MORE THAN 15,000 people walked in Blenheim Palace's winter wonderland as its spectacular Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail returned.

Designers promised the festive walkway, which opened on Friday and runs until January 1, would be 'bigger than ever', with visitors flocking to Woodstock all weekend.

This year's illuminations mark the largest Christmas celebrations ever to grace the UNESCO World Heritage Site, from stunning lasers and projections to a market village in the Great Court.

Organisers Raymond Gubbay Ltd marked the trail's third year with a Cinderella's Fairy Tale Palace Experience and CEO Anthony Findlay revealed it could not have gone any better.

He said: "We are thrilled with the successful launch of the new Cinderella Experience and the Illuminated Outdoor Trail, which now in its third year, gets better and better.

"The installations, attention to detail and music have come together to create two wonderful attractions that are just flawless.

"I was blown away by each of them as I walked round – and hope that our visitors are too."

Many people took advantage of additional public transport to visit the palace, with Oxford Bus Company running extra buses at weekends to take people to the stately home.

Additional buses will also run in the evenings, depending on passenger demand.

Young and old were greeted by a range of attractions in the formal Capability Brown-designed gardens.

Prior to the event, trail designer Zoe Bottrell urged visitors to look out for the new Field of Light, a scented Fire Garden, the Canopy of Light, and voices of the Singing Trees.

Ms Bottrell added: "From the delicate and twinkling to the grand and spectacular, the Formal Gardens will light up once again for a festive journey of exploration and wonder."

This produced some spectacular images, with the picturesque palace even more impressive in the wintry darkness.

Inside, the Great Court has turned into a market village featuring 80 chalets selling food and gifts, while the Cinderella experience is taking over the Palace State Rooms during the day.

The palace will be relieved at the trail's successful opening after receiving several complaints following two previous events this year.

Earlier this month, a Halloween-style fireworks display was marred by long queues, a ‘lack organisation’ and a 'disappointing' fireworks display, according to some guests.

In February, the stately home apologised and refunded people for its Chinese New Year celebration, after admitting it 'fell short' of its usual standards.

The lights trail opens at 4.40pm each day, with last entry at 7pm or 8pm, depending on the day.

Entry costs up to £18 per person.

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