From dancing lasers to magical gardens, imaginative light shows are being switched on throughout the land. We previews 10 Christmas spectaculars.
Christmas light trail, Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The Capability Brown-sculpted parkland at Blenheim features a new one-mile multisensory path, including a scented fire garden, fibre-optic lawns and twinkling hedges. The lake is illuminated with lit-up boats, the fountains cascade in time to Christmas music, the waterfall is bathed in colour and the arbour sparkles with fairy lights. Santa Claus and his elves have set up their workshop in the boathouse, and there are festive sideshows and a Victorian carousel in the courtyard. Warm up with spiced cider, mulled wine and hot chocolate, roasted chestnuts and toasted marshmallows.
• From £16 adult/£10 child/£48 family/under-fives free; until 2 January;blenheimpalace.com
Festival of Light and Sound, Eden Project, Cornwall
The Eden Project has a spectacular new light and sound show this Christmas. Visitors can watch from a viewing platform or walk along the pathways as lasers create a canopy of light, painting the biomes with festive colours, set to a soundscape of music and stories. There are light projections in the Mediterranean biome, too, illuminating the winter planting displays, plus live performances by musicians and choirs from the south-west. The show is the brainchild of light artist Chris Levene, who created the laser tribute to David Bowie at Glastonbury festival, and Marco Perry, Björk’s spatial sound designer. Other festive fun includes ice skating, winter storytelling, festive crafts and meeting Father Christmas and his elves. A baobab rum cocktail (or a smoothie for the kids) will take the chill off.
• From £22.50 adult/£12.60 child/£62 family/under-fives free, 5pm-8pm on 3, 4, 9, 10, 11 and 16-23 December, and 5pm-7pm on 27-30 December, edenproject.com
Festival of Light, Longleat safari park, Wiltshire
Longleat is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and it has pulled out all the stops for its third light festival. Giant lanterns take the shape of some of the park’s animals – an avenue of lions, a troop of monkeys – but there are also lots of Beatrix Potter characters, to mark the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth: Peter Rabbit, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Squirrel Nutkin will all be there. There is also an illuminated Christmas scene and a 20-metre-high birthday cake. Altogether, the displays use 12 miles of silk, 30,000 bulbs and 2½ miles of LED lighting. Plus there is a Santa Express, a musical Christmas tree, an Arctic playzone for kids and an exhibition of costumes from the 1971 Royal Opera House production of The Tales of Beatrix Potter.
• From £27.85 adult/£20.65 child/under-threes free, to 2 January, longleat.co.uk
Enchanted Parks, Gateshead
Light up the North is a network of light festivals in the north of England: York, Leeds, Lancaster, Durham, Blackpool, Salford – and, over Christmas, Gateshead. Enchanted Parks is an interactive walk through Saltwell park, just south of the town centre, along a trail of light with art installations, performances, sculptures and projections. The story being told is a Midwinter Night’s Tale, inspired by the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death.
• £8 adult/£2 child/under-fours free, 6-11 December, newcastlegateshead.com
Christmas Glow, RHS Wisley, Surrey
The garden is glowing with giant illuminated flowers for the second year running – but this year they are bigger and brighter. Some of the trees are ablaze, too, including a liquidambar, giant redwood and scots pine. The glasshouse is decorated like a gingerbread house, and displays seasonal plants such as poinsettias, Christmas cacti and bromeliads. There are lanterns around the lake, and the plant centre has been turned into Santa and Mrs Claus’s grotto. The cafe serves hearty goulash, hot chocolate with marshmallows and spiced apple juice. Visitors can stock up at the Christmas shop, join stories and songs with Santa, and attend gingerbread-decorating workshops.
• From £9.90 adult/£3.60 child, until 2 Jan, rhs.org.uk
Christmas at Kew Gardens, London
Kew is a special place to visit at any time of the day or year, but the festive light show gives it a magical twist, as the mile-long trail through the garden sparkles with 60,000 lights, passing a Christmas karaoke juke box and eight newly commissioned artworks. These include singing Christmas trees, a light installation of 1,700 swaying flowers and a roaring fire garden. Some of the garden’s oldest and tallest trees are also beautifully lit along the way. The finale is the iconic Palm House and pond lit up with coloured laser beams and streams of light dancing to Christmas songs.
• From £16 adult/£10 child/£48 family/under-fours free; until 2 Jan, kew.org
Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
The national arboretum has a one-mile illuminated trail, with the towering trees lit up, and interactive displays along the way. There are free Christmas crafts, carol singing, an old-fashioned carousel and two Christmas shops – one is devoted to decorations, housed in a shepherd’s hut. Father Christmas is there with his elves, Mrs Christmas tells stories in a yuletide yurt, and stilt-walking versions of Jack Frost and the Christmas Fairy flit around. Winter warmers include hog roasts and Baileys hot chocolate.
