Winter survival guide
Days out to keep you sane during the festive frenzy.
In need of escape
If the bristle of tinsel is enough to bring you out in a cold sweat then a trip to rural climes could be just what you need. Brantwood estate in the Lake District is a haven of ancient woods, high moors and spectacular views, as well as a fascinating insight into the life of former resident, artist and critic John Ruskin (free with National Art Pass). The Wallace Collection is a quick fix for Oxford Street shoppers; located just minutes from the the throng of the crowds it shows masterpieces by Titian, Rembrandt, Hals and Velázquez (free to all, 20% off dining).
School's out and stockings are up, but it can be a long slog to keep the children entertained over the Christmas holidays. Seven Stories in Newcastle transforms into a winter wonderland during December, where children can make their own decorations and post their pleas to Santa (free with National Art Pass). In London animatronic dinosaurs and an outdoor ice rink make Natural History Museum a crowd-pleasing favourite (50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass). Tricky teens? Turner Contemporary, Tate Modern and Hayward Gallery are among the coolest tickets in town (free to all, Tate and Hayward 50% off exhibitions with National Art Pass).
Planning to propose
Perhaps it's the festive cheer (or perhaps it's too much eggnog) but December is the most popular month of the year for proposals. Nestled next to Hampstead Heath, Keats House in London provides a perfect setting; it's where the poet met and fell in love with Fanny Brawne, to whom he declared 'I cannot exist without you – you have absorb'd me' (Free with National Art Pass). Osborne House on the Isle of Wight meanwhile, was the romantic escape of Queen Victoria and her beloved Prince Albert. Featuring sweeping vistas and a wildflower meadow, the queen said that it was 'impossible to imagine a prettier spot' (free with National Art Pass - only open weekends).
Stuck with scrooge
Whether it's a grumpy grandpa or picky mother-in-law, there's an Ebenezer in every family. Geffrye Museum of the Home is sure to restore their seasonal spirit – its annual exhibition celebrates how families have decorated for Christmas over the past 400 years (free to all). Still not convinced? St Paul's Cathedral provides a tranquil retreat from the usual indulgences: climb the steps of the towering dome crown, visit JMW Turner's tomb in the crypt or seek out the art installations that pepper the main hall (50% off with National Art Pass).
Curing a hangover
A bracing walk in the country air is great for the morning-after-the-night-before. Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a treasure trail of works by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and James Turrell, found within the breathtaking 18th-century Bretton Estate (free to all, 10% off shop purchases). In Lincolnshire, Burghley House boasts impressive landscaped gardens designed by horticultural master Capability Brown, as well as a deer sanctuary, orangery restaurant and serpentine lake (parklands free to all - please check for opening times).