Ignite Light Trail at Gibside : Review & Top Tips

 Ad - We were provided with press tickets but have not been asked or paid to write this post. 

Ignite Light Trail at Gibside : Review & Top Tips

Ignite at Gibside is an evening trail of lights, fantasy and fire. It is different to a normal day out at Gibside and not included with regular day admission - you need to book tickets seperately. The trail runs in the evenings from 11-30 December 2020 with the best availability for tickets available post-Boxing Day. This post is based on our visit on opening night - Friday 11 December 2020. Our visit was at 4:30pm. 

Ignite is allowed to go ahead in Tier 3 as it is an outdoor event at an attraction that is already permitted to open and they have measures in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Ignite is expensive. I have to be honest here and say that despite thinking the event looked good, I did not book tickets for us in September when tickets were released as the price and uncertainty put me off. For the 5 of us, it would cost £60 which feels like a lot for less than an hour's experience to me. I am also disappointed that there is no discount for National Trust members (although if available, NT members do not pay for parking but you do need to pre-book a space if available). Price is subjective though and I do not wish to judge those who spend £60 on a light trail. I also want to say the fact that we were given press tickets does not bribe me into telling you that this event offers fantastic value.

I did not choose to spend £60 on this event but I have happily spent £60 on a single bottle of wine before which I am sure would not be for everyone. Like I say, price is subjective and it is up to you how you spend your money. The trail is lovely and a fab treat and if your family is smaller than ours, it will be cheaper. I am grateful we are provided with press tickets for events like this but for us, I do think there are better value experiences out there. On the flip side, there really aren't that many Christmas events around that can go ahead this year and choices are a lot more limited. You can read more about ticket prices here. 

Ignite Light Trail at Gibside : Review & Photos 

After parking up our car, we headed towards the admission hut. There are portaloos here and they are the only ones before the trail so if you need to go, make sure you go here before your tickets are scanned. There was a bit of a queue for the 4:30pm admission slot as you can see but as we passed at 5:30pm on leaving, there was no queue at all. 

Tickets are scanned (on your phone or print out) including your car parking ticket. If you use the park and ride I assume this is done on the bus. 

There is an easy one way system to follow and stewards to guide you. For those who know Gibside, the trail takes you through the walled garden and then down a path between the side of the walled garden and the avenue. It is less than a mile in length and fine for a pushchair. 

At the start it was fairly busy. If you have visited National Trust properties this year, you will know they have been pretty quiet. The event is not like this - you will see lots of people. For us, there was plenty of space though and we never felt on top of each other. Especially once we left the walled garden when the path opened up and there was much more space. 

I would say we only came within 2m of another group fleetingly on a couple of occasions. You don't need to wear a face covering when walking around the trail but we did for the parts where there were a few people (despite social distancing being ok). 

Everyone was super polite and held back as others took photos and then kept moving. If there was a bottleneck, stewards were on had to keep things moving in the right direction. The trail is all one way and there is hand sanitiser available. 

In the first part of the trail through the walled garden you will meet a fire breathing dragon and then walk through what feels like a tranquil Japanese garden. As well as a light trail, there is accompanying music (piped, not live) and you can smell the fire / feel the warmth as you walk past too. 

As you exit the walled garden you enter the enchanted forest where the fairies live. I loved this part and once you are past the flower arch (where everyone seemed to want to stop and take a family snap), it is much more spaced out. We loved the wicker trolls and displays and there was plenty of time to take it all in. 

Heidi and Jack started making their own stories up about what was happening as we walked through the structures. I will spare you the details as they are a touch on the sinister side but it was good to stretch and encourage their imagination. 

After the enchanted forest, you turn back and walk along the outside of the walled garden parallel to the avenue and towards the chapel which looks absolutely gorgeous all lit up. This section features night time animals and the installations are really cute. Again, there is plenty of room here with only a slight bottleneck at the end but it was still easy to keep our distance. 

The exit brings you out at the courtyard where the cafe is. The main toilets are here and there are a couple of food trucks. Prices were expensive for some things but not so bad for others (£5 for a burger which I thought was ok but £7 for a large mulled wine feels like a bit much). 

In tier 3 restrictions there is no seating which makes buying food and drinks at the end a little awkward. Some people were just letting their kids sit on the floor. It is down a fairly large ramp to the car park so really if you buy something, you want to eat or drink it standing up in the courtyard which probably isn't the best idea in Tier 3. What I am trying to say is that I would probably just skip the food and drink altogether. It is much easier. There weren't really any queues for the vans or in the cafe when we visited. 

If you need to catch the park and ride bus, the queue is just next to the food trucks (and well signposted). 

We spent 50 minutes at Gibside from parking our car to leaving the car park. We didn't stop for food/drink/loos and this includes a slight queue on admission as we waited for our tickets to be scanned. I think 1 hour is probably the standard time it takes for the whole experience. 

It is expensive for us for an hour's walk around some lights but it was a magical evening and really well done. We felt like the organisation was fantastic and it was a lovely family experience in the run up to Christmas. The trail felt professional and of a very high quality too. If we were a family of 2 adults and a toddler, the evening would have cost us £30 which feels like ok value. However as we are a family of 5, things like this are more expensive for us and the cost would put me off booking. If you have tickets though, you are in for a lovely evening. We had a really good time and are pleased we were able to experience the evening. 

Ignite Light Trail at Gibside : Park & Ride 

Most of the questions I have been asked about refer to the Park & Ride service. We did not use this service as we are NT members and had pre-booked a free parking space on site. I think these spaces are limited now and the main option left seems to be Park & Ride. 

