As you all know, Blenheim Palace holds a special place in our family’s heart. We’ve visited so many times over the last eight and half years, made so many memories too. At the weekend we added to those memories and started feeling festive with Christmas at Blenheim Palace. Last year we’d thoroughly enjoyed walked along the Illuminated Christmas Light Trail, and we were looking forward to seeing how it had changed for this year. Not only that, but for the first time Blenheim Palace itself is hosting the Cinderella Festive Fairytale Experience, and it would be my son’s first time actually inside the Palace.
Blenheim Palace is a large estate on the outskirts of Woodstock in Oxfordshire, and it’s a firm favourite for us. Feeling festive with Christmas at Blenheim Palace gives visitors the opportunity to visit the Cinderella experience and the Light Trail as well as a Christmas market and fun fair. You can find out about opening times, costs and parking on their website.
We were meeting up with other Oxfordshire bloggers and their families to enjoy all the festive fun together, and were making use of the on-site parking. We were pleased to see that the field had a protective covering on it this year, which was much appreciated to make parking easier in rather damp weather conditions.
As you enter the main Palace area through the East Courtyard there are a couple of eateries and a fun fair to keep the children entertained (chargeable).
From there you walk through to the Great Court where the Christmas Market is located, with plenty of stalls to tempt you with their gifts, food and drinks. With a child in tow I never get much opportunity to look around stalls at my leisure but there looked like a good selection of items available. We also spotted a couple of cash machines which are a really handy addition in my opinion.
We were all eager to step inside the palace itself to explore the Cinderella Fairytale Experience and I’m so glad we did, as it was absolutely magical. I don’t think my photos really do it justice.
I was a little concerned that my nearly nine-year old son would think Cinderella was a bit too girly for him, but those worries were blown away as soon as we stepped inside the Palace. The settings in each room were just stunning and adults and children alike were in awe. As you walk from room to room you step through the story of Cinderella with details to be seen in every corner.
There’s so much to take in and it’s all been done beautifully well. My son was spellbound. I don’t think he’s ever seen decorations like it as we started feeling festive with Christmas at Blenheim Palace.
Throughout Blenheim Palace there were mice to be found, telling different aspects of the fairytale. A great idea to keep younger children entertained on the walk, and actually we all enjoyed spotting them too.
It was busy inside the Palace, but we never felt that we couldn’t get to see things, or take our time to enjoy the various scenes.
I defy anyone to visit and not come away feeling that their Christmas Tree decorating skills are woefully inadequate. I left with major tree envy. The trees in each room reflected the scene being set and they were just stunning.
My son was captivated by a series of Zootrope devices in one of the rooms. Each telling a different part of the story. He was able to gently spin them to watch the various characters come to life.
There is a room where we meet the Fairy Godmother herself and get to see the carriage in all it’s glory. This is a bit of a bottleneck area and my son thought the video went on a bit too long. But the carriage itself is lovely, and when the magic lights it up, you can’t help but be transported back to your own childhood really.
The very last room on the Cinderella Fairytale Experience is very cleverly done, with dresses that change colour, beautiful place settings and of course, the glass slipper.
Our verdict – stunning, and we all thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Before you exit the Palace you walk down into the chapel and you can add a wooden star to a tree with your own message. A nice little touch.
One area we did miss was the Stables, apparently there is an area there for kids to dress up to retell Cinderella in their own style. My son probably wouldn’t have joined in but it’s an area for others to consider when visiting.
We fell in love with the Illuminated Light Trail at Blenheim Palace last year. It had been our first time seeing it, it was a clear night with a full moon. In every sense of the word, it was magical, and it was definitely a highlight for us last year. Would this year’s event live up to our high expectations? Would the rain dampen our spirits? It’s always a difficult balance isn’t, you instantly compare one thing against another, have expectations of something being in one place etc.
We’d loved the start of the trail last year as we walked on illuminated snow flakes from the Great Court around to the start of the trail. This year the snow flakes were missing so it was a little darker than expected, but it did leave us wondering what we’d see next.
Before you start the trail itself there are toilets and a refreshment stall. The trail takes a good hour at least to walk round. Having done the walk last year we knew that there were also toilets and refreshments down at the Cascades, so we agreed that we’d stop at that point for a hot chocolate and pit stop if anyone needed one. That was a great plan, but this year the only drinks available at the Cascades are cold ones or mulled wine. My son was less than impressed with me. There are stalls also selling food and gourmet marshmallows which you can roast over a fire. But if you want a hot drink, buy it at the start of the trail.
I’d recommend stout footwear, it’s been raining a lot recently and obviously the path is a tad muddy in places. It’s to be expected and we’d donned appropriate footwear.
Last year the Boathouse was decked out as a toy shop and my son loved the train set that was featured on the balcony. This year sees it transformed into a gingerbread house.
Tickets are provided in time slots, and although it cam be busy in parts, just like the Cinderella Experience, we never felt that we were too crowded, rushed or that we couldn’t enjoy each element of the walk.
My son was in his element, somewhere he knows well, and he was eager to explore. It’s always nice to see him happy to wander on ahead, having fun.
One new addition for this year is the bubbles area. All of the children were in their element trying to catch the bubbles as we passed.
You’re never too old for bubbles fun are you.
From there we walked under some beautiful hanging poppies. Really pretty.
It’s all very cleverly done and throughout the trail there’s always something to catch your attention.
Last year, my personal highlight was the sailing boats on the lake, they’ve been replaced this year with something else which is rather beautiful.
The bridge looked as beautiful as ever.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are refreshments and toilet facilities just past the Cascades and it’s a good place to stop for a few moments and savour the scene.
The rainbow light cascade was as lovely as ever.
Last year when we visited this area I’d commented on the fact the ‘photo frames’ were all set at a height that was no good for children. That message had clearly been taken on board as this year there were a range of frames, set to different heights, so perfect for all the family. So of course, my son insisted on standing behind the one for adults. Who’d have kids!
As you follow the path around towards the Rose Garden the trees are illuminated.
We then saw a more familiar scene, the snowflakes are back cried one very happy boy, and off he ran.
I think the highlight of this years Illuminated Light Trail was undoubtedly the light tunnel, it was totally stunning.
I rather fancied the flower pots for our garden. What do you think?
At this point the heavens well and truly opened so we didn’t spend as much time listening to the story being told in the story area. But we did get to see Father Christmas.
As well as another rather famous inhabitant.
The trail ends with the best backdrop of all.
We ended our evening definitely feeling festive with Christmas at Blenheim Palace and enjoyed a hot chocolate in the grounds before heading home.
So did we enjoy it as much as last year? There are elements of the light trail that I missed, but then there were new displays which were amazing and as a whole it works really well. There are plenty of wow moments and I’m sure we’ll be back again next year. The addition of the Cinderella element to our trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all of us and added another dimension to our visit. A Christmas Market is always a nice add-on to any festive themed event. All in all it’s a winner. Are you visiting this year?