This could be the perfect socially-distanced night out this Christmas
- Credit: Natalie Sadler
Helmingham Hall has been lit up for Christmas with their annual Illuminated Garden Trail - and we loved it even more than last year.
Our resounding memory of last year's trip to this Suffolk stately home was the peaceful ambience as we strolled through the woodland and ornate gardens. Families were given staggered start times to allow them space to admire the lights independently - little did we realise at the time that this type of social distancing would soon be the new norm.
With that in mind, we were keen to return this year, confident we would be able to enjoy a pre Christmas treat with our girls without fear of crowding. We were not disappointed.
It was magical seeing our three-year-old's face light up as she took in the neon hearts, stars and triangles that illuminated the garden in front of the hall.
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There was a mystical silence as we took in the lights, and the hall itself. The building is stunning in daylight but softly lit with pastel hues, it is even more beautiful.
Mulled wine was served in the courtyard before the trail began in earnest - our only criticism of the event is that there isn't a drink offered to children so we packed a flask of hot chocolate for our girls, warming them through before our hour-long stroll around the grounds.
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There were some new additions this year, bringing more colour to the illuminations. But some of our favourite elements, including the fairy jars, were back from last year.
The girls also loved a display of glowing wellies, which were positioned at a topical two-metre distance from one another in one of the gardens.
The trail ends at the tennis courts where braziers burn, ideal for those who purchased a S'more kit at the start. There is covered seating for those wanting refreshments but the tent is open-sided to make you feel safe in these unusual times.
Tickets for the trail cost £13 for adults, and £34 for a family. You can take your dog along but they must be kept on a lead.
The trail runs until January 10 - with a break over Christmas - and you should allow an hour for the walk plus extra time for refreshments and a visit to the on-site gift shop.
The stable yard toilets are closed off for social distancing reasons but there are clean portable toilets available at the start and end.