• £12 adult/£6 child/under-fives free, Friday to Sunday until 18 December,forestry.gov.uk
Magical Lantern festival, Leeds, Birmingham, London
The first Magical Lantern festival was held in Chiswick House Gardens, London, last winter. It is back from 19 January but, first, the magic is heading to Roundhay Park in Leeds and the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham. Each festival has a trail of giant lanterns, mixing seasonal themes, local landmarks and Chinese culture. In Birmingham, for example, there is a Bullring Bull alongside a Christmas fairy, snowmen, penguins, trees and presents. London (again at Chiswick) has a Houses of Parliament lantern and a Silk Road theme. Leeds is home to Santa’s grotto and a funfair, London has an ice rink and ice bar, and all three have Chinese food stalls and global street food.
• Leeds and Birmingham from £12.50 adult/£8.50 child/£38 family/under-fours free, until 2 January, London from £16.50/£10.50/£50/under-fours three, 19 January to 26 February, magicallantern.uk
Tunnel of Light, Norwich
Norwich has created the UK’s first tunnel of light this Christmas. The 45-metre passage on Hay Hill is made from 50,000 pulsating LEDs, designed to echo the colours and patterns of the northern lights. The city is also projecting Christmas films set to music on to the castle and town hall each night. There are lights all over the city, a eight-metre Christmas tree on the corner of Bethel Street and events from a Christmas tree festival at St Peter Mancroft church to craft markets.
• Free, until 6 Jan, norwichbid.co.uk
Celebration of Light, Penzance, Cornwall
Penzance has pushed the boat out this Christmas. Landmarks including St Michael’s Mount and St Mary’s church are lit up, and there is a competition for the brightest light-themed shop window display. On 17 December, there is a lantern parade to celebrate local scientist Humphry Davy, who invented the miner’s safety lamp. The Montol festival marks the winter solstice on 21 December, with fire performers, processions and a huge midwinter bonfire. Nearby Newlyn and Mousehole, meanwhile, have spectacular displays of Christmas lights.
• Free, until 6 January, lovepenzance.co.uk
The best of the rest
Lots of National Trust properties are lit up at Christmas, including Calke Abbey in Derbyshire and Corfe Castle in Dorset. Edinburgh’s Street of Light is back in a new location at the west end of George Street, and features 60,000 light bulbs with live music. Chester Zoo has an enchanted forest with animal lanterns. St George’s Hall in Liverpool has a DreamWorks lantern show, with 100 characters and scenes from Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard has an illuminations show where HMS Victory, HMS Warrior and the Mary Rose are projected on to the Action Stations’ building. Eastbourne has a light show, Neon Noel, at the town hall clock tower). Boats in Ramsgate harbour are festooned with lights, creating dazzling reflections in the water.
Best Value Tours U.K, London
It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to travel plans and exciting new adventures. Tudor cottages where Shakespeare lived, resplendent English gardens, and hilltop Welsh castles could all be on your travel horizon. Get the low-down on what you can’t miss in Britain in 2016:
Discover Shakespeare Lives
With 2016 marking the 400th anniversary of the great Bard’s death, get into the Tudor spirit and experience Shakespeare in Britain this year. In the pretty town of Stratford-upon-Avon you can visit remarkable sights like his birthplace, while in London you can see his plays how they were meant to be seen – in the Globe Theatre.
We’re offering you the chance to win an amazing trip to Britain taking in key Shakespeare sights in London and Stratford-upon-Avon.
Coming up roses
There can be no other country in the world that boasts so many beautiful gardens open to visitors and so 2016 celebrates the Year of the Garden in Britain. From vast, landscaped grounds at the likes of Stowe or Blenheim Palace, to cute cottage gardens like Great Dixter and Sissinghurst, come smell the flowers in Britain.
Embark on an adventure into the past
Wales is Britain’s land of adventure – with fairytale castles, chapels carved into rugged coastline, and mountains laced with legends and folklore all waiting to be explored.
Find out more about Wales.
Celebrating our children’s book authors
This year also sees key anniversaries of 2 of our most beloved children’s book creators – the 150th anniversary of the birth of Beatrix Potter and the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl. Discover the places in Britain where these talented writers found their inspiration for their enduring characters.
