Does anyone else’s Dad agree to a family day out and then brings a book along in case it 'gets a bit boring'?! I know November is early for Christmas, but I’d heard great things about Waddesdon Manor’s Christmas Fair. Keen to get ahead of the crowds, I decided to see what the fuss was all about and take the folks along with me.
Driving to our destination in Aylesbury, we headed straight to the carpark, where we could follow the lantern lit path up to the house or hop on the shuttle bus. If you’re not a fan of steep hills, I’d go for the latter. But if you don't mind a small hike, you’ll be rewarded with a glorious view of the 18th Century, French-inspired Manor house. We breathlessly acknowledged its beauty as the rooftop finials peeked over the hill, bringing the apricot-coloured turrets, perfectly trimmed hedges and grand windows into view.
In need of caffeine, we followed the signs to the Stables coffee shop. Heading down another steep slope (burning off some calories ready for festive snacking!), Christmas music filled the canopy of trees, leading us to a sparkling Christmas tree and courtyard where we could sit, sip and shop for as long as we liked.
As we wandered back to the main event, we discovered the shuttle bus drops visitors off at the front of the house. From this viewpoint, we were treated to a dramatic, gravel driveway flagged by long lawns which drew our eyes to decorated Christmas trees either side of the Manor's rustic front door. You can pay to explore the house too. We choose not to this time, but it means we can visit again!
Wrapped around the lawn is the Waddesdon Christmas Market itself. About fifty adorable wooden cabins homed a selection of winter goodies including handmade soaps, nectarine wreaths and soft cashmere scarfs. We – well, Dad especially, made sure we tasted every chutney, cheese, rum and gin going! Two stalls in, we were hypnotised by the sweet scent filling the air and ordered three tummy-warming mulled ciders without hesitation. There were plenty of dedicated food cabins for a proper meal too, catering for the gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan elves.
One of the other grand events hosted at Waddesdon Manor is the light trail snaking through the gardens. Unfortunately, it didn’t look quite as illuminating in the middle of a sunny afternoon. However, as we headed off and the sun started to set, we could feel a magical buzz as twinkly coloured lights from hanging chandeliers, neon butterflies and fairy lights popped up all around the house, market stalls and gardens. As the crowds began to pick up, we saw this as our cue to descend back to the car.
So, if you’re looking for a festive day or night out, Waddesdon Manor’s Christmas Fair is a great choice to put at the top of your nice list. I’d suggest visiting late afternoon/evening to see the full effect of the light trail and you can easily warm yourself up with the huge choice of hot chocolate, mulled wine or coffee (with an extra shot of Christmas spirit). And safe to safe, no books will be needed!