Christmas 2020 was an emotional rollercoaster. Having something to look forward to as the world opened up again was high on our agenda, and the tickets for Christmas at Raby Castle happily coincided with that dream when the email arrived in early September. We don’t live that far away from Staindrop, so we accessed the grounds to the castle late summer when we were able, this thankfully meant that we were added to the mailing list to let us know the Christmas sessions were going on sale – so we snapped up the Fireside Stories with Father Christmas tickets for our 4-year-old and 2-year-old
Last year was the first year our eldest enjoyed Christmas, so with the little one being another year older too, we were excited to see the magic through their eyes. We booked 9,30am on Christmas Eve as we thought any earlier would be really hard for the little one to understand why there was such a wait for the presents!
As covid restrictions didn’t lift as we had all hoped before Christmas, Raby Castle had an impossible task – did they cancel altogether or did they pivot how they offered a little bit of Christmas to the children and thankfully they pivoted! Everyone who bought a ticket was offered a refund or an alternative and in my personal opinion, the alternative saved Christmas!
Rather than changing our expectations of Christmas Eve – it topped any expectations that we had. I know they couldn’t summon the snowfall, but the snow fell, the reindeer were huddled beneath the trees when you looked over from the castle grounds, it was brilliant!
The first part of the experience was supposed to be on the Castle Terrace which is outdoors, where children could spot the
presents around the terrace – but as we were the first ones there and they could see the anticipation in the little ones, they let us go into Santa first because there was no queue. Santa was in a present store, which is a sheltered outdoor space in a courtyard of the castle, which is not normally open to the public.
Not the best quality picture but the little one turned away from Santa as he started talking, almost as to compose himself and had the biggest grin in his face. It was worth it, just to see that elation. Father Christmas was absolutely wonderful and had a great chat with the children, our eldest did not move, he could hardly speak I think he was so immersed in the moment. As they were the only ones there, I think they got a little extra time as the ‘Footman’ on the door kept coming around as to almost prompt Santa, but we did not feel rushed it felt like an organic end to the experience. The presents the children got were very high quality too.
We present spotted around the castle afterwards, which because of the snowfall and reindeer felt magical. We even met a little pony called Elvis. We talked to the cafe and shop but unfortunately, the shop was not open as we had walked back up to the castle before opening time, I think it was meant as an ‘exit through the gift shop’ from the enchanted walk. We had tickets for the enhanced walk but as we had finished early with Santa, our boys were a little tired of waiting in the cold for the walk to open, so by the time we got in they weren’t as enchanted as we had hoped for! They did make it to the end to get their little gift, though!
So truly thank you, Raby Castle, for saving our Christmas and giving our little boys a little bit of Christmas magic.