Just before Christmas we went to Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, South West London for the Palace of Stardust experience, Hampton Court’s winter light trail. We always love a trip to Hampton Court whether it’s to go ice skating, to play in the Magic Garden play area, explore the palace or to find out more about the history King Henry and his wives. But this was the first time we’d been for a winter event.
What is Palace of Stardust?
The Palace of Stardust is billed as an atmospheric, fantastical wonderland of clocks, moons, planets and sundials waiting to be discovered. Inspired by the palace’s famous astronomical clock; the ticking Tudor heart of Hampton Court installed on the command of King Henry VIII, the magical illuminations are not to be missed.
Our visit to the Hampton Court light trail
Hampton Court Palace is easily accessible by car or public transport and is a lovely walk from Kingston too. The car park at Hampton Court Palace isn’t the biggest so we parked next door in the train station car park which has plenty of parking available.
As soon as you walk through the main Hampton Court Palace gates we were blown away by the building. It’s incredible, even after seeing it dozens of times. At Christmas you walk pass the ice rink and adjoining cafe and straight into the palace where the Palace of Stardust Trail begins.
Our tickets were checked and as we had one of the first slots when it wasn’t quite dark we were told we could walk around a second time if we wanted to appreciate the trail when it had become darker. This was a lovely gesture!
We then went into the first courtyard and the trail began. We picked up a guide on our way through which explained each installation to us. It explains that the Hampton Court Palace clock runs on stardust, a secret kept by the Secret Keepers for generations. But, the current Secret Keeper is the last and so she is telling us the secret through incredible light and sound displays.
The trail is a one way system which starts and finishes at the main West Gate entrance to Hampton Court Palace, taking you past nine different light displays along the route. The first installation We Are All Made of Stardust featured the words made out of lights. It was a huge display and created a great entrance into the light exhibition.
The next installation was our favourite. Inside the Clock is situated underneath Hampton Court Palace’s iconic clock face. The clock display changed along with light and sound effects plus there were clocks that you could stand behind to make silhouettes. It was beautiful, fun and engaging.
The trail took us inside Hampton Court Palace, past the main staircase and alongside a courtyard. Everything was lit beautifully, even things that weren’t part of the main trail. There were fairy lights and lanterns everywhere as well as so many festive decorations.
In the courtyard was the Tides and the River installation which felt like you were underwater. There were fish swimming along and lights that looked just like waves. It was beautiful. This led on to Stargazing, featuring beautiful constellations.
The trail then took us outside again where the Whispering Trees display was set up under the yew trees of Hampton Court Palace. You could stand and listen to ancient voices as they spoke about the secrets of the years gone by.
At the East Front Gardens there were a few seasonal food and drink stands which we hadn’t been aware of – as we’d gone and got hot drinks before starting the trail. They had typical fast food along with things like halloumi fries and so many festive options.
Our walk then took us through the Moonlit Ball where beautiful figures danced in the most gorgeous of dresses. Bright colours and such fun, this was a really lovely part of the trail and had the children dancing as they watched.
Handcrafted metal sculptures marked Pieces of Space and this was followed by The Secret is Revealed, whole shadow worlds in miniature displays with the Secret Keeping talking to you at the same time. The mix of sound and light works so well throughout the trail and we really enjoyed seeing what would happen next.
The end of trail is Out Through the Solar System, a collection of huge lit up planets that you can walk through and admire. It was a great finale and we all really enjoyed seeing the Palace of Stardust and getting to see Hampton Court Palace at night, something we’ve never done before.
You can find out more about the events at Hampton Court Palace as well as news and information over on the Historic Royal Palaces website. Make sure you don’t miss the Hampton Court Palace Christmas events next year! HRP members get a reduced entry fee to most special events and it’s great value for money. Find out about membership here.
ou can see a video of our trip to the Hampton Court light trail over on Instagram here: