Car-free trips to seeChristmas Lights and Festivalsaround 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. If your immediate response is to say "bah humbug" then these are particularly for you. Here are all kinds of skilfully-created extravaganzas that can convert even the most grumpy Scrooge to the magic of Christmas or lighten dark November nights with illuminated works of art. Bring sturdy shoes and plan how you'll get away at the end (not all buses are as frequent as we'd like in the evenings).
1. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The Christmas extravaganza at Blenheim is always spectacular. Inside the palace for 2021, the state rooms have been transformed into a sparkly maze of Nutcracker-themed dioramas. Every room is shimmering with detailed and intricate decorations, from glittering snowy landscapes to the sugar-fine Kingdom of Sweets. 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? 19 November 2021 to 3 January 2022
- How much? See the Blenheim Palace website for the range of tickets.
- Last bus back? Bus 7 runs hourly 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. Chester Zoo
Glowing birds and animals, a twinkling tunnel, a luminous blue frog or octopus… the after-dark Lantern adventure at Chester Zoo encounters some incredible sights. Multicoloured lamps hover over the fields and huge bright flowers float beside giant lantern creatures. Chester Zoo is always a wonderful place to get some colour therapy on a wintry day: clownfish swim through coral, huge blue morpho butterflies hover among scarlet hibiscus and candy pink flamingos balance in a grey-green lake. But this Christmas event takes it to a new level. The path winds through the zoo, crossing the bridges into nine areas, each with a different theme. It kicks off in the Moonlit Meadow, where there is a lifelike giraffe and elephant. huge model animals, lit from within…
- How to get to Chester Zoo: Follow Good Journey’s directions. Bus X1 runs regularly from Chester station.
- When? 12 November to 23 December 2021.
- Last bus? Although there are regular buses until late at night, they currently only stop at the zoo until 5.49pm. Getting there will be easy, but you might want to book a taxi for the way back.
3. Plymouth Illuminate Festival
Plymouth is hosting the immersive Illuminate light festival again this year: artworks made from light are projected around the city with performances and interactions, installations and dazzling displays.
- How to get to Plymouth’s Illuminate festival: The spectacular festival is based at Ocean Studios in Royal William Yard with events at Market Hall in Devonport. There are lots of different ways to get there by bus or on foot from Plymouth railway station or from the centre of town. Bus 34 from the city centre stops very nearby every half an hour.
- When? 15 to 28 November 2021
- Last bus? Hourly buses until after 10pm.
- Plymouth also has a Christmas Market from 2 to 19 December 2021.