You know that Christmas has arrived as soon as you step over the threshold of Kew Gardens this festive season because, hidden away from the busy streets of Richmond, these 255-year-old Royal Botanic Gardens have been transformed into a frosty, fairy-lit secret world; where the smell of mulled wine and charred marshmallows floats through the frost-bitten air and shards of coloured light stretch upwards into the night sky.
It’s the sort of place you’d stumble into if you finally managed to get through the wardrobe and into Narnia and where the Snow Queen might swoop down on you at any moment as you wander between snowflake installations that overflow with light and backlit trees that beam emerald, scarlet and purple after dark.
I visited this week on opening night to trip the light fantastic along Kew’s shadowed pathways. While following the illuminated snowflakes, I wound my way around a mistletoe-studded snug and a lantern-covered wishing tree; navigated a fire-lit lake and a shimmering tunnel of light; sang my way past snow elves in cobalt and aqua silk and sequins through Santa’s Grotto (yes, songs from Disney’s Frozen may have popped up) and spun like a disorientated snowflake on the garden’s brightly-painted carousel and helter skelter.
It’s hard to describe the magic of Christmas at Kew without giving away too many of the garden’s secrets, but it’s safe to say that it should be on your Christmas hitlist no matter what your age; I saw everyone from young couples to baby sugar plum fairies and kids with LED light sabres running around in glee at this winter wonderland.