The yuletide season is upon us – bringing with it the promise of mulled wine, mince pies and, crucially, enchanting Christmas light displays. From mile-long trails to tunnels of light, these dazzling illuminations are just the ticket for getting into the seasonal spirit.
Here’s everything you need to know about the best Christmas light displays in Britain.
Kew Gardens, London
November 17 – January 9
For Christmas, Kew turns into a technicolour wonderland, with hundreds of light installations that’ll have you mesmerised. Expect trees cloaked in glowing bulbs, a ‘tunnel of stars’, cleverly lit glasshouses and fire sculptures in a scented garden. The ‘treetop waterfall’ sees beams of light dancing across the sky, but the highlight will no doubt be the Palm House Pond finale, where a soundtrack of Christmas classics accompanies impressive water and light displays.
Off-peak adult tickets are £21.50, and £26.50 during peak hours (members are discounted), with family tickets available. Christmas at Kew is open from 4pm to 10pm with further details here.
Lightopia Festival at Heaton Park, Manchester
November 18 – January 3
Brightening up the northwest this winter is Heaton Park with its Lightopia Festival. The illuminations here go well beyond just Christmas lights, with lanterns, shimmering walkways and bright sculptures to see on the trail, all amid the grounds of a beautiful 18th-century country house.
Adult tickets cost £20 and £13 for children, with family tickets (two adults, two children) available. More information can be found here.
Lightwater Valley, North Yorkshire
Selected dates from December 4 – December 22
On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Lightwater Valley theme park is bringing festive spirit to Ripon this year with a brilliant host of attractions.
There are festive fairground rides, sing-a-long Santa shows, and even an ‘Elf Hunt’ around the park that will keep the children busy, while parents can enjoy a mulled wine from the food and drink stalls throughout.
All activities are outdoors so wrap up warm for this one. Tickets are £14.50 per person (under twos go free) with more information available here.
Oxford Street, London
Oxford Street’s lights are eagerly anticipated and always bring festive cheer to the capital’s main shopping thoroughfare.
In 2020, the theme revolved around “heroes”, and so every week a member of the public who had shown extraordinary kindness or bravery throughout the coronavirus pandemic had their name in lights above Oxford Street for seven straight days.
Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland
Selected dates from November 25 – January 2
Organised by the same events company that lights up Kew and Blenheim Palace, you can expect a kaleidoscope of colour this winter at the Royal Botanic Gardens. Walk through an arboretum of multicoloured trees, where beams of light reach between the branches and bright bulbs hug the trunks of ancient specimens. See luminescent sculptures, explore the tunnel of light and watch choreographed beams of light dance across the face of the historic Inverleith House.
Timed tickets must be booked in advance, with adults paying £20 and children £14 (although under threes go free). Family tickets are available with all details here.
November 26 – January 2
The National Trust’s famous landscaped gardens at Stourhead are the perfect place for a seasonal stroll and the Christmas lights displays are renowned too. There will be luminescent sculptures, trees wrapped in lights and giant baubles, plus the obligatory tunnel of lights for all the Instagrammers.
Tickets cost £28 for an adult with a parking space, or £20 for entry only. Children cost £14 and family tickets (for two adults and two kids) are available. More details can be found here.
Selected dates from November 19 – January 3
The UK’s National Pinetum is a spectacular place for a wintry walk, with its world-renowned collection of conifers, beautiful lakes and even a few Gruffalo characters hiding in the woods. During the Christmas season, it’s even better, with a light trail to wow and mulled wine on offer.
The trees will be illuminated in psychedelic lighting, neon strings will cast a futuristic glow amid the forests and giant baubles will hang from branches. The highlight will be the maze and light tunnel, and a fire garden will offer a warm place to rest a while.
Tickets must be booked in advance, costing adults £28 (including parking) and £13.50 for children. Under twos go free and family tickets are available. More information can be found here.
Luminate at Margam Country Park and Castle, Wales
November 18 – December 24
This illuminated mile-long trail only made its debut in 2019, but is already a firm favourite. Visitors follow the path as it meanders through the gardens and around the castle exterior at Margam Country Park and Castle to a backdrop of ambient music.
The trail takes around 60-90 minutes to complete with drinks and mulled wine huts along the route. Guests can also warm up by the fire pit in the courtyard, where they can toast marshmallows and purchase hot food and snacks.
From Monday to Thursday, tickets for adults cost £15 and £11 for children. Visits on Friday to Sunday will cost adults £17 and children £13. Under twos go free and family tickets are available throughout the week.
Admission is from 4.15pm to 9pm, with more detail available here.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Selected dates from November 19 – January 3
Blenheim Palace is going all out for Christmas this year, with a light trail featuring over a million bulbs that will brighten up its grounds, trees and footpaths.
New for 2021, children can explore the Palace rooms, each one transformed and filled with hidden surprises – from the toymaker’s workshop on a frosty Christmas Eve through the glistening Land of Snow and onto the candy-cane Kingdom of Sweets adorned with the sweetest of treats and larger-than-life gingerbread men, according to the official site.
Adult tickets for the trail cost £22.50 and parking is an additional £10. Children tickets are £16 and under twos go free.
Enchanted at Antrim Castle Gardens, Northern Ireland
November 27 – December 21
Organisers have said that the castle gardens “will become a place of enchantment for families and friends to enjoy the magic of Christmas”. Visitors can expect dazzling illuminations, a marshmallow fire pit, artisan food stalls, walkabout characters and star attractions, including the Big Wheel and The Wonderland Wood.
There is also an “Evening of Inclusive Enchantment”, which will run specifically on December 1 and 8 with restricted numbers, reduced lighting and sound levels and a quiet room, ideal for children and adults with additional needs. Family tickets (two adults and two children) cost £18, adult tickets cost £6, and children £4. Information can be found here.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
Selected dates from November 26 – December 21
Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum offers a mile-long festive trail amid some of the 18,000 trees that make up this 600-acre site. Aimed primarily at children, it follows the story of the ‘Lost Reindeer’, and asks visitors to reunite him with Santa Claus. Along the route, Father Christmas and other characters from his world will be on hand to spread festive cheer, and there will be beautiful light displays at every turn.
Two Christmas villages – one at the end and one at the beginning – offer a chance to purchase seasonal snacks, drinks and souvenirs, and fairground rides will keep the children entertained. Timed tickets must be booked in advance, costing £18 for adults and £9 for children. Under fives go free, and there are concessions for jobseekers and students. Further information is available here.