Waddesdon Manor comes alive with Christmas magic! There are twinkling lights, decorations galore, Christmas trees, decked halls, sparkling jewels and neon highlights, all with a unique Waddesdon twist. Take a look and see what happened on my visit to Waddesdon Manor Christmas 2017…
When I arrive at Waddesdon Manor it’s already getting dark and the front lawn is lit with generous festoons of lights. The entire front of the Manor is a canvas for a fantastical light and sound experience, created by students at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The 10 minute Waddesdon Imaginarium performances run every 15 minutes from dusk. Standing at the front of Waddesdon Manor you become immersed in images of birds, butterflies, flora and then snowflakes, baubles, Christmas trees, stockings… I begin to feel Christmas tingles…. and it’s only the middle of November. The combination of festive imagery and a rousing soundtrack puts me in a Christmas state of mind and I start to feel excited for the festivities to come.
I later discover that the students from Guildhall School of Music & Drama visited the Manor over a period of six months and worked with the team at Waddesdon to scan in 3D more than 50 objects from Waddesdon’s collection. The images provided the basis for the fantastical animations in the light and sound Imaginarium.
I’ve never seen a continuous light projection on such a grand scale. It’s so vast that I actually watched the performance a few more times during my visit, from different angles. There’s so much to see that it’s impossible to take it all in on one viewing.
Electric Menagerie by Lauren Booth
The focus outside is definitely the Waddesdon Imaginarium but make sure you explore the gardens from the Aviary to the Stables, where you will find a series of light-based artworks which form the Electric Menagerie by British-American artist Lauren Booth.
The effort of wandering from the main avenue is rewarded when I turn a dark corner to be greeted by a stunning luminous dragon – a real highlight of the Electric Menagerie collection.
I follow the gently sloping paths which take me back to the front lawn, lined on either side with beautiful wooden chalets filled with artisan and locally made goodies. Waddesdon’s Christmas Fair runs from 15th November until 10th December 2017. There are 80 decorated wooden chalets, a fantastic selection of gifts, decorations, food and drink. I’m inevitably taken with a few gorgeous gifts that I can’t possibly go home without, in particular some beautiful hand-stitched Christmas bunting from the very lovely Crumble Cottage. The stall-holders smile and join in conversations and the atmosphere is warm and welcoming. It really is a fantastic Christmas Market, well worth the visit.
Waddesdon Manor Enchanted Menagerie
Inside Waddesdon Manor this year’s theme is the Enchanted Menagerie. If you want to explore the decorations inside the Manor then make sure that you book in advance (including National Trust Members). No Christmas House tickets will be available for sale on the day. The Enchanted Menagerie celebrates the weird and wonderful animals in Waddesdon’s collections. Inside the house there are towering Christmas trees decorated with themes from domestic animals to moths and butterflies, Noah’s Ark to fantastical animals. I’m transported to the rainforest as I descend a jungle-themed winding staircase. I wander through a woodland-themed passageway complete with luminous robins, squirrels and owls. There is something to see at every turn.
If you plan to visit with children then make sure that you pick up the Magical Menagerie Trail in the style of an Advent calendar with 12 windows. Follow the route around the house and there are numbers to find on the decorations. Open the windows on the calender as you go, which then form a ‘Waddesdon twelve days of Christmas’. The rooms and hallways are quite narrow and the trail involves winding staircases and walkways, so it’s definitely not suitable for pushchairs or buggies.
Regular visitors to the Natural History Museum at Tring will have heard the story that Walter Rothschild trained zebras to pull a carriage and the decorations in the house include a life-sized zebra, complete with carriage. I think I’m safe to say that you will not see a zebra pulling a carriage filled with a fully-lit Christmas tree in any other Christmas display!
Waddesdon Manor’s Christmas and Winter Light Festival is as unique as Waddesdon’s collection. The displays and descorations are inventive, creative and as I made my way home I uttered my first “Merry Christmas!” a sure sign that a trip to Waddesdon Manor at Christmas put me in a jolly festive mood. I did visit without my children, which could also explain my good mood but I will definitely be taking the family to Waddesdon to experience the festive atmosphere and some Waddesdon Christmas magic.
Top Tips for a visit to Waddesdon Manor Christmas 2o17
- Waddesdon Winter Light Festival is on from 11th November 2017 to 2nd January 2018, Wednesday to Sunday 11am-6pm (closed 24th, 25th and 26th December 2017).
- Waddesdon Manor Christmas Fair is home to 80 decorated wooden chalets from 15th November to 10th December 2017, Wednesday to Sunday 11am-6pm.
- Make sure you stay after dark to see the Waddesdon Imaginarium light and sound show projected onto the Manor. The 10 minute performances run every 15 minutes.
- All tickets for the Enchanted Menagerie inside Waddesdon Manor must be booked in advance (including National Trust Members). No Christmas House tickets will be available for sale on the day. Visit the website to book your tickets.
- Waddesdon Manor is near Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. Visit the website for more information including the details of opening times.
I visited in November 2017, all information is correct at the time of publishing.
I was a guest of Waddesdon Manor Christmas Press Preview. Images, words and opinions are my own, unless otherwise stated.