The Enchanted Illuminations at Abbotsbury – #GreatDaysOut

Friday saw us head down to Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens (between Weymouth and Lyme Regis on the Dorset Jurassic Coast) for their Enchanted Illuminations event.

Established in 1765 by the first Countess of Ilchester as a kitchen garden for her nearby castle, Abbotsbury Sub-Tropical Gardens is a fabulous place to spend a few hours. It’s a 30 acre garden, filled with rare and exotic plants from all over the world – and it doesn’t matter if you’re not a gardener, the kids will love exploring while you stroll and appreciate the amazing plants and trees. There are giant trees with barking peeling like damp wallpaper, ‘rhubarb’ plants whose leaves are bigger than a small car. There are plants that smell incredible, leaves that are weirdly furry… and one with the wickedest spikes I have ever seen.abbotsbury-enchanted-illuminations-reflection

And from now until the end of October, you can see some of the gardens in a totally different light – literally. From dusk until 8.30pm, a path winds through the gardens, lit magically to display the gardens ina  completely different way; it’s all rather other-worldly and magical.

It wasn’t quite dark when we arrived, so we took the tough choice of a Hot Chocolate in the Colonial Restaurant first as we waited for dusk to make way for full dark. We sat out under the marquee on the courtyard of the restaurant and half an hour later,  toasty warm and full of creamy hot chocolate (well of course we had the whipped cream version…), we set out on the trail through the woods.


The wood carvings were great to come across at an apparent dead-end in the trail

The trail was well-marked and easy to follow, and the small candle lanterns guided the way without interfering with the beauty of the lit trees. It was a dramatic effect – tress which are tall and beautiful by day become imposing structural monsters when lit from beneath by night.


The bright blue bridge was a a surprise in the middle of the trail – everywhere else had been gentle and magical, but this was SO BRIGHT! Naturally there had to be a group photo – even the dog got in on the act (we were SO pleased to fin that the dog could come too – so many gardens refuse entry to dogs).

The view from the small Japanese bridge was possibly our favourite – and if you notice the moon even got in on the magical lighting act, popping out from behind some wispy clouds for a few minutes, adding some real drama to the scene. And no, that’s not a firework going off on the right – just more lit trees.


The youngest three all headed at speed straight along the avenue to the beautifully lit Summerhouse (I suspect they were quite keen on a sit down) which left us to saunter slowly along behind, enjoying the colour-changing avenue of beech trees (I think they were beeches – it was hard to tell when they were moving from hot pink to ice blue…)

It took us over an hour to stroll right around the route – we arrived at 6.15, and including the hot chocolate stop we were back at the car just before 8p.m. All of us really enjoyed the experience; the stunning architecture of the plants was really shown off by the dramatic lighting sequences. The youngest were honest in the expectation of boredom when we arrived, but they had a great time, chasing along the pathways, leaping out at each other from dark corners, and gazing open-mouthed at the height of the tallest trees. We looked at loads of different leaf shapes, and felt the mad textures of a lot of the plants too – it really made them think about a ‘garden’ in a completely different way. Removing the expected visual display made them notice a lot more of the structure and texture, and it became a far more sensory experience for us all.


enjoying the magic of the summer house

The Enchanted Illuminations are on every evening from now until 28th October (plus Sunday 1st  November), and the gardens are lit from dusk until 8:30pm.  Book online and save up to 20% off standard admission charges.  A standard garden ticket allows access during the day and also covers the Enchanted Illuminations event if visited on the same day, and a family ticket (two adults and three children up to 15yrs) is £39. There’s no special ticket price for the Illuminations only, so if it were me, I’d make a whole day of it. Spend the day exploring the 30 acres of grounds and then head back in the evening for the Enchanted Illuminations. That way you’ll get real value on the ticket price.


Author: Laura

A 70's child, I’ve been married for a Very Long Time, and appear to have made four children, and collected one large and useless dog along the way. I work, I have four children, I have a dog… ergo, I do not do dusting or ironing. I began LittleStuff back in (gulp) 2004. I like huge mugs of tea. And Coffee. And Cake. And a steaming cone of crispy fresh fluffy chips, smothered in salt and vinegar. #healthyeater When I grow up I am going to be quietly graceful, organised and wear lipstick every day. In the meantime I *may* have a slight butterfly-brain issue.

Share This Post On

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *