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 Leonardslee Gardens
Photograph: Leonardslee Gardens

10 must-see Christmas lights trails near London

End this year the right way: at one of the best festive trails near London, bathed in an OTT halo of festive lights with a steaming mulled wine in hand

By Ellie Walker-Arnott
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Whether you’re jumping headfirst into the festivities with a Christmas bubble or keeping your distance from loved ones for a more low-key holiday season, there is plenty of light to be found at this time of year. And yes, we mean that literally.

As well as the spangly displays illuminating streets all over London, forests, gardens and stately homes around the country are aglow with dangling lightbulbs and the twinkling of a thousand fairy lights. Book a ticket in advance and then get your face right up in those LEDs. You’ll feel that mega-watt joy in no time.

RECOMMENDED: The best things do in London this Christmas

Christmas lights trails near London

Wisley Glow 2018
Wisley Glow 2018
Photograph: RHS Wisley

RHS Wisley, Surrey

Wisley is going big, with its longest ever lights trail, Glow 2020. The technicolour display winds a new route through the gardens, accompanied by an uplifting soundtrack. Because no one needs to hear ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’ this year, okay?

Wisley, Surrey. Until Jan 4 2021. £15, £10 child. Check website for resales.

Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace
Photograph: Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Not even 2020 can dampen the sparkle of these festive lights. Blenheim Palace’s Illuminated Light Trail will see the grounds glittering with bulbs, and a route leading you through technicolour tunnels of light, past an illuminated lake, to a softly glowing ‘fairy fire’. Just the kind of magical vibes we need to lift the darkest part of the year.

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. Until Jan 3 2021. From £19, from £13 child.

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A picture of Waddesdon Manor lit up for Christmas
A picture of Waddesdon Manor lit up for Christmas
Photograph: Mike Fear

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

Waddesdon Manor and its surrounding parkland will be all aglow for the next month. Winter Light brings colourful installations, illuminated trees and a trail of lanterns decorated by local kids on the theme of hope. Don’t forget a mask if you think you’ll be drawn to the festive market (until December 23) to bulk-buy candles and cheese.

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. Until Jan 3 2021. From £16, from £8 child.

Glow Wild at Wakehurst
Glow Wild at Wakehurst
Photograph: Jim Holden/RBG Kew

Wakehurst, West Sussex

Done Christmas at Kew? The gardens’ rural sister site is putting on a similarly impressive display this winter. In its  seventh year, Wakehurst’s Glow Wild lantern trail will celebrate the ‘hidden heroes’ of the plant and fungus world. Spores have never felt so festive.

Wakehurst, West Sussex. Until Jan 3 2021. £15, £9 child.

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Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire

Santa himself might be in attendance at Westonbirt’s festive display. The woodland’s illuminated Enchanted Christmas trail will lead you all the way to the ‘West Pole’ (one of the jolly guy’s back-up toy-making workshops fyi). Expect elves, talking trees and the famous plant collection to look like
a candy-cane forest for the season.

Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire. Until Dec 21. £16, £8 child.

'Glow' Garden Illuminations at RHS Garden Hyde Hall
'Glow' Garden Illuminations at RHS Garden Hyde Hall
Photograph: RHS Hyde Hall

Hyde Hall, Essex

Hyde Hall’s natural beauty takes centre stage at Glow. The estate’s elegant, leafless trees will be lit up in rainbow shades. The route will lead you through the winter garden, past woods and sculptures in simple seasonal finery.

Hyde Hall, Essex. Until Jan 3 2021. £12, £6 child. Check website for resales.

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Stourhead, Wiltshire

This dreamy National Trust garden, dotted with follies and grottos, is cranking up the festive tunes this winter. After dark, wander past giant baubles, glowing flowers and trees wrapped in lights, for Christmas at Stourhead. All with a warming mulled wine to sip as you stroll.

Stourhead, Wiltshire. Until Jan 3 2021. From £19, from £13 child.

 Leonardslee Gardens
 Leonardslee Gardens
Photograph: Leonardslee Gardens

Leonardslee, West Sussex

See out a surreal year with a walk through the otherworldly Leonardslee Illuminated, where a huge moon hangs above the lake. After your lunar fix, find lanterns and festive lights in the woods.

Leonardslee Gardens, West Sussex. Until Dec 28. £16, £8 child.

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Longleat, Wiltshire 

A supersized trail made up of 17 zones, Longleat’s Land of Light will transport you to a lake in springtime and an icy labyrinth. Add a safari drive-through to find out how the monkeys are spending the season. 

Longleat, Wiltshire. Until Jan 10 2021. £27.95, £20.95 child.

Thursford
Thursford
Photograph: George Cushing

Thursford, Norfolk 

Everything is illuminated for the Enchanted Journey of Light at  Thursford: luminous polar bears on glowing glaciers, flamingoes, zebras and deer with the kind of antlers Rudolph would be envious of, all lit up in a Christmassy sheen.

Thursford, Norfolk. Until Jan 10 2021. £18.

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