The Park & Ride is based at Blaydon Rugby Club and takes around 10 minutes to get to Gibside. Face coverings should be worn in line with Gov guidelines (usual exemptions apply) and a full risk assessment has been carried out - ie all passengers must be seated with their own household and there are seats marked not in use to comply with social distancing. There is space for one pushchair/wheelchair per bus and it is advised you arrive at the Park & Ride 30 minutes before your time slot. 

From what I could see, the Park & Ride seemed to run ok. It takes you right up the hill at the entrance and as we left, there was only a queue of around 5 groups waiting for the bus back.  They are double decker buses operated by Go North East. 

Personally, I would feel ok about the 10 minutes journey. The social distancing guidelines/seating arrangements / use of face coverings would be enough to put me at ease and they didn't look busy. Everyone is different though and it really is up to you and whether you feel comfortable. A light trail isn't exactly an essential journey but at the same time, we could all do with some Christmas magic right now. 

The parking on site was a little unorganised and I was really surprised there were no stewards at all in the car park. I have never attended an event with no parking stewards.. The car park is pretty small (they don't use the overflow) and it's busy with cars reversing/trying to find a space/people walking about etc.... I think there were a few near misses with some of the cars tonight. To be honest, the Park & Ride might be the easier option. 

Ignite Light Trail at Gibside - Your Questions Answered & Top Tips

I asked my Instagram followers if they had any questions and have done my best to answer them below. 

Is it included with your National Trust Membership? 

No, there is no discount for NT members and it is not included. If available, you can pre-book a parking space free of charge using your membership number. If no spaces are coming up, it means they are fully booked for that time slot.

How far is it to walk? 

The trail is 3/4 mile long - the whole event lasted 50 minutes for us. The walk is mostly flat and should be ok for toddlers to manage. 

Are there any tickets left? 

Yes with the best availability being after Boxing Day.  Find out more and book tickets here. 

Anywhere local nearby to eat if we are moved to T3? 

I 100% recommend The Woodmans Arms which is just a few miles away and has some fabulous outdoor seating areas. Read my review of The Woodsmans Arms here. 

Is it worth the money?

As I have mentioned above, although we had a good night, I still think £60 for us for less than an hour's experience not including food/drinks is not the best value. If we were a smaller family (especially with an under 3 year old), I would book. I think £30 per group is an ok price point. The quality is fantastic and the experience feels like just the right length considering it is outdoors and in the evening. 

What is in place to stop people getting too close to each other / social distancing measures? 

There are stewards who keep crowds moving, signs and announcements to remind you to keep your distance and a one way route - you cannot go back on yourself/walk against the crowd. It was pretty well self-policed and everyone was lovely and polite. There were three areas where the crowd stopped moving but everyone stayed patient and well spaced out.  You can read more about the COVID measures in place here. 

How do buggies work with the park and ride? 

One pushchair/wheelchair can be accommodated per bus and this seems to be on a first come, first served basis. Buses did seem to be fairly regular. 

Are there any food / drink options on site?

Yes, food and drink can only be purchased at the exit of the trail and not before. There are hot drinks, burgers, sausages etc....Around 4 food vans plus the cafe. There were no queues for the food and drinks vans but also no seating areas either (thanks to Tier 3). 

How long does it take to get through it all? 

It took us 50 minutes. If you are parking on site, I would give yourself an hour plus time for food. If you are using park and ride, I would say 90 minutes +. 

Is it suitable for prams? 

The route is all on hardstanding paths and to me, seems ok for pushchairs and most wheelchairs. There were little ones in pushchairs on the evening of our visit and they seemed to manage ok. There are some inclines but nothing too steep. Ignite have stated if poor weather means that the trail becomes inaccessible for wheelchair users, they can switch to an alternative date on a case-by-case basis. 

How busy is the park and ride and how long does it take to get to Gibside?

We did not use the park and ride but there were only 5 groups in the queue for the bus home and as we passed the buses, they did not look busy and there seemed to be plenty of them. 

Is it toddler friendly? 

Yes, Ignite is suitable for all ages. Just make sure little ones are wrapped up to keep nice and warm as it is an outdoor experience. 

Top Tips for Visiting

  • Toilets are available at the start before your tickets are scanned and at the exit near the food vans. There are no additional toilets around the trail. 
  • Dress for the weather - wrap up warm and wear walking boots. Torches are recommended in case of an emergency but we managed fine without / would have used our phones in an emergency.
  • Dogs other than registered assistance dogs are not permitted
  • If you are told you need to self-isolate, Ignite will try to accommodate you on an alternative date and will offer refunds if required on a case-by-case basis (proof may be required).
  • The trail is a one-way system and self-guided / easy to follow 
  • I would probably skip the food vans due to lack of seating etc..... 
  • If you are parking on site, your tickets are scanned once you have left your car at the normal admission kiosk
  • It is busy and much more so than a normal National Trust day out. If crowds bother you at the moment, I would probably not recommend. Social distancing was ok for us and I never felt unsafe / too close to someone else for long enough who may potentially pass on COVID 19 to us, but I have read comments that this hasn't been the case for everyone who visited and some people do feel like social distancing has not been achieved. 

Below are the tips and advice provided before our visit. You will be sent your own document 24 hours before your trip which will have been updated with extra info if needed so please just use the one below as a guide and refer to your own email for the most up-to-date guidance. 


1 comment

  1. Fun for the children but as an adult I would rate it 5/10.
    Even the mulled wine was non-alcoholic!


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