My family has been coming to Keswick for Christmas every year since 1993. I just found my pictures of 1998. We’ve got a great picture of crows sunning themselves on the back exit fence.
Changes over the years: They have enhanced the Christmas decorations around the front fire place (our favorite photo spot). The fireplace is always well decorated now. The first year, there were only about 10 or 15 Christmas guests besides our group. Fun to have a more lively crowd – and more carolers on Christmas Eve! I can’t remember when they started putting Christmas stockings on our pillow on Christmas Eve, but that is always fun. Things we miss: things have been run pretty well, but I think they’ve cut back on the gingerbread village in the lobby at Christmas. I always like seeing all the scenes and figures. The Christmas Eve carol singing is better some years than others. In 2008, there were lots of local kids for some reason. Always fun – hope they keep this up!
Snooker table – we were upset when it disappeared from the lobby. One year we had the “board room” off room 1, and the snooker table was there, so we had a private table. Snooker is fun and different generations can compete. Findley has grown from being in a baby carrier, to not able to see the top of the table, to the snooker champ over the years. (Findley is 15 now, so he wasn’t even born on our first visit).
We have been having tea (and gift exchange) in the “Jefferson room” for a number of years. We can close off for privacy, and it feels like home with sofas and a fireplace. One year Ginny came in her bathrobe (from the pool!).
Grace Church (Cismont) – We have been going to Grace Church for Christmas Eve service every year (we like the late afternoon “children’s” service with carols). In the early years, they had a living nativity with live animals (we heard the donkey was on tranquilizers). No live animals recently, but we love the quaint church, traditional carols, and “hunt country” ambiance (although we have frequently spotted senior UVa officials there). We have learned the Christmas lights along the way home and always check to make sure Santa’s helicopter is still there!!
Overall, Keswick has provided a wonderful Christmas environment for our family for 17 years. We all love the beautiful setting, the variety of activities, the outstanding decorations, and of course, those scones. People do a double take when I say we love going to a hotel for Christmas, but Keswick is not “just a hotel”. How could you stay away from a place that has five or six Christmas trees, fireplaces perfectly tended, and hot chocolate always at the ready? And a stocking on your pillow on Christmas Eve? Santa surely has Keswick firmly marked on his route.
As the kids have grown up, we find we “bond” more at Keswick, because they can’t just head over to a friends house. But the kids don’t mind being with us at Keswick, because they love the activities (and the snooker competition!!).
We love Keswick. It’s “our” Christmas place!!