And BANG it’s December, with the Big Day hurtling towards us in a flash of work parties, Christmas shopping, and festive school days all on top of the usual full-time job, school run and parent life. Sometimes, it’s hard to catch a breath and to stand in the eye of it all. Still. Silent. And breathing in the magic. This is exactly why I decided to spam the English Heritage card (sorely neglected since that long, glorious summer, moons ago) and booked same day tickets to visit Eltham Palace for their Enchanted Eltham event last Friday. And, boy, were we glad we did as there could not have been any more magic present if shipped in by a dump truck. Heck, Walt Disney would be proud of this (I may possibly be over-egging it slightly).
In all seriousness, it was great, if a little convoluted getting there as they closed the car park and so parking was via an expensive Sainsbury’s a ten-minute walk away. And it was freeeeezing. However, once we had checked our first world privilege we trudged forth across the
mountainous, snowy terrain one long and rather pretty road (full of massive houses beautifully bedecked for Christmas) to the Palace to let the magic begin.
I love Christmas and I also think Eltham Palace is a very pretty place to visit generally but combine the two and ‘mind was blown’ when we stepped over the wooden bridge to enter and we were greeted by the river and banks below lit with a thousand lights and a giant glitter ball suspended from the branches of one of the many trees that edge the water. I don’t what sorcery they used but the lights intermingled with the glitter ball and a cleverly concealed smoke machine to cast strobes of light my old school-rave self would have put a beat to back in the day. Moo and I literally gasped in unison and, just like that, someone switched Christmas on for us. Hosanna In Excelsis 😉.
As per, entrance was through the gift shop but funnily enough today, rather than whipping through it at the sped of light screaming: “don’t ask for anything ‘cos you won’t be getting anything, I’m not made of bloody money”, I somehow became Christmas-drunk and practically dove into the sparkly treats before my very eyes. I started chucking money around and the child clearly knew I’d gone giddy when I cheerily announced: “£5 for a thimble of slime; knock yourself out, it’s bloody Christmas!” before trying to ply her with sugar mice (remember those?!).
Next stop, as per, food. To be fair, I quickly came to when I was told the price of our meal of burger, hot chocolate and treats which I found a bit pricey (although yummy). The best bit was a giant marshmallow each which we toasted on a fire pit although the mum next to me didn’t fare as well when her hands alone could not manage her five kids and one promptly set fire to their mallow whilst another popped his straight into his mouth and then stood in horror as copious amounts of smoke seeped from his poor mouth. Ouch. Moo then enjoyed having a go on the shooting stall in the mini, traditional fair ground there before shooting a straight set and winning a prize. Yay, more fxxking slime.
Once Moo had shrugged off her ultra-cool 9 year-old self and had a little play in the play ground we were off on the illuminated trail around the grounds. Moo is a dancer and the background track of what I think was Alice in Wonderland (playing on a loop) meant she spun her way round half of it, and particularly went off in to her own world of pirouettes in the main courtyard to a backdrop of a thousand lights on the palace walls. The term #makingmemories makes me cringe but duck it, we #madememories.
The illuminated path alone is beautiful but there were little surprises along the way such as the talking tree, but Moo’s favourite, I think, was the giant strobe lights (think bat signal without the bat, or signal) dotted about. My daughter was not the only child fascinated by using any body part to interrupt the light, or to watch her breath become illuminated. It’s the simple things (**googles how much are bat lights on Amazon**). Further along the trail there was a lovely homage to Alice in Wonderland with clever little projector screens showing unicorns and birds, with suspended clocks and…more twinkly lights. It really was breath-taking.
The final touch was a maze of light which we ran through before deciding that we could no longer feel our hands so it was time to head home and thaw out.
My favourite bit of all was down by the river, it was just unfortunate that the lights weren’t working on the water display but I guess that means we will just have to visit again next year right?!
If you want to catch this little wonder – or you get FOMO – I believe the event is on again this Thursday through to Saturday – check out the English Heritage site for more info (it’s worth it, promise). If you are Kent based (or in the surrounding area) another light trail that looks amazing is at Bedgebury. We haven’t checked that one out yet but having read this review on it, it has made the to-do list!