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Lilidorei at Alnwick Garden: Why to visit the largest play structure in the world

WWith unspoiled sandy beaches, numerous castles, close to both the coast and the countryside, Northumberland is the UK’s tourist gem loved by tourists. In fact, its picturesque little village of Bamburgh was recently named the UK’s best seaside town for the third year in a row.

Half an hour south of Bamburgh is Alnwick, a famous market town with a castle that can be seen in Harry Potter franchise and the new Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie.

Right next to Alnwick Castle and hugely popular with visitors is the beautiful Alnwick Gardens. This attraction is known for the Poison Garden – where, behind black iron gates, there are 100 species of “intoxicating and hypnotic” plants – along with Grand Cascade waterfalls, Cherry Orchard and floral accents other.

Visitors flock to Alnwick Gardens, a registered charity with an 18th-century history that operates year-round. But it’s a new addition, in the form of the world’s largest amusement structure, that has caused waves of excitement for tourists and locals alike.

The game structure is set in the middle of a growing Nordic Christmas tree forest

(Phil Wilkinson)

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Lilidorei is an otherworldly-themed magical fun village, a £15.5 million project developed by the Duchess of Northumberland, who has led the scramble for gardens in the middle 1990s after they fell into disrepair.

Within the village – which rhymes with the story – is the game structure, alongside elves, trolls, fairy tales and elves, designed to appeal to both children and adults. The entire site is built with natural materials and is completely plastic-free, while more than 1,300 Nordic Christmas trees surround the area.

Before officially opening to the public today, I visited to see if this brand new attraction could live up to its growing hype.

A medieval gate heralds the beginning of the amusement village at Lilidorei

(Helen Wilson-Beevers for The Independent)

Following the winding road next to The Treehouse restaurant to the entrance of Lilidorei and my two children, we were immersed in the woodland landscape. While the revelry village is easily accessible in the gardens, Lilidorei is cleverly hidden from the road and feels hidden (which adds some magical charm) . There was a medieval gate signaling its entrance, and as we entered the village, we noticed the footpaths were speckled with gold glittering in the sunlight. Here’s our first taste of the magical details inside.

The 26m high play structure looks very majestic. In the plot of the village, the structure is Elfwin Drin castle, the residence of King Lilidorei. It is suitable for children aged 11 and under, but during our visit older children and adults are encouraged to explore as well. There are six slides, including four pipe slides, one slide track, and a fireman’s pole.

Many of the slides run from different heights and the guests we saw enjoyed gliding down them and climbing straight back into the structure again. In addition, the adventure play area boasts 170 meters of giant rope bridge. I spotted children happily climbing up the wire arches looking down at the ground below, and these elements reflected the hanging cages.

The wooden design comes in red, brown, and green, with cute finishes like the top of the tower designed to look like an elf hat and the butterfly that frames some of the windows. Its overall aesthetic is reminiscent of an enchanting castle deep in the woods.

Read our review of best Northumberland hotel

Features unique design details throughout, adding to the enchanting atmosphere

(Phil Wilkinson)

My children have enjoyed this structure for hours and have been raving about all the fun elements ever since. Many parents sit on benches scattered around the front lawn, and I can see this is a crowded picnic spot – so bringing blankets would be a practical move. As I sat there, I heard a few parents say how refreshing it is to just watch their children play, and that this break away from modern technology was part of the Duchess of Northumberland’s inspiration for Lilidorei .

Next, we headed towards the village’s clan trail. Here, you can pass by the residences of all nine clans in Lilidorei, including the haunted house, the troll house, the squiffle house, the elf house and the hobgoblin house. It has thatched roofs and grass, gingerbread houses, colorful decorations, giant mushrooms, and festivals throughout as the clans are always busy preparing for Christmas.

Expect to see a fairytale combination of sweet sugar details like seashells and chrysanthemums and darker, ghostly elements like graveyards. As you walk around, you can clearly see how the area comes to life during both Halloween and Christmas.

The Secret Keeper is there to explain each element of the game

(Phil Wilkinson)

The clan homes come complete with functional doorbells that activate everything from giggles and burps to screams, while the magic continues as it peeks through each window. Staff members known as ‘secret keepers’ are on hand to explain the origins of each clan and there’s plenty to discover as you walk around.

Near these cottages are food and drink lodges with dishes to serve from the caterers at The Treehouse, as well as ice cream and drinks. Lilidorei is a completely self-contained part of Alnwick Gardens, so you can visit the village on its own or on a trip to both. On your way out, you’ll notice a cozy gift shop in the woods filled with Christmas tree decorations and Lilidorei-themed memorabilia, if you want to take home a souvenir.

Choose between 9:00-11:45am, 12:30pm-3:15pm or 4:00-7:00pm at Lilidorei in Alnwick Gardens. Tickets cost £12 for children and £15 for adults. A combined ticket between Lilidorei and Alnwick Garden costs £15 for children and £24 for adults.


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