Palace House

Experiencing Christmas at Beaulieu for the first time

A visit to Beaulieu, in the heart of the New Forest is something that the whole family enjoys.

Home to the National Motor Museum, the World of Top Gear, Palace House, a 13th century Cistercian Abbey, the Monorail and stunning gardens, there is something to spark the interest of all ages.

Last night, we were invited to Beaulieu’s stunning new illuminated Christmas trail which features over one million lights in a mile long shimmering trail of 11 individual installations.

Gingerbread Man

Once through the entrance, you are presented with a Christmas wonderland filled with vintage fairground rides and stalls with everything from Santa’s Sweetshop to a Bar, popcorn to a Carvery and burgers.


The trail starts with a stunning 200ft long Cathedral of Light and as you emerge from the other end, you catch glimpses of other installations throughout the grounds.

Cathedral of Light

From the tunnel, it was past some lit Christmas trees and into the grounds of the stunning Beaulieu Abbey, which was warmly lit by 180 flickering torches to make a Fire Garden.

Beaulieu Abbey

From there, we found a crowd of people gathered around Beaulieu’s replica 1912 open-topped London bus, fronted by a rather excitable man called ‘Toot Sweet’.

Toot Sweet

He was, unsuccessfully, trying to keep the crowd quiet as he had a very special guest onboard the bus, trying to have a nap, however, getting the kids to sing ‘the wheels on the bus’ was never going to be quiet!!

Father Christmas

The special visitor was Father Christmas and climbed to the top of the bus to greet the adoring public and had everyone singing Jingle Bells before heading back inside for some more sleep so we continued along the trail to see what we could find.


About half way around there is a chance to stop for a break and toast marshmallows in a fire pit, or try to spot the elf hidden in the gingerbread house.

Gingerbread House

Every display is different and there is music to accompany the lights all the way round. The kids loved the 12 days of Christmas display, which saw 12 pictures light up as the song played.

12 days of Christmas

Sebby was particularly smitten with the Nutcrackers and they all tried their hand at dancing to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.


Palace House itself was brought to life by dancing lights that perform in time to much-loved Christmas classics.

Palace House

We then headed through the Icicle Walk, with larger than life gleaming shards which guide you through Mill Pond walk on the banks of Beaulieu River, which have been lit up with thousands of colour changing fibre optics.

Christmas at Beaulieu

The trees were lit up in all the colours of the rainbows, with twinkling stars floating above your head.


The flowerbeds were glowing blue and the kids thought it looked like bluebell forest, before the lights changed into reds, yellows, whites and greens as we walked through.

Beaulieu Christmas Lights

My photo’s really don’t do the experience any justice as it was a “WOW!” moment around every corner.


The finale is a fantastic larger than life display of trees, with rainbow coloured lights dancing to cheerful Christmas music.

Christmas Tree

Christmas at Beaulieu runs until 24th December 2018 and online admission prices are: Adults: £14.50, Children: £8.00, Family Tickets: £40.00 and under 5’s and carers free. Tickets are available online and on the door. Please be aware that additional charges apply for the fairground rides and Christmas stalls and you don’t get a meet and greet with Father Christmas.

Christmas Beaulieu

We really enjoyed our visit to Christmas at Beaulieu, it is the perfect setting for the magical light and music show. It took us 90 minutes to walk along the light trail and you can also view them from above on their monorail system for a different perspective.

For more information on the display and museum and illumination prices, visit

Elves Outside Marwell Hall (3)

The Magic of Christmas has arrived at Marwell Zoo

Marwell Zoo is one of our favourite days out locally and we have enjoyed visits to the opening of their new Tropical House this year, as well as Isaac’s Zookeeper for a day birthday treat, so we were very excited to be invited along to their Christmas at Marwell event.

Set inside the zoo’s Grade 1 listed manor house, the Christmas at Marwell event sees you being treated to a visit to an enchanting Neverland-inspired world as well as being able to explore the zoo as part of your ticket on the day.

Marwell Hall

We were welcomed inside Marwell Hall by head elf, Jingle and his wife Belle who greeted the children by name as we headed inside.


The room felt like you were walking into Neverland and the children were offered a scrummy biscuit and a glass of squash, whilst the adults were treated to a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.

Mince Pies

Isaac, Eliza and Sebastian loved the fact there was a large TV screen on the wall with a naughty list on it, featuring some of their favourite villain characters on it.

Naughty Lists

A simple touch of the screen then revealed another list – the good list and the kids were relieved to see their names on it!!!

Nice list

It was soon time to continue our journey and we were led down a festive corridor to find Mother Christmas.


We found her in Pirate Cove and the children settled onto special cushions for an enchanting sensory reading of a tale inspired by Peter Pan.

Mother Christmas

With singing, dancing, puppets, fairy dust and audience participation, the kids were entranced by the story.


We then ‘walked the plank’ into the mischievous elves workshop, where Eliza, Isaac and Sebby got to create their very own Christmas present bag to take home.

Painting a bag

With fabric pens and stickers to use, the kids got on with creating their perfect designs, with some taking more care than others.


We got around half an hour to complete our bags and for those that finished earlier, they were invited to write a letter to Father Christmas with their present wishlist and post it in the letterbox.

Letter to Santa

It was then time to go and meet the big man himself.

Sebby and Santa

Father Christmas greeted the kids by their name and sat them down next to him for a chat. He even asked if they were nice to each other and Isaac admitted that he wasn’t always, which made us all chuckle and resulted in Santa praising him for being honest.

Isaac and Santa

They all got an age related present each to take away, before posing for a professional photo by elf Flash and heading outside. Photo’s cost £7 each, or you can buy three for £15 which come in a presentation frame as well as a digital copy.

