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6 of The Most Magical Garden Light Trails to See This Christmas

GemmaKH
Published on December 1st 2020
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Illuminated Light Trail, Blenheim Palace
Please check local COVID restrictions and the garden's policy before planning your visit.
With the Christmas period looking slightly different this year, we all need a bit of sparkle and these glimmering garden light trails aim to provide exactly that.
From trees drenched in Christmas colour at Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to a shimmering tunnel of bells at Kew Gardens, there’s something sure to get you in the festive spirit no matter ‘watt’ the situation.
Here’s our pick of the most magical garden light trails to see this Christmas.

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Christmas
Image credit: Raymond Gubbay/Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

The Botanics captures the imagination of everyone who visits and is world renowned for its horticultural excellence. Over 70 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds provide a tranquil haven just one mile from the city centre.

One of the world’s leading botanic gardens and a national treasure of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), or The Botanics as it’s locally known, is home to a rich and diverse Living Collection that is 350 years old. Its 70 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds, featuring 1000,000 plants, 10 glasshouses and spectacular panoramic views of the City skyline, provides a tranquil haven just one mile from the City centre.
Their annual Christmas at the Botanics event incorporates this landscape to create ‘a trail of after-dark festive fun for the family.’ Step into a magical botanical world enhanced by a soundtrack of festive classics, surround yourself with sparkling stars or pause for a moment in the fire garden, aglow with hundreds of flickering flames. While the event is in its fourth year, there is a brand new route and ‘brand new lights for winter nights.’
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Christmas
Image credit: Raymond Gubbay/Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Managing director at Culture Creative and creative producer of the trail, Zoe Bottrell, explains there are 16 installations in total across the site.
We alter the installations every single year, she says, this year, there will be old favourites such as the Cathedral of Light.
Also returning is the much-loved Inverleith House projection show, this time featuring a newly choreographed display of beams of light dancing across its historic façade.
A ‘wow-factor’ installation, as Zoe calls it, and something unique to RBGE is the programmed LED light display on the Range Glasshouse.
‘You won’t be able to see this anywhere else,’ adds Zoe, ‘it’s based upon one of the buildings that is only at The Botanics.’
Further, the laser garden is embedded in an avenue of trees, drenching them in Christmas colour. Meanwhile, a fabulous installation of Cyclamens has been provided by The Lantern Company, Liverpool.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Christmas
Image credit: Raymond Gubbay/Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
A delightful constellations installation featuring twinkling stars will ebb and flow across the lawns as you complete your walk.
After the Garden has seen fewer visitors than normal this year, Zoe hopes the trail will provide a mutual benefit for both visitors and the Garden.
We have all had a really torrid year and we would love people to be able to get outside. The trail is ‘COVID compliant’ so we are very happy that it is safe for people to come to, she says.
‘By encouraging people to come to the trail, it will also be helping the Garden.’
Check out last year's trail:

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  • Location: Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ
  • Dates: every 20 minutes from 4.15pm (last entry 8.15pm), 2nd December 2020 to 3rd January 2021 on selected evenings
  • Price: advance adult £19, child £13, family £60; on the day adult £21, child £15, family £68
  • Facebook & Twitter: @TheBotanics
  • Instagram: @rbgedinburgh
Buy tickets here.

