In December 2016, for the very first time a new event was held at Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe, Gloucestershire – the Spectacle of Light. The castle reopened for visitors to explore after dark with illuminations and music. After arriving at the castle and showing tickets, you start walking through a laid out path in the castle grounds that has been set up with muted coloured lights, atmospheric music, fairy lights and, in one place, disco balls that twinkle light against a giant tree. There’s a cafe to visit with mulled wine, hot chocolate, soup and cakes partway through, plus a short visit through one of the castle corridors. You don’t get to see inside of the castle much but the outside is beautiful.
The paths were generally flat (if a little uneven) with few steps, and stewards were available regularly to help if needed.
The fact that I have littered this blog post with photos speaks for itself. There were a lot of photographers about, many carrying tripods and there was no extra photography charge. There was also information about photography / video recording rules on the website to read in advance.
The castle is somewhat difficult to find, up a narrow lane in a small village that satnavs don’t quite know how to navigate. There aren’t really any other attractions nearby. As it starts after dark, nothing in Winchcombe is open. None of this should stop you visiting, it’s just things to be aware of.
Public transport: Poor
Sudeley Castle isn’t easily accessible by public transport – it’s two buses and a 15 minute walk from the nearest big town of Cheltenham, but the last bus back is at 6:40pm. For an event that only runs when it’s dark, that’s not practical.
Weather dependent: OK
It was damp when I visited, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment. However the vast majority is outside so if it was tipping down it probably would have been different. It only closes in heavy snow.
Enjoyment & entertainment: 3/3
I loved both the castle and the illuminations – I got to play around with my camera loads, and experience a really old building in a new way. It’s definitely an unusual way to see the castle, although not the first illumination-type event I’ve come across. The sound effects really added to the atmosphere.
Value for money: 2/3
£13.50 off peak, £15 peak with free parking. Not the cheapest, but I did spend a good few hours there and the time, effort and cost that had gone in to setting it up was obvious. I would spend the same again.
This balances out – the website is excellent with all the information you could want, and there were stewards on site to direct you. There are also refreshments available partway through. However on the day I ended up parking a ten minute walk away due to lack of signs, which resulted in a wander through pitch black at the end of the night. A map of the grounds would also have been useful – I thought the end was after the refreshments, but it’s actually only partway through.
Bonus point: Would I go again?
Yes, definitely – I’ll be looking out for it appearing again this year.
If you’re in the Gloucestershire area this December, keep an eye out for the Spectacle of Light!