Christmas is a big deal at Waddesdon Manor, even after everything that 2020 has thrown at it. In 2019 Waddesdon Manor was voted the best Christmas experience in the UK by the Group Leisure and Travel Awards. The Christmas market and Winter Light Trails are back for 2020 and tonight we went to have a look around.
For the full review of non-Christmas related Waddesdon Manor click here.
Covid safety measures at the Waddesdon Manor Christmas Event
In light of covid-19 there have been quite a few changes to the Winter Light and the Christmas market at Waddesdon Manor. The opening was delayed because of lockdown 2, but this means they extended Winter Light into January. All tickets must be pre-booked and there is a limited number available. At the time of writing there were still some slots available. This year there is a charge for members to access the grounds, as well as a charge for the bus. The house itself isn’t decorated in 2020. You are required to wear masks on the bus, around the market and in any indoor areas.
I’ll admit, whilst it was significantly quieter than previous years, it was a lot busier than I’d expected it to be. Under normal circumstances the number of people there tonight would have been fine. The Christmas events do mean that people all tend to be in the same areas of the grounds though. There is much less spreading out than on a normal post-covid day. Also, I think we all know by now that people are rubbish at social distancing. It’s the same here, but that’s not the manor’s fault.
The Christmas market
This year the Christmas market at Waddesdon Manor is smaller than it normally is. That’s not a huge surprise though is it? It’s 2020 – everything is smaller than it normally is. Thankfully my three favourite stalls were still there! It’s full of small, independent traders selling alllll kinds of stuff. There’s decorations, clothes, food and gift ideas.
In the grounds there are two light trails, a light installation in the stables and some other delights around the grounds. It’s worth mentioning that when we visited the Christmas market at Waddesdon Manor it was crazy foggy – you genuinely couldn’t see the house from the end of the drive. That does mean some of the photos haven’t come out as well as I would have liked.
Winter Light at Waddesdon Manor
Winter light at Waddesdon Manor starts near the house, goes around the aviary, past the rose garden and then back through the ferns. Due to covid-19 there is a one way system in place. There’s big arrows telling you where to go. At the end there’s a barrier and a sign saying no entry. Despite all this some people were going the wrong way around. Doh.
There are lots of different elements compared from previous years. Daffodil hill is lit by hundreds of little flames which looks amazing. Around the aviary there are a couple of interactive features where you get to control the lights with your feet. That was pretty cool and there wasn’t much of a wait to go on them.
The route is basically the same as in previous years, but the installations are different. There are loads of individual trees lit up as well as the installations. Currently they also have a family of Elephants amongst the trees which are amazing.
There’s a little fairy wood (or at least that’s what we’ve decided it is)
The lights by the wooden bridge in the bamboo glen are INCREDIBLE. They’re actually really hard to describe, and the photo doesn’t do it justice. Make sure you check them out.
It’s a relatively short trail but there’s lots to see. Being a bit shorter is no bad thing if you have little ones, and there’s plenty of other things to see on the rest of the estate. We were on-site for 4 hours today.
Wish Upon a Star Trail
The illuminated trail along Miss Alice’s Drive has a theme of wish upon a star. There are lots of lanterns and decorations made by local school children. I’ll be honest, I got a bit emotional reading some of the lanterns. There were loads of kids making heartbreaking wishes, mainly about covid.
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 as a vote. All money raised goes to the winning school (what an lovely idea!). Because no-one carries change anymore they have also got an option to vote by text.
The giant illuminated baubles are back at Waddesdon Manor for Christmas 2020! There’s a strict one household at a time policy. There is also the Parallels immersive light installation in the stables itself. It’s very similar to the one they had last year but it’s lovely.
Entrance to the light installation is controlled, and only six households are allowed in at a time. You all have to stand on a letter so that social distance is maintained.
When is the Waddesdon Manor Christmas event on?
The full event is on from now until the 3rd January 2021 with the exception of the following dates; December 7, 8, 14, 15, 24-26.
Winter Light at Waddesdon Manor has been extended. You’ll be able to see all of the lights from the 7th- 31st January. 4-8pm Sundays, 4-10pm Thursday-Saturdays. The grounds will be closed at all other times and the market won’t be on. Prices are the same as the pre-Christmas prices below.
NT Members – Peak prices – £8.10 per adult, £4.05 per child. Off-peak prices – £5.40 per adult, £2.70 per child. You get a voucher for £5/£2.50 to spend on the day at Waddesdon Manor shops or kiosks. There’s no family ticket option.
Non-members – Peak prices – £19.98 per adult, £9.99 per child, £49.49 family ticket (2A + 3C). Off-peak prices £17.28 per adult, £8.64 per child. £42.80 per family.
Parking / how to get there
Address – Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire HP18 0JH
Parking – Ample free parking near the visitor centre. You can walk up from there which takes 20/25 minutes. It can be quite muddy in places and has a steep uphill section. It’s a pain in the bum getting a pushchair up to the manor, and exhausting, but we’ve done it plenty of times.
You can pay for the shuttle bus if you wish. £1.62 per adult and £0.81 per child. Under 5’s go free but must sit on your lap. Pushchairs are free but must be pre-booked.
Premium parking is very close to the manor and costs £16.20.
Various different outlets (coffee shed, summer house, stables cafe kiosk and the Treaterie). There is no food tent this year. They are also doing a Christmas afternoon tea but I believe this is all fully booked now. 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
I genuinely couldn’t decided if we’d be visiting this year. Normally we go several times over the Christmas period. The fact that members were having to pay (and not an unsubstantial amount of money) for something that has always been free was very off-putting. I do get that 2020 is like no other year though. At the end of the day a trip to Waddesdon Manor at Christmas is a family tradition. Ultimately I didn’t totally mind paying the £30ish for all of us to go and have a seat on the bus. We spent our £15 getting sausage rolls and a cuppa so it was only £15 and change in the end. I REALLY hope they don’t charge again next year. I think a lot of people have put up with it this year because it is such a weird year. I’m not sure we’d accept it next year.
Despite all of that, the lights are beautiful, it’s very festive and, if you live anywhere near Waddesdon it’s still a Christmas must-do event. We will only visit the once this year, but I’m glad we have been. Now Christmas in the FTwtK house can start!!
Hi, I’m Vicky. My husband and I live in Aylesbury with out three children; a 10 year old son, an 8 year old son and a 3 year old daughter. I (mostly) love spending time together as a family. We visit all kinds of places and we’re quite happy to drive a fair distance for a decent day out. A few years ago I decided to set up Free Time with the Kids as a way to share our experiences of these family days out. You know, the essential information you need to know before your visit that can be surprisingly hard to find out. Where do I park? How much will it cost me to get in? Are there any discounts available? Are there loos? Can I take a picnic or get food? My aim is to be your go-to guide for all your free and cheap family days out across Bucks, Beds, Oxon, Herts & slightly beyond. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook