I know technically the Christmas season has passed us by again but we had such a good time at the Bluebell Railway this year that I wanted to share our experience with you, incase you are doing any early bird planning for next year!!
The Bluebell Railway offers a couple of different options for train rides over the festive period. But Monkey wanted to see the reindeer which is the one we chose, tickets were £17.50 each for the standard carriage. You can opt for a private sleeper compartment but it depends on the size of your party as to whether it works value wise. However even if we had enough to make it worth while I think I would still opt for a standard ticket in the future, as we had live music and carols on the journey up and down which really added to the experience. The train leaves from the East Grinstead station, the experience lasted over three hours so don’t park in Sainsburys. We opted to park in a carpark just up the road, there is also the station carpark and some other options listed on their website.
When we arrived we walked through a little walkway onto the platform, where the adults were offered mince pies and the children smarties, before boarding the train.
It was about a half an hour journey from East Grinstead to Kingscote station to meet the reindeer. The train stops at Kingscote for around 30 minutes which gives you ample time to visit them. If like our friend who was feeding at the time you prefer to stay in the warm with the newborn (understandably) then train stays ‘open’ as such. There is hand washing facilities after your visit but you may also want to talk wipes/alcohol gel with you as they were having problems with the plumbing when we visited.
There were three reindeers including this rather large antler breed!! Monkey was very impressed saying that it was a ‘proper reindeer’, all the children had the opportunity to feed them some carrots. Unlike some similar attractions they were still interested in being fed so the children were very happy. They aso had a snow machine which Monkey enjoyed running in an out of!
Back on the train the carols began and the musicians handed out song sheets incase you had forgotten those carols from school assemblies long ago. It was a really festive feeling with the live music and the singing. The carriages were all decked out in decorations and garlands which added to the feel. By the time we arrived at Horsted Keynes to see Father Christmas it was dark adding to the atmosphere.
The platform was all decked out in Christmas lights with Victorian games, all we really needed was a splattering of snow to add to the festive feeling. As you needed to queue to see Father Christmas we decided to explore first and headed to the little cafe. Which was selling mulled wine, hot chocolate, pantatone and mince pies. The boys opted for a candy cane each. This turned out to be a good move as table space is limited and it got quite busy as the queue for Father Christmas went down.
There was a number of Victorian games set up to entice the children, including hooplas, ball games and catch the rat. They cost 20p each and you could buy a ticket for six games for £1. The boys had great time keeping themselves occupied.
We only needed to queue for a short time to see Father Christmas, the train will stay to make sure everyone has had a chance so there is no need to rush. He was in a lovely snow covered log cabin surrounded by white Christmas Trees. Each child had a chance for a quick chat and a gift which came in a little Bluebell railway drawstring bag. The gifts were stuffed toy animals which went down a treat with all the children. Monkey particularly loved his lion which accompanies him to bed at the moment.
During the journey back the carols were specifically aimed at the children including all the classics such as Jingle Bells and Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer. I think the journey back took around an hour. Monkey had a fantastic time as did we with the added benefit of feeling that we got good value for money. It is definitely something we will be looking to partake in again next year. This year the trains ran twice a day on the weekends in December. You will be able to find out more on their website here.
What festive adventures did you get up to this year with your little ones?