Blenheim at Christmas

Sarah Holt visited Blenheim Palace at twilight to experience the palace’s new Christmas light trail.

There’s an element of Willy Wonka in Blenheim Palace’s Christmas light trail. The hour-long display, which is brand new for 2016, is imagination plugged into the mains.

The experience begins in the East Courtyard, where there’s a mini Christmas market set up. Contrails of steam fill the air as they pipe from vats of hot wine, spiced cider and the griddles of posh dog food stands.

There’s a vintage helter skelter and a carousel here, too, where the painted ponies have names like Jet and Gem.

The approach to the light trail is marked by snowflake-shaped spotlights. The doily-like pools of white light act as stepping stones to the entrance to the experience.   

Once you’re in, the mile-long trail takes you past the lake and the grand cascade. There are several places to pause along the route, where wooden huts serve hot chocolate and more mulled wine.

The lighting effects start with a checkerboard-layout of Christmas trees. It’s traditional, it sets the scene. It’s here that you’ll also be greeted by a Christmas fawn/fairy – a Puck-like character who will wish you merry Christmas.

Christmas At Blenheim

Beyond this space, things start getting a little more dream-like.

There’s a fire garden, with a sort of phoenix/pheasant at the centre, that you circumnavigate. It’s slightly tribal, and the flames belly dance in the night breeze.

Further down the trail there are giant flower-like structures that make you feel ant-like when you pass them.

And there are other takes on lamp posts, including ones that look like fireworks, frozen at the point of explosion. 

Another light installation looks like a multicolour unicorn horn.

One of my favourite parts of the trail was the lit-up lawn. It’s a small field of crocus-sized lights that changed colour from cerise, to sea blue, to royal purple. It’s a drift of colour that looks like it’s spilled onto Blenheim’s grounds organically, rather than by design.

Christmas at Blenheim

Then there was the light arbour. This horseshoe-shaped tunnel of bright white lights has a sci-fi feel to it. It looks a lot like a time vortex from Dr Who. All that’s really missing is the TARDIS to transport you along it.

The fairy tree was another favourite of mine. The creators of the light trail have attached glowing doors and windows to the trunk of one of Blenheim’s ancient trees to make it look like fairies are alive inside. I knocked, but they didn’t let me in.

Towards the end of the trail an extra element is added to the light show – water. Blenheim’s cascade gushes berry red, kingfisher green and sailor-blue. Illuminated boats bob on the lake while colour changing spotlights chase each other across the trees on the far side of the water.

For groups with families, the end of the experience will be the best bit. The trail takes you past the Boathouse, where Santa can be found ho-ho-hoing and waving at children.

When I visited the light trail, the heavens were well and truly open. It was raining so much that you could see steam rising from the spotlights.

But that didn’t dampen my time on the trail. The fact that I enjoyed the experience with water in my boots and rain in my hair actually says more than the 500 other words of this review.

When tickets go on sale for this event next year’s, I’d advise you to get your group tickets booked early.

For more information about Christmas at Blenheim visit