For our advent activity no.17, we finally made it to the Christmas market at Leeds castle. We’d originally planned to go the previous Sunday, but the weather was awful that day, so we called it off. Luckily this Sunday was not as bad, although a light drizzle started to fall as we arrived.
Our first impression was that it seemed to be much busier than we’d expected, with the car park being absolutely packed with cars. We eventually found a spot to park, and made our way to the entrance. I was very relieved to see that there was a separate queue for those who already had a ticket. When you visit Leeds castle, the tickets you get are always valid for a whole year, and we’d been there in early September, which meant that we didn’t have to wait in the looong main queue. Penguin doesn’t really do queues, and having to wait in one would have been a terrible start to our visit.
Having entered the castle grounds, we made our way on foot through the park that leads up towards the castle buildings. There is a land train for those who prefer that (for a small charge, I think it was 50p per person), but Penguin is generally keen to run and roam around.
There are plenty of sensory experiences to be had in the park, even this time of the year. Penguin really likes all the little streams and the water steps, and the box hedging which is used along some of the paths.
There’s a rich bird life in the grounds, which Penguin doesn’t mind. He’s terrified of chicken, but we haven’t seen any of those at the castle. However, if you’re very anxious around swans, gulls and geese, you might find parts of the grounds uncomfortable.
The Christmas market was situated on a hill, looking out across the moat that surrounds the castle. There were market stalls selling everything from socks to ornaments via cheeses and dog accessories, as well as food stalls selling chesnuts, mulled wine, pasties, soups, crepes and more. There was also a bandstand with live music, and a good selection of traditional fair ground rides.
Penguin was quite happy to wander around and look at everything, and it wasn’t TOO crowded although it was busy. I’m actually glad the weather was a bit drab, as it may have been more crowded on a sunny day.
Oh I almost forgot, there were reindeer there as well. However, they were kept in a pen flanked on either side by large aviaries, in which there were birds of prey. And as far as Penguin’s concerned, birds of prey are almost as frightening as chicken, so I only caught a quick glimpse of a reindeers rear end, before we had to get out of there.
We then went over to the castle, hoping to see the displays of Christmas traditions of past and present. Unfortunately the castle was so packed with visitors that it was just one long slow queue… And as I said earlier, Penguin doesn’t really do queues. So we backed right out of there, and walked back through the park, to the exit.
The exit is through a gift shop, and we asked Penguin to have a look around to see if there was anything he might like to put on his wishlist (which is his first ever, as I’ve written about before in this post). I wish I could say that he showed great interest in any of the lovely books they had, or maybe the historical toys, but what really grabbed him was the selection of sensory/fidget type toys, and in particular this penguin(!) with squeezable ‘guts’:
So the penguin goes on Penguin’s wishlist, and all in all we had a good day out, even if a little damp and cold.