Let’s face it, none of us were dreaming of a Covid Christmas. Many of the festive things we love to do this time of year have been put out of bounds by the restrictions put in place to keep us all safe. Lucky for us, there are some who have been thinking outside the box to make sure we can have as close to normal celebrations as possible whilst keeping out of harm’s way.
Ashridge House is well known for many for its links with the magical wizard-ing world of Harry Potter. In fact, some of the interiors of the magnificent palace bare a striking resemblance to those from Hogwarts Castle, particularly the enchanted marble grand staircase. If you head deep into the woods (which one of the movies was actually filmed in) you’ll find an ancient tree recognisable as the famous Whomping Willow – but don’t worry, this one won’t attack you.
This year however, Ashridge House is bringing the magic in a very different way. In response to government restrictions, social distancing and the rule of six, the palace has been transformed into an actual Christmas wonderland for guests to enjoy a nearly-normal, yet socially distanced, holiday treat.
The day begins being welcomed with a glass of fizz into your very own private Enchanted Garden Globe – super festive complete with cosy blankets and Christmas lights, framed by the grand palace façade beyond. Cast your mind back about 500 years and you’d be sitting in the gardens of a private residence of one of the most famous monarchs of all time – King Henry VIII – which we like to think is a subtle nod to the feast you’re about to tuck into.
First up is a country platter of charcuterie – a selection of cold meats furnished with accompaniments of cheese. The piéce de resistance of course being a thick wheel of baked camembert.
Did you even have a Christmas dinner if you didn’t describe it as having ‘all the trimmings’? Yeah we’re guilty of that too but this time we really do mean it. A combination platter furnishes your table, with roast Norfolk turkey; sage, shallot and chestnut stuffing; honey roast ham with Granny Smith apple compote; grilled root veg; winter greens; and duck fat roasted potatoes with garlic and rosemary. The non-meat alternative is a tasty Vegetable Wellington – tried and tasted and given the stamp of approval by our vegan guest.
The palace sits surrounded by 190 acres of pruned gardens and mysterious woodland, which has also had the Christmas makeover. The Enchanted Woodland Walk will guide you through a series of light installations that bring the gardens to life – through a tunnel of cascading stars and magical caves.
Of course, we know it’s not all really enchanted, but what the team at Ashridge House have put together truly captures the essence of Christmas. And to reignite that flicker of Christmas spirit that has been put out in so many of us this year, well – what’s not magic about that?