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GARDENS THAT SPARKLE AT CHRISTMAS

Natalie French

Back to Inspirations
From twinkling tunnels of lights and giant luminescent sculptures; to gently flickering fire gardens - get your much-needed festive fix at some of the UK's best Christmas light trails. 

Blenheim Palace 
Explore one of Capability Brown’s largest landscape designs as you’ve never seen it before. UNESCO World Heritage Site, Bleinheim  Palace, will be illuminated by over one million twinkling lights this Christmas. Allow yourself a good hour or two to take in more than 20 dazzling installations – from lasers and a flaming torch-lit rose garden to the brand new Blue Neuron – a kinetic light sculpture made from recycled plastic bottles, that send blue light fizzing and dancing through the branches. And for the first time ever there will be a Christmas light-show finale in the Great Court.  

When: 20 November 2020 – 3 January 2021

Where to stay: Retreat to the English countryside and stay at the boutique, Artist Residence Oxfordshire. This 16th century Inn has five bedrooms nestled under its cosy thatch and three suites in the farm outbuildings, plus a quirky converted Shepherd's Hut. Expect luxurious linens, bohemian styling and antique furnishings.

Land of Light at Longleat, Wiltshire
This year, the Longleat Estate has replaced the annual lantern festival with a new Land of Light installation. Magical light and sound installations will take place across seventeen zones offering everything from spring blooms, summer storms, peacocks and an ice-inspired winter maze. Don’t miss the immersive 360-degree laser show in the longhouse – where you’ll be blanketed in cascading light and floor-to-ceiling colourful beams. 

When: 7 November – 10 January 2021

Where to stay: Retreat to cosy confines of The George Inn for real fires, delicious home-cooked food and family-friendly welcome. Check out the Longleat Suite if you’re a fan of the four-poster bed. 

Stourhead, Wiltshire
Stourhead’s Christmas light trail returns for its second year. Discover giant luminescent sculptures rising high into the night sky and a carpet of crocuses glowing in the moonlight. Giant baubles, snowflakes and clusters of trees adorned in ever-changing ribbons of colour – guaranteed to up the festive cheer. Don’t miss the insta-worthy twinkling tunnel of light  and steal a moment of quiet reflection at the fire garden, aglow with hundreds of flickering flames.

When: 17 November 2020 – 3 January 2021 

Where to stay: Make a weekend of it at The Bishopstrow Hotel & Spa. Situated on a 27-acre Wiltshire estate with private access to the River Wylye - the heavenly Halcyon Spa, alone, makes it worth the booking. 

The Botanics, Edinburgh 
Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is celebrating its 350th birthday this year, so celebrate by sipping mulled wine and taking a stroll through twinkling tunnels of light at the botany-themed family-friendly trail. The mile of illuminations will transform tree canopies with Christmas colour and watch out as lights seem to tumble from the undergrowth and flash up trees like fizzing fireworks. Inverleith House will spring to life with choreographed beams of light dancing across its historic façade and, new this year, a 128-metre-long projection and thousands of LED stars.

When: 26 November – 3 January 2021

Where to stay: This independent, family-run, five-star hotel is a great city centre sleep over. Set over two Victorian townhouses, The Dunstane Houses offer laid-back luxury. At the end of the day, peruse the The Dunstane whisky cabinet, pride of place in the Ba’ Bar – with other 70 Scottish malts to sample by the glass - Slàinte!

Belton House, Lincolnshire
This magical mile-long trail, transforms the gardens of the National Trust’s Belton House. You’ll be greeted by a larger-than-life glittering deer sculpture – a nod to the resident herd of fallow deer that roam the estate. Giant luminescent candles rise high into the night sky as you wander beneath a unique tree canopy drenched in Christmas colour - enhanced by a festive soundtrack. 

When: 17 November 2020 – 3 January 2021 

Where to Stay: Just 10 minutes from Belton House, rest your head at Marston Hall – the oldest domestic buildings in the country, built around 1033, with a rich history to boot. 

