I love a Christmas display, but there’s only so much N can take. Especially when it involves stately homes. I had persuaded him to do the outdoor Christmas light trail at Blenheim Palace, with our tickets deferred to this year after lockdowns and everything in 2020. But he wasn’t keen on seeing the palace decorations inside. So I used a flexi day to book myself tickets and spend the day at Blenheim.
I was too early for my booked slot when I arrived but that meant I had time to enjoy the gardens and spend more time in the fresh air. And fresh it was with a cold wind and raw bright but chilly weather.
The grounds are extensive at Blenheim Palace, and despite the Christmas light trail being set up, you can still walk around the estate. I stuck to the formal gardens, italian garden and the Secret Garden which I’d never seen before. It’s lovely to explore with different ponds and walkways. The tennis court made me chuckle with all its lights for the trail set up.
The palace was looking spectacular from all angles in the chilly autumn sun.
On my walkaround I found the entrance to the stables exhibition. This is my first time of seeing this area as it’s fairly new, and it’s an interesting place to find out. There’s lots of information and interactivity for all ages.
You get to see the stable set up, find out about the children’s ponies, There’s a decorated carriage to sit in, a horse that children can sit on and learn to ride side saddle on. There’s also a talking oak tree, and you can hear the bowler hats talk in the raceground.
The displays have been set up in a clever way, and I think it’s always good to provide sections that will be of more interest to children than just walking around the palace itself.
The Christmas market was also on, but i didn’t need to eat, and didn’t see anything new I wanted, so it was a quick mooch around before heading into the palace.
I’ve been to 2 previous years of palace displays, with a Cinderella theme and Alice in Wonderland. The palace is always decorated so beautifully with the theme, and I could spend ages looking at everything, and taking photos.
This year’s theme is The Nutcracker. As a young ballet dancer, The Nutcracker was one of the early ballets I saw on stage, having seen different versions of it over the years. Most people know the story of Clara being given a Nutcracker as a toy by her Uncle Drosselmeyer, before the nighttime excitement where he comes to life to fight the mouse king, before the Sugar Plum Fairy whisks Clara and the Nutcracker off to the Kingdom of Sweets. The rooms of the palace take you through each part of the story, bringing it to life.
As you walk in, the huge trees are a beautiful sight, then you see the story unfold.
Through the tree decorations, through models and people portrayed in displays, the small ‘theatre’ style boxes with the story chapters, and thorough the colours and music.
We see the mouse king facing the Nutcracker. The soldiers behind.
The beautiful white-blue room with displays of the snow sleigh and trees. This room is interactive where you can see yourself change into a moustache and soldier’s hat, or have a halo and fairy wings. They dind’t all seem to work, but were fun to try out.
Then the displays led through to the Kingdom of Sweets, where you see beautiful peacocks and Russian buildings.
The final scenes are the sweet themed decorations alongside the Nutcracker who poses or dances when there’s a camera pointed his way. And a Sugar Plum Fairy – for me I was expecting a ballet dancer, so the one on the day I was there didn’t sit with my expectations…baseball boots weren’t quite what I wanted to see.
There are lots of photo opportunities to be had with Nutcracker statues, sweet based archways and benches by the Christmas trees.
The final stop is the chapel where angels oversaw the visitors and the wishing tree. You can stamp your nutcracker tag, write your wish and add it to the lit tree.
I love seeing the decorations in the palace. They’re so beautiful and this year wasn’t too busy inside. I’m not sure if that was because there are limited tickets each time, or whether it was an early slot so fewer people go at that time compared with later in the afternoon when they then go into dusk and evening for the light trail outside. Fewer people means more time to take photos, and you don’t get held up waiting for people to move on before you can see the rooms. It all felt safe with everyone wearing masks – they have spare to provide if you don’t have one with you.
If you’re there with children, be prepared to pay out for the fairground rides. Or have some time perusing the gift shop which is good for Christmas gifts..
Like with most Christmas displays nowadays, tickets for Blenheim for a family aren’t cheap. It’s £10 just for parking (also charged for annual pass holders) and £29.50 for adult entrance. But if you’ve got an annual pass the indoors display is free. My pass ran out during 2020 and I didn’t renew. However, after paying the day fee, on arrival I upgraded my ticket to an annual pass. You can do this for free, and can return for free for most events, and general trips there throughout the following year. I felt like I made the most of my ticket with the Christmas displays and a wander round the grounds and Christmas market.
My afternoon means I’m now feeling more ready for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to taking N to the Blenheim light trail later in December. I still recommend a visit to Christmas at Blenheim Palace if you have the chance. The final date you can see the displays are on 3rd January 2022.
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