We didn’t make it to any light displays last Christmas. But this year we’d booked in our deferred visit from last year to Blenheim Palace. And after being unable to fit in an earlier PR visit, we just booked in ourself for Christmas at Waddesdon and their Winter Light displays.
I love visiting Waddesdon. The manor is beautiful, although this year it wasn’t open as part of the Christmas at Waddesdon event. N was happy because he’s not fussed about seeing inside the house. Instead we booked in – as National Trust members it’s only a small cost. The shuttle bus had a cost (presumably due to Covid and reducing numbers on the bus), so we just walked up the hill to the manor. It’s about a 15 minute walk uphill, but it’s lit ready for the evening and the surfaces of the path are fine for walking, and pushchairs.
Luckily the pouring rain stopped by the time we arrived, so we avoided getting too wet. We’d brought our own flasks of hot chocolate with us, although I did make the mistake of not bringing something for N to snack on. I knew he’d get hungry but presumed we’d be able to find something to eat in one of the cafes or takeaways stands.
Unfortunately it being quieter after Christmas, there was only a takeaway refreshments stall outside the Manor Restaurant (that seemed to have a huge queue but very little if anything in the way of food),. And down at the Stables there was the small refreshments stall open there – the only thing they really had to eat other than fish and chips, was crisps. I refused to queue for a pack of overpriced crisps when N could have brought a pack from home. Luckily his hot chocolate helped fill him up a bit.
Despite the weather, the woodland playground was still busy. It was a bit too wet for N to want to play. He prefers it when it’s earlier in the day and quieter. But he did remember all the old equipment he loves like the huge slide, zip wire, and rotating seat seesaw.
There was plenty to see around the grounds. Because it was quite a dark dismal day, I think they turned some of the lights on earlier than normal. It meant us whizzing round everything fast, didn’t really impact what we could see.
We started off with a walk down Miss Alice’s Drive. The theme was bridges, boats and beyond with decorations in the trees of lanterns created by school children. There was also rainbow yarn decorations around the trees. Some decorated wooden reindeer. And lit up decorated panels.
It was a nice walk around, and the lanterns lit up the walk nicely.
We ended up at the Stables to check out the art installation displays by Leo Villareal. The aim of Illumination was to celebrate the completion of Illuminated River, the longest public art installation in the world, which highlighted 9 London bridges across the River Thames. N wasn’t impressed, and although I liked the lights and colours, it wasn’t really my kind of thing. I do like that you get to experience new and different art at Waddesdon.
Then it was a walk back up the hill around the manor to the Aviary.
It was the busiest area with people looking at the birds. We checked out the ‘water’ and fish floor illusion which made it feel like the tiles were water with fish swimming around our feet.
We got to press the big red button to change the light colour around the grass display area. And change the colours of the bubbling tubes. Lots of fun, even for nearly 11 year olds who like to think they’re too cool to have a go at first.
We decided we would do the illuminated trail when we were ready at dusk, rather than waiting for it to be fully dark. As usual we’d got round faster than I’d expected having not stopped for food. While we didn’t get the full impact of the lights, we could see enough the lit up trees and installations.
From elephants, to simple coloured tree uplighting. Then the roses and ‘mushroom’ tree.
Through the fun archway tunnel with its changing colours.
To the eerie green smoke pumping out over the bridge.
The triangle with colour changing spheres and finishing with the pretty dandelions that reminded me a bit of the sculptures at Trentham Gardens.
The illuminated trail was ok, but we were disappointed. It was quite short, the areas with lights were quite spread out, and it just wasn’t as amazing as other trails we’ve seen. I don’t think I’d go again just for the outdoor lights. To make it worth a visit, I think we’ll wait until the manor is open again over Christmas with its usual beautiful decorations.
We finished off waiting for the illuminated displays on the front of Waddesdon Manor which are set to music. We watched it twice through while finishing off our hot chocolate. It’s nice to finally get to watch that bit after all the years we’ve left a bit too early.
Rather than catch the shuttle bus back down to the car afterwards, we decided to keep up our walking and walk back again. It was lovely to spend the time with N, despite the slightly disappointing winter light trail. A chance to finish off our Christmas holidays with getting outdoors.
Find out where else you can visit Christmas trails in and around Oxfordsihire.
Have you been to any trails this year?