When Blenheim Palace first announced their Christmas at Blenheim light show, I was always champing at the bit to be able to get hold of tickets. But then I heard the cost. When you are a National Trust member you get to see amazing shows like the displays and installations at Waddesdon for free. So as annual pass holders it was disappointing to see how much it was going to cost.
But with it being the first year the light displays were being done, I couldn’t resist though. I do love Christmas lights, and in a beautiful setting it was going to (hopefully) be an amazing sight.
Of course I hadn’t counted on N refusing to go. Admittedly he had had a sore throat and cough, and with it being lights it was going to be an evening thing, but I thought he’d have loved it. Then on the day I didn’t feel well, but with only 40 minutes before we needed to have been parked, N asked where we were having tea (I’d said we could eat out there) and that he wanted to go. Quick call to the OH to tell him there wouldn’t be tea on the table when he came in from work, and then a rush round the house finding boots, hats, gloves and scarves, plus getting my camera out before heading off for the 30 minute journey.
I’d booked tickets for the first 5pm slot and onsite parking, but we were lucky to arrive to find a car parking space in the first row. I hadn’t wanted to trek N all the way across the car park and then down the drive to get there as well as having to walk around the trail.
Just the walk to the palace was exciting due to the anticipation. Not knowing what it was going to be like was great, and going in to the courtyard via the gate rather than the side entrance was intriguing. We warmed up with a hot chocolate in the cafe, then headed back outside to find the trail.
It was a tad confusing. The courtyard had the rides and the food and drink stalls. But no signs to say where the trail was. It was a mystery. Then 5 minutes before we spotted other people lingering, and we asked a staff member who pointed us back out and round the outside towards the start of the trail.The walk round whetted our appetite with the snowflakes lit up on the path, and being able to see the stunning palace in lights.
We didn’t have to queue too long to get through the ticket entrance. Even while we waited we could see the trees lit up and N’s questions started about why they were green or purple! Once through the entrance, the spectacle began, and it was beautiful.
The pictures speak for themselves. The trail itself was probably around a mile to walk, some of the ground was a little muddy and uneven, and we did have a torch in readiness for the non-lit up areas.
There were lit up trees, light structures, fire displays, meadows of changing lights, and the stunning cascades. And not forgetting the music playing out – a mix of ballet music (the Nutcracker I recognised) and some choral, which worked brilliantly.
Along the trail you could buy Christmassy drinks like mulled wine and hot chocolate, plus roasted chestnuts. And not forgetting the stop at the cascades where you could buy huge marshmallows on sticks (no kiddy flavours there – N had the vanilla but he couldn’t eat it all because it’s was obviously quite rich) to cook over the fire pit.
The final part of the trail was alongside the lake, through the woodland and then up towards Father Christmas’ chalet. N loved that he could say hello to Father Christmas and his elf. Being one of the first around the trail meant it wasn’t busy, so they came down to the fence to speak to us, and ask us and those following to sing a christmas song with them. Father Christmas was a more old fashioned style but that didn’t bother N. I loved that from the last time N had been to see Father Christmas, his confidence has come on so much more that he was happy to chat. Although he was a bit put out that he couldn’t actually get to the house to have a look inside.
We were lucky that the weather was dry and fairly crisp, and after walking round I’d had to strip off my scarf. N insisted on wearing his Minions hat all the way round!
Afterwards we headed back to the courtyard to get some food. I’d assumed the cafe would have proper food, but they only seemed to have toasties. If N had agreed earlier in the day to go, we’d have arrived earlier in the day to make the most of our pass and then had a proper hot dinner there. He wanted a hot dog, so we paid the £8 for a normal and a child sized sausage in a brioche roll. Delicious, although with N’s sore throat he didn’t manage to eat all his roll.
Then it was ride time. N really wanted to try the helter skelter. He’s never been on one before, and isn’t really a slide person – it takes him a while to get into one, and when he heard I wasn’t going to go up with him (too much to carry, I didn’t want to pay for me as well, and it looked a bit narrow for the size of my bottom!) he was put off and decided he’d go on the merry-go-round instead. I thought he’d ask to do the carousel, but no. The kiddy merry-go-round was his choice.
We bought his token then he got to choose which vehicle to ride. Did he choose the tractor? The horse? The motorbike? No. He wanted to go on one of the two buses…the same one as the only other child going on the ride at the same time! Strange child.
We were back home by 6.30 and I had to cook tea for his dad. N then decided he was still hungry so had a very late extra dinner.
We really enjoyed the lights. I’m a sucker for Christmas lights, so to be able to see them and Blenheim Palace all lit up in the evening was lovely. But the cost puts me off going in future years. Just the tickets (even with our discount) and car parking added up to £34, add to that hot dogs, hot chocolate, a marshmallow and 1 ride, and for the 2 of us it was just over £50. It was a wonderful way to start our run of Christmas events though, and has set us up for the next lots of displays over the coming weeks.
Do you go to see any light displays near you? What’s your favourite place to visit at Christmas?