Things to do: Christmas family race day, carols by candlelight and Ice skating in London

Country Life rounds up the best things to see, do and book over the next few weeks.

Follow our quick links to find things to do by region:

South East and Home Counties
Northern England
Cotswolds and the Midlands
East Anglia



From November 30 — ‘Roses’, Alexander McQueen, Bond Street, London

An exhibition centred around two spectacular pieces designed around the form and energy of flowers as shown off in two of the designer’s who’s. One is a swirling red rose dress by Sarah Burton, the finale of the Autumn/Winter 2019 show, and the other is the poetic dress by Lee Alexander McQueen constructed with fresh flowers in Spring/Summer 2007.

December 2–12 — ‘Romantick Situations: Castles and the Picturesque in Eighteenth-Century Britain’, John Mitchell Fine Paintings, Avery Row, London W1

With a title inspired by Ibbetson’s description of Morlais Castle, the exhibition includes paintings and watercolours by Richard Wilson, Paul Sandby, Edward Dayes and more.

November 13-January 12 – Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason, Somerset House, London

This year the iconic skating rink at Somerset House is made all the more special, as it marks 20 years of Skate at Somerset House with Fortnum & Mason. Pull on a pair of ice skates, enjoy the stunning surroundings of The Edmond J. Safra Fountain Court and sip on a Baileys Hot Chocolate at the Skate Lounge. The rink is also hosting evening ‘Skate Lates’ with DJs providing music, as well as an all-night skating session on Saturday 7 December. Adult skating tickets from £11, Skate Late tickets from £8.

October 18–January 10, 2020 –  ‘Wildlife artists’, WWT London Wetland Centre, Queen Elizabeth’s Walk, London SW13

For the first time, two local art groups have been invited to capture London’s first manmade, inner-city wetland reserve.

November 15–May 4, 2020 – ‘George IV: Art & Spectacle’, The Queen’s Gallery, Buckingham Palace, London SW1

Exploration of the monarch’s public image and the art that inspired him against a backdrop of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Includes Dutch masterpieces, French porcelain, books, drawings and watercolours. Adult tickets £13.50.

28 November 2019 – 11 January 2020 – Eccleston Yards Multi-Sensory Christmas Light Installation, Eccleston Place, London SW1

500 individually suspended orbs, each with a unique voice, ‘Wave’ is an all-encompassing, immersive experience that will light up Eccleston Yards and contribute to a calming energy balance for the visitor – synonymous with the wellbeing ethos of Eccleston Yards.

December 5–15 – ‘40 Years On with John Swannell’, Clarendon Fine Art, Hampstead High Street, London NW3

Showcase of the renowned photographer’s favourite portraits, nudes and fashion images, including iconic photographs of The Queen, The Prince of Wales and Dame Judi Dench.

December 13 – O Magnum Mysterium, St John’s Waterloo, Waterloo Road, London SE1

Chamber choir Londinium performs music from the Renaissance to today, with recent works, seasonal music and rarities. 7.30pm–9pm, adult tickets £12, until December 8, or £15 on the door.

Until January 3, 2020 – Stanfords Exhibition, Langley Street, London WC2

Includes never-seen-before materials uncovered during Stanfords’ recent move, such as African maps drawn for H. M. Stanley and a letter of complaint from Capt Scott about a map of the Antarctic.

Until January 5, 2020 — ‘Two Last Nights! Show Business in Georgian Britain’, The Foundling Museum, Brunswick Square, London WC1

‘Going to a show’ was a popular 18th-century pastime, with theatres and festivals appearing around the country. This interactive exhibition explores advertising, ticket sales, audience, dress code, sets and venues.

Until August 31, 2020 – ‘Abba: Super Troupers the Exhibition’, The O2, Peninsula Square, London SE10

Immersive experience bringing to life the Swedish pop sensations through their music, costumes, gold discs, memorabilia and lots more, delving into the story of each band member. Adult tickets £27.

South East & Home Counties

December 15 – Making coloured-glass Christmas decorations, West Dean College, Chichester, West Sussex

Under the tutelage of Carole Gray, you will make a set of three glass decorations in the shape of a stocking, a present and holly. Tickets £158.

December 16 – Winter Floral and Gift Wrapping Displays with Jonathan Mosley and Jane Means, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire

Learn to make seasonal flower displays and discover creative ways of wrapping presents. Tickets £220, including a Champagne reception and three-course lunch.

December 21–January 1, 2020 – Beaulieu’s Victorian Christmas, Brockenhurst, Hampshire

Enjoy a host of family-friendly activities, including Victorian cooking, carol singing, crafts and gift shops, plus the Montagu family’s rehearsals for the pantomime Cinderella in the ancestral home. Adult tickets from £19.50.

December 21 – Christmas Family Raceday, Ascot Racecourse, Berkshire

Includes a festival extravaganza, Christmas parade, fairground entertainment and candlelit carol singing, plus festive arts and crafts, horse-drawn sleighs and face painting. Gates open at 10.45am, adult tickets from £20

Until January 5, 2020 – ‘Victor Willing: Visions’, Hastings Contemporary, East Sussex

The first major retrospective of the artist’s work since his death, covering his life at the Slade, in Portugal and in London. His large-scale paintings illustrate both domestic life and emotional turbulence. Adult entry from £8.

