Car-free trips to seeChristmas Lightsaround the UK

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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.

  • 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 2023. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch: features@goodjourney.org.uk
  1. 5. Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire

  1. 6. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire

  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. 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 a Christmas Market too with dozens of different stalls selling crafty gifts and artisanal food.

    • And this year, along with a longer-than-ever light trail, the rooms inside Waddesdon Manor are decked and open to the public for the first winter season since 2019. Wander through the conservatory, with its ferns and marble statues, and the Red Drawing Room, with its gold ceiling, candelabras and portraits by Gainsborough.
    • How to get to Christmas at Waddesdon: Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • When? Selected dates from 22 November 2023 to 1 January 2024
    • 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 direct trains to London Marylebone and stations in between at 7.40pm or 9.12pm.
  1. 9. 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? 24 November to 21 December 2023
    • How to get here? Bus 17 to and from Horsham railway station and Brighton stops just outside until well after 7pm, but do plan ahead.
  1. 10. RHS Bridgewater's Glow

    RHS Bridgewater Gardens are hosting a light trail again this winter. Follow a dazzling display through the new site to see it at its festive best.

    • When? Selected days from 15 November to 30 December 2023.
    • 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. 11. 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 and decorations. 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: from London Victoria, take the train to East Grinstead station. Then there’s a very short walk to the Bluebell Railway.
    • When? Selected dates from 13 November to 31 December 2023.
  1. 12. Hatfield Park

    Hatfield Park, where Elizabeth I grew up, has a brand new light trail for 2022. This spectacular house and gardens are right opposite the railway station at Hatfield in Hertfordshire so it’s really easy for car-free visitors to get there!

    • How to get to Hatfield car-free? Follow Good Journey’s directions.
    • When? 30 November – 31st December 2023.
    • Tunnels of lights and ancient floodlit trees, jewel-bright colours, glittering effects and hot drinks to warm you up at the end of it. What are you waiting for? Wrap up warm and set off for some Christmas magic.