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.
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Looking for family-friendly activities for your next visit to the UK?
There’s plenty to do with kids around Britain, from museums and tours to outdoor activites, have a look at our list of fun-filled activitities for the whole family.
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Take a tour and find out everything there is to know about Britain. They come in all shapes and sizes, from open top bus rides to boats, Minis and even vintage cars… Let your tour guide bring the facts to life so you can start exploring.
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There is so much to explore in the United Kingdom that one might need more than just a couple of days to see everything around. However to make things easier for everyone, here is a list of Top 5 places you should visit in the UK.
As they say, no country is good without its capital and so is the case here. London, the British capital is the living example of what a global center looks like. Known for its cultural, political and geographical influence, the city of about 8 million is one of the oldest most advanced cities in the world. Iconic landmarks like the Big Ben, Tower of London, Madame Tussauds, London Eye, Westminster Palace are just some of the spots that glorify the city every day.
If you are into English countryside living then outskirts of London would do the needful. For instance, an area like Egham is perfect for out of the city living. One can always take a 30-minute train to the city and enjoy a countryside atmosphere.
Scotland and Scottish Highlands is another place that makes it into any tourist’s must-do list if they are visiting the UK. Known for its mountains and lochs, you can indulge yourself in the cold hilly area or enjoy Scottish cities like Edinburgh, which also have been of importance in the UK.
If prehistoric monuments fascinate you then Stonehenge in Wiltshire will never disappoint you. It was built sometime from 3000 to 2000 BC, as many believed the site could have been a burial ground from its early beginnings. Nonetheless, UNESCO added the site to its list of “World Heritage Sites.”
Finally, Snowdon in Wales can serve as the perfect spot for adventure seekers. Touted to be the highest mountain in Wales, it is also the busiest mountain in Great Britain. It flaunts of rare flora and fauna and has activities like rock climbing to show for.
Full article in the HofMag website
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Which building in the UK is your favourite? That’s the question UKTV have been asking viewers recently in celebration of the launch of new series Impossible Engineering. On the list such structures as St Paul’s Cathedral and Blackpool Tower (pictured) are up there with Stonehenge and Edinburgh Castle…
The poll placed St Paul’s Cathedral as Britain’s favourite building according to the survey. Brits believe that Stonehenge is a greater feat of architecture and design than The Shard or Westminster Abbey. The survey was conducted to mark the launch of new TV series Impossible Engineering airing on TV channel Yesterday, Tuesdays at 9pm St Paul’s Cathedral, which was designed by Christopher Wren and survived the London Blitz unscathed, has been voted the nation’s favourite building, followed by Stonehenge and The Houses of Parliament.
“Britain is so rich with great architecture and design, so we wanted to celebrate this by finding out our nation’s favourite. Impossible Engineering looks back at the social, political and technological elements that came together so the greatest inventions of our time could be realised. The fact that so many of these historical structures broke the architectural mould when they were built shows that really great, innovative design can span generations.” – Adrian Wills, General Manager of Yesterday
UKTV’s Top 20 Favourite British Buildings
1. St Paul’s Cathedral, London 38%
2. Stonehenge, Wiltshire 30%
3. The Houses of Parliament, London 26%
4. Edinburgh Castle 22%
5. Buckingham Palace, London 20%
6. Windsor Castle 18%
7. The Shard, London 16%
8. Westminster Abbey, London 14%
9. The Eden Project, Cornwall 12%
10. Blackpool Tower 8%
11. Durham Cathedral 8%
12. Chatsworth House, Derbyshire 8%
13. The Gherkin, London 8%
14. Kings College Chapel, Cambridge 8%
15. Battersea Power station, London 8%
16. The Royal Pavilion, Brighton 8%
17. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland 6%
18. The Royal Liver Building, Liverpool 6%
19. The Mackintosh Building, Glasgow School of Art 6%
20. Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth 6%
To celebrate the launch of new six-part series Impossible Engineering on Tuesday 26th May at 9pm on Yesterday, UKTV commissioned a survey of 2000 British adults to find out which buildings were favoured by the nation, and St Paul’s Cathedral came out on top with 38% of the votes.
Also gracing the list were other famous London landmarks including The Houses of Parliament (26%), Buckingham Palace (20%), The Shard (18%), Westminster Abbey (18%), The Gherkin (8%) and Battersea Power Station (8%). However, the survey showed that great architecture is not limited to the capital, with Stonehenge (30%) featuring in second place, and Edinburgh (22%) and Windsor (20%) Castles close behind. More modern examples of design such as The Eden Project in Cornwall also rated highly, making the top 10 with 16% of the votes.
