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Christmas at Stourhead

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by Tom Fieldhouse (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son. I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Event: -
Lights, sounds, night time adventure
The stunning landscape of the National Trust's Stourhead estate will become a light and sound extravaganza this Christmas. Visitors will be treated to wonderful music and a light show to rival any in England. With Sony engineering the discreet but powerful soundscape, this magical show is not to be missed and looks set to be even more impressive than its debut year in 2019. Why not have a wonderful experience this Christmas?

Last year, the experience began with a winding walk past singing trees, to enjoy the spectacle of Stourhead house all lit up. There was even a Victorian Santa Claus in full festive garb to greet visitors. The paths are all gentle slopes or flat surfaces, and so accessible for all. The pace is also gentle because everybody wants to enjoy the sights and sounds around them. As Christmas approaches, it is a very lovely and serene experience.

Fairy lights
An illuminated fairy tunnel, on the Stourhead Christmas path

You will be led along a glowing gallery of fairy lights, leading up to all manner of different displays and set pieces. At every turn, there is a new sight to behold, and each one is beautiful in its own right. Although powerful and emotive, the music is not loud, and so this walk is well suited to little ones as well as adult visitors.

Singing trees
A row of singing, shining spiralled trees

A walk around the grounds of Stourhead is always a treat. Engineered and created by 'Capability Brown' at the height of the English Country Garden celebrations, the trees alone are worth a visit. The light and sound displays add a whole new element to the place though and make the most of the reflective surfaces of leaves, branches and lake water to evoke a fairytale ambience.

Three French hens
12 days of Christmas, here are three French hens

My favourite was the candle and flame-lit tribute to the 12 days of Christmas song. Huge figures and animal forms made of wicker wood represented each of the twelve days, and the flames added a flickering realness to them all. There were even other carols to enjoy at this point. I was amazed that everything seemed to work completely independently, and we rarely saw any staff, other than to warmly welcome us to the different experiences.

Bridge with lights
A stunning field of lights, illuminating the 18th Century bridge by the lake.

Stourhead is a huge estate, and the light displays made the most of this space. At one point there was a sea of orb-like lights, that pulsed and flowed with the music. A wonderful sight. Although bright, the colours were never brash or tacky, and I think this alone is a massive achievement.

Stone spire
Victorian folly, illuminated for the trail.

Lighting makes every surface and structure dramatic, and this spire is no exception. A fine example of Gothic architecture, it almost looked space age in the fluorescent light.

Stourhead House
Illuminated Mansion House

It is easy to forget that there is a huge mansion house, walled gardens and cottages all around Stourhead. Walking to the end of the trail reminds you, though. The walk ends at the traditional Spread Eagle pub, which offers lovely and festive food and drink at this time of year. There is also plenty of gallery and market space in the pub courtyard, so you might well find some festive gifts there to enjoy perusing.

Enjoy a fire-roasted marshmallow after walking the trail

Christmas at Stourhead is a wonderful event. In these strange and unsettling times, it is so important to have something to enjoy. To look forward to. This might be just the thing!
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Why? A beautiful and festive winter wonderland, full of the lights and sounds of Christmas
When: Soon! November 27th-3rd Jan 2020
Phone: 01747 841152
Where: Stourhead, the National Trust property
Cost: From 15 for National Trust members. Prices vary.
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