On Saturday evening we attended the Spectacle of Light event at Sudeley Castle. It was an event I only heard of last year as a friend had attended, so after visiting the castle in the summer this year with the children, I knew I wanted to take them back to explore their light show event. Having mentioned our plan to attend to my mum and sister, my sister thought it an excellent Christmas gift for us so she bought our tickets and we all attended together. In this blog post I will review our family day out in Gloucestershire to Sudeley Castle for their 2018 Spectacle of Light event.
The kids were super excited and maybe even more so as we took my mum and sister in our Mazda Bongo camper with us! We haven’t converted into a proper camper van as such, so it’s still a seven seater. This was the first time we took my family in the van and sat in the three rows of seats. We called it the ‘Christmas bus’ for this journey and my mum even had a funny Santa hat for each of us to wear! It’s so much better than when I try to squeeze my mum and sister in my car as someone has to be squished between the kids car seats in the back, plus we wouldn’t be able to all go in a normal car and would have to take two cars normally as there’s six of us when my husband Ben joins us for days out.
After the sat nav took us the strangest, but apparently quickest, route through winding, hilly country roads that resembled a more of a roller coaster ride in our Christmas party bus, we did eventually arrive at the castle! Ben loves to always follow the sat nav as it should choose the quickest route, even if it is bizarre! On the return journey we stuck to driving directly through Winchcombe to Prestbury and Cheltenham along more normal roads so my mum didn’t feel so travel sick in the back of the ‘Christmas bus’! To be fair, the roads on the journey there were ridiculously bumpy, twisting and turning.
Upon arrival the queue was huge! Oh gosh, we thought, we’ll be queuing for ages to get in. Luckily the queue was moving swiftly and we were in within a few minutes. I’ve no idea how they got everyone through so quickly, but they must have a great system on the entrance to check everyone in so promptly.
As the queue was so large and I suppose everyone arrived together, we were very bunched up with people right at the start. It took a while to get through the first parts and we were surrounded by people as if we were in a theme park ride queue following them along the path. They do sell the tickets in time slots, so I assume this is to try and stop this from happening, so guests should arrive staggered throughout the evening. We chose one of the earlier times as we have two young children, so maybe a lot of other guests did the same.
After we walked through the first few light displays the mass of people began to filter out a little more, so we could really begin to explore the light show without feeling pressured to move on quickly as there were so many people waiting behind us. We could then take our time to look at the lights and go at our own pace.
The lights really all looked amazing and had an Alice in Wonderland theme. The children were amazed by the lights and us adults were equally impressed too. They really had gone all out and decorated the entire surrounds and gardens of the castle. Seeing the castle at night time lit up with colourful lights really was an incredible and very atmospheric experience.
The light show was surrounding the castle through the gardens and grounds with a path/trail to follow to see each display. There were lights hanging from trees and flashing, a Cheshire cat hologram, a large moon lit up on the lake, the castle lit up in all sorts of colours around different corners, huge tulips with the stunning castle in the background, a giant lit up heart, a disco ball tree, water and fountain light show to music with smoke effects and that’s only to name a few!
Half way through the light show I thought we had seen it all. I thought it was good and impressive, but pretty quick. What I had failed to realise is that we were only half way through, perhaps even less! We reached the cafes and food stalls and thought we were at the end. We’d taken food for the children and sat for them to eat it and a couple of us grabbed a hot drink. We didn’t eat there, but I could see plenty of other guests coming in with food from the stalls so I’m sure there was a good selection if you want to eat there.
After stopping for food we followed a sign to the ‘trail’. I hadn’t realised it was the rest of the trail and thought maybe it was a sort of kids trail to take part in… but I was wrong. It was the rest of the light show and it continued around the whole other side of the castle! We were really amazed as we had all thought we had seen it all, not that we were only half way through and there was so much more to see on the other side!
They really have gone to town with this light show and it is so impressive. There is so much to see and as my mum remarked, it is very cleverly done so you can’t see what’s coming until you get to the next part of the trail. I’ve never seen anything like it before and it really is a ‘spectacle’. It’s very cleverly done and tasteful for all ages to enjoy.
Even better, is that each year looks unique. From researching online it looks like the first show was in 2016 and so this is only their third light event. They all look different, rather than the same set up, so it looks possible to go each year and see a different light show.
There are plenty of photo opportunities around the trail and even a couple of characters dressed up. We saw the Queen of Hearts and also the Mad Hatter. We didn’t stop to interact as the children wanted to continue on the trail, but I did hear a snippet of the Mad Hatter talking to other guests and she was fully immersed in the character and very funny with her responses. If the children were a bit older then I’m sure we would have some great photos of them with the characters. Photo opportunities are amazing around the whole light trail and displays – even with my iPhone camera I captured some amazing images. With a ‘proper camera’ as I like to call them, you’d get some incredible photos I’m sure.
It’s not a visit to the castle itself, as in the inside of the castle, so go on a normal day if this is what you like to see, but rather this is purely an evening event to see the illuminations only on the grounds of this historic castle. I’d highly recommend going for this and you’ll still get to see the outside of the castle lit up in all its glory. To see the castle properly, then visit in the day time too. Both types of visit are highly recommended as we’ve done both this year and loved each visit for very different reasons. I did worry it had been too soon since we visited Sudeley Castle when we planned to return for the Spectacle of Light, but the two trips were so drastically different we could have been at two totally different places! So definitely go to the light show even if you have visited the castle in the day before and vice versa.
My only concern would be that you really would need dry weather. We had a not too cold and very dry evening, which was perfect. I do worry what the event would have been like if it was raining lots. Perhaps it would have been cancelled or not as great as we wouldn’t have enjoyed getting soaked on the trail. I’m not sure what they do in the event of rain, but thankfully for us we didn’t have to know! We had the perfect weather conditions and could experience the whole trail comfortably.
Overall, it was an incredible evening out with the children – a perfect event just before Christmas with kids or for adults only. The castle and the grounds looked stunning and there was plenty to see with surprises around every corner. I will definitely go to this event again in the future.