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
2015 UK Christmas Fairs and Markets
The end of November into the beginning of December brings the start of a wide array of enchanting Christmas Fairs and Markets, that are a wonderful opportunity to sample and buy local produce, craft work, Christmas Gifts and to take lunch.
The best way to source these are by official tourists links and here are some suggestions:
We are also offend asked if there are tours that include a visit to Christmas Markets and local attractions and indeed there are some excellent options and this is a great way to combine a sightseeing day out with a Christmas Market.
Here is a great suggestion and more details:
This exclusive tour can be booked here
Luxury Air-conditioned mini-coach
Expert Blue Badge Guide
Panoramic tour of Salisbury
Lunch stop at Newbury
Highclere Castle (fictional Downton Abbey)
Highclere Christmas Fair
You’ll never forget your first glimpse of spectacular Stonehenge, its monolithic rocks rising up against the skyline on Salisbury Plain. Theories abound about the mysterious rock formation. Was it intended as a religious temple? An astronomical clock? A Bronze Age burial ground? Make up your own mind as you explore the unique landmark that has had the world stumped for 5,000 years
Panoramic Tour of Salisbury
Soaring into the skyline, the spire of Salisbury Cathedral stands at a whopping 123m (404ft)! Erected 800 years ago, the revolutionary spire is considered one of the leading examples of Early English architecture. Ancient meets modern at the cathedral’s newest addition: a beautifully sculpted font designed by William Pye
Lunch stop at Newbury
This wonderful 11th century town of Newbury is our lunch stop, where there are a variety of pubs, restaurants and take away’s to choose from or you can bring a packed lunch
Highclere Castle (fictional Downton Abbey)
Highclere Castle is one of England’s most beautiful Victorian Castles set amidst 1,000 acres of spectacular parkland
The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and the current Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester for some 800 years
Highclere Christmas Fair
The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon will transform the State Rooms of Highclere Castle to provide a unique shopping experience in aid of Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance and St Michaels & All Angels Church. This will be a festive occasion with our spectacular Christmas tree, carol singers, Christmas decorations and a variety of exciting stalls at which you can complete your Christmas shopping
For those who wish to see a little more of the Castle, there is the option to upgrade your tickets on the day. A suggested donation of £3 to the Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance will allow you to view the magnificent Galleried Bedrooms. You may also upgrade your ticket for an additional £5 to explore the ‘Wonderful Things’ Egyptian Exhibition housed in the cellars of the Castle
This tour is also available (subject to availability) as a private tour