The Christmas countdown is on, and with it comes the opportunity to enjoy plenty of festive days out, especially for families looking to make up for the lack of festivities last year.
Luckily there are heaps of attractions across the UK lighting up dark winter nights with dazzling festive lights shows and trails, from immersive journeys with enchanting stories for kids, to breathtaking light tunnels sure to be a hit for anyone after an eye-catching photo backdrop.
Spend your days exploring the UK’s Christmas markets, and your nights soaking up the atmosphere amongst twinkling lights.
To give you a helping hand, we’ve rounded up the top trails that need to be on your radar…
Delamere Forest Christmas trail, Cheshire
Experience twinkling lights and seasonal sounds at Forestry England’s Delamere Forest. Discover sparkling tunnels of light, walk under giant baubles and stroll beneath trees which are drenched in jewel-like colour.
Until December 31. Adult plus parking £27.50, trail only £19.50, child £13.50. Find out more at forestryengland.uk.
Lightopia, Crystal Palace, south London
Lightopia is a new illuminated trail featuring multi-sensory interactive lights and installations, lasers, lanterns and water shows. The route takes visitors through the Guardian Gate through Butterfly Field and Rainbow Road.
See the iconic palace reborn in lights and fill up on some of South East London’s finest food.
Until January 2. Adults from £19.50, children from £13, family ticket from £58 plus booking fee. Find out more at london.lightopiafestival.com.
Lap of Lights, Silverstone
At the home of British motor racing, visitors drive around the iconic Formula 1 Grand Prix circuit under darkness experiencing a dramatic light show while following Santa’s journey around the world.
Give him a wave as he makes a pitstop on the track. The Wing building, which houses the pits and paddock, is a winter-themed lodge, while the illuminated Ice Trak snakes through the Formula 1 garages and pit lane.
Until January 3. £30 per car including all occupants. Ice Trak from £8 adults, £6 child. Find out more at silverstone.co.uk.
Christmas at the Castle, Warwick
Back by popular demand, evening guests can enjoy Warwick Castle’s dazzling Light Trail, around 64 acres of grounds with light projections against the backdrop of the turrets. Daytime visitors can also meet Santa’s elves in the workshop and enjoy a story with Mr and Mrs Claus. Take a whirl on the East Front’s ice rink then browse the winter stalls.
Until January 3. Light Trail from £14.50, £24.50 when combined with castle entry. Skating from £14.50, £24.50 with castle entry. Santa Sleepovers in the Knight’s Village from £399ppn for four, two days’ castle entry, evening entertainment, stories with Santa and breakfast.
Christmas at Bute Park, Cardiff
Take a breathtaking tour around the city landmark which promises to deliver “the biggest light trail Wales has ever seen”. The park features a dazzling sea of lights, interactive installations, a flickering fire garden, a fairy tree forest, plus there is also street food and mulled wine.
Until December 31. Adults £18, children (3-15) £13. Find out more at christmasatbutepark.com.
Alton Towers at Christmas, Staffordshire
New for 2021, Lightopia Seasonal Wonderland takes guests on an immersive journey through the four seasons with spectacular lanterns, light installations, a magnificent water show and colour transformations. Entry to the Christmas market on Towers Street is free (parking charges apply).
Guests also have the chance to upgrade their visit purchasing a Festive Day Out ticket, which includes selected rides and a stroll through the Alton Towers Gardens Lights Walk: Twinkling Stars.
Until January 2. Festive Day Out and market £16, Lightopia and Christmas market £20. Find out more at altontowers.com.
Christmas at Longleat, Wiltshire
Britain’s tallest singing Christmas tree is back with a spectacular 15-minute show featuring 80,000 pixel mapped lights, 3D video projection and flurries of snow.
Visitors can also walk through a tunnel of lights which react and dance to the sounds of sleigh bells. A display of lights transforms the giant facade of Longleat House into a series of festive scenes. There’s also the snow-strewn trail with illuminated flowers through Monkey Temple and Longleat’s famous Love Labyrinth decked out with fairy lights.
