Christmas at Kew

Recently, 20 GTO readers and guests were invited by Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew to experience their annual Christmas at Kew. Fiona Horan reports back.

We arrived at Victoria Gate, just a short walk from Kew Gardens Underground station, to be greeted by Daryl Bennett, Travel Trade Sales and Marketing Manager. After hot drinks and mince pies at Kew’s new catering venue, The Botanical, we headed off into the twinkly darkness.

The circuit is easy to navigate, with flat tarmac paths, and we wandered along at our own pace, admiring the huge variety in the illuminations – some subtle and some more dramatic. Several groups of artists have worked on this event and the result is imaginative and truly magical.

One of the most impressive displays was an illumination of hundreds of globes on the grass, which lit up in coloured patterns to music. Mesmerising and very effective. The music throughout was excellent – adding to the atmosphere without being intrusive – a mixture of classical, ethereal, and Christmas favourites.

Other highlights included a Christmas tree sculpture made of illuminated wooden sledges and the glowing bridge over the lake – from which we could watch the fairy lights fade and change colour on an island across the water.

Elsewhere the character of gnarled old trees was brought to life with clever spotlighting that showed off every twist and texture against the dark night sky. Some trunks appeared to have tattoos, and there were woodland glades dotted with delicate glowing stars.

Also along the route was an outdoor theatre show for children, a garden of flaming torches, a mini fairground, cider samples (much appreciated) and opportunities for drinks and toasted marshmallows.

One section had big illuminated picture frames which created a great photo opportunity for visitors.

The walk ended in a show-stopping display of lights and animation centred on the Palm House and the lake in front of it – with figures dancing in the spray from the fountains. We then returned to The Botanical for mulled wine, macaroons, and conversation (see picture).

All in all, a delightful evening and a trip that all ages would enjoy. We would like to thank Daryl Bennett and the rest of the team at Kew for their hospitality, the special catering they offered us, and the chance to enjoy such a wonderful pre-Christmas treat.

“It was just amazing how cleverly the gardens were illuminated, showing up every minute shape and detail of trees which we have seen but not noticed so many times before. The illuminated Broad Walk, fire garden and laser show across the lake all added to the experience. Then finally you have the ever-changing colours of the giant glass house as a back drop. Well done Kew!”

Doug and Carol, Paddock Wood

“A real creative use of every different type of lighting to highlight the magnificent gardens and its trees and shrubs.  In addition, the music added at regular intervals throughout the trail was ideal, not only Christmas music but also other well-chosen and appropriate melodies usually timed to perfection to accompany the changing light colours.”

Carole, Kent

For further information:

Christmas at Kew 2018/19 will run from 21st November 2018 to 1st January 2019.

ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, KEW