Written by Rachel Ricks (Visit Britain Blog)
Best Value Tours
London is the most visited tourist city in the world and has a considerable number of famous historic and modern landmarks to see. Paying individual entry fees at each site can add up and be very expensive, plus time consuming queuing. By far the best value way to tour London and enjoy all the main attractions is by an all inclusive day tour with everything included. Touring this way can be as much as a 1/3 cheaper than paying separately.
Here is the best value example of this type of tour we could find:
- Entry to St. Paul’s Cathedral with special access to the Quire
- Panoramic tour of London
- See the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace
- Optional Lunch
- Entry to Tower of London
- Meet the Yeoman Warders
- See the famous Crown Jewels
- Thames River boat ride
- London Eye Experience
- Luxury air–conditioned vehicle
Comprehensive Panoramic Tour
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Towering high over the City of London, magnificent St Paul’s Cathedral is widely considered to be Sir Christopher Wren’s masterpiece. Enter the Quire and marvel at the beautiful mosaics inside.
Buckingham Palace and Changing of the Guard
As iconic an image of London as red telephone boxes and double–decker buses, the Changing of the Guard is a not–to–be–missed royal feast of bearskin hats and red tunics. *We will visit Horseguards Parade when the ceremony is not available.
Tantalise your taste buds with a traditional one course meal.
The Tower of London and Crown Jewels
During its 1000 year history this impressive fortress has been a Royal Palace, prison, mint and even a zoo! Be dazzled by the Cullinan diamonds and the spectacular Kohi–i–Noor at the Crown Jewels.
Join a Yeoman Warder (‘Beefeater’) for an exclusive and very different view of the famous Tower of London on this guided tour. You will hear the story of the peasants’ revolt and attack on the Tower of 1381, the military cunning used to ensure the safety of the Monarch within, and how the Tower’s very architecture protects it from attack.
River Thames Boat Ride
Take to the water on a River Thames boat ride and enjoy a panoramic tour of London’s array of attractions.
The London Eye Experience
End your day with a London Eye experience and enjoy breathtaking views of London in the luxury of your glass capsule.
Your tour will finish at approximately 6:00pm at the London Eye Pier.
- Admissions to Tower of London and St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Panoramic Tour of London
- River Boat Ride
- London Eye Experience
- Transportation by Air-Conditioned Coach
- Professional Guide
- Complimentary hotel pick up from over 80 central London hotels. You will be taken to our departure point to board your tour.
If you are on a budget and want to enjoy the splendour of Paris, it is possible to do surprisingly cheaply. Here is a great option that is the best value we could find, includes a free river cruise and sightseeing map so you can plan your day at your leisure and choose what attractions to visit, saving money compared to an inclusive package.
- Reserved seats on Eurostar
- One hour cruise on River Seine
- Time for shopping and sightseeing
- Free map of Paris
Journey to Paris
Arrive at St. Pancras International Station where our representative will meet you at chop’d coffee shop, opposite the Eurostar concourse, at 5.45am (5.30am on Saturdays), you’ll receive an informative welcome pack. Eurostar Check in closes 30 minutes before the train departure time.
Kick off your Paris day trip in style with a ride on the world-famous Eurostar™. The 2hr 15min journey to Paris passes through 31 miles of Channel Tunnel – before disembarking at Gare due Nord station, Paris!
Paris at Your Leisure
A totally free and easy product – no frills and a price to match! Explore Paris at your own leisure, visiting the sights you want to see! You will also receive a map to set you on your way.
Take to the water on a luxury cruise and enjoy panoramic views of Parisian magical monuments. The cruises lasts an hour and an audio tour is provided.
Arrive at the Eurostar Check-in at least 45 minutes before departure. Your departure time from Paris is 8:13pm, arriving in London at 9:29pm.
- Legoland Entry Tickets
- Return Transport to Legoland
Be the star of your very own adventure. Soar through the treetops to escape dragons, join a Viking fleet across churning rapids. Experience real Driving School and use laser guns at the ancient tomb. All the family take part in high energy fun at the Fire Academy and be thrilled at the pirate themed Stunt Show. Everyone will be fascinated by the incredible LEGO® models throughout the park. From comical camels to world land marks and a yellow submarine, it’s amazing what can be built with millions of LEGO bricks!
Return Journey: You will have flexibility in returning back to London as Greenline coaches depart at various times.
- Return transportation with Greenline coaches
- Entrance fee to LEGOLAND® Windsor
- Day Trip to Birmingham
- Entrance to Cadbury World
- Return Train Tickets
- Free Time to Explore Birmingham
Meet your tour manager at London Euston station at 9 AM before boarding the train and departing for Birmingham. The journey will take approximately one and a half hours so sit back and relax as the train speeds away from London!
