After enjoying last year’s light display at Blenheim Palace, I really wanted to make it part of our annual pre-Christmas traditions. So back in September when I was booking Christmas activities (yes, for some places like Waddesdon Manor, you really should be booking that far ahead if you want to make sure of tickets), I booked tickets for us to go on the last day of school. It would be a lovely treat to start the Christmas holidays and see the Blenheim Palace Christmas lights trail.
I was worried about N’s moans and not wanting to go. But he was excited too. Me to see the lights, him to have another marshmallow on a stick. Boys and their tummies!
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The ticket prices had gone down a little this year – feedback from last year maybe? You still have to pay for parking (grr, very annoying when you don’t really have any other choice in the evenings), and annual passes knock £1 off if you’ve an adult pass (family pass holders get money off too, but not a child pass unfortunately).
This year we both wore wellies* or walking boots which were essential. We were there just after the previous week’s snow was melting so we had slushy mud everywhere.
I had been worried that there wouldn’t be much different to last year’s trail but I didn’t have to worry as so much was new.
The trail was in the reverse order so we started with the elves workshop. There was lots of music, colour and smoke to set us on our way along the woodland walk. We didn’t need our torch for most of the trail, but it’s always worth taking one just in case.
Giant baubles kept N’s interest, looking up and along. I struggled to keep him to the path. The waterfall effect lights down the slopes were one of our favourites to sit and watch. They were mesmerising. And the boats on the lake were beautiful. Photos really don’t do it justice – as they changed colours and seemed to shimmer on the water.
Through the eerie green trees along the lake and a water fountain was ahead. N told me it was shooting water as high as 9 double decker buses – maybe not that high!
Then it was on to the cascades for the music and fire display. I thought the classical music from last year worked better with the display than this time’s Christmas music, but it was still magical to watch. I could have watched for ages, but of course marshmallows were calling.
This year there were also bratwurst and drinks selling in the same area. We didn’t hang around there because there was nowhere to sit which was a shame. Although it does keep people moving around the trail so avoiding the crowds building up.
Seeing the moving lights down the hill had a new addition at the bottom. Photo frames for people to get decently lit shots of themselves against the lights. I wish I’d taken my selfie stick or tripod to get a photo of the 2 of us together – it was very flattering light for me given I was taller, N I could only get lots of shadows. Ignore the chocolate smears – I think it was from the hot chocolate he drank although I don’t know how!
Last year’s flaming phoenix ring was changed, and while it was pretty to walk round, it was less impactful. I could imagine some romantic clinches happening under these giant mistletoe lights though.
Walked through the hanging light ropes. They reminded me of the 1970s beaded ropes people had across their doorways. So much fun to walk through.
We then came across an elf who encouraged those watching to join in a rendition of Jingle Bells. It’s always hard for performers to get british people to joining but once Father Christmas emerged from his hut, N was singing along too. It’s nice to have people to meet along the way. And N pointed out how the Father Christmas he’d met at school that afternoon was obviously one of Santa’s spare helpers. The one at Blenheim Palace was definitely the real thing. I love his reasoning.
One last highlight at the end of the trail was the light show in the formal gardens. On the walls was a beautiful show – of presents, sledging penguins and Father Christmas along with lights and music. N wasn’t going to let me stand and watch in peace unfortunately. But it was a lovely end to the light trail to get us in the Christmas mood.
Then it was back to the palace courtyard for drinks, hot dogs and a ride for N on the swing boats. He’s nothing but a cheap date – just a hot chocolate that he drank as he walked (£3), a hot dog, and water to share (£6), swing boat token (£2.50) and his face and chattiness about how he enjoyed it (priceless).
Tips on getting the most out of your visit
1, Get an early ticket slot. You can arrive earlier to do fairground or food first, but it means if you’re parking onsite, you’ll be slightly closer than if arriving later.
2, Wear comfy, wet weather boots. It’s winter, it’s outdoors and it’s sometimes uneven underfoot. An hour-ish of walking so you want your feet to be dry and painfree.
3, Don’t take a pushchair unless necessary. There are easy access routes for some of the hill areas, but you’ll miss out on some of the lights.
4, Take a torch if the kids get a bit scared. It’s unlikely you’ll need it for most of the trail, but worth taking just in case.
5, Take a full camera/phone battery because you will take photos. There’s usually plenty of room to use a selfie stick if it’s quiet and you’ve noone to take photos for you.
6, Wear layers. I got too hot in my big winter coat, scarf and hat so if you’re like me and get hot quickly, take a rucksack to put removed layers in.
7, Agree with children beforehand what they can have or do while there. There’s various food stalls (meals and treats) and drinks before and on the trail. The fairground has 4 rides/slides and there’s a glow / light up toys stand – so either make rules beforehand or be prepared to have children wanting to buy everything they see.
8, There’s a few benches along the trail, but not many. If you know people in your group will want a rest on the way round, take a portable stool or stop when you have the chance.
Enjoy your Blenheim Palace Christmas visit if you’re going. Or let me know any light trails you recommend.
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