It's the run-up to Christmas and everywhere is in full festive mode. 

The high streets are packed, Christmas markets heaving, every place you step foot in is playing Christmas music, and the decorations are well and truly out. 

But amid the chaos, one of the best things about this time of year is catching up with old friends. 

If there's ever an annual reminder that you need to meet up, then December with its festive frills is it. 

So my friend and I decided to ditch our families for the night and check in to the Norton Park Hotel and Spa to fully catch up, uninterrupted, and also enjoy some of the hotel's food and drink. 

Norton Park Hotel, part of The QHotels Collection, is set among 54 acres of Hampshire countryside, in Sutton Scotney, just outside Winchester.

It's a convenient meeting point for us both, and we meet up, hop into one car and head into one of Hampshire's best places for a Christmas shopping afternoon - Winchester city centre. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester city centreWinchester city centre (Image: Kimberley Barber)

Norton Park is just a 10-15 minute drive from the city centre, we are lucky and land a parking space pretty quickly, before heading into the throngs of people all determined to enjoy a mulled wine at the Cathedral's market. 

After an afternoon browsing all the wonderful shops, we head to Proudfoot & Co, an alcohol-free cocktail bar in St Thomas Street, which provides respite from the heaving masses outside and also gives us a chance to chat, sit down and enjoy an unusual beverage. 

Heading back to the hotel with our purchases, we check in and are shown to our room within the same building as the spa. 

Norton Park is made up of several buildings, the main hotel building, which is modern, is joined to another building through a walkway (a bit chilly in your robe!), where our room for the night is. There are 152 contemporary bedrooms - and the receptionist has said the hotel is full tonight, one of the busiest nights they have had this year. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Our room Our room (Image: Kimberley Barber)

Also at Norton Park is a recently refurbished 16th-century manor house, which has 13 bedrooms and can be booked exclusively, and a barn, which is used for functions. 

There are lots of people at the hotel tonight and we are lucky to get a spot at the Scene Restaurant. There are parties of all sizes, from couples enjoying each other's company, to large functions which take out whole conference rooms. There are plenty of other guests that also appear to be catching up for Christmas, either work-related or long-time friends. It really does seem like a popular choice for meetings, events and weddings. 

We opt for a mixed grill, which for £28 comes served with rump steak, grilled gammon, pork sausages, fried egg, tomato and field mushroom. My friend goes for the parsnip wellington, for £22.50, which comes with sweet potato fondant, braised leeks and crispy kale. 

The contemporary menu is full of flavourful dishes featuring locally sourced produce. Our meals are great and we enjoy chatting over a glass of wine or two, before retreating back to our modern and clean room. 

Hampshire Chronicle: Mixed grillMixed grill (Image: Kimberley Barber)

After a restful night, breakfast is in the same restaurant, a large help-yourself buffet of everything you want to find on an English breakfast. 

Our last little joy, before heading back to the madness of family life, is a trip to the heated pool. 

Unfortunately, there's no time for any treatments in the spa, but it's been great to spend time with a friend - and Norton Park with its close proximity to Winchester and stunning Hampshire countryside has provided a great base. 

The hotel has a range of party nights in December, with packages for groups to book for £55 off-peak nights, accommodation starts from £99 B&B per room on Thursdays, £109 on Fridays, and £129 on Saturdays.  

Hampshire Chronicle: Norton Park pool

The average bed and breakfast price is £139. 

To book your party night call 01962 763 000 or email

It is also offering special Christmas and New Year packages. 

For more go to