Monday 10 December 2018

Spectacle of Light Sudeley Castle 2018 REVIEW

Where What When?

We were invited to Sudeley Castle & Gardens Spectacle of Light situated on the outskirts of Winchcombe in the Cotswolds, between Cheltenham and Broadway - an hour's drive for us from our house in Bristol. Winchcombe is so very pretty this is a Cotswolds' town that hasn't held back on tasteful exquisite Christmas lights displayed beautifully on both commercial high street properties and residential homes alike. So leave for Sudeley Castle in good time (we arrived 20 minutes early) so that you can drive through this village slowly to fully appreciate it. What a lovely build up to the main "spectacle" itself.

We attended on the launch night Saturday 8th December for the 7pm session. I've not been to anything like this before so based my expectations on the YouTube videos I quickly watched. The night of course way surpassed our expectations, as this is a spectacle after all and spectacular things have to be seen with one's own eyes in real life, to be truly believed.

Night Photography

The only problem with magnificent sights is trying to capture what you see with your eyes to match what you see on screen when you take a photograph in limited natural light, night sky conditions.  My Sony Cybershot soon made it known to me that it couldn't cope with the night sky along with the glare of the decorative lights, so I resorted to using my Samsung Galaxy S6 phone camera. I did then capture a couple of pics I was happy with. I will say though that my friend Aleks outdid herself with her photography on the night so the majority of the pics here are hers - I'll let you know when they're not. My favourite postcard style pic of hers is this first one as I love the contrast of the foreground and the background. However when you're a parent of course favourite pics are reserved for the ones that capture magical moments with your kids in so these feature too.

What's a Bouquet?

I think the very first thing we came to on the trail after leaving real life Alice and her little pop up shop, was a wishing tree. You write a wish on a piece of paper which has glass on the back and then knot it on a tree. They all jingle against each other in the wind like wind chimes. I didn't capture a picture here. Whilst I was feeling quite moved by this and found it incredibly touching, Aaron being an 8 year old boy decided to CLIMB THE TREE> yes I moved swiftly on before we were thrown out by security. In some ways I am glad it happened as the speaking to I then gave him, set the tone, and meant his behaviour was better for the remainder of our visit. We only had to speak to them twice *face palms* about staying within the ropes that lay out the official pathway of the trail. Okay I digress....

Back to what is a bouquet which is the question I asked Aleks on the night..... despite being a blogger since 2008 I've never owned a DSLR so was clueless till now. Now I am at a computer and can research, it turns out it is actually what is a BOKEH? Well all I know is that after the Wishing Tree and before the White Rabbit there is a lit up tree with balls that rotate in colour and then go to darkness before the cycle goes on again. Aleks positioned tripod and kids and it seemed everytime a pic was taken it was at the point where the illumination momentarily darkened but somehow she caught this BOKEH magic below.

It was too much to expect so early on in the trail that our boys who could sense an adventure was ahead, would actually pose and stand still for this picture opportunity.

Bokeh for Boys

As if we'd leave them out :-)

Follow the White Rabbit along the new illuminated trail!

There is an Alice in Wonderland theme this year which works really well and literally transported our kids to another world so much so that Aaron made me put the DVD on the minute we got home, so it was a very late night for us but he was still up by 9 am Sunday with Lottie serving as an alarm clock for us all. 

Sudeley Castle themselves say "a wonderful experience for all ages" and that literally couldn't be more accurate. My son at 8 years of age going on 10, along with his very like minded friend loved it as much or more than their two Sisters aged 2 and 4 (who will be 3 and 5 in January). All 4 are very outdoorsie kids so this was a real treat for them. We were blessed that apart from a few sprinkles the rain largely held off and it was quite mild too so I didn't feel the need for gloves scarves and hat at any point despite us being there for over 2 hours.

Early on in the trail there is a bit where Alice is talking to the cat, and it's an illuminated projected slideshow that changes the cat in the tree from having a cheshire smile and only a smile to being a normal curled up cat. You can hear Alice's voice and this mesmerised the kids for quite some time. This is quite true to the story, so well done Sudeley Castle and Spectacle of Light:

The Cheshire Cat appears in a tree, directing her to the March Hare's house. He disappears but his grin remains behind to float on its own in the air prompting Alice to remark that she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat. Source: Alice in Wonderland Wikipedia

The kids being engaged means there's plenty of time for adults to take photos and it also means they don't run too far ahead with me worrying they will get lost. They were never more than 10 or 20 metres ahead as they'd always stopped to look at something fascinating up ahead. It also helped that all 4 of them had a light toy each as they quite often got busy with these. I must say I have bought many of these type toys over the years but these were superior quality to anything I've had in the past so I didn't at all resent spending the fiver. Daddy was very impressed too with the quality and commented unprompted.

Neither of our girls had buggies with them but the whole route is buggy friendly and there were just a couple of times throughout with a few steps. There are also circa 15 staff members scattered throughout to answer any questions you may have. They are non intrusive (no tacky high vis here) and just steer you on your way only when needed.

The white rabbit and clocks below are very early on in the trail to set the theme firmly in your mind and even before that there is a cabin with a real human Alice in Wonderland herself selling illuminated light toys. This is simply because you may not enter the shop as you enter the trail. We'd already bought ours in the shop for 5GBP each though as I had to pop in to confirm that I was on the guest list. Alice in Wonderland who is positioned just after the entrance let us into the cabin just behind her to get photos with King Henry the VIII. My photos aren't great but we did have fun there.

