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From laser gardens to enchanted forests, glowing displays are lighting up the UK this dark winter season. Here’s our pick of the most dazzling…

Christmas at Kew, London


Now a firm favourite in 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 300 illuminated origami boats floating the water, a flickering fire garden where guests can enjoy a festive drink and the Cathedral of Light, the biggest tunnel of lights ever seen at Kew. Visitors can expect a mesmerizing Palm House 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. 22 November 2018 – 5 January 2019. Visit kew.org 

Enchanted Season at English Heritage

Enchanted Light Festival

©English Heritage

Find hidden fairies, meet talking trees and get hands-on with interactive lighting at one of English Heritage’s illuminated garden trails this winter. Events run across Audley End House and Gardens, Belsay Hall, Brodsworth Hall and Gardens; Eltham Palace and Gardens and Witley Court and Gardens. englishheritage.org.uk 

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The Festival of Light, Longleat

Festival Of Light Longleat


Set against the beautiful backdrop of Longleat House, explore 30 acres of giant Chinese Lanterns at Longleat’s Festival of Light.  This year guests are invited on an expedition through time and space with their Fantastic Voyage theme, led by three new character creations: brother and sister Harry and Bea, plus their fearless terrier companion Monty. In each lantern scene the trio explore different locations, from the exotic to the glacial. Guests will also see them ‘take flight’, suspended among the clouds in a hot air balloon towering 20 metres into the night sky. Selected dates from 10th November – 6th January 2019. Visit longleat.co.uk

Christmas at the Botanics, Edinburgh

Christmas At The Botanics

With over a million twinkling lights, Christmas at the Botanics is returning to Edinburgh following a successful first year. 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…23 November – 29 December 2018. Visit rbge.org

Canary Wharf Winter Lights, London

Canary Wharf Winter Lights

Free to the public and a firm fixture on the London arts scene, Canary Wharf’s annual Winter Lights festival is back for its fifth year running. This year’s line up features work from UK artists Squidsoup with their large immersive piece ‘Submergence’, which uses 24,000 individual points of suspended light, transforming the space into an abstract, hybrid environment lasting 12 minutes. Also on display is an interactive light and water installation featuring a mist cloud which can be controlled by the audience through dancing and singing. 15-26 January 2019. Visit canarywharf.com

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City of Lights, Truro, Cornwall

Truro City of Lights

On Wednesday 21 November, the City of Lights procession will illuminate the streets of Truro with lanterns created by both artists and local groups. This year’s theme is ‘Remember’, leaving plenty of room for exploration and imagination – last year lanterns included a rhino, a giraffe and the Kings and Queens of England. 21 November. Visit cityoflights.org.uk 

Christmas at ZSL London Zoo

Christmas At London Zoo

See London Zoo like never before this winter. While the animals are tucked up in bed, visitors can embark on an after-dark experience, journeying down the one-mile illuminated pathway through the zoo. Head into the Light Vortex and marvel at the canopy of over 100,000 pea-lights above you and watch glowing foundations at the penguin pool dance in time to the sounds of Christmas classics. Look out for the larger-than-life wild animal sculptures, which rise high into the night sky. 22 November – 1st January 2019. Visit zsl.org

Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

The National Arboretum

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. Once you reach the end of the trial, head to the Christmas village, complete with crafts, Christmas choirs and fairground rides. 1st – 23rd December. Visit forestryengland.uk 

Illuminated Christmas Lights Trail at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace

©Blenheim Palace

Wander through the grand gardens of Blenheim Palace this winter season for a show-stopping display of lasers, projections and thousands of pea-lights. Highlights this year include a new Field of Light, scented Fire Garden, Canopy of Light and the voices of the Singing Trees. You might even catch a glimpse of Father Christmas and his elves somewhere along the way! 23 November – 1st January 2019. Visit blenheimpalace.com 

Lightwaves, Salford Quays, Manchester


For 10 days in December, Salford Quays and MediaCity UK will be illuminated with a series of 16 light experiences for us to marvel at – all for free. A highlight is a piece called ‘Youth Culture’ from renowned London-based artist Stanza: a digitally interactive hooded sculpture which responds to ultrasound sensors, meaning LEDs’ behaviours change when approached. A giant, glowing squirrel will also feature, as well as the popular Cathedral of Mirrors, which comprises of 12 mirrored columns each standing at 12 feet. Friday 7 December until Sunday 16 December. Visit quays culture.com

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