Our tips for visiting Helmingham Hall's Illuminated Garden Trail
PUBLISHED: 11:17 26 November 2019 | UPDATED: 14:41 26 November 2019
The twinkling lights are on, the mulled wine is brewing and Christmas has officially started at Helmingham Hall.
The Illuminated Garden Trail launched on Saturday night and will be repeated over the next two weekends.
Here is everything you need to know before you go.
What is it? The Illuminated Garden Trail returns following a successful season in 2018. This year the trail starts at the front of the house, giving an impressive view of this 15th century home.
Follow the arrows around to the drawbridge and into the courtyard where you will be offered a complimentary glass of mulled wine to ward off the cold.
Each of the gardens is lit with delicate fairy lights with stronger illuminations casting light onto the many features.
The Parterre has an almost eerie feel, while jars filled with pretty lights are hung around the edge of the orchard.
Soft music plays in the background, creating a calming backdrop to the picturesque scenes ahead of you.
Will it be busy?
We visited on Saturday, the opening night and it was a sell-out event. However, the trail was fairly quiet as we made our way around thanks to the clever planning of organisers. Tickers are sold for timed slots to stagger arrivals, and as you walk at your own pace you can hang back or over take those in front who are spending slightly longer admiring the views.
There is a very relaxing ambience, this is not a bustling Christmas fiesta, more a sedate stroll.
Is it suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs?
The organisers say not really, but they have done everything possible to make this accessible. A trellis has been laid over the grass (mainly to protect the turf from persistent footfall) which make sit easy to push buggies. The paths can be narrow at times and as you make your way to the tennis court for refreshments at the end there are some steps which are manageable for parents with buggies but more awkward for wheelchair users. There is an alternative route and staff will direct you.
What age is it suitable for?
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Our girls are two and 11 and both loved this peaceful evening adventure, the toddler particularly liked wondering through the tunnels and admiring the orbs while her sister admired the intricacy of the gardens, the variety of plants and taking in the historic hall.
Likewise, it is as much for adults as it is children, a grown up Christmas outing, especially if you indulge in the mulled wine.
How long does it take?
We were there around an hour and a half, it took around an hour to walk around the signposted trail - you could spend longer - then we enjoyed hot chocolate and sausages for supper while the girls toasted the s'mores (kits are available from the first mulled wine stop prices at £2.50 each) over the fire pits.
The refreshments are located on the tennis courts and tables have been set up with autumnal/wintery centrepieces using candles, bottles filled with lights and golden pumpkins so you can sit and relax while you enjoy your drinks.
There are Christmas trees, a Santa seat to try for size and other little touches that add to the magical feel.
After this, you make your way through the Apple Tree Walk to the stable yard where the gift shop is open for stocking fillers and the main cafe sells more substantial meals and cakes.
What to wear?
Wrap up warm as you will be out in the elements for the duration of your visit - and while the trail is protected with trellis, the walk from the car park can be muddy, so wear boots.
How much does it cost?
Tickets cost £10 for adults, £5 for children and family tickets are available for £25, when booked in advance.
Parking is free and there is ample parking within the grounds of the hall, which is located in Helmingham, near Stowmarket.
Can I still buy tickets?
The trail takes place from Wednesday, November 27 to Sunda, December 1 and from Wednesday, December 4 to Sunday, December 8.
Some dates are sold out but there are tickets available for some events. See here for more information