobble hats.
Royal Welsh Winter Fair, Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells
Monday 28th - Tuesday 29th November 2022
25 minute drive
4. Hit the UK's biggest mistletoe market
Did you know Tenbury Wells is home to Britain’s last remaining mistletoe and holly auctions? The 160-year old auctions are open to wholesalers and the public alike and folk travel across the country to bid. The mistletoe is harvested from apple trees in the town’s many surrounding orchards. The swathes of ‘toe are a festive feast for the eyes. Don't forget to add the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival to your diary too.
The mistletoe auction is at Burford House Garden Store, Tenbury Wells
Tuesday 22nd November & 29th November
Entry is a £5 registration fee, for charity
Saturday 3rd December from 10am, free entry
Both a 45 minute drive
5. Be enchanted at Croft Castle and Berrington Hall this Christmas
Croft Castle is a magical place to visit any time of year, but winter propels it to next-level heights of enchantment. Take in the twinkling lights of the castle and gardens in their Christmas winter light show, sing along to carols or visit Father Christmas. There’s loads of things for kids (‘glow arena’ anyone?) and all the family. Fellow nearby National Trust property Berrington Hall is a true 18th Century Georgian wonder - oh the proportions! Enjoy wreath making, atmospheric evening lighting and their legendary Christmas pudding snow-topped yew balls.
Various dates from Saturday 19th November
30 minute drive
Christmas at Berrington Hall, near Ashton, Leominster
Various dates from Saturday 19th November - Sunday 1st January
40 minute drive
6. Make a locally grown wreath
The wonderful Fran Phillips of La-Di Dardy Flowers is running a series of wreath making workshops at some great local spots between Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye. She’s a local flower grower who also creates stunning bouquets and displays full of seasonal British delights. Expect to make a wreath like no other, abundant with fresh and dried flowers, foliage, seed heads and berries.
Contact Fran at email@example.com to book
Various dates and locations from Sunday 6th November
7. Kington Winter and Drink Festival
Discover one of the best local food and drinks markets around with over 100 handpicked stalls across five venues. It won’t take much to feel festive with a mug of mulled wine, live music and stalls selling everything from local cider, gin, wine and meats, to street food, handmade soaps and chocolates.
Kington Market Square and various venues across Kington, free entry
Saturday 3rd December 2022, 9.30pm - 3.30pm
10 minute drive
8. Llanvihangel Court Christmas Fair
Llanvihangel Court is one of those rare, special places that sticks with you (you might recognise it from TV's A Discovery of Witches). Expect two days of beautifully crafted local artisan gifts, good food and Santa reading stories by a roaring log fire.
Llanvihangel Court Christmas Fair, Abergavenny
Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th December 2022
1 hour drive
9. Have a festive pint at The Harp
It doesn’t get much better than seeing the weather rolls across the valley with a pint in hand at our local, The Harp Inn in Old Radnor. Especially on Christmas morning. It’s also no surprise it featured in Time Out’s list of 22 Best Pubs 2022 as ‘one of the most idyllic pubs in the whole of the UK’. We’re in grief that the cat’s out of the bag.
The Harp Inn, Old Radnor
5 minute drive
10. Stroll through a festoon-lit Japanese Garden at night
This Powys National Garden Scheme garden is called Tranquility Haven for good reason. Immerse yourself in the calming magic of this beautifully enchanting Japanese garden complete with winding paths and plenty of intrigue, all lit by a festive light show. Enjoy its views to the Offa's Dyke path, stunning acers and unusual bamboos, along with it's very own a Japanese soribashi bridge and Tea House.
Tranquility Haven Japanese Garden, 7 Lords Land, Whitton, Knighton
Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th December, 4-6pm
£4.50 entry in aid of nursing and healthcare charities. Children free
10 minute drive
11. Head to historic Ledbury’s shops
Named one of the world's top 10 places for Christmas shopping by the Guardian, Ledbury is a gorgeous market town steeped in history and independent shops. Once you’ve swung by its stilted 17th-century Market House, walk up the cobbles of Church Street to soak up the 500-year old adorned walls of the 16th-century Painted Room. Interiors haven Tinsmiths and nordic design shop Hus & Hem are both must-dos.
Ledbury town centre is just the other side of Hereford and on the edge of the Malvern Hills
Ledbury Christmas Light Switch On is on Sunday 27th November, 12pm - 5pm outside Market House
Ledbury Christmas Late Night Opening is on Friday 2nd December until 8pm
1 hour 10 min drive away
12. Pop to Presteigne Christmas Market
Stroll along the charming and delightful streets of our nearest Welsh town and each Saturday morning you’ll find the bustling local food market. Take you pick from a diverse range of local artisan producers selling everything from herbal cosmetics and honey to local bread, cheese and top notch samosas.
Presteigne Christmas Market, The Memorial Hall, Presteigne
Saturday 12th December, 9am till 1pm, free entry
15 minutes drive
13. Get lost in lights in Malvern
This year Malvern’s Winter Glow event is bigger and better than ever. There’s a newly themed illuminated light trail complete with immersive installations and illuminations created by local artists, a new Christmas market food quarter and bar, ice skating, a giant observation wheel and, of course, Santa’s grotto.
Three Counties Showground, Malvern, Worcestershire
25th November 2022 – 2nd January 2023
1 hour 20 minute drive
14. Hay Market and Hay Castle Christmas Fairs
For the first time ever, the Hay Castle is throwing open its recently restored Jacobean doors to bring you a Christmas fair celebrating everything local and handmade artisan across over 40 stalls. Browse with a glass of mulled wine and say hello to the Snow Queen. Also don't miss the Hay Market Christmas Fayre the week before with 40 stalls of festive gifts, local crafts, homewares, food and drink and vintage flea market.
Hay Market Christmas Fayre
Saturday 10th December, 10am-4pm, free
Hay Castle Christmas Fair, Hay-on-Wye, free entry
Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th December, 10am-4pm, free entry
30 minute drive away
15. Channel your inner Victorian in Leominster
Dust off your petticoats and top hats and get ready to step back in time for what is a truly Dickensian adventure at Leominster’s Victorian Christmas market. The streets will be lined with handmade local produce and gifts to the backdrop of roasting chestnuts. Definitely have a peep at the town's 120+ antique shops whilst you’re there too.
Leominster’s Victorian Christmas Market, Corn Square
Saturday 10th December, free entry
40 minute drive
16. Wave goodbye to 2022 with a sustainable feast at Chapters
Couple Charmaine and Mark certainly know their way around carefully sourced and comforting winter food. Earlier this year their restaurant won a green Michelin star (the only one awarded in Wales) for their efforts in sustainable gastronomy. Local seasonal ingredients really steal the show - feast on welsh kelp butter, garden Jerusalem artichokes and Shropshire truffles with Caws Cenarth cheese to finish.
Festive menus from 30th November to New Year’s Eve
30 minute drive
Bonus money saving activity…Walk up Whimble
Christmas wouldn't be complete without a walk up Whimble hill in the uplands of our farm above Highbrook Cottage. Work off the festive feasting with a walk to the top that’s just shy of 600 metres high. The views across the Radnor Valley are worth it. If that all sounds a bit too energetic, take a short drive to the beautiful Water-Break-Its-Neck waterfall nearby. Or walk to New Radnor village and watch a cascade of rubber ducks pass under the bridge in the community boxing day duck race.
To reach Whimble Hill - park in the forestry before the gate and walk up from there. It takes around half an hour to reach the top from this point. For a longer walk, walk up from New Radnor village, go up Mutton Dingle, peel off the dingle and take this path up.
The New Radnor Duck Race is in the village centre, from midday on Boxing Day