I love Christmas, even more than Ebenezer Scrooge did after he’d been visited by four ghosts on Christmas Eve (count them again if you doubt me). I’ve been known to stare at Christmas lights in a trance like state, until my eyes go all woogly. So, imagine my excitement when I was invited to the press launch of Christmas at the Botanics. After a successful debut in 2017, Christmas at the Botanics has returned to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, and it’s bigger and better than before.
Christmas at the Botanics in November!
Generally, I have a rule. Christmas is banned until December. Christmas decorations in November bring out my inner Grinch. My rule dictates that no Christmas movies, music or festive frivolity will be tolerated until at least the 1st of December. Then it’s ‘ding dong merrily on high’ and ‘fa, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la’ all the way. This year, I ripped up the rule book on 23rd November.
With Mr G working, my Mum accompanied me on this ‘Scotland (without) The Wee White Dug’ assignment. Her role was to be companion, bloggers assistant and occasional photo prop. Little did I know it would be like having Mr G by my side, but back when he was a rookie blogger’s assistant who infuriatingly wandered into shot every time I pointed my camera, and spoke the second I hit record to shoot a video.
We arrived at the botanics as the daylight was waning. A shimmering Christmas tree outside stopped us in our tracks. Much oohing and ahhing later, we joined the press pack inside the Gateway Restaurant for coffee, chocolate brownies, and mince pies.
Let the twinkling lights commence
High on sugar and (unseasonably early) festive cheer, we headed into the garden to begin winding our way round a mile-long trail of light and sound installations. Over a million twinkling lights would guide us.
The haunting sound of Ave Maria floated through the air, drawing us towards its source. Music has a profound ability to transport you through space and time. Suddenly, I was standing on the shore of Loch Katrine, the setting for Sir Walter Scott’s epic poem Lady of the Lake, which inspired Schubert to write Ave Maria.
The first light installation on the trail quickly brought me back to the here and now though. Carbonium by French artist TILT wouldn’t have looked out of place in Tim Burton’s Christmas Town – I loved it.
We continued along the trail, passing under a canopy of gorgeous white lights.
Never work with
children & animals parents
Before we immersed ourselves in Squidsoup’s Feast of Light, I decided to take a couple of “candid” snaps.
Me: “Mum, stand in front of the installation and look at the lights.”
Me: “No, don’t look at me. Turn around and look at the lights.”
Mum (looking at me): “Like this?”
Me: “No, turn right around and look at the lights.”
Mum (turning halfway around): “What?”
Me: “The lights, look at the lights.”
Me: “Och never mind, let’s just go inside.”
Arms outstretched, we walked into the lights. I say we, but I soon realised I was alone. Up and down I went looking for my awol parent. Had she been beamed into an alien spacecraft by the lights?
Finally she reappeared.
Me: “It was fun in there.”
Mum: “Are you allowed inside?”
With an exasperated eye-roll I marched her through Feast of Light, and onto the next installation before the garden closed for the evening.
Christmas trees, shimmering snowflakes and churros
Being surrounded by Christmas trees, was a sobering reminder that a third of the world’s 615 conifer species are currently listed as threatened. A scary thought when you think of the legacy we’re leaving for future generations.
We continued along the trail, cheered by pretty lights and festive music. With plans already made for dinner later, it took a remarkable display of willpower to pass the tempting delights dotted along the trail. Chocolate slathered churros, toasting marshmallows, sausages and mulled wine – mmmm, I could have eaten them all.
Fire, dancing trees and a cathedral of light
Fire Garden hypnotised us with dozens of dancing flames. We stopped for a while to soak up some heat, and to listen to a lovely instrumental version of Silent Night. Silent Night conjures up images of cold, stillness for me, so I loved how it’d been used in an installation featuring warmth and movement.
The further round the trail we went, the more spectacular it got. I love the grand Victorian architecture of the palm house at the botanics – it’s the epitome of Edinburgh elegance.
Watching it turn all the colours of the rainbow as Christmas trees danced in the windows was an absolute delight.
I wondered if the trail had peaked too soon with the palm house display, but I needn’t have worried. What followed was incredible.
Cathedral of Light is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Being enveloped by 100,000 lights as you walk through a 70 metre long tunnel is an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
A miracle happened in the Cathedral of Light too. My Mum perfected the walking off into the distance shot. I’ll make a blogger’s assistant of her yet.
Santa, I know him
Leaving the Cathedral of Light I heard a familiar booming voice and felt a rush of excitement – SANTA.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to see Santa with my Mum, so I was long overdue a trip to visit the big fella.
We found him standing outside a cute little cabin with one of his helpers. I inched forward for a better look. It wasn’t any old Santa either. This was a quality Santa, like the one you see in movies and fancy American malls.
Dear Santa – the grand finale
Christmas at the Botanics ended with a phenomenal grand finale. Dear Santa by designer Ross Ashton saw Inverleith House spring to life, transformed beyond recognition by amazing projected images. We watched spellbound as gingerbread men, dancing robots and Santa appeared.
It was a brilliant end, to a fun night out. It may only have been the 23rd of November but I for one was feeling super, Christmassy when I left the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh that evening.
Christmas at the Botanics runs until 29th December 2018. Tickets cost from £14 for adults and £8 for children. Children under four and carers go free. For more information, or to book, visit the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh website.
Thanks to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for inviting me to their Christmas at the Botanics press launch. Although my entry to the event was on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.
Until next time …………