It was with some trepidation that I booked to take my three year-old to Barley Hall’s Festive Fun with Father Christmas event. She’s not keen at all on anyone dressed up: she runs a mile at the sight of Kernel Kernel, York Maze’s enormous walking sweetcorn, and she lost the plot when the Easter Bunny at Harlow Carr asked her for a high five. But we were invited along by our friends at JORVIK to see Santa at Barley Hall and it sounded like an event too lovely to miss.
And so it was. Having battled through the Christmas shoppers to get there – pulling the little viking along on her scooter while trying not to bash into anyone’s heels – Barley Hall was a welcome sight. This restored medieval house is a beautiful place at any time of year, but at Christmas it really comes to life. With twinkling lights, gorgeously decorated trees and glorious garlands everywhere, you instantly feel utterly festive. We made our way to the magnificent Great Hall where we joined other families to feast as they would have done hundreds of years ago. Perhaps they might not have been eating Pom Bears, but I don’t think many modern children would be keen on trying roast swan or peacock. Our little viking picked from a variety of cold snacks including pies (sweet and savoury), cakes and clementines. Our friendly costumed hosts made sure that everyone was happy, chatting to the children and bringing welcome hot drinks to the parents. We pulled crackers, told bad jokes and enjoyed the novelty of eating in such amazing surroundings.
Memories of our journey there far behind us, we then followed our hosts to the Tudor School Room where the children all sat around a craft table and chose what festive creation they’d like to make. There was a great choice of little projects – baubles and other decorations, calendars and games – which meant that there was something suitable for all the children there (I’d guess the youngest was about two, the eldest around 10). We chose a snowflake tealight holder which our little viking took great pride in decorating with every colour of glitter pen available. She wrote her initial on it and I added the date so it’ll be a lovely reminder of our afternoon together in Christmases to come.
Masterpieces finished, we headed up to the room masquerading as Father Christmas’s study for the festive season. The children played pass-the-parcel and were all delighted to receive a little gift as they opened a layer. There was then just time to listen to a reading of ‘The Night Before Christmas’ before a bell signaled the arrival of Father Christmas himself. As predicted, our little viking was terrified and spent the next ten minutes hiding behind me. Thankfully Santa knew not to bother trying to chat to her, so instead I took the gift (wrapped and labeled just for her) on her behalf and we watched as everyone else was called out for their gift and a chat with the big man. As Father Christmases go, he was very convincing and the children seemed to be under his spell. I’m sorry to say that his advice to ‘take the present home and put it under the tree to open on Christmas Day’ were ignored in our household. I’ll blame research purposes on the fact that we’ve already opened it – well, we had to tell you whether it’s any good didn’t we? And it is – she was really pleased. I won’t tell you what it was in case you go, but it was suitable for her age and wasn’t a typical ‘girl’ gift (if you know what I mean). Top marks.
If you’re wondering where to see Father Christmas in York, I can’t recommend Barley Hall’s Fun with Father Christmas highly enough. For £12.50 (including one free adult), you get a personalised invitation in the post, food and drink in the Great Hall, a craft to do and take home, pass-the-parcel (including gift), a story, a meeting with Santa Claus and a good gift that’s been chosen thoughtfully and wrapped, all in a wonderfully unique setting. For a 90 minute experience that they’ll remember forever, I think that’s incredible value. Lots of other families we met had been before and now made it part of their family Christmas tradition and I think that we will too.
Father Christmas will be at Barley Hall on 12th & 13th December 2015 at 10am, 12.30pm and 3pm – £12.50 per child, one accompanying adult free – book through the website
Thank you very much to JORVIK for such a great afternoon. As always, our reviews are completely honest and we will only recommend things that we have genuinely enjoyed.