As regular readers will know, we’ve been going to Blenheim Palace ever since my son was a baby. It’s gone from being a weekly NCT meet up point, to somewhere to run around and let off steam at the weekends and during school holidays. It holds a very special place in our hearts and we’ve had an annual pass now for nearly 8 years. Last year I heard a lot of people were enjoying Christmas at Blenheim and their first illuminated trail, but I wondered if it was worth the extra costs, both in tickets and parking. Well on Sunday we had the opportunity to find out, after we’d been invited along to see the event for ourselves.
You can spend time enjoying Christmas at Blenheim Palace until 1st January 2018 between 4.45pm and 10pm. We had access to the on site parking which is limited and costs £10 per car, but the park and ride service for £7 per car runs from very close by and regular buses run from 4.15pm to 10.30pm.
You are advised to arrive 30 minutes before your time slot but you could arrive earlier as there are fairground rides (chargeable) for the children to enjoy. There are also stalls selling food and drinks including mulled wine (bring cash with you). In my opinion the child sized food options were rather limited but my son enjoyed a Bratwurst in a roll, whilst my husband and I had a pulled pork roll with apple sauce, which was very good. It’s also worth noting that similar stalls can be found on the trail itself (about half way round) along with marshmallow toasting opportunities. Toilet facilities are also available just below the Cascades area of the parkland.
I’d seen pictures and heard good reports from others but really we went with open minds and on a dry, full moon evening we were looking forward to enjoying Christmas at Blenheim. The illuminated trail took us about an hour and half to walk round, including a stop for hot chocolate and it really is a case of the walk will take you as long or as short a time as you want. Starting from the Fisherman’s Gate entrance you are guided through the illuminated trail by the lights themselves, starting with snowflakes on the floor which left my 7 year old son mesmerised. It’s obviously dark in places but at no point did we feel the need to use our torches.
There were staff all along the trail, but we never felt they were intrusive and although a lot of people were enjoying Christmas at Blenheim on the day we were there, the timed entry really seemed to work well. At no point along the trail did we feel that we were surrounded by a large crowd. There was plenty of space for everyone, children especially, to get a good, clear view. We were very impressed by that.
There is so much more to the illuminated trail than just a bunch of strategically placed lights, it was evident very quickly why this is a chargeable event, and we spent the entire time being wowed by what we saw. It was totally magical. I think the full super moon certainly added to the atmosphere, but there were visual treats around every corner.
From the trees that were lit up.
To the boathouse that was transformed into the Elves Workshop in ever-changing colours.
Seeing somewhere we know so well in a totally different light (excuse the pun) was just wonderful. There are some areas with a musical backdrop, some areas with constant light, some where raindrops seem to be falling from the trees, and some area where the lights are constantly changing.
I stupidly didn’t take any video, as I’m more of a photo person, but this is one such event where video would really show how wonderful enjoying Christmas at Blenheim really is.
There were so many highlights to our visit, the bridge on the lake and the sailing ships were particular favourites of mine. I could have stood watching those boats changing colour all night.
Whilst my OH enjoyed the Rose Garden complete with Mistletoe.
There’s even a family photo opportunity as you wander along the trail. This could be improved for families with school age children if there was some sort of platform for them to stand on. My son turns 8 on Sunday and there is no way we can pick him up these days!
Enjoying Christmas at Blenheim really is a family affair and younger children will particularly enjoy meeting one of Santa’s elves and the main man himself makes an appearance too. Although it should be noted that there isn’t an opportunity for children to meet him personally at this event.
My son’s constant expression was one of wonder all the way round the illuminated trail. It was lovely to watch him enjoying it as much as we were.
Even Sir Winston Churchill was left in awe.
I feel that I might be over using the word magical, but that just sums up our experience perfectly. It really was magical and we stood and soaked in every moment.
As you enter the formal gardens next to Blenheim Palace itself, you are treated to another visual delight as an animated film is projected onto one of the walls. Stop and watch it all the way through, it’s enchanting.
We were disappointed when we reached the end of the trail, that it was over. We could all quite easily gone around again if that had been a possibility. I was taken back to my original thoughts about this Christmas lights trail, was it worth the money? Well yes, totally. Having been there I can really see why it’s extra to our annual pass. I will say though that I think the fee for both parking options could be reduced and I’m sure it puts some people off. But that aside, we’ll be booking to go next year without a shadow of a doubt. We loved it.
You can find full information about enjoying Christmas at Blenheim, prices and times on the Blenheim Palace website. Do let me know if you go and make sure you wear sturdy footwear as the path can get muddy.
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