Tuesday 27th December, 2016 – Christmas at Blenheim, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock
Everyone’s doing it these days it seems, so after a bit of discussion we decided we would go and try out the Christmas light display at Blenheim Palace, a 40 minute drive away from home. We shelled out for tickets and for car parking, which always seems a bit of a cheek to me, taking money for parking on top of money for tickets, but at least it apparently covered the park and ride bus system they’d set up.
Getting there proved to be a challenge, with dense fog in places causing havoc on the motorways. We ended up condemned to a long cross-country diversion and only just made it to Woodstock for the time on our tickets. There was then the issue of getting from the car park to the venue, made slightly more tricky than it needed to be by the lack of clear signposting (Berlin all over again?) We had to walk from the stop near where we’d parked to the next stop in the car park as the bus that had been stopped at the former simply pulled away as we reached the doors, the driver gesturing that we should walk. It seemed a little unkind given one of our party was clearly not entirely able-bodied, and it really would have required little effort on the driver’s part. But c’est la vie I suppose.
Once in the grounds there was again little in the way of signposting, but everyone else seemed to be heading toward the house, so we decided that we would do the same. There was a carousel and a helterskelter in the courtyard, along with some stalls selling hot dogs, stews, coffees and mulled wine. If we’d been in Germany, the stalls would have been rammed with customers, but we were in the UK so they were all in the gift shop!
From there we eventually found the path leading to the lights display, which was lit up with giant snowflake patterns, all very atmospheric though it did make it a bit tricky to see where you were putting your feet!
From here we made our way to the actual entrance gates, and were then led to the formal gardens, where an “elf” greeted us, singing and telling tales of Christmas. We felt a little sorry for the poor performer as it was bitterly cold and people were tending to scoot straight past her rather than stopping and engaging with her, which seemed a shame. We stopped, joined in the cheer leading and then left her to try and keep warm. It was too cold to stand still for long.
The path now wound its way through the gardens, initially following the Churchill path through some spectacularly gnarled old trees, lit up in a variety of colours.
All very spooky, and beautiful, and it led us to a small, circular garden lit with flaming torches, interspersed with stars, and with a phoenix on a revolving tree in the centre. It was probably the warmest part of the trail, and was one of my two favourite parts of the whole thing. You could walk all the way round the circle so you could enjoy the sight from all angles.
Next we found ourselves in an avenue of tall “flowers” that led towards the singing trees, which were a pair of very tall pines with a column of light inside, that played music, mostly Christmas tunes, and changed colours all the time.
Before we reached the trees there were some more conventional Christmas trees in a line along the path.
Sadly the singing trees weren’t too easy to photograph, probably not helped by just how cold my hands were by then. But I gave it a go…
What came next was my absolute favourite section of the whole event, an entire lawn illuminated by tiny lights that changed colour and that looked to me like electric crocuses at one stage, like tiny daffodils at another, still another white stars, and the whole effect was spellbindingly lovely.
Water was the next thing, with some waterfalls lit up in a variety of colours and effects that caused a small child to insist: “It’s a volcano!” It wasn’t but you could see their point.
The lights were also playing over the trees and a small bridge was also lit up to lovely effect. With the wind still, the lights reflected in the water and it was gorgeous. We were definitely getting our money’s worth by this point.
Now we were walking along the lakeside, and came to Santa’s boats, which were moored up, loaded with presents.
The path was now less decorated, with some lanterns in the trees, and two dancing fountains, one of which wasn’t especially impressive as it seemed to have jammed and was no longer turning.
That left a long, fairy-lit walkway and Santa’s boathouse, where Santa and another of the elves were entertaining people as they passed by.
THat just left the return walk up the snowflake-lit path to the courtyard where we stopped and bought chestnuts (undercooked) and mulled wine (tasty but over-priced at £5.00 a portion).
We waited a few minutes in the fog for the shuttle bus and were soon back at the car and able to head home. Would we go again? Maybe. I do think the pricing is slightly high but there are a number of positives. In addition to the quality of the lights, and the loveliness of the landscape even in the dark, it was good to note that there were refreshment stops around the trail, and it did take us a good couple of hours to complete the route. I would definitely consider going again if they choose to do something similar next year.