This review is of Waddesdon Manor’s Christmas event in 2018, the 2019 review will be up as soon as it opens
Christmas is a big deal at Waddesdon Manor. It’s always been popular but in the past few years they have stepped up their game year after year and the fair is it’s biggest yet. As you might have seen, I was quite disappointed with the Fete Worse than Death this year so I was a bit concerned about their festive offering. I needn’t have been – it is brilliant this year, truly magical at times.
2019 update – Waddesdon Manor has been voted the best Christmas experience in the UK by the Group Leisure and Travel Awards. Congratulations guys!
The market is going to be on from 10 Nov – 16 Dec 2018, Wed-Sun, 11am-6pm and has 86 stalls selling food, drinks, crafts and Christmas presents. They’re all in little chalets and when they’re lit up their really lovely. The smells and sounds of the market are fantastic and there are some really great stalls to investigate. The house itself is lit-up with dancing lights and music and has 6 huge trees outside. It all adds up to a very festive atmosphere.
Inside Waddesdon Manor at Christmas
Inside the house less rooms are open than during the main season, but each is decorated in dazzling style. Each year there is a specific theme for the decorations. There is a free children’s trail as they go around the house. This usually involves spotting something in the trees themselves etc. Tickets for the weekends have already sold out but there is some limited availability on weekdays. I’ve been into the house at peak season and it is exceptionally busy. If you are not a fan of crowds then I recommend going at quieter times. Mid-week outside of the school holidays are usually the quietest.
The gardens at night
In the grounds there are two light trails – the first one starts at the aviary and goes behind the rose garden. Along the way the trees are lit up in spectacular fashion. There are also a couple of interactive light installations this time which is quite fun. My favourite bit has to be where the disco balls are set it. It looks like it’s snowing – it’s incredible. There are a couple of familiar sights but they look so different when lit up.
Walking along Miss Alice’s Drive (which is lit by lanterns at night) there are lots of Christmas baubles made by local school children. They are very hard to see at night though, so it might be better to have a look at this part of the display before dusk. About half way around the trail there light boxes with posters designed by local children. You are invited to put a coin in the box of your favourite design. All money raised goes to the winning school (what a lovely idea!)
When you arrive back at the stables there is a light projection / animation against the stables walls. Last year this was done against the main house instead. TBH I think it worked better against the house than it does this year. You kind of need to be further away from the building for it to really work than is impossible in the limited space. It was relatively quiet when we went, I imagine it will be quite unpleasant trying to watch it when it’s busy at weekends. They also have the incredible light tunnel at the side of the stables. This might be my favourite installation over-all. It’s mesmerising, if not a little trippy! Again, I’d probably recommend seeing it on a quieter evening as I think it would lose a lot of its impact if the tunnel was full of people.
Christmas shopping at Waddesdon manor
In the stables area there is the pop-up Christmas shop selling lots of beautiful (albeit expensive) Christmas decorations. This is also where the children’s activities take place, including writing letters to Santa.
The Christmas Carnival is on now until 2nd January 2019. It is a VERY popular event but that is because it really is something special. Even on a Friday after school it was packed. Getting onto and off site at weekends is now practically a military operation. Note the parking arrangements are different from normal at weekends and during the holidays. There is a different entrance and additional car park – make sure you follow any diversion signs. I decided to be a clever cloggs and ignore them, only to find I had to turn back. Doh!
(2018 Prices) Free for NT Members (£30 for a family grounds ticket for non-members). Some events and activities are chargeable. There’s a booking fee for house tickets even for members)
Parking / how to get there
Parking – Ample, and free. Limited parent and child parking is available, plus plenty of disabled spaces. The new car park is a considerable way from the house. You can either walk (15 mins stroll uphill) or get a free bus. The overflow car park is about about a 5/10 minute walk from the visitor centre. There will be very very long queues to buy / check tickets and then for the bus up to the manor. They have tried to reduce these as much as possible though.
Address – Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire HP18 0JH
Various different outlets (manor restaurant, coffee shed, summer house, stables cafe and the new Treaterie). At Christmas they have their food tent set up by the summer house serving delicious meals. If you get chance I do recommend it. I do find the food to be great quality but very expensive so I rarely eat a full meal here. Their cakes are the exception obviously. Picnics – Welcome everywhere
They have excellent facilities near the house and smaller toilets in the stable. There are dedicated baby change facilities (unisex and separate from the toilets). There are also toilets by the temporary entrance kiosks and then at the main visitor centre.
Our Waddesdon Manor at Christmas Review
Rating for Christmas – 5/5. A trip to Waddesdon Manor at Christmas is a family tradition now.
Visit their website for the latest availability and prices