Back in October when I received an invite to a National Trust gem who were pulling out all of the stops for Christmas – I jumped on the chance. I do love the festive season, even more so that our little one is due this month – so being able to be there on the opening night of such a magical event was a dream come true.
As we made our way through the main gates, the atmosphere was infectiously festive. Faint jingling bells could be heard on the wind, the scent of mulled wine and roasted chestnuts were on the wind and children were excitedly pulling parents into the courtyard. I could soon see why – packed into the yard were a whole host of different stalls, each selling festive favourites: hot chocolate (even a Baileys version for those looking for a little bit of a naughty treat), mulled wine, spiced cider and even the more carnivorous side to Christmas – venison burgers, pork and apple baguettes and many many other treats besides.
The centrepiece was the beautiful carousel however – it really captured the spirit of the evening, and seeing such a gem made you fall even more under Dunham Massey’s spell.
As we made our way towards the ‘trail entrance’ I have to say, I didn’t know what to expect. Making our way past one of Dunham Massey’s elves (Sprinkles, I believe her name was – and she looked fantastic!) we were greeted by Santa who was introducing himself to the children – building up the excitement for what lay ahead – and boy, was it a treat.
These photographs don’t capture the true scale of what was happening in front of us – music was playing, lights were entrancing and capturing the hearts and imagination of everyone who passed through the entrance gates to the Christmas trail. Now, this was £16 to explore, and if you have small ones with you I do recommend bringing a torch so that you can keep tabs on everyone!
Even though we were visiting on the first night staff were incredibly friendly and attentive, smiling and directing us around the area helpfully. It was an easy to follow route, due to areas being roped off and of course.. Cameras and selfies are 100% promoted. Remember to share yours using the hashtag #ChristmasatDunham!
Tucked away in the heart of the trail was the opportunity to buy a handmade marshmallow, and toast it over an open fire. I opted for a toasted coconut flavoured offering, while Mike opted for blueberry and gin – both were devoured quickly and thankfully on a chilly December night. We had both wrapped up warm for the outing and it made it so much more enjoyable – I recently invested in a duck down jacket from Snowdonia to help stave the frost off of me and bump, and it really did come into its own while we wandered.
Marshmallows eaten, we were free to explore the rest of the trail which wound around the gardens, bringing you back to the entrance gates. The trail is approximately a mile long, although it doesn’t feel like a mile when you face such wonderful sights.
You get the chance to wander around the courtyard again, and perhaps pick up a post-trail treat (I fully recommend the spiced apple punch from the same vendors who sell mulled wine – its stunning) before heading home for the evening. We ended up sipping some spiced apple punch, I indulged in some roasted chestnuts and then we took one more wander to the amazing fountains before heading home.. I can’t recommend this event enough for anyone, whether in the festive spirit or not. I came home glowing with Christmas cheer and now I can’t wait to put our tree up!