Caroline Mills

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There are lots of great reasons why you should ditch the preparations and carry on touring in the run up to Christmas, as Caroline Mills discovers.

For those who bought and wrapped presents weeks ago, with cards long posted and Christmas tree decorated in mid-November, these jolly events will keep things merry and bright in the run up to Christmas (and beyond). If, on the other hand, you're still yet to put up a tree and head out to pick up a present or two on Christmas Eve, this pick of fabulous festive activities are sure to activate the Yuletide senses.

The Train to Christmas Town

Inspired by the children's book The Train to Christmas Town, hop on board the heritage Dartmoor Railway this Yuletide for a train ride designed to bring the spirit of Christmas alive. There's masses of festive fun as you arrive at the beautifully decorated Okehampton Station, on the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park, where you'll find carolling elves.

Start with a glass of mulled wine or hot apple cider as the merriment begins. Then step aboard for the children to feast on hot chocolate and choc chip cookies as the dancing, singing and storytelling elves bring Peggy Ellis' book to life while the steam train chugs its way to the 'North Pole' to pick up Father Christmas. Tickets are available up to and including Christmas Eve.

Families can stay at Bundu Camping and Caravan Park, four miles from Okehampton or, if you're young-at-heart travellers touring without children, you could stay at the adults-only Woodland Springs Touring Park on the northeastern edge of Dartmoor. It's a tranquil site that's open all year - and it fares well as one of our Top 100 Sites.

Go underground this Christmas

Visitors to Cheddar Gorge and Caves can discover a magical festive secret hidden deep underground Somerset this Christmas as a team of Father Christmas' elves has been hard at work constructing a fantastical workshop deep inside Gough's Cave.

The old man in red will be paying a visit to check all the lists and ensure everything is ready before he heads off on his round-the-world tour and he's given special permission for visitors to go behind the scenes to see the elves checking destinations, sorting letters, making toys and inspecting the sleigh. There's even the chance to take a peek into the elves' kitchen and bathroom as well as the toy workshop and reindeer stables.

The experience lasts 30 minutes and is open daily up to and including Christmas Eve.

The Cheddar Caravan & Motorhome Club Site is within walking distance of the Caves but, to extend your stay in the area, why not stop overnight at The Enmore Inn, near Bridgewater? It's one of our Practical Motorhome Nightstops, and costs just £5 per night per motorhome, or you can stay for free if you're dining in the pub.

Skate back in time

If you've been planning a festive trip to London over Christmas, take time out from a busy shopping schedule to step back in time at one of the Historic Royal Palaces. You can enjoy a Victorian Christmas at the Tower of London until 31st December to see how modern impressions of Christmas were shaped by Queen Victoria and novelist Charles Dickens.

Or, head to Hampton Court Palace for an Elizabethan Christmas to make your own Elizabethan-inspired Christmas decorations on 21st and 22nd December. You can also join the Palace's history cooks in the kitchens for live Elizabethan Christmas Cookery activities from 21st December to 5th January.

And, to make an extra magical day, enjoy gliding around the ice in the Tower of London's iconic dry moat, or against the stunning backdrop of Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace. Both ice rinks are open until 5th January.

Chertsey Camping and Caravanning Club Site is a convenient 50-minute train ride into the centre of the capital and just 7 miles by road from Hampton Court Palace. The site is open all year and has a picturesque setting alongside the River Thames.

Yeti snowballing, singing reindeer and festive frisbee

Festive fun at the award-winning Trentham Estate, in Staffordshire, always offers a Christmas mix of sparkling wintry gardens, frosty fairies and seasonal shopping - but this year, how about Yeti snowballing or festive frisbee?

A family favourite, the parklands and gardens at this hugely popular attraction are open every day (except Christmas Day) and, during the winter months, Mother Nature stages a spectacular display, with winter walks through Capability Brown's sweeping parkland, woodland trails and a circular path around the mile-long lake. Trentham's ever-popular Fairy Trail, meanwhile, looks even more stunning with a frosty coating.

There's a Winter Activity Challenge, open until 24th December, to get kids active as they follow clues around the garden, while a herd of hilarious singing reindeer also continue through until Christmas Eve. Or, collect your 'snowballs' and take aim at the Abominable Snowmen to see if you can score the most points to earn an instant Trentham treat, in the Yeti snowballing activity, open until 5th January.

Abdo Hill Farm, in Market Drayton, is a half-hour drive from the Trentham Estate and is open all year. The 12 pitches, all with EHU offer lovely views over five counties.

Christmas past, present and future

There's more than a hint of the future in Derby as the city, which marks 300 years of innovation and creativity in 2020, celebrates Christmas with a magical light and music display that links past, present and future.

This year Derby gives visitors the gift of Christmas, all wrapped up in four giant walk-through 'presents' that burst into a synchronised light and music show every 30 minutes, as well as a new futuristic tree with its own amazing light show. It is the first time that these brand new installations, from the same supplier as Harrods and the Paris city centre decorations, have been seen anywhere in Europe.

The light trail leads visitors from Derby Cathedral into the Market Place, where a 7.5-metre tall light tree stands, and then into each of the giant presents for a dazzling, colourful display.

Motorcaravanners looking to spend time in Derby and the surrounding area can utilise our Nightstop scheme, with an overnight stay at The Carpenters Arms in Dale Abbey, 7 miles from Derby. The pub offers free overnight parking if you dine at the pub with a £4 charge for use of the service points, including EHU.

York 'does' Christmas

The grand old city of York doesn't have just one Christmas event; it has many exciting festivities, all wrapped up as the York Christmas Festival. Okay, so that's one event, but in the plural, take your pick and soak up the atmosphere of the ever-popular St Nicholas Christmas Fair on Parliament Street, the Yorkshire Yuletide Village in Shambles Market and, in St Helen's Square, see the festive makeover of York Mansion, home of the Lord Mayor of York, as it is transformed into a spectacular gingerbread house.

All are open for business until 22nd December, though if you're staying in town a little longer, you could also add a family Santa Cruise on the River Ouse, which continue until 23rd December, take a Sweet Adventure with Father Christmas at York's Chocolate Story, or shout 'Behind You' in fine panto tradition with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Grand Opera House) and Sleeping Beauty (York Theatre Royal) on the billing into January.

The Caravan and Motorhome Club has two sites in York: York Rowntree Park, within a stone's throw of the river and a ten-minute walk to the main shopping streets; and Beechwood Grange, in open countryside on the outskirts of the city and close to a park and ride.

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