Winter Wonderland style attractions are slowly becoming a growing market here in the UK but unfortunately as so many of these attractions are of a temporary nature this leads to problems. The well documented issues at ‘The Magical Journey’ hit the headlines in the last few weeks and in years past, various attractions have come and gone never to be seen again. Usually letting families down, and wasting a lot of their hard-earned money too, which at this time of year is not great!
But what if there was a Winter attraction that wasn’t just thrown together from badly disguised portacabins and fake snow? Step forward The Christmas Adventure at Stockeld Park, which is located between Harrogate and Leeds, which offers much more than you’d expect from a temporary seasonal attraction.
Stockeld Park is a vast and beautiful estate that is tucked away just off the A1 at Wetherby, near Leeds. It’s well signposted and very easy to find (I managed it in the dark, without Google Maps!) I was invited there to review the Christmas Adventure last weekend, I arrived just as the sun was setting (which I would thoroughly recommend) for a magical adventure in the beautiful woodland!
Price wise, at this time of year you’re looking at £65 for a day pass for a family of four (based on 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children) and this will give you unlimited access to all of the activities and adventure zones namely:
The Illuminated Enchanted Forest
The Illuminated Fun Filled Maze
The Real Ice Rink
The Nordic Ski Trail
You can pay £18 or £16 for additional adults and children for a day pass, however the passes don’t include access to Santa’s Grotto or the 4D Cinema. These cost an extra £10 per child for the grotto and £6 per person to get into the 4D Cinema. So a family day out with all the extras will cost you £109. Although certainly not cheap, it is not overly expensive in my opinion and in line with similar attractions. The activities will certainly keep your family entertained for hours, and I think for the experience it’s worth the money, I had a fabulous time!
The prices above are obviously without paying for food, which is available from the Woodland Café, which is a purpose-built building that has a bench style seating, offering a varied selection of food and drink. It’s all very clean and pleasant with a small play area in the corner for excitable little ones. The café also houses the toilets which are of an excellent standard and great for families.
So onto the attractions! We took a stroll through the Enchanted Forest first, and it really was a fantastic way to start. The forest and the ‘Enchanted’ inhabitants are wonderfully lit, perfect for a winter’s evening, as you stroll round music and sound effects accompany you. There are some interactive elements too for children to play with, these did seem to be a bit of a ‘pinch point’ to proceedings with little pockets of children collecting around them! There are also several play areas too, although these shut after dark, so bear this in mind. The Forest although aimed at children, is really lovely for adults to enjoy too, and actually to attend without children would not be problematic in my opinion. You will have a great time!
My favourite part of the Enchanted Forest was the Lake area, it reminded me of visions I’ve seen in Thailand. The lighting and music set a fantastic tone and an air of enchantment. It’s beautifully done and worth the walk for that alone. The path is suitable for buggies and is nice and wide for even the busiest of days, this has clearly been well thought out, bravo Stockeld Park!
The only negative,(and this really is a tiny moan) was what I found was at one of the refreshment cabins halfway round the walk. I fancied a mulled wine to warm me up which they had, but it was being warmed on a coffee machine and wasn’t exactly warm, so I was slightly disappointed. The staff were lovely and did explain that this was due to them only recently began hearing it. Thankfully I got some at another stand that housed a proper ‘cauldron’ keeping my favourite festive tipple warm so I sat and enjoyed it watching the outdoor ice skating, it was magical!
The Nordic Ski Trail follows alongside The Enchanted Forest – personally it’s probably best to do one or the other, unless you have lots of time (and energy!). I really enjoyed The Enchanted Forest, it would be interesting to try it again during the day to see how magical it all feels!
The next activity I was keen to try was The Real Ice Rink, as it says – it’s a REAL Ice Rink. This means proper ice, no plastic sheeting at all, it’s fantastic! I really enjoyed going around the ice, it was busy, but not too busy as it’s fairly large! There were helpful ‘penguins’ for little ones to use and ‘marshals’ on the ice to help those who fell. (And there was a lot of falling!). I spent about thirty minutes on the ice in total and had so much fun, you can’t beat a spot of ice skating to Christmas music to get you in the festive mood. This was, by far my highlight of Stockeld, the music coupled with the beautiful backdrop of the forest was like something out of a festive film Stockeld Park have mastered this are perfectly!
The staff on the whole were friendly and kind, they were happily taking photos for groups of people and were generally smiley and happy. It was getting colder (wrap up warm!) and I was keen to try the final attraction before I left ‘The Fun Filled Maze’. I entered with slight trepidation – they have a map on the outside with a suggested route and a telephone number to call for assistance if you get stuck. I would recommend you take a picture of this..I’m glad I did! I’d started the maze trying to memorize the map, but it is massive and very disorienting, so before long I had my phone out and was ‘cheating’ a little to find my way! The maze is well maintained and looked after, I suppose my only criticism was the random ‘Tardises’ (what is the plural for a tardis?!) and Wild West elements didn’t feel Christmassy, but that said it was a lot of fun to complete I really enjoyed it. After half an hour of slight panic I was very relieved to find my way out with only a little help from the map!
Soon it was time to leave, and not before visiting the gift shop, which thankfully isn’t forced upon you, or the only way to exit the attraction (I hate that!!!). The store is very big and has an incredible selection of Christmas goodies and gifts, the prices were very reasonable too. I think my only disappointment was there was very little in the way of ‘Stockeld Park’ branded items, I would have loved to have left with a little Christmassy fridge magnet to remember the day by as I collect them! But again, this wasn’t that big an issue.
I left Stockeld Park feeling very happy and festive – it’s a fantastic seasonal attraction that feels like it’s permanent and I’d thoroughly recommend going. The price might seem off-putting, but when compared to other attractions it’s pretty similar and I’d happily pay a bit extra for that slightly more ‘permanent’ feel that Stockeld has.
So what are you waiting for? Head to Stockeld Park this festive season, you won’t regret it. I will certainly be returning next Christmas!
The adventure remains at Stockeld until the 5th January 2015, so there’s still plenty of time to join in the fun! There really is no need to visit Lapland this year, just head to Stockeld!
*Disclaimer: I was offered day passes in exchange for a review of the Christmas Experience at Stockeld Park, all view and words are my own*