Kew Gardens

Christmas at Kew
Image credit: Jeff Eden © RBG Kew
Picture this: you’re walking through a glittering tunnel of bells and as you make your way to the dazzling treetop waterfall, something catches your eye – colour-popping neon lights that transform a tree into a striking sculpture, highlighting its magnificent architectural features. When you reach the waterfall, you witness beams of light interplay in a breath-taking aerial dance. This is exactly what you can expect and more when you explore Kew Gardens’ UNESCO World Heritage landscape after dark this Christmas.
Returning for its eighth year, Christmas at Kew’s 2.5km enchanting winter trail will lead you for the first time through the historic and magical Rose Garden. When in season, it’s home to 170 different species and cultivars of rose and at Christmas at Kew, it’s home to an installation of over 10,000 ‘singing,’ glowing roses.
Rose Garden, Kew Gardens
Jade Beckett © RBG Kew
The plants really are the stars of the show at London’s world-famous Botanic Garden.
When talking to a member of the Christmas at Kew team, they said: ‘Our canvas is the natural beauty of Kew’s landscape, and in particular, the 14,000 trees that can be found within it.
‘Many people are familiar with Kew Gardens in the day-time, but after dark, it is an entirely different, magical place.’
Christmas at Kew
Image credit: Jeff Eden © RBG Kew
As well as the Rose Garden and treetop waterfall installation, this year’s fire garden – produced in collaboration with willow artist, Woody Fox, and Australian lighting designers, Mandylights – is a brand new installation with over 300 fire heads. It features wicker animals (including a fox, badger, robins and a squirrel) as well as scores of shimmering polished brass lampshades, fitted to 19 brass ‘trees’.
Meanwhile, dynamic laser projections will envelop the iconic Temperate House – the largest surviving Victorian glasshouse in the world – transforming it into a beautiful spectrum of Christmas colour.
The highly anticipated Palm House Pond finale will return with a stunning new light show accompanied by a soundtrack of festive classics.
Christmas at Kew
Image credit: Jeff Eden © RBG Kew
There’s also a spellbinding winter lantern trail through Kew’s sister Garden at Wakehurst where you can find the UK’s tallest living Christmas tree. Both Gardens have introduced COVID safety measures and have earned the ‘We’re Good To Go’ Industry Standard.
  • Location: Kew, Richmond, London, TW9 3AE
  • Dates: 4pm – 10pm, 4th December 2020 to 17th January 2021 (limited January dates are still available)
  • Price: advance adult off-peak £19.50/peak £24.50, advance child off-peak £12/peak £14.50, advance family off-peak £57/peak £68
  • Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @kewgardens

Westonbirt, The National Arboretum

Westonbirt Arboretum, Enchanted Christmas
Image credit: Paul Groom
You may have experienced this world-famous tree and shrub collection exhibiting remarkable hues of scarlet, orange and gold during autumn, but have you visited at Christmastime? This magical tree garden in Gloucestershire is made even more exciting during the festive season with their Enchanted Christmas illuminated trail.
Westonbirt Arboretum
Image credit: Gemma Harris
Running for over 21 years, this December it’s back with an all-new theme – ‘Journey to the West Pole.’
The idea is that Father Christmas couldn’t possibly deliver presents to all of the children all over the world in one night just from the North Pole; he has workshops or poles, as he calls them, across the world and rumour has it the West Pole is among the trees at Westonbirt Arboretum, explains marketing and communications manager Rebecca Hare.
Visitors are invited to go on an adventure through the Arboretum to find the West Pole and experience mesmerising light displays along the way.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Enchanted Christmas
Image credit: Johnny Hathaway
Rebecca reveals what makes the family-friendly event unique.
‘There are now quite a few [Christmas light trails], but Westonbirt was one of the first,’ she says, ‘we [also] try to keep the focus very much on the trees.
‘We use the lights to highlight the landscape.’
During your quest, you’ll travel through a rainbow of illuminated trees in the Candy Cane Forest, past the ‘Western Lights’ and cheeky elves and to the West Pole where you might be lucky enough to see Santa.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Enchanted Christmas
Image credit: Johnny Hathaway
To keep himself and guests safe, Santa will be putting on a performance from a distance rather than interacting and handing presents to kids.
Rebecca adds: ‘It’s a magical occasion and a really nice way to experience the trees differently.
'It’s also a lovely way for people to spend time with their families in nature and the light displays this year are going to be spectacular.’
Westonbirt Arboretum Enchanted Christmas
Image credit: Johnny Hathaway
As well as a social distancing Santa, Westonbirt has introduced a range of COVID measures including an extended event duration, a one-way system and increased cleaning regimes.
  • Location: Tetbury, Sat Nav Postcode: GL8 8QS
  • Dates: 4pm-9.30pm, 4th-21st December on selected evenings
  • Price: adult £16, children £8, concessions £14, under 5s go free
  • Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @WestonbirtArb

