2024-02-22T17:35:00Z By Keeley Rodgers
From historic venues to beautiful gardens, here are 11 amazing light trails across the UK which are sure to give your group a festive day out.
1. RHS Gardens
Bring the festive season alive and see the gardens in a new light at the Royal Horticultural Society’s magical RHS Glow experience returning for its ninth year. Groups can explore an RHS Garden after-dark as the annual light festivities transform the gardens into an enchanted wonderland.
Enjoy illuminated trails and take a journey through trees and shrubs as dusk falls and hi-tech colours fill all five RHS Gardens; Bridgewater, Greater Manchester, Harlow Carr, North Yorkshire, Hyde Hall, Essex, Rosemoor, North Devon and Wisley, Surrey. Benefits for groups of 15 or more include a complimentary ticket for the group organiser and discounted rates on garden entry.
Discover beautiful ornamental gardens, temperate woodlands, valleys and wetlands at Wakehurst, which is also home to a nature reserve teeming with wildlife. Located in the Sussex High Weald, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it is arguably at its most striking during its Glow Wild event, this year running from 23rd November until 1st January.
As darkness falls, the gardens are brought to life with beautifully hand-crafted winter lanterns and captivating light installations. This year, groups can look forward to a never-before-seen route and plenty of unrivalled light installations.
Longleat’s premier event returns this winter, from 11th November until 7th January 2024, in what promises to be another fantastic festive experience for groups.
This year’s theme, Treasured Tales: The Festival of Light 2023, will allow visitors to rediscover the stories that shaped their childhood, with new lantern displays including the iconic scenes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S Lewis, Cinderella, Snow White and The Wizard of Oz. A new light show is also being promised which will illuminate Longleat House.
4. Blenheim Palace
This year, the Oxfordshire palace’s rooms will be transformed by the retelling of the classic fairy tale Sleeping Beauty with a contemporary twist, from the Great Hall filled by a huge glistening Christmas tree to the candle-lit bedchamber where Aurora sleeps.
Along the way watch out for spinning wheels, fluttering fairies and as the story unfolds, vines creeping everywhere. Outside, groups can expect twinkling lights, heart-shaped arches, glowing tunnels and dancing reflections in the colourful cascades along the huge light trail. Christmas at Blenheim runs from 17th November until 1st January 2024.
5. Lost Gardens of Heligan
Described as a magical garden trail, the Cornwall attraction will be beautifully lit with installations and lanterns between 17th November until 2nd January. Groups will be invited to discover displays of fauna and flora, to celebrate the characters of the garden community, all illuminated.
Following an extended one-mile one-way accessible journey around the gardens, the team will direct visitors to discover nature in a celebration of the wildlife that make Heligan their home all year round.
Find more inspiration for the festive season, including entertainment, getaways and shopping, in our bumper Christmas Guide by clicking here.
6. Leeds Castle
Be transported into C. S. Lewis’ magical Kingdom of Narnia for an immersive Christmas experience at Leeds Castle in Kent. Groups will enjoy the beautiful 1930s interiors of the Library and Drawing Rooms, before stepping inside the iconic wardrobe to discover a winter wonderland.
You’ll find the beloved characters, including Aslan The Great Lion and the treasured fawn, Mr Tumnus, as they overcome the White Witch to experience Christmas and the promise of springtime.
Outside, an all-new reimagined trail will include illuminated swans and water fountains, plus a new group catering and entertainment zone will be available on the Cedar Lawn. This exclusive area will have festive snacks and hot drinks to enjoy and acts as a base to explore what’s on offer.
7. Waddesdon Manor
Christmas is always a special time at Waddesdon in Buckinghamshire, and this year is no different as the estate transforms into a magical wonderland inspired by classic British tales from 22nd November until 1st January 2024.
Inside the house, groups will be transported into memorable stories as they explore the Mad Hatter’s tea party, travel to the Ice Queen’s lair and discover Captain Hook’s treasure cave. Outside, the Manor’s façade will come to life with bespoke projections and Waddesdon’s spectacular landscape will be lit with a kaleidoscope of colour, lights and music along a light trail through the grounds, as well as a traditional Christmas market.
8. Hever Castle
Immerse yourself in the Christmas spirit at Hever Castle & Gardens, from 18th November – 20th December. Discover over 600 years of history in the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and enjoy beautifully decorated rooms, log fires and twinkling Christmas trees in the castle.
Outside in the extensive grounds take a ride on the gallopers overlooking the double moat and follow the charming festive trail in the grounds - Lost in the Festive Forest – which tells the story of Ted the lost bear and his journey home. As dusk falls, the gardens are illuminated with up-lighting and colour washes from 4pm.
9. Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens
Now in its fifth year, Leonardslee Illuminated at the historic 240-acre Grade I Listed estate in Horsham, West Sussex, will transport visitors into a magical world as the gardens are transformed with illuminations, large-scale installations, and atmospheric soundscapes. Upon arrival, guests are welcomed with a Victorian funfair, a small Christmas market, a selection of seasonal food and drink, and other entertainment before entering the mile-long trail.
Open between 4pm and 10pm, with light trails running from 4.15pm to 8.15pm, the event will take place on various dates from 24th November to 21st December, with a reduced price for groups of 15 or more.
10. National Memorial Arboretum
The ever-popular Illuminated Arboretum returns to the Staffordshire attraction between 7th and 23rd December with inspiring light installations which encompass a 1.2-mile route weaving around many memorials while telling their story through light and sound.
Things to look out for include a 50-metre Tunnel of Light and the breath-taking installation Beacons, which lights up the Armed Forces Memorial. The arboretum will also host its Christmas Lunches with a Swing on 9th, 12th and 14th December, featuring the Antonia Socci Jive and Swing Band bringing the festive tunes over a delicious three-course dinner.
11. Auckland Castle
Groups visiting the historic castle in County Durham are set to be dazzled this year with AGLOW – a one-and-a-half-mile long light trail from 22nd November until 31st December. The route runs through the ancient castle grounds and takes in the Deer Park, River Gaunless and a specially created Santa’s Village.
Groups will see Auckland Castle in a whole new light, with projections on the castle walls and glowing spheres of light covering the bowling green. The trail also includes 17 light installations, plus neon ropes, mirror balls and LED vines, as well as what is said to be the largest Christmas tree in the north and the longest light tunnel in the country.
Find more inspiration for 2023 in our bumper Christmas Guide by clicking here.