Christmas at Waddesdon Manor is back for its 20th year, and for the first time since 2019, the manor house has opened its doors to reveal a twinkling, merry Christmassy wonderland – all done à la Rothschild with rich and opulent festive touches. The 2022 Waddesdon Manor Christmas lights trail is the longest it’s ever been, and the Waddesdon Christmas Fair is back with its 70 artisan stalls. It’s a wonderful day out for the family, and for history buffs, it’s an opportunity to see one of the world’s most sumptuous historical homes all dressed and decked for the Christmas season.
About Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor is one of the National Trust’s most visited properties. This Grade I neo-Renaissance style home was built between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild who needed a weekend retreat where he could entertain the likes of Queen Victoria and the future King Edward VII.
Architect Hippolyte Destailleur borrowed styles from the chateaux of the Loire valley, notably Château de Chambord, and gave it French architectural flourishes combined with British mod-cons such as glazed windows. For the modest 2700-acre gardens, Baron Ferdinand brought in a French designer by the name of Elie Lainé. The garden would cost £153,000, equivalent to approximately £69 million in today’s coin. (The gardens have since increased in size to an ever more modest 6000 acres).
Waddesdon Manor has had a starring role in several films and TV shows including The Crown, Downton Abbey, An Ideal Husband and Rebecca.
Waddesdon Manor at Christmas
The manor has been dark at Christmas since 2019 – compliments of Covid, of course. So, it’s not surprising that this year, Waddesdon Manor really pulled out all the festive stops. Installed by a team of ten people over two weeks, the new Christmas route takes visitors through the drop-dead Red Drawing Room, the Dining Room and Conservatory. Allow approximately 45 minutes to walk around the house.
Jane Le Bon is the creative hand behind the manor house decorations this year. The regal festive interiors include 11 wowzer Christmas trees with over 10,000 Christmas lights and 3,800 baubles, suspended butterflies and a hall of moving clouds.
The Porca Miseria chandelier was especially commissioned for the Blue Drawing Room at Waddesdon. The eclectic piece is made up of broken porcelain and cutlery and is the work of German lighting designer Ingo Maurer.
The star of the Christmas show is this newly commissioned peacock sculpture by paper artist Andy Singleton. It took three months of and 500 hours of work to create this magnificent creature. Each feather is hand-cut.
It’s easy to miss some of the house’s historical treasures when there is so much to take in, but you won’t want to miss the Sèvres porcelain, the musical elephant automaton and the Pink Boy by Thomas Gainsborough.
Waddesdon Manor Light trail and Manor illuminations
The manor provides the spellbinding backdrop for the colour-changing illuminations – my favourite bit of the exterior experience, provided you can cope with Katherine Jenkins crooning Christmas tunes on repeat. We watched as children danced to the changing lights, and it was really quite enchanting.
There are over 2.5km of illuminations to explore in the gardens at Waddesdon – the longest-ever illuminated light trail to fill the grounds. 9,962 schoolchildren – across 84 schools – took part in the ‘Winter Woodland Schools Christmas project’ along Miss Alice’s Drive.
Allow approximately 45 minutes to walk along the Waddesdon Manor light trail. Make sure you bring warm, waterproof clothes. I don’t recommend this light trail to anyone with mobility issues, and although the Waddesdon gardens are dog-friendly, I wouldn’t recommend taking a dog on the trail.
End the trail with a visit to the Coach House in the Stables where an interactive exhibition features several light installations. Next door is the excellent Stables Café which serves fish and chips (£12.50 per adult portion or £6.25 for children).
Waddesdon Manor Christmas Market
The Waddesdon Manor Christmas Market is also back with 70 artisan chalets selling gifts, decorations and food. The fair is on from 12 Nov to 18 Dec and entry is included with the ticket to the gardens and/or house.
Festive afternoon tea at Waddesdon
Head over to the historic Manor restaurant for a festive afternoon tea, priced at £29.95 per adult and £16.50 per child. In all, Waddesdon expect to dish out 6,000 festive afternoon teas and 4,000 mince pies with homemade mincemeat, apples from Eythrope walled garden and flour from the Waddesdon Estate. Vegetarian, vegan, gluten and dairy free options are all available on request. More information here.
Waddesdon Manor wine and shop
The Rothschild family has produced wine since 1853 when Baron Nathaniel purchased the Château Brane Mouton in Pauillac, France – promptly renamed Château Mouton Rothschild. Since then, the family wine business has gone from strength to strength, and it’s now known as one of the most recognized wine houses in the world.
The Waddesdon Manor shop sells an extensive selection of Rothschild wines as well as food, jewellery, books, gifts and Christmas decorations. My purchases at the shop included some of the famous Rothschild wines and this wonderful Waddesdon Manor advent calendar.
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor 2022 prices
A combined peak ticket to see the house and gardens costs £35.20 per adult and £17.60 for a child. Under 5s go free, although I’m not sure I would want to wander around Waddesdon manor with a child under 5. Off-peak tickets are slightly cheaper at £32.70 and £16.35 respectively.
The outdoor Waddesdon Manor Christmas lights trail can be booked separately. Tickets cost £20.70 for an adult and £10.35 for a child (peak) and 18.10 and £9.10 (off-peak). Under 5s go free.
National Trust members get discounted fares, check the website for more information. For dates and further information, check the Waddesdon Manor website.
I was a guest of Waddesdon Manor. As always, opinions are entirely my own.