Christmas at Blenheim Palace
If you fancy a treat over Christmas (open now until January 1st), make a trip to Christmas at Blenheim Palace. There are oodles to recommend it, starting with the dramatic and inspiring building itself, 7 acres footprint and 3 acres of roof apparently!
You enter into the East Courtyard with low key fairground rides, a tasteful merry-go-round naturally, and old vehicles now serving as food and drink outlets. I just marvel at the aged 2CV van that’s re-purposed now as a fabulous mobile hot drinks stall. Try the mulled wine. For food, I recommend Gourdans steak frites, based in an old VW camper. They can cook a steak to perfection.
Then it’s on to the Christmas Market in the Great Court, entrance here is free, and it is full of interesting stalls: local gins and vodkas in tasty fruit flavours, more hats and berets than you can image, woolly outer wear, wooden toys, mulled cider, The Great British Cheese Company, organic chocolate and fudge. All rather lovely with much to enjoy and if you go no further, this would be a pleasant outing.
However, I do urge you to treat yourself to the illuminated trail, which is a joyous meander of about a mile through Blenheim’s glorious grounds with light and sound along the way. It’s wheelchair accessible and loos are handily placed at the start and mid-way, where’s there’s a coffee stop and marshmallow toasting on a fire pit too. Everywhere magnificent trees, many centuries old with stories to tell, are imaginatively lit, creating a wonderful backdrop to the specialty lightshows. Starting with the Cathedral of Light, a gothic style long archway of tiny flower lights, through to the grove to giant colourful snowdrops perched in the arboretum grass banks, overlooking the lake and onto the neon strings of green and orange, like enormous cats cradles, where electronic throbs and tinkles create an eerie atmosphere, there are oh and ah moments aplenty. You continue on through to the Laser Garden, where, like so many green fireflies, light spots dance amongst the trees. The Cascade (mid-point) is a torrent of changing colour, preceded by lit animal-shaped bushes and the sound of Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of The Animals. The Vines, a sci-fi light box to walk through of soft light tubes, colours changing, is a really immersive moment. I loved the rose garden which is very effectively changed to the Fire Garden, genuinely warming and burning bright.
If you’ve got children with you, the Frost King and Father Christmas live actors will be a real hit, there’s a hint of traditional panto to be joined in with too. The Winston Churchill walk, look at the timeline on the ground, ends with a bust of the great man, then you step across to the Temple of Diana, a small folly, where it’s said Winston proposed to Clemmie. What a view and I’ll let you find out about the lights here; suffice to say there’s a romantic theme. The trail ends, having enjoyed the Galaxy Truffle Grove, at the Water Terrace, where projections of every Christmas favourite, old, new and kitsch, are played onto the façade of the Palace. A superb finale to an outstanding trail.
Alice in the Palace is a joy to behold: rooms with scenes and characters, plus luxurious Christmas decorations, from the book are set alongside the grandeur of Blenheim’s art and furniture. The Grand Hall was filled by a pyramid of massive playing cards, right up to its painted dome. I was curious, but not tempted, by the ‘do not drink me’ decanters and both the large and very small doors Alice might have chosen. The Red Queen was gloriously ugly, standing beside oil paintings of Spencers and Churchills past. And flamingos (not real) playing croquet in a room filled with antique wall tapestries could have looked ridiculous but didn’t. The best was last – the library, books kept safe behind doors, was the setting for The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. What reach-out-and-eat cake confections littered the table, candelabras, charming teacups and plates: the scene was perfect, topped only by the presence of a live Alice with whom to have your photo taken.
Allow about an hour and twenty minutes for the trail, a further 40 minutes for the palace. You are in for a real treat and perfect Festive experience.
“Visit the website”:https://www.blenheimpalace.com/whats-on/events/ve-day-celebrations/christmas/