Car-free guide to Early Spring Light Shows 2022around the UK

Light shows are more popular than ever this covid-ridden winter: inventive and mostly outdoors, they brighten the long dark nights. For those of us drawn to their sparkle, like moths to a flame, the good news is that they are not just for Christmas and you don’t have to have a car. These pioneering, accessible attractions, cities and hotels are hosting illuminating art exhibitions, trails and festivals of light in January, February and March 2022. Book ahead and wrap up warm.

  • County: around the UK
  • Great for: cities | family fun | festivals | gardens | good cafés | historic houses |
  • Refreshments: lots of fabulous cafes and restaurants
  • Please note: researched/updated in January 2022. If anything’s changed or you have more tips to share, do get in touch:
  1. Nymans, Sussex

    The mock medieval mansion at Nymans in West Sussex has grounds and formal gardens that are full of interest even in winter. Mossy tree roots, tall lime avenues and conical conifers are the setting for fantastical creatures, lantern-hung walkways and firelit lawns in another Ignite Fire and Fantasy trail.

    • The family-friendly trail takes about an hour to wander through, leading past themed illuminated spaces with matching music. It runs from Friday 11th February to Sunday 27th February and from Wednesday 2nd March to Sunday 6th March, bookable time slots from 6.15pm (earlier on some nights).
    • Tickets cost £16.50/£12 for adults/kids without a car.
    • Buses 271 and 273 from Crawley stop at the Red Lion nearby. There are buses until 6.40pm from Crawley and buses back until late. They do get less frequent as the evening goes on so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.
  1. Festival of Light, Aberdeen

    The soaring façades and gothic gables of the world’s second largest granite building, Marischal College in central Aberdeen, are among the epic canvases for this mid-Feb festival. 2022 has been designated Scotland’s Year of Stories. SPECTRA, Aberdeen’s Festival of Light, draws on the theme to present new commissions around the city centre as lines and images from Scottish prose and poetry illuminate grey stone walls. Light-formed artworks play across Marischal Square and the surrounding streets.

    • There are also related events in Aberdeen art gallery, which won a 2021 architectural award as Scotland’s Building of the Year and is open late.
    • Apart from ticketed events, the festival is free and open from 6.30-9.30pm daily on the 10th to 13th February 2022
    • For more car-free adventures in the area, see our guide to Aberdeen.
  1. Winter Forest Lights, Longleat

    Center Parcs has enhanced its resorts this winter with glittery new forest wonderland experiences until late February 2022. Icicles of light, twirling in the trees above arches of little bulbs and glades of luminous flowers light up the wooded paths after sunset. There are bookable activities to enhance the theme and the usual woodland-cabins with subtropical swimming pools combo to enjoy alongside.

    • Winter Forest Lights breaks start from £529 for a midweek (four night) break in a two-bedroom lodge. Monday 10 January – Sunday 27 February 2022
    • Hourly bus 53 from Warminster to Frome stops at close to the Center Parcs entrance.
  1. Light Festival, Battersea Power Station

    Six illuminated installations by international artists are on display around Battersea Power Station until the end of February. Huge tiger-shaped lanterns, made from recycled materials, pulse with low energy LED bulbs; a big-pixel screen turns visitors’ movements into blocks of light. There are light-emitting antennae and a fluorescent greenhouse – all part of a new Light Festival at this iconic London venue. The jetty has become a luminous walkway with sunset-coloured bars of light along the edges, framing the view back to the bulb-hung Albert bridge. Near one end of the walkway, an artwork called Run Beyond by Italian artist shows a figure running and jumping. It looks particularly good against the floodlit backdrop of the towering power station.

    • Some of the bars and restaurants in the project’s Circus West Village are offering Light Festival menus. Cinnamon Kitchen has startlingly turquoise Cinnamon Lighthouse cocktails and a Set Menu for £15/£18 for two/three courses. There’s stylish industrial chic decor, a relaxed all-day-dining vibe and fresh, authentic street food-style snacks like bhel puri chaat.
    • The festival is free and runs from 13th January to 27th February 2022
    • There are lots of ways to get there by public transport. A new Battersea Power Station tube opened in September 2021. There are other tube and overground stations too and you can even arrive by boat along the river. The Thames Clippers Uber boat service to Central London runs boats from the pier outside until about 9.30pm on weekdays and 10.30pm at weekends – the timetable is here.