One of my favourite things to do as Christmas approaches is visit a festive illuminated light trail. Who doesn’t love the experience of wandering along a trail filled with twinkling lights and festive sounds on a cold winter evening, while sipping a warm mulled wine?
There are a few of these festive light trails in London (my favourite is Christmas at Kew) but what if you live outside the city? There are a number of festive trails at other locations across the country, but how do they compare with Christmas at Kew? I visited the display at the Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire to see what it was like.
What is Christmas at Wimpole?
Christmas at Wimpole is a festive light trail in the grounds of the Wimpole Estate. This is located about 8 miles to the southwest from Cambridge. This estate is owned by the National Trust and has been lived and farmed on for over 2,000 years. Surrounded by a landscaped park, the heart of the estate is an impressive 17th-century mansion – Wimpole Hall.
After dark, the park is transformed into a magical festive trail. More than a million lights are used to create a variety of enchanting displays. These are all paired with festive sound tracks to give a wonderfully immersive experience as you wander along.
How to buy tickets for Christmas at Wimpole
Christmas at Wimpole is a 3rd party event, so isn’t included if you buy tickets to visit the estate during the day. You need to buy tickets in advance, with various timed slots available each day – these are available online here. Ticket prices vary depending on the time you book – there are 3 categories; off-peak, standard and peak.
If you’re a National Trust member you’ll still need to purchase a ticket, however you are eligible for free parking. This should be added to your purchase when you book your entry tickets.
Christmas at Wimpole light trail
The trail starts off with an incredible swirling carpet of lights on both sides of the path. As you stroll along, the countless lights appear to zoom around as they change colour. The trail continues through the park towards Wimpole Hall, and through the woods.
The displays are fairly close to each other so there is always something to see.
Each display was different. Some were fun, some impressive and others thought-provoking. There were colourful trees, floating feathers and even a rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas.
I thought it compared very well to Christmas at Kew, although Kew is still the best in my opinion. Some some of the displays were very similar (in a good way), although the trail at Kew is noticeably longer and there are more things to do and see. Like at Kew, you get to visit Santa along the route too.
The trail path
The path can be uneven at times, and isn’t that well lit for the majority of it so I’d recommend taking a small torch. Some of the trail can be a bit muddy too, especially if the weather has been wet so I’d also recommend wearing waterproof shoes or boots. The trail is in the open so dress for the conditions if the weather is wet or cold.
There weren’t really many seating areas along the trail though, so bear this in mind if you think you may need a break.
How busy does it get?
At busy times the paths can get quite congested as they are rather narrow in places, but mostly it wasn’t too busy and there was plenty of space to enjoy the displays.
I visited at 5 p.m. on a Saturday and it was busy but not too crowded, but by the time I left at 7 p.m. it was getting noticeably busier.
What else is there to do at Christmas at Wimpole?
At the start (and end) of the trail there’s an area with a small fairground and a few food stalls. The fairground conisists of swing boats a couple of children’s rides and a helter skelter. These all require a token to access, which you can purchase online when you order, or at the event.
Food and drink at Christmas at Wimpole
You can also find a few food and drink stalls in the area at the start, along with the fairground. This is just inside the entrance and you pass through at the start and end of the trail.
While the choices were fairly limited, the Wimpole Christmas Special hot dog I had was very tasty! The other option was a slightly odd sounding Yorkshire Pudding burrito.
About half-way round the trail there’s a small hut selling drinks and marshmallows. There’s also an open fire pit here for toasting your marshmallows.
There’s also another small food area near the hall itself, with a few stalls selling food and drink. The selection was quite limited though (Greek wraps or Churros), and the queues were pretty long.
The venue is cash-free though, so make sure you take cards.
All you need to know
Dates: 24th November – 31st December 2023
Times: 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Nearest Station: Shepreth (5 miles away), Royston (8 miles away)
Cost: £15-21.50 (adult), £10-16 (child) – buy tickets online here
Trail Duration: 90 minutes