Heading out on a cold winter’s evening to see a Christmas lights show has become one of my family’s favourite festive traditions. If you’ve yet to give one a go, I’ve put together a list of some of the best Christmas light trails in the UK.
I’d advise booking your preferred slot well in advance (and in most cases the car park too) as popular dates sell out very quickly.
Most venues will give you a specific time slot when you have to begin the trail, so allow yourself plenty of time to get there, park the car and walk to the entrance.
It’s also a good idea to wrap up warm, wear sturdy footwear, carry a torch, and don’t forget to charge your phone so you can take plenty of beautiful photos of your magical evening!
Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, Sussex
A relative newcomer, I visited Leonardslee Illuminated last year and, I have to say, it was a particularly magical experience.
The trail is surrounded by mature trees in Grade I listed-gardens – it’s a spectacular backdrop.
There’s live music and family-friendly theatrical performances around the route, and – in my opinion the star of the show – a beautiful Christmas moon floats above the lake, its ethereal reflection dancing on the water below.
The trail takes between an hour and an hour-and-a-half to explore.
Seasonal food and drink are available, plus a funfair and a Christmas market outside the entrance to the gardens.
Leonardslee Illuminated is open on 24 to 27 and 30 November, 1 to 4 December and 7 to 21 December 2022.
Tickets are from £18 for adults, £10 for under 16s and are free for under twos.
Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, London/Wakehurst, Sussex
Kew Gardens is a fabulous place to visit at any time of year, but if you love all things festive, ‘Christmas at Kew’ is definitely for you! It really is special.
Sparkling light tunnels, seasonal music, a field full of flames and jaw-dropping light projections amongst the trees will have you and your family ooh-ing and ahh-ing all the way around the trail.
You’ll see Father Christmas and enjoy festive treats from independent street food stalls – including hot chocolate to help keep you warm on a cold winter’s night!
Christmas at Kew begins on 16 November 2022 and is open on selected dates until 8 January 2023.
Tickets for adults cost £21.50 off peak and £28 at peak times. Family tickets are available and discounts for Kew members.
If you’ve been to Kew before and or don’t want to travel to London, it’s also worth having a look at Glow Wild which takes place at Kew’s sister garden at Wakehurst near Haywards Heath, Sussex.
The gardens will be decorated with beautiful handmade lanterns and stunning light shows.
Adults-only sessions will be held every Friday night at 8pm, and quiet sessions are available for visitors who aren’t comfortable with loud noises.
Glow Wild will be open on selected evenings from 24 November 2022 to 1 January 2023.
Tickets for adults are £17, £11 for children aged four to 15 and under fours go free.
There are discounted tickets for families and Wakehurst/Kew members.
Christmas at Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, Northern Ireland
A newcomer in 2021, this after-dark illuminated trail is returning to Hillsborough Castle and Gardens for a second year!
There will be sparkling tunnels of light, giant baubles and trees drenched in jewel-like colour – and my personal favourite, the flickering flames of the fire garden.
Street food and tempting treats will be available from independent street food vendors.
The trail will be open between 1 December 2022 and 1 January 2023, excluding 5, 6 and 25 December.
Adult tickets cost from £22 and tickets for children aged three to 16 are from £15. Discounts are available for members.
Please note that it’s essential to book car parking in advance.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The park that surrounds the palace, designed by Capability Brown, is the perfect setting for the Christmas at Blenheim Palace illuminated trail.
More than a million lights are used to decorate the stunning landscape, with installations making best use of the palatial vistas and baroque architecture.
There’s also a Christmas market to wander around, with both artisan products and foodie treats on offer.
New for this year, you can also explore the transformed palace rooms which will be reimagined as the fairytale world of the Kingdom of the Snow Queen. Expect lots of snowflakes, frost and ice!
Tickets are £25 adults (for the light trail only) and £18 for children aged three to 16. Please note that this doesn’t include entry to the Snow Queen exhibition.
Christmas at Blenheim is open from 18 November 2022 until 2 January 2023.
You must reserve and pay for parking in advance via the website as the car park is usually full.
Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Scotland
If you’re wanting to get into the festive spirit, you could definitely do worse than a long weekend in Edinburgh – there’s loads to do!
One of the highlights is Christmas at the Botanics, with a mile-long trail of illuminations to enjoy with friends and family.
I visited the gardens for the first time last year, and really enjoyed the festive atmosphere, and the projections onto Inverleith House (in time to classic Christmas tunes) were stunning.
And I guarantee that the dancing waves of colour across the landscape will take your breath away!
Seasonal food and drink is available from traders along the route.
The trail is open from 17 November to 30 December 2022.
Adult tickets cost from £21.50 and a child ticket (from age four to 16) from £15. Children aged three and under can enter for free. Family tickets are also available.
Luminate Wales, Margam Country Park
This mesmerising light show through the historic gardens of Margam Country Park and Castle creates an atmospheric journey and is set to ambient music.
Luminate Wales includes special light sections where children (big and small!) can play with the installations, adding to the immersive experience.
The trail is about a mile long and it will take between 60 and 90 minutes, depending on how long you linger at the amazing light installations!
Afterwards you can warm up by a fire pit and even toast your own marshmallows.
Street food and mulled wine is available along the trail and the Courtyard Café will be selling hot food and snacks.
Luminate is open from Thursday 17 November 2022 until Sunday 2 January 2023.
Tickets cost from £15 for adults and £11 for children aged three to 15 years.
Lightopia, Heaton Park, Manchester
Visitors to Lightopia are taken on a magical journey, with a fantasy-themed light trail through the Heaton Park landscape.
The award-winning experience includes a 1.5 mile-walking route, handcrafted lanterns, 3D projections and spectacular water shows.
There are also food stalls and licensed bars that offer refreshments along the way.
If you’re not in the Manchester area, never fear, as you can also visit Lightopia trails at Alton Towers and Crystal Palace, London!
Lightopia Manchester opens on 24 November 2022 and runs until 2 January 2023.
Off peak tickets are available from £17.50 for adults and from £11 for children aged three to 15 years.
I hope you find my tips on the best winter light trails in the UK helpful – if you have a favourite that doesn’t appear here, let me know!
Information is correct as of 3 September 2022. Please check the organisers’ websites for the latest information.