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Last week we went to see the lights at Hever Castle, and it was quite magical! There was a Pinocchio trail as well as a longer light trail through the grounds, and although my photographs can’t fully reflect the multisensory experience of wandering through it all, with lights moving and shifting in colours, and music playing in many of the areas, I hope that this post can give you some idea of that seasonal magic…
Some basic info about entrance times, prices & more
Most tickets for Hever Castle need to be booked in advance, via their website. They do however make walk-in tickets available sometimes, mainly on less popular weekdays. On the day we visited, we had made sure there would be walk-in tickets. Purchasing tickets in advance is rarely a great option for us, as there’s no point in us going if our Penguin (who, as followers will know, is autistic) is not up for it on the day (for example, if his sleep issues have been particularly bad, or if he’s struggling with being dysregulated in some other way on that particular day). He’s also quite sensitive to bad weather, so for this kind of event, we want to make sure it’s not windy or raining, as that would make him very unhappy about the whole experience, no matter how magical the lights… So a big thank you to Hever Castle for offering some non pre-booked opportunities, that really made the whole thing possible for us!
We decided to go for a ‘daytime’ ticket, which means you need to get there before 3 pm – and I would recommend aiming for a little earlier than that, to make sure you really get in before 3, as the gates then close until 4 pm, when they open again for the ‘twilight’ tickets. Visitors entering on a daytime ticket can stay until 6.30, while those on a twilight ticket (which costs a little more) can stay until closing, at 8.30 pm. If accompanying a (fully paying) disabled person, a carer (such as me, when visiting with Penguin) can enter for free. You may be asked to show proof of disability, such as for example a DLA letter. This is detailed on their FAQ page, and additional accessibility related info is also available, here: https://www.hevercastle.co.uk/visit/location-accessibility/
Exploring the grounds and play areas, before dark
Our main reason for choosing a daytime ticket (aside of it costing slightly less than a twilight one) was that we wanted some time before darkness, to explore some of the grounds and the play areas, which Penguin’s enjoyed there on previous visits (see also our post from Christmas at Hever 2019). The play areas close at dusk (4 pm if I remember correctly), so are not open during the twilight hours. There’s an amazing big play castle, as well as swings, musical features, and other structures to climb on and explore. The play areas are for children aged 14 and under, so Penguin is sadly soon getting to the end of being young enough for this. So we made sure to take time to fully enjoy it on this visit!
Arriving ‘early’ also meant we got to have a good look at the castle and parts of the garden before it got dark. We didn’t go inside the castle on this visit. We would have had to wear masks, which Penguin can’t cope with, so we didn’t bother this year (it’s also an additional cost, compared to tickets for ‘just’ the grounds). We came here in 2019 too, for the Christmas displays, and went inside the castle then (see this post!). It was beautifully decorated in there, as I’m sure it is this year too. But they’ve extended the light trail through the grounds substantially this year, so the experience is very much worthwhile anyway, without seeing the interiors of the castle.
The Pinocchio Trail
Next we went for the Pinocchio trail! It was, in my opinion, weird and wonderful and a little bit scary. Which I think is just what a proper classic children’s story should be! There was a Jimini Cricket to be found in each scene, for more eagle-eyed visitors. And there was music and moving dolls making it all come alive. We should perhaps have waited for it to get a little darker, or gone back for a second lap of it later, because I’m sure it would feel even more magical (and perhaps more scary too?) in the dark…
Following the Light Trail around the grounds and gardens
At the end of the Pinocchio trail, we sat down for a while to enjoy some snacks and drink, and gather new energy. We then went on to explore the displays around the wider grounds and gardens.
At dusk, the evening sky formed part of the light display for us, especially in areas where it was reflected by water too.
This area by the lake, seen above, was probably Penguin’s most favourite. We stayed for a while, watching the water features ’dancing’, to a background of classical music (and architecture).
As we went further around the gardens and grounds, there were beautifully lit trees and displays around every corner. The architectural features contributed too, to the overall experience.
Take a look at this slide show for more! (18 images in total, playing 3 sec each, or press pause and then arrows to view at your own pace) :
Thank you Hever Castle for creating this feast of seasonal magic – we are already looking forward to experiencing it again next year!
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