Once you reach Birmingham, make your way to Cadbury World and enjoy a visit to this popular attraction. You’ll embark on a one way guided tour through 14 interactive zones that tell the story of chocolate and the Cadbury business. Video presentations, multi-sensory cinema and staff demonstrations bring the world of Cadbury and the history of chocolate to life!
Return to London
Head back to Birmingham station at 7.00 PM to catch your return train. You will arrive back in London at 8.34 PM.
Discover your England in 2015
See England in all its glory in our Rugby World Cup 2015 film and find out how to make the most of your own tour of the country.
It’s not long until the Rugby World Cup 2015 will be kicking off here in England. And as our new film shows, it’s a great opportunity to visit some of the country’s highlights. Here’s our guide to what you can see.
With matches set to be played at St James’ Park, Newcastle is a great base for exploring England’s greatest Roman monument. Hadrian’s Wall stretches 73-miles through the open countryside of Northumberland and Cumbria, and is surrounded by dramatic views of green fields and rocky crags. Walk along the coast-to-coast path following the wall that Roman soldiers built and patrolled in a bid to keep out invading Barbarians. Or hire a bike and cycle between the forts and museums that mark the route.
Hop on a train from London to the south coast and you’ll find the seaside gem of Brighton. The Regency town made famous by scooter-riding Mods in the 60s is still a hub for vintage shopping. Head to The Lanes for clothes and jewellery boutiques or try North Laine for quirky cafés and retro stores. Visit the Royal Pavilion to admire the exotic architecture and dominating chandeliers before heading to the pier for some fish and chips and a ride around the fairground.
From Hebden Bridge in Yorkshire you can see all things that make this county so full of character. The industrial heritage of the former weaving mills and rural market towns, surrounded by the beauty of the rolling Yorkshire Dales. The historic towns of Ripon and Skipton are excellent bases for exploring this part of the country where you can enjoy great home-grown food and the humour and friendliness of the locals. After a morning in the fresh air, head to Harrogate to follow in the footsteps of Georgian gentry, admiring regency architecture before stopping off at Bettys for indulgent desserts and a Yorkshire brew.
Twickenham and London
If you want to really soak up the sporting atmosphere there’s no better place than the home of England rugby, Twickenham. Head to the World Rugby Museum which houses the finest collection of rugby memorabilia in the world and Twickenham stadium, the fourth largest sports stadium in Europe and the largest venue in the world dedicated solely to rugby. From there you can easily head to central London and take in the sights and sounds of the capital city as you stroll down the South Bank where you’ll find all kinds of cultural landmarks including the British Film Institute and Shakespeare’s Globe.
After the excitement of any rugby game or the stress of any long journey there’s nowhere better to relax than Bath. Stroll along The Royal Crescent, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. The sweeping row of 30 Grade I Listed terrace houses is one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture anywhere in the UK. Then head for a reenergizing spa day. The therapeutic waters of Bath have been washing people’s troubles away for centuries and still today you can enjoy the benefits of the UK’s only natural thermal springs. Take a dip in the steamy rooftop pool at Thermae Bath Spa and relax as you gaze out over the city’s picturesque skyline.
Step inside and discover the actual Great Hall.
Explore Dumbledore’s office and discover never-before-seen treasures.
Step onto the famous cobbles of Diagon Alley, featuring the shop fronts of Ollivanders wand shop, Flourish and Blotts, the Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes, Gringotts Wizarding Bank and Eeylops Owl Emporium.
See iconic props from the films, including Harry’s Nimbus 2000 and Hagrid’s motorcycle.
Learn how creatures were brought to life with green screen effects, animatronics and life-sized models.
Rediscover other memorable sets from the film series, including the Gryffindor common room, the boys’ dormitory, Hagrid’s hut, Potion’s classroom and Professor Umbridge’s office at the Ministry of Magic.
Preferred Partners with Warner Bros. Studio Tour London
Behind-the-scenes Walking Tour
Return transportation from Central London
Step inside and discover the actual Great Hall and Diagon Alley
See the actual props, costumes and effects from the Harry Potter film series
Buy a cup of frothy Butterbeer™ now
Family Saver Package – Save up to a massive £23 if you are travelling as a family.
Christ Church College
Many of the scenes in the Harry Potter feature films were shot in various locations of the college and the Great Hall was replicated in the film studios to create Hogwarts Hall.
Christ Church is a unique institution, one of the largest colleges in the University of Oxford and, at the same time, the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Oxford. See where some of the scenes in the Harry Potter feature films were shot in various locations of the college!
Book tickets here
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