I’VE been on a health kick for the past few months; trying to eat well and get in shape. Now I fear I am about to let all my good intentions slip.
The festive season is looming and with it a host of temptations – not least on the culinary front.
I love good food – hence why I have been on my health kick – but nothing quite compares to the gastronomic delights associated with Yuletide.
It’s paradise for a good food lover like me.
Having spent the last few months shedding the extra pounds that had so stealthily crept on and upping the exercise regime, I feel I deserve the chance to indulge myself for a few weeks at least.
I believe that a little bit of what you fancy when it comes to food does indeed do you good, especially at this time of year when it’s often miserable outdoors.
Sometimes wrapping up warm in a thick coat and scarf just isn’t enough to cheer the soul.
It’s then it’s good to indulge in delicious food.
Food is something the National Trust always prides itself on doing well ... our restaurants and tea rooms have an especially tempting reputation with local produce and home cooking very much to the fore.
But during the festive period the National Trust really comes into its own on the foodie and gift fronts – this year is no exception.
We are giving people the chance to open their Christmas stockings a month early as the Trust has put together five very special online stockings packed with everything you need to ensure you enjoy the festivities to the full.
The virtual stockings (you’ll find the online link to them at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/northeast) are filled with ideas for gifts, visits and other activities themed around crafts, festive fun and, of course, food.
Here is just a flavour of what’s on offer between now and the end of December:
Cragside, Rothbury, Northumberland, www.nationaltrust.org/cragside.
Christmas lunch at Cragside, November 30-December 16.
Enjoy getting into the festive spirit in the heart of the beautiful Northumberland countryside with Christmas dinner served Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, 12.30pm-4pm in the Cragside Tea Rooms.
The property is laying on a veritable festive feast next month with delicious two and three-course Christmas-inspired meals at £19.50 and £22.50 respectively (half-price for children).
Traditional turkey with all the trimmings and Christmas pudding are, of course, firmly at the heart of the seasonal menu, which as far as possible is sourced from local suppliers.
But for those who are not a fan of turkey there is a delicious selection of other festive dishes.
There’s also the chance to sample Cragside’s selection of Lindisfarne Wines with free tastings of local produce. And to sweeten the experience there’s a 10% discount in the shop on gifts and treats.
Booking is essential on 0844 249 1895 or go online at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/cragside. A customer booking fee of 5% applies.
Washington Old Hall, The Avenue, Washington, www.nationaltrust.org/washington-old-hall
Frost Fayre, November 25, 11am-4pm. Free.
The hall’s Frost Fayre has become a popular annual fixture with a plethora of original crafts and festive foods on offer from Delavals beers to cakes, Christmas decorations and jewellery.
It is the perfect place to pick up gifts – including jams, chutneys and honey made at Washington Old Hall – for friends and family .
And while you are there you can make the most of your day by exploring the gardens at this manor house.
Wallington, Cambo, Northumberland, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wallington
Christmas Lunches, December 1-23.
Work up an appetite on a bracing walk around Wallington estate and then refuel on roast turkey with all the trimmings and Christmas pudding in the Clocktower Café.
Seasonal alternatives on the special festive menu on offer throughout December are stuffed peppers and a trio of ice-creams with a fruit coulis.
Lunch is served daily between 11.45am-3pm.
Gibside, Burnopfield, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gibside
Festive Farmers’ Market, December 1 and 15, 10am-3pm.
The estate’s twice monthly farmers’ markets supporting a plethora of local producers, regularly attract hundreds of shoppers.
These free-to-attend events offer everything from organic fruit and vegetables to artisan breads, chutneys, free-range eggs, game, sausages, beef, venison, fish, Wylam Brewery beer, fruit cordials, preserves, pies and cakes.
To ensure you really get into the Christmas spirit, Gibside will be laying on mulled wine and live music too.
Festive Hog Roast at Gibside, December 21, 6pm-9pm
Gibside’s Friday night sundown at Gibside Beer Garden and Pub offers a unique family-friendly way to start the weekend.
The Friday before Christmas is set to be extra special as the property is laying on a festive hog roast.
As the beer garden and pub is held outside the pay barrier, it’s free to visit .
Souter Lighthouse, www.nationaltrust.org.uk/souter- lighthouse-and-the-leas
Christmas Craft Fair, December 1-2, 10am-5pm.
The ever-popular Souter Lighthouse Christmas Craft Fair will be packed with stalls offering everything from stained glass and handmade soaps to jewellery and beer.
Held in the warmth of the iconic lighthouse, the fair offers a relaxed way to hunt for those special gifts under one very special roof.
You can get in a few bottles of Souter’s own copper-coloured Premium Best Bitter with its rich fruity aroma and rounded bitter- sweet taste, brewed by Delavals as well as their other alcoholic National Trust offerings – Seaton Delaval Hall Pale Ale, Lindisfarne Castle Cask Ale and Washington Old Hall Honey Beer.
The Galley Coffee Shop will also be offering festive treats throughout December, including hot turkey and homemade stuffing stotties, old-fashioned fig and pear upside- down ginger cake, Christmas shortbread and hot spiced apple juice.
Please note that Souter is only open on Saturdays and Sundays until December 16, between 11am-4pm.
To find out more about what’s happening at National Trust properties across the North East, go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ northeast; follow us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/NorthEastNT or Twitter: @NorthEastNT