Light fantastic: the UK’s best Christmas illuminations | Travel

Belton House, Lincolnshire

Covering 1,300 acres, at Christmas Belton’s essential sights are incorporated into a mile-long trail, with giant baubles, glowing flowers and snowflakes. Festive music adds an extra seasonal touch amid giant candles.
Until 3 January, £19 adults, £13.50 children, christmasatbelton.com

Edinburgh Zoo

Tunnel of light: Edinburgh Zoo’s Christmas Nights is on until 3 January. Photograph: Andrew Milligan/PA

It’s real penguins and virtual polar bears this winter at Edinburgh Zoo. A trail leads you past many of the zoo’s key sights, all augmented by projections that help turn the experience into an Arctic safari. It’s a mile-long route and is suitable for both wheelchairs and buggies. There are also drinks and food available.
Until 3 January, £18 adults, £12 children, edinburghzoo.org.uk

Armagh Observatory and Planetarium

This 18th-century observatory with beautiful landscaped grounds, known as the Armagh Astropark, is taking a scientific approach with a walking trail, transforming the grounds into a magical world of sound and light installations, including space-themed sculptures.
From 16-23 December, £10 adults and children, armagh.space

Parking Lot Social

If you prefer your festive entertainment in the car, look no further than Parking Lot Social – taking place in a variety of locations, including Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow. Pantomimes are filmed live and relayed on big screens, alongside classic Christmas movies, karaoke and a food market delivering seasonal sustenance direct to your car.
Various dates until 30 December, from £42 per car, theparkinglotsocial.co.uk

Kew Gardens, London

Branching out: Christmas at Kew Gardens.
Branching out: Christmas at Kew Gardens. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images

Kew balances innovation with tradition. The entrance is always a glittering archway, but after that each year sees new additions around its 300 acres – there are tunnels with lanterns and glowing pink cherry trees, while the rose garden springs into voice. The finale is at the Palm House with laser beams and jets of light. (Sister site Wakehurst in Sussex will have the more nature-focused Glow Wild on selected evenings until 3 January.)
Until 17 January, £19.50 adults, £14.50 children, very limited availability, kew.org

Wildwood Trust, Kent

For those who want to see nature without festive adornments, this tour runs until early January at Wildwood near Herne Bay in Kent, a wildlife trust devoted to Britain’s native species. You can find out who feared the Yule Cat, what beavers store in their fridges and all about Santa’s reindeers, while enjoying mulled wine and mince pies.
Until 3 January, £20 adults and children, wildwoodtrust.org

Canary Wharf, London

With their usual Winter Lights festival postponed, Connected by Light is this year’s alternative – a curated collection of nine illuminated installations. Artists play creatively with light, including hundreds of orbs containing lights and speakers, and projections of poetry.
Until 27 February, free, canarywharf.com

Longleat, Wiltshire

Purple reign: Land of Light at Longleat
Purple reign: Land of Light at Longleat

This stately home brings an especially whimsical touch to the posh-house illumination experience. It’s certainly one of the most ambitious, where lasers blend with Longleat’s venerable fountains. The trail is wheelchair accessible.
Until 10 January, £27.95 adults, £20.95 children, longleat.co.uk

Reindeer Lodge, Flintshire

This 50-acre farm will be surrounding its resident herds of reindeer with a full complement of socially distanced attractions this year. For December, it has been transformed into a drive-thru experience, including a lighting trail with sound piped through to your car, Santa’s grotto and hot chocolate delivered on tap.
Until 29 December, from £32.45 per car, reindeerlodge.co.uk

Gibside, Tyne and Wear

For the first time this year, lighting specialists Ignite have partnered up with the National Trust at this estate near Newcastle to create a stunning setting, from glowing mushrooms in the woodland to a trail illuminated by lanterns as it winds through the 18th-century gardens with the house itself as a spectacular backdrop.
Until 30 December, £15 adults, £10 children, nationaltrust.org.uk

Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire

Christmas at Waddesdon Manor.
Christmas at Waddesdon Manor.
Photograph: Jim Dyson/Getty Images

The extravagant gardens bring the Victorian notion of pleasure gardens to the 21st century, with giant fairy-light baubles in the stables and lawns of gently glowing tiny orbs. As well as the usual festive snacks, afternoon teas and meals are available.
Until 3 January, £17.28 adults, £8.64 children, waddesdon.org.uk

Stourhead, Wiltshire

One of the National Trust’s most prized gardens is offering a field of glowing crocuses and giant lilies on the lake while glowing red noses and antlers signal the possible presence of Santa.
Until 3 January, £19 adults, £13 children, christmasatstourhead.co.uk

Eden Project, Cornwall

Bright spots: -Photography by Emily Whitfield-Wicks Christmas lights, Eden Project.
Bright spots: the Eden Project. Photograph: Emily Whitfield-Wicks/Apex

The garden’s winter offering mixes light installations with live music. Each of the biomes has a different installation. There’s ice skating and a reindeer trail, plus Father Christmas popping up with his elves.
Until 30 December, £28.50 adults, £15 children, edenproject.com

Winterfest, London

A newcomer to the growing light installation events list, Winterfest incorporates both Christmas and Diwali. It has London’s tallest LED tree and plenty of other interactive light shows.
Until 17 January, free, wembleypark.com

Luminate

Big blue: Sandringham’s Luminate.
Big blue: Sandringham’s Luminate. Photograph: Meg Hodson

A travelling lighting trail that’s less Christmas-focused than many. Instead it’s a mile-long journey through colour and sensation. Although there’s food and drink to buy, you can bring your own. There’s also a fire pit where you can toast marshmallows. It’s at Sandringham in Norfolk between 17 December and 17 January, and then Coombe Abbey in Warwickshire from 20 January to 21 February.
£14 adults, £10 children, luminate.live

Dunham Massey, Cheshire

A bus ride from Warrington, you’ll find giant glittery deer competing with this National Trust property’s own herd. The trail winds through formal gardens, with sculptures and tunnels of light, and more reflective moments in the fire garden.
Until 10 January, £20 adults, £13 children, very limited availability, nationaltrust.org.uk

Bradford LIT

LIT will see artists collaborate in a series of light shows across Bradford, from the rooftop of a historic mill to people’s front gardens. Highlights include poet laureate Simon Armitage working with Double Take, a projection-mapping specialist, and Alison Smith’s macramé-inspired Lightweave.
Various dates, until 28 February, free, visitbradford.com


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11 thoughts on “Light fantastic: the UK’s best Christmas illuminations | Travel

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