Christmas at Kenwood feels like walking in a winter wonderland
- Credit: Polly Hancock
Being out after dark in the grounds of Kenwood House is already beautiful and atmospheric, so dressing it up with lights and lasers could feel like gilding the lily.
But designers – in cahoots with English Heritage – have struck a sensitive balance between the glittery and the garish with an hour-long trail that responds to this special environment on Hampstead Heath.
The walk starts behind the house, on a path between trees where illuminated animals - badgers, owls, squirrels and foxes - twinkle in the undergrowth or hang from branches. The accompanying soundscape sets a magical mood with echoes of bells, children's cries, an ethereal song, or the skirl of Celtic pipes.
Snowflake projections swirl across the house's facade and Kenwood's glorious old trees are colourfully uplit to cast them in a fresh light - the avenue on the path towards the dairy is ablaze with thousands of white LEDs.
VIPs can stop for a mulled wine and hot chocolate in The Brew House garden, transformed with lights and flame heaters, or there are more food and drink outlets on the flower lawn.
On chilly nights you can warm up at the fire garden where puffs of flame shoot sporadically from metal flowers. A fairy path picked out in coloured lights leads to giant winking bulbs suspended above your head, the next moment, you're at a rave complete with dry ice and eye-bending lasers.
The finale sees giant projections shimmer across the front of the house. A flitting robin wraps the 18th Century mansion in a giant bow and turns the columns into candy canes. There are nods to past inhabitants, including Dido Belle the mixed race niece of the First Earl of Mansfield
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It's all over too soon, back to the real world past a huge sparkly Christmas tree. This safe, family friendly trail should get even old humbugs and "I don't feel Christmassy" types into the festive spirit.
Christmas at Kenwood runs until January 9.