A Flight Before Christmas in the Longhouse is a festive tale featuring the aerial grace of flying tawny, barn and eagle owls. Check out the new Elf Show and catch the Santa train to the woodland grotto to meet him.
Until January 3. Adults £36.95, children (3-15) from £27.70. Find out more at longleat.co.uk.
Christmas at Wimpole, Royston, near Cambridge
Walk through the enchanting fairy glen, see the flickering flames of the fire garden and marvel at the Edison trees. Each installation is created to showcase the natural beauty of this ancient arable land and elegant house.
Until January 2. Adults £26 plus parking, £18 trail only, children (3-16) £14. Find out more at christmasatwimpole.co.uk.
Christmas at Killerton House, Exeter
A magical trail, featuring spectacular lighting set to festive tunes transforms the landscaped gardens of the National Trust’s Killerton into a winter wonderland. There will be an arch of hearts and a carpet of gently glowing white roses. Keep your eyes peeled for Santa dropping by.
Until January 2. Adult ticket with parking £26, £18 trail only, £13 children. Find out more at christmasatkillerton.co.uk.
Christmas at Kingston Lacy, Dorset
Visit the National Trust’s country mansion by day to see festooned fireplaces and dazzling Christmas trees. Little ones will adore Percy The Park Keeper and his animal friends on a winter wander trail.
Visit at night and walk by elegant rainbow Christmas trees, a giant bauble tree and through tunnels of lights in the illuminated garden.
Until January 2. Adult plus parking £26, £18 trail only, children (3-15) £13. Find out more at christmasatkingstonlacy.seetickets.com.
Christmas at Gibside, Tyne & Wear
Brand new at the National Trust’s Gibside, the Georgian landscape gardens, forged in an industrial past, are transformed into a winter wonderland by a dazzling illuminated trail. Highlights here include the Christmas Cathedral and the Neon Tree.
Until January 2. Adults £26 with parking, £18 trail only, children £13. Find out more at christmasatgibside.co.uk.
Christmas at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
The illuminated trail returns with a new route across the South Lawn and into the woods beyond. As constellations seem closer than ever, firework trees fizz with lights that flash from the undergrowth.
Inside the palace the story of the Nutcracker is re-imagined with rooms exquisitely transformed and filled with hidden surprises, from the toymaker’s workshop to the candy-cane Kingdom of Sweets.
Until January 2. Adult £50, child (3-16) £3, parking £10. Christmas market free. Find out more at christmasatblenheim.seetickets.com.
Christmas at Temple Newsam, Leeds
An enchanting light trail set to classical Christmas tunes transforms the estate’s Capability Brown-landscaped grounds into a total festive fantasyland.
Be wowed by the carpet of gentle colour-changing spheres, a flotilla of brightly coloured boats which are bobbing on the lake and glitterball snowmen.
Until January 2. Adult plus parking space £22, trail only £16, child £12. Find out more at christmasattemplenewsam.co.uk.
Christmas at the Botanics, Edinburgh
Surround yourself with sparkle at the Royal Botanic Garden’s after-dark lights trail. The mile-long loop features the Meadow of Light with thousands of fibre optics, a newly-designed Fire Garden themed around pinecones and the Field of Light – where amazing LED light strands shoot up surrounding trees.
Until January 2. Adults £20, children £14. Find out more at rbge.org.uk.
Westonbirt Arboretum’s Enchanted Christmas, Gloucestershire
Oh no! Father Christmas has lost his reindeer in the trees of Westonbirt and not even Rudolph’s red nose can get them back together again.
Help to reunite Santa with his trusty steeds, recover lost presents and save Christmas as you set out on an adventure through the illuminated trees.
If you do manage it, then you’ll go down in histor-tree!
Until December 21. Adults £18, child £9. Find out more at forestryengland.u.