The best Christmas light displays near you
Taking family and friends to see spectacular outdoor Christmas decorations and public light displays is a wonderful way to mark the start of the season’s festivities, but where should you go? From shimmering lights in gorgeous gardens and woodlands to sparkling decorations in stately homes, iconic department stores and even caves, we’ve picked our favourite British yuletide displays.
1. Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
Westonbirt in Tetbury is the National Arboretum, with over 2,500 species of trees from all over the world. While perhaps it is most famous for its autumn colour, its Enchanted Christmas has become a much loved annual fixture. This impressive Christmas display runs throughout December and features a one-mile illuminated trail through the arboretum’s leafy canopy, with interactive displays and carefully selected lighting transforming the trees into a magical wonderland for children and adults alike.
A new designer creates the Enchanted Christmas trail every year, so it is always different. There are plenty of other attractions within the arboretum too, including the chance for youngsters to meet Father Christmas, as well as hot and cold seasonal food to enjoy.
2. Christmas at the Botanics, Edinburgh
The beautiful Royal Botanic Garden is located in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Old Town Edinburgh. It covers over 70 acres and has a history that stretches back 350 years. Christmas at the Botanics is a unique way to enjoy this special place, with over a mile of twinkling tunnels, giant baubles, jewel coloured trees, a flickering fire garden and a mixture of interactive experiences. Warm up after your walk with street food, including hot chocolate, mulled wine and toasted marshmallows.
3. Christmas at Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester
The magnificent National Trust run Dunham Massey estate comprises of a handsome historical house, landscaped gardens and an ancient deer park in Dunham near Altrincham. Its annual Christmas at Dunham Massey is a highly creative sensory experience with over a million twinkling lights and colourful projections that transform the front of the mansion into a festive feature. Originating in 2017, the winter trail will lead you through the majestic property’s grounds, with plenty of surprises along the way.
4. Fenwick Newcastle's Christmas Window, Tyne and Wear
Fenwick is an independent and upmarket department store, founded in Newcastle in 1882. Although it now has nine stores across the UK, the Christmas window display at its original Newcastle upon Tyne store is now legendary, with the annual unveiling drawing large crowds. The Christmas display spans the entire storefront - a whopping 38 metres - and previous windows have been themed around much loved characters from Beatrix Potter’s animals to Shaun the Sheep. One intricate Paddington Bear display featured eight scenes inspired by Michael Bond’s beloved bear and took 365 days to create.
The stores also put on popular Christmas events throughout the season, from Santa visits to festive breakfasts, and although the first day of Fenwick’s Christmas Window unveiling is very busy, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to admire it at your leisure throughout December.
5. Winter wonderland at Wookey Hole, near Cheddar, Somerset
The deep caves at Wookey Hole in the Mendip Hills in Somerset have had human visitors for some 50,000 years and have inspired many legends – they’re also used to age local Cheddar cheese. But at Christmastime these famous underground caverns become a uniquely enchanting festive grotto full of 100,000 twinkling lights – and there’s even the opportunity for youngsters to meet Santa. You can also take a guided tour through the spectacular cave system – including a subterranean boat trip – and don’t forget to look out for the infamous witch. Above ground, the family fun continues, including a 4D cinema showing festive films, a Victorian penny arcade and circus performers.
6. Blickling Estate Christmas Lights, near Aylsham, Norfolk
Throughout December, the grand Blickling estate with its stunning Jacobean mansion and 4,500 acres of parklands, including 55 acres of formal gardens, will be opening its doors for a Christmas experience to remember. At the annual Garden of Lights at Blickling, you can follow a trail through the alluringly illuminated Walled Garden, the Parterre and the Orangery.
You can also explore the grand house, decorated for a 1930’s Christmas extravaganza, or wander through the many wintery walks in the estate grounds. Mulled wine, spiced apple juice and yuletide treats like mince pies and gingerbread will keep you feeling cosy.
7. Covent Garden Christmas lights, London
The Covent Garden Christmas lights are a luxurious take on festive decorations. Perfect for adults wanting to experience a Christmas twist on an indulgent day out, they are equally enticing to little ones. From mid-November, Covent Garden undergoes a stunning transformation, which sees the interior and indoor market ceiling adorned in 115,000 glimmering lights, mirror balls, giant mistletoe and baubles. There’s also a 60 foot Christmas tree. With over 200 shops and eateries to explore, this iconic destination is a great place to for Christmas shopping too.
8. Powis Castle Christmas, Wales
Within its striking walls, Powis Castle and Gardens in Powys provides a charming Christmas day out for the entire family. Throughout December, visitors can wander through this National Trust property’s grounds and view the stunning decorations including vast ornate Christmas trees, decorated fireplaces and gorgeous glowing lights that transform the 13th century castle and its famously decadent State Rooms into a something truly special. Outside you can explore the grand architectural glamour of the Baroque Garden and Italianate Terraces, made even more striking in the Winter sun, while younger visitors will enjoy finding clues on the Hedgehog Trail.
9. Ramsgate Harbour Christmas Lights, Kent
For a nautical alternative, take an evening trip to Ramsgate Harbour in Ramsgate, Kent, to see a marvellous display of boats draped in twinkling illuminations. This annual tradition can be traced back to 2014 and has become a local highlight with boat owners, businesses and enthusiasts all taking part in the maritime Christmas lights. The Ramsgate Illuminations raise money for the RNLI and run throughout the month of December. The harbour is also known to host weekend Christmas markets, a Santa's grotto and other festive attractions.