The study revealed that there was a correlation between which buildings we favour and which we deem to be great feats of architecture and design. St Paul’s Cathedral not only topped the list as the nation’s favourite building, but was also thought to exhibit the greatest feat of architecture. Built between 1675 and 1710 after its predecessor was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, two thirds of Brits (68%) think this iconic London landmark is the most impressive feat of design in the country.
Stonehenge came in second with 30% of the votes. Built between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, the process of its construction remains a mystery, which could explain why 56% of Britons think its design is more impressive than the likes of Westminster Abbey (38%), The Shard (36%) and The Houses of Parliament (34%).
The survey also revealed Britain’s favourite structures, with Stonehenge voted top (54%). London again proved to be a key location as Tower Bridge (40%), Big Ben (38%) and The London Eye (22%) took second, third and fourth place respectively. Clifton Suspension Bridge, which spans the Avon Gorge in Bristol, was fifth after receiving 22% of the votes.
UKTV’s Top 10 Favourite British Structures
1. Stonehenge (Wiltshire) 54%
2. Tower Bridge (London) 40%
3. Big Ben (London) 38%
4. The London Eye (London) 22%
5. Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol 22%
6. Hadrian’s Wall (Cumbria – South Shields) 22%
7. The Angel of the North (Gateshead) 20%
8. Blackpool Tower 16%
9. Iron Bridge, Shropshire 14%
10. Firth of Forth 14%
Winter’s lovely but it can really put a chill in your bones. Luckily, we’ve gathered together some places where you can warm up and restore that rosy-cheeked good cheer.
Warming whisky tastings, a hot soak in a steamy spa or settling down around an open fire in a cosy pub: we’ve plenty of ideas to keep you feeling toasty.
Get out of the cold and into the wonderful warmth of a nice hot spa. Some of Britain’s best known include Thermae Bath Spa — the only natural hot spring in the UK — where you can enjoy a hot soak and look out over Bath’s historic buildings. Alternatively, grab a towel and admire the decorated Turkish-style tiles of Harrogate’s Victorian bath house beneath your bare feet as you make for the sauna.
If tropical plants are growing there, chances are it’s nice and warm: the Eden Project in Cornwall is one such hotspot. It houses the largest rainforest in captivity and it’s a green maze of jungle, crashing waterfalls and spectacular plants all growing beneath its giant geodesic domes. Most certainly a warm, tropical place to explore in the depths of winter. Up in London, you can linger among the palms in Kew Garden’s steamy Victorian Palm House, or get cosy in its rainforest area.
Winter dance festivals
Get your dancing shoes on and head to a winter festival. If you like the sound of ceilidhs (traditional Scottish dance parties pronounced “kaylees”) and traditional music, head to Glasgow’s Celtic Connections festival in early January for some lively dancing, duelling fiddles and the thump of hands on drums.
Provided it hasn’t been taken by a resident dog or cat, you should be able to find some premium space by the fireside in one of Britain’s traditional pubs. The Kirkstile Inn up in The Lake District is a classic country pub with log fires, old oak beams, hearty food and tasty beers, with plenty of rooms if you want to make a weekend of it. Down in Rye, the 12th-century Mermaid Inn — once popular among smugglers — has two huge lounges warmed by roaring fires, centuries of history and plenty of delicious food and drink.
While winter food markets do tend to be outside, they also tend to sell plenty of hot mulled wine, warmed country cider and lots of delicious hot snacks to keep you warm. Borough Market in London in one of the best known, while Christkindelmarkt up in Leeds is an authentic German Christmas market – be sure to try some stollen.
While we don’t recommend getting too close to anything that’s actually on fire, for obvious reasons, there are a number of fire-based winter events across Britain that might throw some stray warmth your way. Up in the Shetland Isles in January, Up Helly Aa is a great fiery Viking celebration with torch-lit processions that culminates in the burning of a Viking longship. Or, down in Northumberland, stand back as brave townsfolk run past carrying burning barrels of tar on their backs to see in the New Year.
If you ever needed an excuse to go for curry, keeping warm could be it. Britain has some of the best South Asian food in the world. Tuck into delicious spicy food at some of the UK’s premier curry hotspots, from Brick Lane and Tayyabs in London to the neon-lit eateries of Manchester’s Curry Mile.
Hole up in a kitchen this winter and indulge in a seasonal cookery course, from masterclasses on the perfect Christmas dinner to hand making chocolates. Ashburton Cookery school in Devon is one of the best known, with Pudding Pie in Banbury another tasty-sounding spot to learn kitchen-based wisdom.
A dram of whisky can’t fail to restore some much needed warmth on a chilly evening. If you’d like to discover the many different types available – to research which is the most warming, naturally – you’ll find plenty of distilleries in Scotland. Try the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh to get a range of tastes, or head for your favourite single malt’s headquarters. Glen Moray and Glen Morangie are two of our favourites.
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