Going to see the Christmas light trails illuminating some of our favourite gardens and open spaces is one of the things we love most about the festive season, and we think this year in particular we all need as much of this magical sparkle as we can get.
So many Christmas experiences have had to be cancelled due to COVID, but happily there looks set to be some amazing outdoor events in big gardens still going ahead this year in the UK. We've chosen some of our favourites here to share, but be sure to book your place now as they're bound to be more popular than ever this year.
And if you're feeling inspired to give your own garden a little extra festive magic this year too, our outdoor Christmas lights ideas feature has plenty of suggestions for giving your home and garden some added wow factor.
1. Kew Gardens, Surrey
This winter promises to be bigger and better than ever before as Christmas at Kew returns with a new night-time trail illuminated by over one million lights. The route will include some incredible showstoppers, such as the recently restored Temperate House which will form the canvas for a kaleidoscopic laser show across the lake. Throughout the trail, Kew’s own natural splendours will feature prominently too, with trees along the route illuminated from different angles so you can admire their striking winter forms. The event runs until 17th January.
2. Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire
As twilight falls you’ll see the gardens of Waddesdon Manor sparkle with spectacular light displays bringing the landscape to life and the manor’s facade illuminated with dancing lights set to music. The Winter Light trail will transform the Pleasure Grounds with dramatic colour and playful installations. Stroll under the stars beneath magically illuminated tree canopies transformed by moving light. From dusk, look out for the valley of flickering flames creating a sea of fire, see suspended orbs in a walk-through musical light show and step inside giant twinkling LED baubles. It runs until until 3rd January.
3. RHS Harlow Carr, Yorkshire
The enchanting festive illuminations at Harlow Carr are unmissable and they're better than ever this year. Walk the enchanting trail enjoying the magnificent lit trees and shrubs, and see some of Harlow Carr’s iconic features, including the Queen Mother’s Lake, Winter Walk and Kitchen Garden, literally glowing with festive colour. Treat yourself to a delicious mince pie and hot chocolate from the legendary Bettys Tea Room on your way round the trail as you enjoy the sparkle and magic. You can take in all of this until 30th December.
4. Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
Featuring stunning floodlit trees, mesmerising light displays and lots of sparkling trails through the forest, magical Westonbirt is always a favourite destination for Christmas lights. It's a great choice for children too, as rumour has it that Father Christmas has a workshop right here among the trees and his elves will be out and about helping. There's even a candy cane forest. Don't forget to visit the food and drink stalls at the Christmas Village too. The event runs on selected dates until 21st December.
5. Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
You'll recognise it from all the Instagram posts but the illuminated light trail at stately Blenheim Palace is even more spectacular when you see it for real. New for 2020 is the Heart of the Stars installation that scatters shards of light and a scented fire garden that adorns the Water Terrace. There are dynamic, colour-changing neon tunnels too. The Christmas market is cancelled this year, so instead the grand finale is a light show in the Great Court. You can't beat Blenheim for the total Christmas lights experience and it runs until 3 January.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Her first job on glossy magazines was at Elle, during which time a visit to the legendary La Colombe d'Or in St-Paul-de-Vence led to an interest in all things gardening. Later as lifestyle editor at Country Homes & Interiors magazine the real pull was the run of captivating country gardens that were featured. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design as well as a course in floristry she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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