Hosting a Cosy Christmas

Discover what guests want from a Christmas break and find your holiday hosting inspiration!

Whether you spend the holidays with your loved ones, or play host to numerous guests and celebrate at a later date, Christmas is always guaranteed to be a stressful season.

I mean, why put yourself through all that extra turmoil by hosting someone else’s Christmas? It just means there’s more pressure to get everything perfect, right?

The Auld Post Office blanketed in snow

THE AULD POST OFFICE

The Auld Post Office B&B is a cosy cottage found in Caithness, offering an all-inclusive Christmas party for up to six guests for three nights of festive delights. The cottage, owned by Lynne and Weyland Read, was built in the 1850’s and is now a member of Scotland’s Best B&Bs.

There are two double en-suite rooms as well as an annex cottage, meaning an intimate, maximum occupancy of six.

We spoke to Lynne Read, proprietor of the Auld Post Office and ‘hostess with the mostess’, to find out what she does to ensure her guests have a truly memorable Christmas.

“They want something a bit more than what they do themselves at home and I believe our Christmas package sums that up. There’s a special feel about the place and it’s always warm and welcoming.”

Lynne Read in the Juniper Lounge at The Auld Post Office

Lynne said: “When they arrive, I have warm, spicy mulled wine and mince pies waiting. I put brandy butter inside the mince pies and everything is like finger food. It’s small and easy and they can have a number of them.

“If I get a booking, I organise the menu with them, so it’s food they like.”

On Christmas Day, guests can expect to explore the local area, relax, and indulge in wonderful home-cooked food and drink.

Lynne also makes her own stockings for Christmas Day.

“I have a thing about Christmas stockings; they hold memories. I think they should be full of little treats and special things, as well as something useful.

“I put them together and fill them with little luxuries, treats and something to eat and drink,” said Lynne.

To add a bit more splendour, she makes her own punch from vodka and cranberry juice, and even freezes cranberries into ice cubes so they float in the punch and look even prettier.

“And this is all going on by the fire with carols,” Lynne adds.

Christmas Tree at The Auld Post Office

“They can help themselves to chocolates and nibbles whilst they relax and then we have a four course traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. I cook the goose so it’s nice and lovely and I always do two desserts. There’s always cheese available afterwards if anyone has any appetite after that.”

Boxing Day is another chance for guests to explore the local area, with guests returning to “either hot chocolate with Baileys, or a glass of prosecco if they fancy it. They can have some nibbles or savouries and then it’s Christmas cake,” says Lynne.

“The timings are all based on what they would like. I can be flexible around them and what they want to do.”

Later in the evening, guests enjoy a rum tasting evening with lots of “Scottish fine cheeses and homemade chutneys and pickles”.

Dunnet Bay near The Auld Post Office

“It’s all the kinds of things you’d have on Boxing Day at home. Usually it’s just the leftovers at home, but we have a three course dinner and then all the lovely picky, leftover bits are out in the evening with all the rum.”

Lynne’s favourite thing about hosting over the festive season is the reaction of her guests and seeing them enjoy their stay at the Auld Post Office.

“I love watching them come in and seeing all of this is just for them.

“I try to make everything as lovely as it can possibly be. Seeing their pleasure and appreciation… I like seeing their enjoyment, seeing them enjoy themselves.

“Our home is an old cottage and I aim for it to be as lovely as possible and my moment of happiness is when the guests are enjoying themselves.”

Bailiffscourt Hotel & Spa

BAILIFFSCOURT HOTEL & SPA

The Bailiffscourt Hotel is another venue who really knows how to host over the holidays.

This luxurious retreat on the Sussex coast is a medieval-style house, thatched cottages and 13th century chapel with a rose garden, spa, croquet lawn, tennis courts and both indoor and outdoor pools.

Set in 30 acres of private parkland, the 39 bedroom property overlooks Climping Beach and offers a number of Christmas parties, a three night Christmas package and Carols by Candlelight.

Guests spending Christmas at the Bailiffscourt Hotel can expect “fabulous festive food and drink” and plenty of time to enjoy the spa, pools, parkland, beach and board games.