Father Christmas Marwell

The experience lasts around 60-80 minutes and is running until Friday 21st December 2018. Prices are: Babies (0 -12 months) – £7.50, toddlers (12- 36 months) – £15.50, children (3- 16 years) – £28.50, Adults (16+) – £25.50.


Guests who book onto daytime Christmas sessions (up to and including 3.30pm) will be able to explore the zoo as part of their ticket on the day. For guests who book onto evening Christmas sessions from 4pm, entry to the zoo is not included but they will receive a return ticket from the elves on arrival at the Hall to return to visit again by 17th March 2019.

Rica - Sloth

From endangered Amur tigers to majestic giraffes, Marwell is an 140-acre zoo which is home to an incredible range of exotic and endangered species.

Snow Leopard

The kids love seeing the animals, but also enjoy racing around the wide pathways, and testing their climbing skills in their numerous adventurous play areas.


If you are after a fun-filled day out on the run up to Christmas, then I can highly recommend Christmas at Marwell. The kids loved their presents, Eliza got a magic set, Isaac got a games set and Sebby a playdoh set and of course we enjoyed seeing the animals too.


What is your favourite Christmas day out?

Ear Scratch Rhino

Becoming a Junior Zookeeper for a day at Marwell

Ever since Isaac was little, if you asked him what job he wanted to do when he was older he would say “a zookeeper”.

I had looking into zookeeper for a day options for him for his birthday and decided to pick our nearest zoo – Marwell, as it had the best package.

Although Isaac’s birthday was back in April, Marwell’s Junior Zookeeper for a Day package is very popular and the earliest date I could book was this weekend, but he received a lovely invitation in the post with all the information about his exciting day at the zoo.

We arrived at 9am to join the other two children taking part. Each child has one accompanying adult with them, but other family members are offered discounted entry if they want to join them in the zoo.

We started off with a health and safety talk and the kids were then presented with a Marwell souvenir drawstring bag containing:

  • A certificate
  • A Marwell notepad and pencil
  • A badge
  • Stickers
  • Snack Voucher

We then headed off into the zoo to spend time with Marwell’s trained staff in preparing food and enrichment for their animals, mucking out their enclosures and meeting and feeding some of them behind the scenes.

Our guide for the day was Helen, who was brilliant with the kids, telling them the names of all the animals in the zoo and giving us information and fascinating facts about each as we walked past.

Our first stop was the giraffes, where we would be helping muck them out – after they finally persuaded Matilda to leave and go outside that is. Even the keepers are not allowed in the pen with them as giraffe’s have such a powerful kick that they can split a lion’s skull in half.

Matilda Giraffe

The kids were given their own broom and shovel and were instructed to sweep all the soiled sawdust and poo into a pile.

Zookeeper Giraffe

Once the floor was clean, they then had to use the scoops to pop the waste into the bin.


Once the floor was clear, they then got to lay down a fresh layer of sawdust for the giraffe’s, which they discovered help make cleaning their enclosure easier as well as helping to absorb moisture and make the floor more comfortable for the giraffe’s to walk on – all under the watchful eye of the giraffe’s of course.

Giraffe Marwell

Did you know: Giraffe’s are ruminant mammals. This means that they first swallow all the food that they want after some perfunctory chewing, and then bring up the half-digested cud back up to the mouth later, to chew on again – next time you visit, watch their necks and you can see the muscles contracting in rhythm to send the food back up the neck into their mouths!

Many of the animals in the zoo are more active at dawn and dusk, so we were really lucky to see the cheetah’s and leopards up close as we walked past.


Our next stop was the primate kitchen, where we got to make up special treat bags for the gibbons.

Morio Worms

This involved filling old paper food bags with straw, morio worms and peanuts and then folding them up as well as we could to give the gibbons at bit of a challenge.

Food Bags

Once finished, we took a short snack break in the Graze Cafe, before heading back to meet the keeper and hide the food bags in the Gibbons enclosure. We then got special access to watch the Gibbons try to find their bags and had a bit of a competition to see whose bag was the most challenging.


Isaac’s bag was the third to be found, but the first they managed to get into and they seemed to enjoy ripping it apart to find their tasty treats.

Gibbon Food

It was then off to meet another of the hoofstock team and the chance to meet the largest animal at Marwell – the rhino’s.


There are four rhino’s at Marwell; Kiri, Sula, Pembe and Jabari. Kiri and Sula are the old ladies of the group and Pembe and Jabari are both five years old and they hope to breed them in the next year or so as part of the European Endangered Species Breeding Programme.

Rhino - Marwell

They took quite a bit of persuading to come down and meet us, but finally all four arrived to say “Hello” and enjoy a tickle. They are especially fond of a scratch behind the ears!!

Ear Scratch Rhino

The final part of our zookeeper experience was meeting the bird team and feeding the penguins.


They were great fun to feed and even gave us a display of porpoising, where they leap in and out of the water in a rapid series of short, shallow arcs while swimming – leaving me with a face full of water, much to the kids amusement.


That was the end of our zookeeper experience and we were asked if we had any final questions before being left to explore the rest of the zoo on our own.


The Junior Zookeeper for a Day Experience lasts from 9am – Midday costs £185 per child, with accompanying adult free.

Top Tips:

  • Wear old trainers / hiking boots as you will be expected to dip your feet in iodine solution as you enter and leave each enclosure
  • Wear long trousers and neutral coloured clothes as some animals don’t like bright colours
  • Take a jumper / jacket – it can be chilly, especially in the shade

Isaac thoroughly enjoyed his zookeeper for a day experience and I it gives a real insight into the roles the zookeepers have to play on a daily basis.