REVIEW: A NARNIA CHRISTMAS AT LEEDS CASTLE
We Step Through The Wardrobe at Leeds Castle into an Icy Adventure
It is as cold as Narnia as we make the beautiful walk past swan-addled lakes, chandelier festooned trees and festive sculptures to Kent’s grand Leeds Castle.
This is exactly the sort of place you’d expect to find a magical wardrobe portal into a mystical, icy kingdom, and that’s exactly what we discover.
First, we wander through the Professor’s wonderfully festive gaff. Very little of the castle predates 1926, so it’s the perfect location for this Fifties winter’s tale. Each stately room, from dining spaces and lounges to the kitchen is dressed in period Christmas decorations, with huge windows overlooking the festive displays across the 500 acres outside.
Audio recordings and extracts from the CS Lewis book are dotted around to set the scene, until we arrive at a huge room, where we find The Wardrobe.
Our children excitedly leap inside, pushing through rows of (fake) fur coats into long corridors of icy foliage and trees, marking the start of our Narnia adventure.
We head into a vast room stuffed with twinkling Christmas trees and at the centre we discover the neurotic faun, Mr Tumnus, who is bravely sleeveless on this cold December afternoon, with the furry legs, tail, horns and pointed beard our children recognise from the book. He greets them for a jolly chat and poses for pictures.
As we turn, we spy a pile of the Turkish Delights which lure both Edmund and my sugar-loving son over to the White Witch’s fur-lined, icy sleigh, which we plonk our bums in for an imaginary joyride.
We peer in through artful foliage to snoop at Mrs Beaver's dam home, set for tea with the children, on a chequered blue table cloth.
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen so many Christmas trees in one day, but we stumble upon some particularly icy pines, which can only mean one thing - the Queen of Narnia is lurking nearby. She’s gone heavy with the tree tinsel, and I’m into it. The Queen beckons our children over to her throne, in front of a miniature ice palace. Fortunately, she won’t cast any spells on them today and they are let off, after posing as statues for a few pics.
In a big, beamed space before an enormous fireplace, we find Father Christmas. In the book, he gives children weapons for a bloody fight to the death with the White Witch’s army of demons. Luckily, the blood and violence is toned down for the children today, who have a cheerful chat and photo with him and don’t question why the usually peaceful Santa has given them imaginary bows, arrows and swords.
We head upstairs to the gorgeously cosy bedrooms of the Professor and the four children, with their named stockings hanging above the bedroom hearth and a toy tea party set on the floor, with cuddly lions, witch dolls and fauns.
Snooping through the castle, we find the red and white striped battlefield tent for the big showdown, with various crowns and props for the children to play with and the dramatically lit head of Aslan the lion.
Finally, good has defeated evil and we end the experience in a turbo-Christmas room, set with an elaborate feast and with four thrones in front of a fireplace with crowns, which our children don to play at being kings and queens of Narnia.
It’s a lovely introduction to the CS Lewis classic. Afterwards, we wander around the grounds. It’s our first visit here and the castle is particularly gorgeous at Christmas, with cobbled squares, giant outdoor Christmas trees and a cosy, old beamed restaurant and cafe.
The sun is beginning to dip behind the trees as we leave, and the grounds come to life for the castle's Christmas light show.
We pass paths of twinkling mirrored hearts, laser gardens dancing with beams of light, technicolor laser Christmas trees and shimmering light arches, to a soundtrack of Christmas classics.
And we head off with bellies full of tinsel and fire and a new found interest in the IKEA wardrobe in my daughter’s bedroom.
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