Blogmas 2018 - Day 11: Waddesdon Manor Christmas Carnival

As I’ve mentioned countless times before, we love the National Trust  We receive membership as a Christmas present from my parents every year, and we squeeze as much use out of our membership as we possibly can throughout the year. One of our more local National Trust properties is Waddesdon Manor. It is an incredible building, and during the spring and summer the gardens are beautiful. (Earlier this year I spend a longer than you would have thought possible taking snaps of individual rose blooms!)

Waddesdon Manor in December
Last year we looked at visiting the Waddesdon Christmas event, but a quick look on their website told us that tickets were sold out so we didn’t bother. We were slow off the mark again this year and once again there weren’t any tickets available for the days we were free. However, a friend told me that it didn’t matter, and we could still pop along! The website isn’t super clear but what I hadn’t realised is that although you need to have booked tickets in advance to go into the house and view all the decorations, if you just want to visit the grounds you can turn up on the day and use your National Trust membership, or pay the entrance fee on arrival. So that’s exactly what we did on Saturday.

We had to park in a different car park to the usual (check the website before you travel) but the alternative parking was well signposted, it was well organised and the members of staff directing traffic were great. Opening times were 11am - 6pm (again, check the website before you travel) but as we weren’t going into the house itself, and the main aim of our visit was to see the light displays we weren’t in a rush to get there. 

We got parked fine, around 2.15pm, and then joined the long queue for the bus up to the house. There is a pathway to walk up to the property, but we knew the children would be on their feet for a lot of the afternoon so didn’t want to tire them out before we had even got started. Luckily the queue moved quickly, and there were plenty of shuttle buses running. There’s the choice of 2 bus stops to get off at: the North Fountain and the Stables.

We got off the bus at the first stop, the North Fountain, so my parents could see the house in the daylight as they’d not visited before. It really is an incredible looking building, and if you’re interested you can read up on the history here

Once we’d done a loop around the outside of building and the children had a run around the parterre, we headed to the Christmas Fair. There were two rows of stalls in front of the building, selling a nice selection of things like gifts, decorations, gin and liqueurs - I managed to have my first mulled wine of the season. 

Just as it was getting dark we popped to the aviary to see all the birds and then headed around the Aviary Garden light trail. The light trail was very simple but very effective. Different coloured lights were shone up onto the trees, and there was an interactive section where you could press a button to choose which colour the trees would light up, which the children liked.  As we came back to the front of the house it was lit up in different colours, which changed in time to music.

Waddesdon Manor bathed in colour
We then wanted to head over to the Stables. You can hop back on the bus at the North Fountain but we were happy to walk the short distance (it only takes about 10 minutes). We followed the Soundscape trail designed by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama towards the Stables, but I really can’t tell you much about it - we were rushing to get to the toilets!

After a quick comfort break we walked through the Tunnel of Light (the children’s favourite bit), before going into the Coach House so the kids could decorate a bauble. It was £4 a person for them to use paint pens on a Waddesdon branded bauble, and obviously the first thing the 2 year old did was scribble over the Waddesdon emblem. I thought it was a little over-priced, but they both enjoyed themselves. you could also write to Father Christmas for £1, but that was something we’ve already done this year.

Tunnel of light at Waddesdon Manor
Last but not least, we did the walk along Miss Alice’s Drive. This looped pathway has been decorated by local schools. It was a shame that some of the walkway wasn’t particularly well lit, so you couldn’t see the baubles they had used very clearly, but it was a nice walk all the same.

By this point the children were shattered! We headed back to the North Fountain to catch the bus back to the car park but the queue was huge. After a few minutes of the queue not moving, and studying the map, we decided to walk back to the car park instead. We popped my daughter in the pushchair, and we took it in turns to carry my 2 year old son. It wasn’t the most pushchair friendly path, but certainly do-able - although maybe less so if the weather was very wet. It was a fair old walk though (at least it certainly felt like it carrying my son) so if you are unable to walk long distances it might be worth waiting for the bus, or timing your journey back to the car park so you’re leaving before the rush.

We had a really lovely time at Waddesdon Manor Christmas Carnival, and will definitely be back again next year. I was disappointed that we didn’t manage to get tickets to go inside the house (I’ve since had a look at other people’s photos on Instagram and it looked beautiful) but we will just have to get ourselves a bit more organised next year. In hindsight, seeing the house and doing all the light trails would possibly have been a bit much for the children all in one day anyway.  
Waddesdon Manor Christmas Carnival