Car-free trips to seeChristmas Lightsaround the UK
Brighten up the gloomy winter months with these fabulous displays of festive wonder. Flowers, animals, incandescent waterfalls... you're sure to be enchanted. Here are all kinds of skilfully-created extravaganzas that can lighten dark November nights with illuminated works of art. Make sure you book ahead as some of these sell out fast. Bring sturdy shoes, warm clothes, and plan how you'll get away at the end (not all buses are as frequent as we'd like in the evenings). New light trails this year include one in Hatfield Park in Hertfordshire - scroll to the end for more details.
1. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The Christmas extravaganza at Blenheim is always spectacular. Inside the palace for 2022, the Kingdom of the Snow Queen involves supersized snowflakes and silver-frosted forests shimmering through the procession of state rooms. Every room glitters with detailed and intricate decorations. Seasonal music, stirring and haunting by turns, also swirls around the spectacular mile-long trail of Christmas lights that winds through Blenheim’s gardens. There are lasers, pulsing vines, tunnels of pea lights and a rose garden full of flaming torches. There are also beautiful moments when coloured lights pick out the intricacies of a craggy oak or stately cedar or sweep across the wooded banks of the huge ornamental lakes that make Blenheim’s park so attractive at any time of year.
- How to get to Blenheim Palace: follow Good Journey’s directions. There are regular buses from Oxford and Oxford Parkway stations to the gate of Blenheim Park in the pretty market town of Woodstock so it’s easy to visit – and make a day of it.
- When? 18 November 2023 – 1 January 2024
- How much? See the Blenheim Palace website for the range of tickets.
- Last bus back? Bus S7 and bus S3 run regularly back to Oxford via Oxford Parkway station until late at night so there’s no problem heading back after you’ve walked through the gardens if you plan ahead.
2. RHS Wisley, Surrey
More lights, more fire, more spectacular fountains than ever before. The Glow Festival at RHS Wisley is back with a new trail to enchant the whole family. The route, with its colourful illuminations, projections and music reveals the Jellicoe Canal, the old Laboratory and the Wisteria Walk in a dazzling new light. Follow a path through the twinkling gardens to the Glasshouse. Inside, there is a white Christmas-themed horticultural display, made from white poinsettias, and a glittering stream that flows from the waterfall. In the village square, festive chalets sell seasonal faves like bratwurst, toasted marshmallows, hot chocolate, mulled wine and lots more.
- How to get to RHS Wisley: follow Good Journey’s directions.
- When? 24 November 2023 to 2 January 2024.
3. Kew Gardens, London
Kew’s Christmas light trail started ten years ago and has gone from strength to strength. This year there are some new features, including the illusion of a watery abyss in the lake, as well as the iconic, Instagram-able projections and lasers playing over the Palm House and lots more. Enjoy coloured lights reflected in the lake and fountains, illuminated flowers and feathers, an animated walkway of shining lily pads and sparkling silver trees (thanks to Christmas at Kew, Sony Music and Richard Haughton for the photo).
- How to get to Kew Gardens: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
- When? 15 November 2023 to 7 January 2024.
4. Wakehurst, West Sussex
There’s also a light trail at Wakehurst, Kew’s wilder sister garden in Sussex, featuring a lantern walk, immersive soundscapes, and the UK’s tallest living Christmas tree, decorated with 1,800 fairy lights. Glowing yellow bees, three feet long and realistically buzzing, hover over incandescent flowers; a giant woodpecker clings to a tree trunk and a luminous frog stands guard over a lily pond. Thousands of imaginative lanterns are handmade for Glow Wild by community groups and local art collective Same Sky. The trail passes a wishing tree hung with visitors’ messages for the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP 15) in December.