As we dragged ourselves through the dark mornings and evenings towards the end of term, there were twinkling lights at the end of the tunnel: the North Yorkshire Moors Light Spectacular. It’s one of the most popular family-friendly events in the heritage railway’s calendar, and despite a few attempts over the last few years to try it for ourselves (thanks Covid), we’ve never been. So excitement levels were high when finally we set off to Pickering to check it out this week.
Like many York families, we have a love/hate relationship with the A64. While it might be a nice direct route to some of the best family-friendly places in North Yorkshire, it’s also an unpredictable nightmare that often resembles the world’s worst car park. Travelling to Pickering late on a Sunday afternoon, however, was a joy: with no traffic, we arrived an hour before our 6pm departure time. We were even early enough to bag a space in the closest car park (£5 to park all day).
As Light Spectacular novices, we were grateful to be greeted by friendly volunteers who issued us with our light-up wristbands and explained that the bands would sync with the train (magic!) and that we could keep them afterwards. By now, our weary kids (it’s been a long term) were definitely starting to perk up.
We made our way onto the platform, and it wasn’t long before the train twinkled its way into the station, adorned with thousands of coloured lights. It’s an amazing sight, and will certainly make us think twice before complaining about how hard it is to put the lights around our Christmas tree this year!
And it’s not just the outside of the train that was transformed: inside, fairy lights were strung along the cosy carriages, with glittering disco balls thrown in for good measure. Lights dimmed, music playing, we pulled out of the station for a journey through the North York Moors and back in musical time.
It’s hard to describe the hour on board the Light Spectacular without it sounding bizarre, but here goes. For sixty minutes, we sat in our seats, dancing and singing along to music from the 60s and beyond at top volume, while travelling through the illuminated landscape. Our younger children (10 and 8) adored it, and even our harder-to-please 12-year-old reluctantly admitted that he’d really enjoyed it. He said just expected some lights, but was really pleased that the experience was just as much about the music. The music is a pre-recorded mix with a voiceover from Voiceover Man (of X Factor fame), and it’s great, high-energy stuff (with a few dubious dad jokes thrown in).
Lots of children of toddler/pre-school age were bouncing about in their seats, looking as though they were having the time of their lives (and we bet they slept well that night). For the best views of the colourful moors, we walked to the end of the carriage and looked through the window, but beware soot in the eye!
Our trip on the Light Spectacular was a long time coming and we didn’t really know what to expect, but we loved it. We stepped off the train feeling happier than when we’d boarded, and the kids have been dancing with their light bands ever since. It’s a fun, family experience that’s perfect for bringing light and joy to this dark time of year. All aboard!
The North Yorkshire Moors Light Spectacular takes place on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway each October half term – Visit the website for details