Kew Gardens, London 
Returning for its eighth year, the hugely popular winter trail through Kew Gardens lights up exotic plants and glasshouses with more than a million bulbs. This year, the new route will lead you for the first time through the beautifully illuminated Rose Garden. Installations include a glittering tunnel of bells, giant illuminated seed heads and majestic trees wrapped in light on your way to the dazzling treetop waterfall, where beams of light interplay in a breath-taking aerial dance. Stroll through the sparkling Tunnel of Light twinkling with thousands of fairy lights, and be greeted by fiery sculptures aglow with flickering flames in the scented Fire Garden. The much-anticipated Palm House Pond finale returns with a stunning light show playing to a memorable soundtrack of festive classics.

When: 18 November – 3 January 2021

Where to stay: In the heart of beautiful Belgravia, one of London’s most elegant neighbourhoods, at the boutique townhouse hotel, The Lime Tree. 

Bedgebury, Kent
Christmas at Bedgebury returns to the award-winning National Pinetum. Inspired by the landscape, explore a winter land of majestic trees from around the world, dramatically illuminated with lights. This family-friendly, one-mile, magical festive trail in the heart of the High Weald AONB countryside will once again be awash with colour. Immerse yourself within woodland neon strings as bouncing lines glow in the moonlight, listen out for singing trees rising high into the night sky and discover the Electric Forest saturated in ever-changing beams of colour. Walk under trees dripping with silvery shards of light, snowflakes and stars – before strolling through the much-loved Tunnel of Light, twinkling with thousands of pea-lights.

When: 20 November – 31 December 2020

Where to Stay: Rest your head at the Grade II-listed sandstone mansion at Hotel du Vin Tunbridge Wells - promising deep baths, drench showers and a super-comfy bed. We recommend you stop for a night cap in the infamous Burgundy Bar – all blood red velvet sofas, leather pouffes and a delightful cocktail menu.

Glow Trail at RHS Wisley, Surrey
Glow Trails return to all four RHS gardens this Christmas. Wisley’s longest-ever Glow trail follows a new route for 2020, with brand new lighting and uplifting music. Expect glowing greenhouses, floodlit trees and the delicate purple flowers on Wisteria Walk will be replaced by mesmerising lights. A rainbow of colour will light up the rock garden and the trees in the pinetum and don’t miss the beautiful Christmas tree. 

When: 21 November – 4 January 2021

Where to stay: Located on the banks of the River Thames, near to Windsor and just 40 minutes from central London, The Runnymede on Thames is ideal for a weekend getaway. Book into the spa and enjoy the sleek indoor pool, flooded with daylight through the floor-to-ceiling windows.  

Lightopia at Heaton Park, Manchester
Lightopia will lightiup Heaton Park this Winter. This year’s festival of light promises new installations, a brand new route, with wider footpaths to allow for social distancing, and over 50 giant hand-sculpted lanterns. Dance through the interactive musical city, gaze in wonder at the plants in the astronomy zone and kids will love the Woodland Fairy-tale world of candy, flowers and character. Christmas images will be beamed on to Heaton Hall and don’t miss the specially commissioned installation ‘ Local Heroes’ – a tribute to key workers. 

When: 20 November – 2 January 2021

Where to stay: Dark, decadent and extravagantly opulent - the new 5-star Hotel Gotham offers 55-bedrooms and five Inner Sanctum Suites and promises a full-on sensory experience – we’re in! 

Dunham Massey in Cheshire
This magical winter trail returns to Dunham Massey promising tree canopies bathed in a kaleidoscope of colours, bouncing lines of light and giant luminescent sculptures. Stroll beside the ever-changing lakeside reflections and beneath trees dripping with silvery shards of light, baubles and enormous snowflakes. Steal a moment in the crystal and fire garden, aglow with hundreds of flames. And make sure you keep an eye out for Father Christmas! 

When: 20 November – 30 December 2020

Where to stay: Cotton Hotel & Spa is located on the outskirts of the trendy Cheshire town of Knutsford. Despite being handily close to the M6, the four-star hotel feels miles away from the urban bustle. 

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