Holker Hall is open for Christmas for the first time in six years

PUBLISHED: 00:00 28 November 2017

Holker Hall at Christmas

Holker Hall at Christmas

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Lucy Cavendish remembers a childhood Christmas at one of our most beautiful historic homes - and the good news is that it's open for festive fun

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For most children, Christmas in a stately home is the stuff of dreams. Lucy Cavendish lived that dream.

As the daughter of Lord and Lady Cavendish, the beautiful Holker Hall at Cark-in-Cartmel was home and the festive season was a time of magic and excitement.

Happily, we can get a flavour of just what it was like because the Cavendish family has decided to open the house during December.

‘We are opening for the first time in several years,’ said Lucy, who took over the reins of the 17,000 acre estate from her father. ‘The last time was in 2011 when there was an enormous snow storm. The house looked stunning – but there was no-one here because of the road conditions.’

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They’ve decided to trust the weather behaves this Christmas with a wide range of events. ‘We gave it a lot of thought because the investment needed to open this house is considerable, especially at this time of the year.

‘The place is so big you could throw handfuls of baubles at Holker and they’d just disappear. There was a time when my mother did it pretty much single-handedly but it was exhausting so we’ve called in some professionals.’

However they did have the fun of selecting the decorations. ‘We went to London to attend a Christmas fair on one of the hottest days of the year,’ said 43-year-old Lucy. ‘It seemed incongruous looking through decorations on a red hot day but it was great fun.’

It won’t all be purchased decorations. ‘We will be using a lot of foliage from the estate to give the house a natural feel and we’ll be adding to the atmosphere by having all the fires lit.’

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For Lucy, the grand Victorian house is full of great memories. ‘It was a very exciting place to spend Christmas. There was never a dull moment. Christmas was like a fairytale and it was a real family affair with 12 first cousins and their parents. You can image what a fantastic get-together we would have.

‘We were all incredibly over-excited and didn’t get much sleep on Christmas Eve probably because we were so full of chocolate. My parents always went to midnight mass and my memories of that time were of winters that were always much colder. A white Christmas is always fantastic for children.

‘The Flookburgh Band would come to Holker and play carols and everyone on the estate would come for mulled wine. We would decorate the place ourselves and the head forester would come with a tree that would fit the height of the room exactly.

‘The presents we exchanged at around midday were normally tokens rather than big gifts and, once we’d had lunch, all the children got tipped out into the garden and told not to come back until it was almost dark. We still have a house full at Christmas but now I’m grown up I get to do the tipping!’

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Christmas opening times

Holker Hall opens for three weekends - December 1-3, 8-10 and 15-17. The hall will be beautifully decorated and formal rooms adorned with baubles and decorations. The fires will be lit, there will be traditional festive music and mulled wine. There will also be festive workshops and demonstrations so visitors can take little inspiration home.

There will be wreath making workshops on Friday 1st and Friday 8th December, children’s circus workshops on Sunday 3rd, Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th and Christmas buffet breakfasts followed by biscuit making and stories for youngsters on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th December.

Father Christmas will also be around and there’s an art market on December 9 and a food market the following day.

For more details of these and other events go to www.holker.co.uk or telephone 015395 58328.

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