Covid-19 Enjoy car-free adventures and travel safely.

Car-free trips to seeChristmas Lights and Festivalsaround the UK

Covid-19 Enjoy car-free adventures and travel safely.

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).

  • County: around the UK
  • Great for: Christmas | family fun | forests | gardens | historic houses | Shopping |
  • Refreshments: cafes and kiosks, often pubs nearby
  • Please note: researched/updated in November 2021. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 4. RHS Wisley, Surrey

    As joyous as a summer garden in full bloom, the Glow Festival of plant-themed lights at RHS Wisley is a thing of wonder. The familiar, ancient trees are lit up so visitors can see them afresh and really admire their beautiful wintry shapes. All four seasons are represented in a luminous display of artistry: there are glowing snowdrops on Seven Acres and the Jellicoe Canal is lined with dazzling daffodils. The glasshouses are an incandescent rainbow and giant glowing waterlilies are reflected in the pond. This year. with the new Welcome Building to start from, the trail takes an exciting new route too.

  1. 5. Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire

  1. 6. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

  1. 7. Reading's Twilight Trail, Berkshire

    Reading’s seasonal trail through the town’s Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens has a biscuit theme, to celebrate the fact that Reading was once home to the world’s biggest biscuit factory. Unique illuminated installations include The Lion’s Roar, glowing stepping stones and lots more. X Factor star Danyl Johnson will compere carols sung by BBC’s Gospel Choir of the Year 2019 winners. There will be festive food, including marshmallow-toasting and Japanese cuisine, with chalet bars open for drinks and – of course – biscuits for sale.

    • How to get to Reading’s Twilight Trail: The trail is a short walk from Reading’s railway station or from the city centre. There are regular trains from London and Oxford. You can also get around easily by bike or by bus, including the River Rapids buses.
    • When? From 3 to 31 December 2021.
    • Last bus back? There are trains until late at night and bus X40 heads for Oxford until 11.15pm
  1. 8. Christmas at Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire

    Trails of winter lights, a legendary Christmas Fair, festive afternoon teas, and twinkling decorations all make Christmas at Waddesdon a dazzling experience. Free with admission to the huge grounds of this ornate mansion, there will be projections on the walls, multicoloured and dancing lights, multi-sensory displays and exciting installations under artfully-lit trees. The trail this year is the longest ever at Waddesdon and follows a new route through the formal parterre and the rose garden.

    Waddesdon Manor’s chateau-style turrets look like a fairy tale castle at any time of year, but they’re even more surreal bathed in iridescent colours that shift in sync with the soundtrack. It’s open from noon although the lights only start glowing from dusk. There’s also a Christmas Market with wooden chalets and twinkling trees, featuring more than 80 different stalls selling crafty gifts and artisanal food. There are festive teas, wine tastings and exhibitions too.

    • How to get to Christmas at Waddesdon: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • When? Selected dates from 13 Nov 2021 to 3 Jan 2022
    • Last bus? There are buses to Aylesbury from Waddesdon until 7.25pm or book a taxi to Aylesbury Parkway railway station, just three miles away, where there are trains to London Marylebone at 7.40pm or 9.10pm.
  1. 9. Christmas Wonderland at Perth Riverside

    New for this year, a festive lighting experience is launching beside the River Tay in Perth. There are musical trees, the sound of sleigh bells, giant snowflakes and sparkling magical effects.

    • When? 10th to 23rd December 2021
    • How to get there? Perth railway station is about 15 minutes’ walk from the seasonal lights and food stalls in Norie Miller Walk. To reach them from the railway station, follow the map below.
    • For more adventures around Perth, see our car-free guide.
  1. 10. Leonardslee Gardens, West Sussex

    Leonardslee’s Grade 1 listed gardens will see colourful projections onto the historic buildings and a silver moon floating over the lake. Plus imaginative installations, live music and family-friendly theatrical performances.

    • When?
    • How to get here? Bus 17 from Horsham to Brighton stops just outside until after 7pm.
  1. 11. RHS Bridgewater's Glow

    New RHS Bridgewater Gardens will be hosting their first light trail this winter. Follow a dazzling display through the new site to see it at its festive best. Thanks to RHS Harlow Carr and Charlotte Graham for the photo of the Glow festival there.

    • When? Selected days from November 17th to December 30th 2021
    • How to get to RHS Bridgewater car-free? Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • Last bus? Buses stop near the gates until late at night.
  1. 12. Bluebell Railway

    The fabulous Bluebell Railway will be hosting SteamLights this winter. Book ahead to ride a steam train, covered in colourful lights, which will brighten the wintry landscape with seasonal music, festive displays and storytelling. The first standard gauge preserved steam railway in the world to run a public passenger service, the Bluebell railway also boasts the longest tunnel and longest viaduct of any UK heritage railway and more steam locos than anywhere outside the National Rail Museum in York.

    • How to get to the Bluebell Railway car-free: arriving from London Victoria, visitors can take the train to East Grinstead – an attractive hour-long journey on the mainline railway, a short walk, and then full steam ahead!
  • RHS Wisley garden lights - Car-free trips to see Christmas Magic.
  • Westonbirt Aboretum lights - Car-free trips to see Christmas Magic.