It’s that time of year again: winter light festivals have returned to the UK. Here’s our pick of the most dazzling trails to traverse, featuring glowing cherry blossom walkways, glistening lakes and laser shows to visit in winter 2023.
Best Winter Light Festivals & Trails 2023
Winter Light Trail, Waddeson Manor
This winter, Waddeson’s beautiful Buckinghamshire gardens will be illuminated with light as part of their Christmas festivities. Visitors are invited to stroll around the Pleasure Gardens under the stars and be dazzled by immersive light features: from colourful tree canopies to giant dandelions and a tunnel of light loops. As the sun goes down, meanwhile, the Manor’s façade will be illuminated with dancing lights to sequenced music. All this, plus handmade mince pies and festive drinks. What’s not to love?
Details: 22 November 2023–1 January 2024 at Waddeson Manor, Waddesdon, Aylesbury HP18 0JH. waddeson.org.uk
Illuminated Light Trail, Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace is a spectacular sight any day of the year, but it really comes to life come Christmas time. Their Illuminated Light Trail promises to be more magical than ever this year, with standout features including a fire garden and glittering tunnels of light – plus spiced winter warmer drinks from street vendors.
Details: 17 November 2023–1 January 2024 at Blenheim Palace, Woodstock OX20 1PP. blenheimpalace.com
Windsor Great Park Illuminated
Set in the picturesque surrounds of the Obelisk Pond, Windsor Great Park Illuminated takes visitors on a trail around one of the UK’s most famous parks. Pass through fountains of flowers, holograms of mythical creatures and dreamlike laser displays, before settling down for some mulled wine and toasted marshmallows.
Details: 16 November 2023–2 January 2024, at Windsor Great Park SL4 2HT. windsorilluminated.com
Christmas At Kenwood, London
Hampstead Heath is getting a festive makeover this Christmas, with a brand new winter light trail taking over the grounds. Visitors can expect interactive installations unique to Kenwood alongside glittering and colourful lights and festive favourites. Meanwhile, there will be tasty treats and hot drinks on offer.
Details: 1 December 2023–1 January 2024 at Kenwood House (Hampstead Ln, London NW3 7JR). Tickets start from £25.50 and can be booked here.
AGLOW At Auckland Castle, Durham
Brand new for 2023 is AGLOW at County Durham’s Auckland Castle, where a glittering one-and-a-half mile long trail will illuminate the grounds and reimagine the Castle in a whole new light. Visitors can expect stunning projections on the caste walls, a sparkling 100 metre-long tunnel of 100,000 stars, laser illuminations, neon ropes, mirror balls, LED vines, starburst trees, dancing light water fountains and life size illuminated deer amongst silk flower lanterns.
Details: 22 November–31 December 2023 at Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland, County Durham DL14 7NP. aucklandproject.org
Christmas at the Botanics, Edinburgh
Christmas at the Botanics is returning to Edinburgh Botanical Gardens with over a million twinkling lights. Guests are invited to weave through the one-mile trail of light installations, wandering beneath tree canopies and past iconic glasshouses. Incandescent flowers rise high into the night sky, leading you onto a path towards illuminated tree sculptures. A highlight is the festival finale, which illuminates the facade of Inverleith House in time to Christmas classics. Watch out for hidden surprises too: shards of light, marching reindeer and frosty snowflakes pop up where you least expect them.
Details: 16 November–30 December 2023 at Edinburgh Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ. rbge.org
Christmas at Kew, London
Now a firm favourite on the Christmas calendar, Kew Gardens’ winter light festival is back and brighter than ever. The trail begins, as is tradition, with a glittering archway: the gateway to your festive voyage. Highlights of the trail include dancing waterside reflections, trees drenched in colour and tunnels 0f light – plus an appearance from Father Christmas himself. Visitors can expect a mesmerising Palm House Pond finale, where Kew’s famous glasshouse will spring to life with criss-crossing laser beams, jumping jets of light and kaleidoscopic projections playing across a giant water screen.
Details: 15 November 2023– 7 January 2024 at Kew Gardens, Richmond. kew.org
Christmas at Dunham Massey, Cheshire
Returning for its seventh year, Dunham Massey’s light trail is always a spectacular event. Enter beside giant glittering deer, wander beneath tree canopies drenched in colour, and stroll beside colour-changing lakeside reflections – then pause for a moment of quiet reflection in the crystal and fire garden, aglow with hundreds of flickering flames. Finish with a hot chocolate or mulled wine for ultimate festive feels.
Details: 17 November–30 December 2023 at Dunham Massey, Altrincham WA14 4SJ. nationaltrust.org.uk
Glow Wild, Wakehurst
As night falls on Wakehurst this winter, its wild woodlands and gardens will come alive with a glistening trail of hand-crafted lanterns, light installations and projections. The 2023 winter light show marks the 10th anniversary, and will celebrate the sublime, inviting visitors to become part of the trail and discover awe-inspiring moments in nature.
Details: 23 November 2023–1 January 2024 at Wakehurst, Selsfield Road, Haywards Heath RH17 6TN. kew.org
Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt, Gloucestershire
Discover a magical world of light spectacles and interactive displays among the trees at The National Arboretum, which is home to 15,000 tree specimens. Along the way you may chance upon elves and talking trees – and at the end, you may catch a glimpse of a special guest.
Details: 24 November–23 December 2023 at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum, Tetbury GL8 8QS. forestryengland.uk
Christmas At Eltham Palace, London
A season of festive magic is coming to Eltham Palace this winter, transforming the art deco mansion and former Tudor royal palace with seasonal sparkles for the first time. Surprises are around every corner, from picture perfect moments to festive food and warming cocktails.
Details: 1 December 2023–1 January 2024 at Eltham Palace (Court Yard, London SE9 5QE). Tickets start at £20.50 and can be booked here.
Featured image: Windsor Great Park Illuminated, Michael Clemens