We Check Out Christmas at Lilidorei and The Alnwick Garden's Sparkling Winter Light Trail
Living North headed to The Alnwick Garden to experience the award winning Winter Light Trail
But first, let's talk about Lilidorei. This is a magical kingdom ruled by Lord Elfwin from high up in his tower Elfwin Drin. It’s home to nine clans – some friendly, some less so. This is the magical, storytelling world of Lilidorei. Besides that, it's also the world's largest play structure. I must say at this point that our party of four includes two children, so we make a day of our visit and before the Light Trail we head to Lilidorei to see what it's all about.
Aiming to create an environment that encourages both imaginary and physical play, Lilidorei is a magical village full of bridges, ladders and swings as well as towers to climb and six different slides to descend. Children's imagination has no limits and Lilidorei taps into this, as whilst playing and exploring you can't help but start to create your own narrative. Interact with the 'Secret Keepers' as they reveal information about the various clans and the different habitats these mystical creatures live in. All the while a magical immersive soundscape adds to the effect and helps to create a fun, joyful and hugely impressive experience for the whole family.
As the saying goes, time flies when you're having fun and one of the best parts (from a parent's point of view) is that there is not a digital device in sight, which I'm quick to remind the children of. Playing in Lilidorei is hard work and we have worked up an appetite so we pay a visit to the Groggery for refreshments and a well-earned rest. We are still very much caught up in the magic of this place and the kids are starting to attach themselves to different clans based on their findings (we have one Fairy and one Goblin). As the light is turning to dusk, our attention is now turning to the much-anticipated light trail.
After saying goodbye to the reindeer, it’s only a short walk from Lilidorei to the entrance of The Alnwick Garden where the Winter Light Trail begins. The start of the trail is calm, almost quiet and lends itself to a period of reflection as you wander. I've visited and explored the gardens on a number of occasions and I'm trying to picture what part of the gardens I'm in, but its clear from this point that this experience is going to show the gardens in a whole new light (no pun intended here but one I'm sure DJ Frosty would be proud of me nonetheless – more on him later).
Working your way round the trail, various forms of lights are subtly picking out and highlighting areas of interest, and all is still quite calm until you reach the dance showdown – a projected dance party that you can join in with if you're that way inclined. Not being a dancer I decline but the kids love it and I'm sure this will be a big hit. A touch further along the trail is the snowzone which is the perfect opportunity for a selfie or family photograph. Activate the snow machine here and position yourself under the falling snowflakes for that treasured image!
Here you’ll find the Festive Tipi where you can warm up under the canvas with a half way tipple (think mulled wine and hot chocolate). There are various other chances for refreshments dotted around the trail – new to 2023 and not to be missed is the 'Festive Fruits Waffle'. There's a Pimms Van offering (you guessed it) Pimms but also cocktails and festive drinks, and back by popular demand are the Greek gyros.
The trail continues and as you weave your way through the various sections, taking in the lights and sounds, DJ Frosty appears. Take a break on the strategically placed seats and listen to what DJ Frosty has to say. An interactive installation who kids are going to love, he is entertaining and his jokes are funny (honestly!).
The installations keep coming: don't miss the oldest tree, the illuminated stars and the serene cherry blossom orchard where you can relax on a swing chair and take it all in.
The grand finale plays out over the central fountains, which brings the trail to an end, but based on this visit we will surely be back next year. The Winter Light Trail at The Alnwick Garden is billed as a family tradition on their website, and it could very well become ours.
The Alnwick Garden which is run as a charitable foundation is hosting a range of festive events this winter season. Book tickets and find more details of these events including the Winter Light Trail which runs until 7th of January 2024 here.