Magical illuminated walk at Ickworth Light Nights, near Bury St Edmunds, is an enchanted start to the festive season
There is an undeniable magic about walking through the grounds of one of East Anglia’s great country houses at night.
Ickworth House is always a majestic sight, but lit up in a spectrum of colours against dark skies it offers an entirely different view.
And that is exactly why Ickworth’s annual Light Nights event continues to be such a success.
The 2023 season kicked off this weekend and runs daily until November 26 – so there is still time to book a visit if it is not already in your diary.
If you have not been before, Light Nights gives visitors the chance to walk around Ickworth’s gardens after darkness has fallen, as they are transformed by colour and light.
Visitors of all ages can wander through paths and be wowed by the spectacle of the illuminated Italianate palace.
So, yesterday evening we took the short drive out of Bury St Edmunds to Horringer and wrapped up in our warm coats for the experience.
On arrival we – myself, seven-year-old daughter Clara and my mum and dad – were greeted and directed along the first path, where dancing lights enticed us under the trees.
Before long we arrived at the Bon Crépe and Coffee mobile refreshments stand, stationed near the deer park gates.
Feeling colder outside than expected, I quite fancied a hot drink while Clara was eyeing the popcorn. Alas, it seemed many others had the same idea so we parked the idea of refreshments and headed further into Ickworth’s gardens.
We managed to make two wrong turns – improved signage or more chaperones would have helped – before following the correct path into the stumpery.
There we discovered colourful trails ending with enchanting hanging fairy lights, a pack of illuminated wild animal sculptures running alongside visitors, a fire-breathing dragon fashioned from old tree stumps, before turning a corner to see the Rotunda shimmering in those-ever changing lights.
Turning once more, glowing orbs were sweeping through a captivating rotation of colours on the lawn.
Soon, we were on a path round to the front of the Rotunda – greeting a life-size woven horse along the way – for a pit-stop at the impressive West Wing.
With its cosy interior, we were soon perusing all sorts of things we didn’t need (but wanted) in the shop before heading to the café.
There, Clara had an enormous shortbread and I sampled a warmed spicy winter apple drink.
Then, it was time to head back outside for a final look at that illuminated Rotunda and walk back towards the car park – with a stop to enjoy the sight of a sillhouetted woven stag sculpture in the distance.
The Light Nights trail really does offer the chance to see Ickworth in a new light. My only thoughts following our walk? That perhaps music along the way might have added another dimension to the experience.
But, don’t let that deter you from what is a truly enchanting kick-off to the festive season.
Pre-booking is essential, with timed tickets available from 4.30pm – we arrived at about 6.45pm to find the estate still buzzing with visitors and did not leave until well after 8pm (when the car park had quietened significantly).
For more information or to book, go to https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/suffolk/ickworth-estate/ickworths-light-nights
Given the time of year, it is essential to dress appropriately for the weather. We did not need our Wellington boots, however we did need our warm coats and should propbably have worn our hats, too.
The woodland paths are either gravel or well covered in wood chippings and while none of our party uses a pushchair or scooter, I would say the event was accessible for those who do. Assistance dogs only are welcome.
Tickets for Monday to Thursday evenings are £11.50 per adult (18 years+) and £9.50 per child (five-17) and under fives free. Tickets for Friday to Sunday are £12.50 per adults, £10.50 children and under fives free.