This is the year for after-dark winter illuminations. That means carpets of stars, fiery fish, dancing fairies and much more as gardens, country estates and forests have ramped up their light shows – and all are well-organised with timed entries, one-way systems and social distancing along paths to make visitors feel safe and welcome.
All visits need to be pre-booked, and many are selling out fast, so don’t delay …
PALACE OF STARS
A tunnel of lights illuminates the way at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire
Blue light fizzes through the trees from Blue Neuron, a light installation made of reworked heat-treated plastic bottles while the favourite Heart of Stars illumination scatters shards of light across the lawn at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
Download the My Christmas Trails app to find all the info, plus a garden map, food and drink options and Christmas music tracks.
DON’T MISS: Sea of Light, a carpet of tiny lights flashing in time to festive tunes.
DETAILS: Adult £19, Child 5-16 £13, Family £63, till Jan 3, blenheimpalace.com. Tier 2.
A couple enjoy one of the light displays at Kew Gardens – displays will remain until January 17
London’s Kew Gardens has ramped up the magic again for its eighth year. The Temperate House is a hotbed of laser projections, and visitors can walk under the stars into a glittering tunnel of pea lights to the beautifully illuminated Rose Garden as well as immersing their senses in the scented Fire Garden where fiery sculptures glow.
DON’T MISS: The Palm House Pond finale.
DETAILS: Adult £19.50, Child £12, Family £57. Till Jan 17, kew.org/kew-gardens. Tier 3.
Walk in a winter wonderland at Bedgebury National Pinetum, Goudhurst, Kent, where tree-tops glisten with silvery shards of light, snowflakes and stars. Children will love the hundreds of colourful boats bobbing on the lake and singing trees that rise high into the night sky in a forest of ever-changing beams of colour. Then gather round the fire-pit to toast marshmallows.
DON’T MISS: The Water Fountain, where jets of light dance to Christmas classics.
DETAILS: Adult £19.50, Child 3-16 £13, Family £60. Runs until Jan 10 (selected evenings), christmasatbedgebury.co.uk. Tier 3.
Two revellers enjoy the show at the light trail around Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens
When darkness falls, follow a one-mile illuminated trail of trees decked with lanterns at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Dancing lines of light play across the branches in the Laser Garden and scent hits your senses in the Fire Garden. Watch as historic Inverleith House becomes a blaze of colour with choreographed beams of light.
DON’T MISS: The Tunnel of Light.
DETAILS: Adult £19, Member £16, Child 4-16 £13, Family £60. Runs from today until Jan 3 (closed Dec 25, 31 and Jan 1), rbge.org.uk/christmas. Level 3.
PATHS OF JOY
This year RHS Garden Rosemoor, which is in north Devon, has dressed oak trees in hundreds of lights and lays on pre-booked hot food hampers
Giant oaks, each dressed with more than 200 sets of lights, and underlit trees reflecting into the lake, bring drama to RHS Rosemoor’s extraordinarily beautiful valley setting at Great Torrington in Devon.
Even the cottage garden bathe in illuminations, and hard-surfaced paths make the garden easily accessible for families with pushchairs or wheelchairs.
DON’T MISS: A pre-booked hot food hamper full of goodies.
DETAILS: Adult £11.80, Child 5-16 years £5.90, Family £29.60. Runs till Jan 4, Thursday to Saturday, except Boxing Day, rhs.org.uk/rosemoor. Tier 2.
The 18th-century gardens at the National Trust’s Gibside Hall in Newcastle upon Tyne were fashioned by coal baron George Bowes with two things in mind: spectacular views and moments of wonder. So lose yourself in a labyrinth of flickering lanterns with stars and spheres illuminating paths alongside woodland wildlife sculpted out of willow.
DON’T MISS: The fiery fish in the Grand Avenue.
DETAILS: Adult £15, Child (3-16) £10, Family £11.25. Runs from Dec 11-30, ignitetrails.co.uk/trail/gibside. Tier 3.
THE MANOR IS ABLAZE
Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire puts on an annual show from December 3 to 23
Spectacular lights line the trees and house at Waddesdon Manor
Shop for presents and soak up the sights and smells of the Christmas Fair at Waddesdon Manor, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. But when darkness falls it’s time to wander along a winter trail under magically illuminated tree canopies. Look out for the valley of flames and bathe in the light of suspended globes in a walk-through musical light show.
DON’T MISS: The installation in the stables.
DETAILS: Adult £16, Child £8, Family £40. Runs to Jan 3, waddesdon.org.uk. Tier 2.
SANTA COMES TO CALL
At Westonbirt, the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, children take an enchanting journey to the ‘West Pole’ through a candy cane forest and brightly lit trees before meeting the elves who help in Santa’s workshop. They may even glimpse a special guest from the North Pole.
On December 22, from 4pm-5pm, the trail will be adapted to suit those with special needs, so strong flashing lights, loud sound effects and smoke effects will be de-activated.
DON’T MISS: The Gruffalo sculptures in the Old Arboretum.
DETAILS: Adults £16, child £8. From Dec 10-13, 18-22, forestryengland.uk. Tier 2.