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle
Image credit: Liz Healey
This Grade I listed building is situated within 64-acres of stunning gardens and grounds (largely designed by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown and later Robert Marnock who designed the Formal Gardens). They offer beautiful sweeping sights of the rolling landscaped gardens and panoramic views of the surrounding Warwickshire countryside.
For the first time, a magical Light Trail will illuminate these gardens and grounds, telling visitors a joyous Christmas story of hope as it weaves its way around the Estate.
Warwick Castle Christmas
Image credit: Warwick Castle
Brand new for 2020, thousands of sparkling lights transform this medieval attraction into a winter wonderland.
There’s also the chance to watch an incredible birds of prey display featuring magnificent owls and eagles, put your skates on as the Warwick Castle Ice Rink returns or roam the traditional winter market stalls.
Warwick Castle Ice Rink
Image credit: Warwick Castle
Many additional hygiene and safety measures have been introduced on-site to keep guests safe.
  • Location: Castle Lane, Warwick, CV34 4QU
  • Dates: every 15 minutes from 4.30pm (last entry 7.45pm), 5th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021 on selected dates
  • Price: from £14pp, from £25pp combined with Castle entry
  • Facebook & Twitter: @WarwickCastle
  • Instagram: @warwickcastleofficial

Blenheim Palace

Illuminated Light Trail, Blenheim Palace
Image credit: Blenheim Palace
Situated in the stunning Oxfordshire countryside is the iconic national treasure that is Blenheim Palace. The World Heritage Site is steeped in over 300 years of history and is surrounded by impressive parkland which is one of architect Capability Brown’s largest landscape designs. At its heart are the award-winning Formal Gardens which include the majestic Water Terraces, the Duke's Private Italian Garden, the tranquil Secret Garden, the new Churchill Memorial Garden and the beautifully delicate Rose Garden.
It’s in these Formal Gardens where their annual winter Illuminated Light Trail takes place. Experience the Palace Gardens like never before as you walk towards dynamic colour-changing neon tunnels and mesmerising lakeside reflections.
There are lasers and pulsing vines while the Rose Garden will be aglow with flaming torches.
Rose Garden, Blenheim Palace
Image credit: Blenheim Palace
Back for its fifth year, it is set to be more spectacular than ever with new installations including Blue Neuron – a kinetic light sculpture made from recycled plastic bottles – that projects blue beams across the trees/branches, Heart of Stars scattering shards of light across the lawn and a scented fire garden that adorns the Water Terrace.
And despite the cancellation of the popular Christmas Market, for the first time, this year’s trail closes with a grand light-show finale in the Great Court.
The team at Blenheim has secured the ‘We’re Good To Go’ Industry Standard and ‘cannot wait to give you the perfect outdoor Christmas experience.’
So, wrap up warm and get ready to witness breath-taking light displays.
Blenheim Palace Italian Garden
Image credit: Blenheim Palace
  • Location: Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP
  • Dates: 4.15pm (last entry 7:15pm on 24th, 26th, 31st December; 8:45pm all other dates), 4th December 2020 to 3rd January 2021 on selected dates
  • Price: adult £19, child £13, family £63
  • Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @BlenheimPalace

Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens

Leonardslee Illuminated
Image credit: Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens
Considered one of the ‘Finest Woodland Gardens in England,' Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens was nearly lost forever when it was forced to close for 10 years. Thankfully, the magnificent Grade I listed Garden, in West Sussex, underwent the largest garden restoration in England and re-opened in 2019. The 200-acre estate is now home to seven lakes, a rare colony of wallabies, a unique combination of woodland, a Rock Garden and parkland and a dolls’ house exhibition as well as their spectacular Leonardslee Illuminated Christmas trail.
The after-dark light trail will run over three consecutive weekends in December to provide you with ‘a spellbinding experience for the whole family on a crisp winter’s evening.’
Leonardslee Illuminated
Image credit: Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens
You can see the magical Leonardslee Christmas Moon floating above the lake, large scale 3D projections onto the Gardens’ trees and buildings in addition to enchanting festive lanterns throughout. There will also be illuminated creations of the Leonardslee wallabies and other woodland creatures, including the fierce winter wolves and mythical Leonardslee forest fire dragon, alongside live music and theatrical performances.
Leonardslee Illuminated
Image credit: Leonardslee Lakes & Gardens
Estate manager Adam Streeter says: ‘The event offers a welcome break from the COVID-19 gloom for families and other visitors.
‘We’ve done a lot of work to ensure the event meets Coronavirus rules.’

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  • Location: Brighton Road, Lower Beeding, Horsham, RH13 6PP
  • Dates: 4.30pm-9.29pm, 11th-13th, 17th-23rd & 27th-28th December
  • Price: adult £16, child £8, free entry for 2 years and under
  • Facebook & Instagram: @leonardsleegardens
  • Twitter: @LeonardsleeG

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