Christmas Tree at Bailiffscourt Hotel

Marketing Director Sophie Tanner said: “Christmas is beautiful. We have open fires in a number of the bedrooms and throughout the hotel’s bar and sitting rooms.

“We fill the chapel with candles and do carol services. We are very busy at Christmas. It’s a really magical time and a completely different experience to if you come in the spring.”

Sophie added: “We have worked hard on listening to trends and trying to create packages and partnerships with other local suppliers or local businesses.”

DECORATIONS

Lynne’s own daughter calls the Auld Post Office a Christmas house when she stays over.

“I have a big tree so full of decorations. I love getting everyone involved. I have a perfect Christmas tree, well in my eyes it’s perfect, but it’s absolutely stuffed with decorations going back to when my children were young.

“It’s just very Christmassy and lovely,” said Lynne.

It’s also always a great idea to fit the decorations to the design of the house, or the location. For example, if your property is by the beach, put up a driftwood Christmas tree!

Or if your property is from the Georgian era, reflect the trends of that era with opulent decorations to transport your guests to another period of time.

Bailiffscourt Hotel and Spa

ADVICE AND TIPS

After already offering tips to be flexible with timings and tailoring the menus, Lynne Read provides some more helpful advice for hosting over the festive season.

“They will think of their best Christmas and try to find a package that’s going to have everything and then some.

“You want to emulate their best Christmas and more. Think about what they have at home and then some. Our cottage is so traditional and it’s all the same Christmas stuff, but with all the extra bits.”

Christmas can be a stressful time, so hosting someone else’s festivities means a lot more pressure.

Lynne said: “I do feel it’s a big responsibility. Like any other holiday, our guests have high expectations, but even more so at Christmas time.

“So I am meticulous in my planning and ready to adapt. I’m very organised and I get up at the crack of dawn to make sure everything will go to plan, with the aim to relieve that pressure.

“Times can change on the day, but that’s organised ahead, so I can adapt and arrange dinner for an earlier or later time.”

Bailiffscourt Hotel room all set for guests over the Christmas season

But Lynne still has important advice to pass on for those wishing to host over the holiday season.

“Forget about it being Christmas for you. That would be my tip.

“If you have guests staying for Christmas, plan a special moment for yourself after Christmas. Whether that’s celebrating how well it went, treating yourself to a meal out and thinking ‘this is my Christmas dinner’, or celebrating the end of the season.

“My husband Weyland and I always have an end of season celebration dinner. So that’s going out in the evening and celebrating everything that’s gone well throughout the year, talking about what you’ve learned from it, and taking it forward. It’s a little bit of closure, sort of.”

But Lynne’s advice didn’t stop there.

“It’s an honour to host this special time of year for them, so think of all the different ways you can add that edge. Think of all the things that they would like to have and spoil them.

“I think you also have to enjoy doing it, otherwise you’d be exhausted. I mean, you’d be exhausted anyway, but I love hosting and feeling exhausted at Christmas.”

Christmassy courtyard at Bailiffscourt Hotel

Lynne then went on to add that honesty is a key aspect of hosting in the hospitality industry.

She said: “We’re very genuine and our photos evidence what’s actually happening. The photos are of what I’ve actually baked, what I’ve cooked, our own special garden.

“I show it as it is. People aren’t expecting one thing and getting something else. What you see is what you get. I think that’s why people come to us and why we’re special.”

Dining table set for Christmas at The Auld Post Office

5 TOP TIPS FOR HOSTING A COSY CHRISTMAS

1. Everyone has a different idea of the perfect Christmas dinner so chat with your guests to tailor the menu.

2. Forget about it being Christmas for you and celebrate another time.

3. Be flexible with the schedule, particularly with meal times, as people might like to do something different during the day.

4. Think of all the different things you can do to add that edge. What was their best Christmas and how can you make it better?

5. Use decorations that fit the house and the location.

Websites to note down:

auldpostoffice.com

hotels.co.uk/bailiffscourt

This article was first published in Issue 44 of the Luxury BnB Magazine in December 2020:

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