“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep…”
- Robert Frost, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening
Earlier this week, a couple of us were lucky enough to get tickets to explore The Alnwick Garden’s brand-new Halloween event, The Dark Garden. For seven nights, this beautiful and tranquil garden retreat was transformed into an unforgettable night-time experience. Fortunately, we were lucky enough to live to tell our tale!
We were met at the Pavillion by the Guardian of the Garden, tinkling her bell of protection. She warned us not to stray off the path, lest we be spirited away…
Suitably spooked, our group set off. With the garden in total darkness, our senses were well and truly heightened. We skirted around the Poison Garden which echoed with ghoulish moans and bloodcurdling screams. Our eyes adjusted to the flickering tea-lights illuminating the path through the Cherry Orchard. Our ears became attuned to the sweet, haunting melody of a violin drawing us towards three candlelit graves and their protectors. Heeding the warning of the Guardian of the Garden, we dutifully paid our respects.
From there, we made our way towards the Ornamental Garden, pausing to take in a rather brilliant visual art installation projected onto the entrance arches.
At first, the maze-like Ornamental Garden offered little comfort. Shadowy pathways radiated from our trail, tempting us away into the night. Plague doctors stirring a bubbling pond of body parts added to the gloom. We were greeted by a floating scarecrow head who, along with a chatty fiery demon and a giant pumpkin, offered light relief… Perhaps we would make it through this after all!
By now our group had broken up and we were alone on our journey. This made an encounter with a dancing marionette scarecrow all the more unsettling. We picked up our pace and descended through the Rose Garden to the safety of the Pavilion, grateful that the undead have returned to the afterlife… for now.
We really hope The Dark Garden will return next year. Until then, there’s a whole host of activities and moments to enjoy at The Alnwick Garden.
For those who like to get their spook on all year round, the unique and deadly Poison Garden is for you. On your guided tour, you will be told the tales of the darker side of plants. The plants within this gated part of The Alnwick Garden have been locked away for your protection – some even in cages for fear of the harm they could do!
For us, the spectacular ‘Sparkle’ illumination of the trees alongside the Fairytale Attic (masquerading as a fortress dungeon!) was the crowning glory of the evening. Luckily, The Alnwick Garden is transformed at dusk throughout the winter by this illumination, lighting the icy arbours and cascade.
Make the most of these atmospheric moments by staying a little later during your visit. Against the dark sky, wintery branches picked out by coloured light is breathtakingly beautiful.
If you’re more St Nick than Old Nick, you can still enjoy The Alnwick Garden when the lights go down with these great Christmas events.
The festive season wouldn’t be complete without a visit to a Christmas Market. Browse through stalls of local produce hand-selected by The Alnwick Garden – you’ll be sure to pick up some great stocking-fillers!
Open every weekend from 19th Nov – 11th December and daily 17th – 22nd December.
Unleash your inner Torvill and Dean at arguably the most picturesque spot for ice-skating. Playing Ravel’s ‘Bolero’ on your smartphone as your do so is entirely up to you!
Available from 19th November 10:00am – 6:00pm
Imagine a seed, lost for centuries within the dusty pages of a plant-hunter’s notebook. Grown in secret and revealed at The Alnwick Garden this Christmas, the Paradise Tree bearing its magical fruit.
Friday 16th – Friday 23rd December 4:15pm – 8:00pm
Follow Father Christmas and illuminated band ‘Spark’ on a procession through the Garden into the heart of Alnwick town. Be sure to get to the Market Square for a grand finale of light and music that captures the magical spirit of Christmas.
18th December 17:15pm - 18:30pm
For more information on what to do in Northumberland during the winter months, check out #NlandStars