If you're anything like me, the minute you hear the Salvation Army playing Christmas music you feel very festive. They were positioned at the very start of the trail and opened our hearts for what was to come.

When you see Alice and Humpty Dumpty below, in front of you, know that you are very near the refreshments. There is a stall on this terrace selling hot drinks and donuts. This is where we grabbed hot chocolates for 3GBP each.

The Moon

Shortly after seeing the White Rabbit and clocks there is a semi circle on the water, which when the reflection is added, looks like a full moon. This had to be my favourite picture on Instagram when I was browsing the Spectacle of Light hashtag. Trying to actually capture it on camera though is another thing but Aleks olczia1 on Instagram managed it in style:


Can someone assist? What are these flowers below? I know they are lights but what flower are they based on? I was fixated by them and took many a picture of them, from both sides (you see them twice in the trail and the second rear view is superior). Once again it is a photo from Aleks which translates the magic to screen. I think she once again set up the tripod for this shot and I know that she had more than 1 lens with her. 


3 minute Light Show with Music and Water

When we arrived at the location of the 3 minute musical light show, the girls shared some chocolate coins, which was very sweet. I videoed the whole of this but haven't had chance to edit ANY of my footage yet but did share some on Instagram stories at the time. This is a very magical part of the trail and is a surprise as it is not mentioned on the website or on any of the literature. It's truly magical.

Mad Hatter: "Have you seen Alice?"

So just after we watched the light display, a staff member very politely approached us to let us know we were only a third of the way round. We then knew we needed to pick up the pace as the website says you can do it in 60-75 minutes and it took us over 2 hours in total. The Mad Hatter was clearly sent back to catch us, but Moa Myerson is SUCH a good actress that she did so IN CHARACTER and such are the confidence levels of our 4 children they responded as such and what unfolded would have made a stage play of its very own. I haven't laughed so much in a long time and the Mad Hatter did justice to the nonsense of the literary talk in the story itself. "That way is nowhere and that way is everywhere" oh it got so very confusing. And EVERYBODY wanted to be Alice. I shared it all in Instagram stories at the time but they've since expired.

“Cat: Where are you going?
Alice: Which way should I go?
Cat: That depends on where you are going.
Alice: I don’t know.
Cat: Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

A picture I actually took myself - NewMumOnline

I ACTUALLY took this one with my phone and what with the castle in the background and the spotlight ON The Mad Hatter I am very proud of it - it's on Instagram naturally. Well done Samsung Galaxy S6 phone camera.
 We've sent this one to Moa herself. Well done Aleks she loves this photo:

This is only a pic taken on my phone but had to include it as I love the way Sophie is looking over
 Back to stunning pics from Aleks:

Instagram Worthy

Every venue/event worth its salt has a selfie opportunity available and this is the Spectacle of Light Sudeley Castle one. Getting 4 kids on there was no mean feat and probably isn't allowed. I only took this on my phone so it won't win any photo awards but this pic below and the one I took of the Mad Hatter in the spotlight are my two winners that I will hold onto from the night whilst also enjoying the breath taking memories Aleks has captured for our photo albums. When the memories fade the photos won't. But that aside I don't think the kids will be forgetting this night out anytime soon and the Mad Hatter was certainly a huge highlight. All 4 of the kids just ADORED her. 

Although Aleks didn't take this heart selfie pic below, she totally stage managed getting the kids up there. First of all the boys wouldn't make room for the girls. Then we worked around their feet and then the girls decided they weren't sharing the limited space. It was funny rather than frustrating and this photo is one of my favourites despite its poor quality in terms of sharpness etc....

I'll sign off now but leave you with some more picture postcards below from Aleks.

Our entrance was covered free of charge as we were invited to review the Spectacle of Light. I was gifted the experience in return for social shares but decided it was too good not to blog about and such did we love it I have already done 2 Instagram posts and will do more. I have not at all been told what to say and this whole gushing about how good it was is totally my idea and all my own words except where quotes are clear. Official Spectacle of Light information below, but go to their website for the freshest most up to date info: 

8-9 December, 13-23 December, 27-30 December 2018
Each evening the Spectacle is a continuous experience with five entry time slots from 5:00pm onwards. This is designed to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy the Spectacle in the best possible light.
When you book you can decide your time of entry subject to availability. It should be stressed that you must be at the entrance at the chosen time as tickets are only valid for that time and are not transferable.
A typical walk will take approximately 60 -75 minutes, although if you wish to stay longer you are very welcome.

Advance Tickets*

On The Day Tickets**

Adult 16+ £15.75Adult 16+ £17.50
Child 3-15 £9.90Child 3-15 £11.00
Family 2+2 £44.55Family 2+2 £49.50
Under 3’s FreeUnder 3’s Free
Disability Carer FreeDisability Carer Free

*10% Discounted Advance Tickets are only bookable online, by phone or in person through the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham.
**Full Price ‘On the Day’ Tickets are only bookable in person from Sudeley Castle Visitor Centre from 4.00pm on the day.



Advance Tickets are available to buy online now, by phone on 01242 705555 or in person at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham.
Sudeley Members receive a 30% discount with the appropriate code.
ON THE DAY tickets will be available for shows currently listed as Sold Out


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