Until January 5, 2020 – Ice skating at Hampton Court Palace, East Molesey, Surrey

Skate with a view of Henry VIII’s historic home and enjoy hot drinks and refreshments at the Ice Rink Café Bar. 9am–late, adult tickets from £15.

Until February 23, 2020 – ‘Treasures of Osterley: Rise of a Banking Family’, Osterley Park, Isleworth, Middlesex

Art works, lacquer furniture, Chinese porcelain plates and a 17th-century French ebony cabinet from the Child family’s collection.

Until March 1, 2020 – ‘Talking Maps’, The Weston Library, Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Ancient, pre-modern and contemporary maps, plus imaginary and war maps, taken from the Libraries’ collection of more than 1.3 million examples. Highlights include the Gough Map – the earliest to recognisably show Great Britain – and fictional maps by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

Until March 22, 2020 – ‘Painting by the Thames: Swan Upping at Cookham’, Stanley Spencer Gallery, Maidenhead, Berkshire

A collection of paintings and drawings focusing on Spencer’s inspiration, the River Thames, as well as marking the centenary of the completion of the titular work.

April 5, 2020 – Bringing the House Down, Glyndebourne, Lewes, East Sussex

Special concert in aid of the Meath Epilepsy Charity, featuring arias and ensembles from opera and musicals, plus Classic FM presenter John Suchet. From 3pm, tickets from £40.


November 30–December 1 — Christmas Fair at Jupiter Artland, Bonnington House Steadings, Wilkieston, Edinburgh

Do your Christmas shopping in a sculpture park with artisan gifts, handmade crafts and seasonal refreshments. You can also learn to make Christmas-tree decorations and block-printed Christmas cards. 11am–4pm, adult tickets £9.

December 14 — Lunchtime lecture: A Royal Christmas, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Canongate, The Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Louise Cooling discusses the festive traditions of the Royal Family throughout the years and how they have influenced the Christmas customs we enjoy today. Adult tickets £15.

October 4–January 26, 2020 – ‘The Luxury of Time: Clocks from 1550–1750’, National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh

See 25 rare timepieces from a golden age of watchmaking and innovation. 10am–5pm, free admission.

December 7–February 15 – The Snow Queen, various venues

Hans Christian Andersen’s family-friendly fairy tale is brought to life by the Scottish Ballet to mark its 50th year, set to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov. Tickets from £19.

Northern England

Until January 26, 2020 – ‘Making a Masterpiece: Bouts and Beyond (1450–2020)’’, York Art Gallery, North Yorkshire

Examination of the necessary steps to creating a masterpiece, inspired by a 15th-century painting by Dieric Bouts, on loan from the Bowes Museum. Includes work by masters such as Hans Memling and Lucas van Leyden. 10am–4.30pm, adult tickets £8.

Cotswolds and the Midlands

November 29–December 22 — Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Talking trees and characters add to the magic of the night-time trail through the forest, now in its 21st year. There will also be a Christmas village, live music and festive food. Adult entry £15, further dates available online.

Until December 22 – Christmas at Doddington Hall & Gardens, Lincolnshire

The Elizabethan estate will be transformed into Narnia for this year’s ‘enchanted forest’ theme, with a best-dressed tree competition, a Christmas menu on offer and the Bauble Barn and Toy Box open for business, plus twilight tours. Standard admission applies.

December 21 – Black Tie Dinner at Highgrove, Tetbury, Gloucestershire

Enjoy a three-course meal, fine wines and live jazz, plus Champagne and canapés on arrival. 7pm–10.30pm, tickets £105.

Until December 15 – ‘Magnum Manifesto’, Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park, Warwickshire

Founded in 1947, the Magnum Photos Agency is an indispensable collection of images memorialising world events, culture, people and places. The exhibition uses newspaper articles, book excerpts and other rarely viewed material to encapsulate more than 70 years of history, juxtaposed with everyday life.

January 30, 2020 – The Instinctive Cook: Seasonal Dinner Parties cookery course, Thyme, Southrop Manor estate, Gloucestershire

Gather produce from the kitchen gardens before learning the fundamentals of flavour, knife skills and techniques through a mix of demonstration and hands-on cookery. 10am–4pm, £225.

Until February 23, 2020 – ‘Melvyn Evans: Imprinting the Land’, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, West Yorkshire

Drawings, paintings and bold lino prints inspired by the Yorkshire landscape and coastline, including the fossilised ruins of the submerged Doggerland causeway.

Until February 23, 2020 – ‘Sargy Mann: Let It Be Felt That The Painter Was There’, Attenborough Arts Centre, University of Leicester, Leicestershire

Largest public showing of the artist’s work, with unseen archival material, photographs and audio recordings, plus depictions of his home in Peckham in South London.


Check back next week for the latest events in Wales.

East Anglia

December 15 – Carols by Candlelight, St Mary’s Church, Akenham, Suffolk

Annual service in the historic country church held by the Churches Conservation Trust, featuring a selection of carols and readings. From 3pm, free admission.


November 16–February 23, 2020 – ‘Norman Cornish: The Definitive Collection’ The Bowes Museum, Teesdale, Co Durham

Retrospective of the artist’s work – portraits, industrial scenes and landscapes – almost 100 years after his birth, focusing on mining conditions and his local village. Adult museum entry £14.