Dunham Massey, Cheshire

A pair of giant sparkling reindeer welcomes visitors to Dunham Massey’s illuminated trail, with both the grounds and the exterior of the house blazing with vivid, festive colours. Highlights include the Rose Garden, with 150 illuminated roses that fade and brighten in time to music, and the fire lanterns, which give an atmospheric, ethereal feel to the wooded landscape. The trail takes around 90 minutes, with proceeds going to conservation work on the estate. In the nearby village of Ripton, the Black Swan has 14 bedrooms and a children’s play area (doubles from £125 B&B, theblackswan.co.uk). 18 November to 2 January, nationaltrust.org.uk

Roundhay Park, Leeds

Sillhouetted figures approaching a fire garden
New flames: a fire garden at Roundhay Park. Photograph: Richard Haughton

A newcomer this winter, Roundhay Park promises wild wicker sculptures, spectacular light and music installations, and a flickering fire garden, all set against the lush, rolling landscapes of one of Europe’s biggest parks. Fuel a walk with rum-infused hot chocolate or spicy mulled wine, and follow the evening with an indulgent stay at the Thorpe Park Hotel & Spa, 15 minutes’ drive from Roundhay, with a luxurious Caudalie spa and comfortable, unfussy rooms (doubles from £105 B&B, thorpeparkhotel.com). 8 December to 1 January, christmas atroundhaypark.seetickets.com

Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire

Luminate in Llanarthney, Wales
In tune: Luminate in Llanarthney, Wales, is set to music. Photograph: Dimitris Legakis

A mile-long trail, Luminate brings together giant glitterballs, thousands of fairy lights and interactive light play, with twinkling and syncopated lights set to ambient music. The trail takes around 60-90 minutes to stroll along, with trees blazing in scarlet and bottle green lights, and plenty of child-friendly displays. Stay at the impressive Llwynhelig Manor in nearby Llandeilo, an upmarket, dog-friendly B&B surrounded by 24 acres of rolling grounds, with three elegant bedrooms (doubles from £135 B&B, llwynheligmanor.co.uk). 1 December to 2 January, luminate.live/garden-of-wales

Leeds Castle, Kent

Toasting marshmallows at Leeds Castle.
Warm glow: toasting marshmallows at Leeds Castle Photograph: PR

Brand new this year, Leeds Castle and grounds will display more than 1m lights and lasers, along with giant baubles and a fire garden bringing a flickering warmth to proceedings. French art studio Tilt has provided three spectacular illuminated installations and a Christmassy soundtrack gives the trail a suitably festive feel. Stay in the Castle’s stable courtyard bedrooms, housed in a 900-year-old stable block in the grounds, with free entry to the castle (illuminated trail remains payable, doubles from £140 B&B, leeds-castle.com). 25 November to 1 January, leeds-castle.com

Audley End, Essex

Illuminations at Audley End, Essex.
Underneath the arches: illuminations at Audley End, Essex. Photograph: JoDenison/English Heritage

Enchanted Audley is a chance to explore one of England’s grandest 17th-century estates under starlit skies, with dancing fountains, a fairy light maze and spectacular illuminations on the facade of the house. The trail finishes with a “wish tree” where children can write their wishes on slips of paper and hang them from the branches. Follow your visit with a stay at the Old Cross Keys in Saffron Walden, an atmospheric Elizabethan building with bright contemporary interiors (doubles from £95 B&B, theoldcrosskeys.co.uk). Selected dates from 2 to 30 December, english-heritage.org.uk

Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Lakeside lighting.
Reflect yourself: lakeside lighting in Edinburgh Photograph: PR IMAGE

Expect a captivating display of lakeside illuminations, trees drenched in colour and fairy-lit tunnels. The trail takes around 90 minutes to walk, with occasional short, steep sections, and a selection of street food vendors to keep walkers warm and fuelled. Stay at the Raeburn, an elegant Georgian mansion just a stones’ throw from the gardens, with bedrooms decked out in classic Scottish fabrics and an excellent restaurant (doubles from £125 B&B, theraeburn.com). Selected dates 17 November to 30 December, rbge.org.uk

Westonbirt, Tetbury, Wiltshire

Three figures in front of blue light rays at Westonbirt Arboretum in Wiltshire.
Woodland magic: the light trail at Westonbirt Arboretum in Wiltshire. Photograph: Johnny Hathaway

Westonbirt Arboretum is home to 2,500 species of tree from all over the world and its annual illuminations and woodland light trails feature a troupe of woodland elves this year. Stay at the Royal Oak in Tetbury, a restored 18th-century inn with a restaurant specialising in seasonal, local food with good vegan and GH optionsand six stylish rooms (doubles from £95 B&B, theroyaloaktetbury.co.uk). Selected dates from 25 November to 21 December, forestryengland.uk

Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire

Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire lit up.
Palace sparkle: Blenheim in Oxfordshire. Photograph: Richard Haughton

One of the most imposing country estates in the UK, Blenheim has a new illuminated trail this year, with glittering light displays and fields of fire set against the backdrop of the vast palace, drenched in a spectacular light show. The trail is just part of Blenheim’s Christmas experience with the palace converted into the Kingdom of the Snow Queen, a festive market in the grounds and plenty of mulled wine and festive foodie treats on offer. Stay at the King’s Arms, a 10-minute walk away, ahistoric inn with cosy rooms and an elegant, bottle-green dining room serving hearty British classics (doubles from £129 B&B, kingshotelwoodstock.co.uk). 18 November to 2 January, blenheimpalace.com

RHS Garden, Torrington, Devon

Nestled in the Torridge Valley, Rosemoor garden’s Glow event offers a chance to enjoy its magnificent range of trees, shrubs, water features and sculptures lit up on a magical trail through its Winter Garden. A short drive away, the Ram’s Head Innis a charming 17th-century coaching inn, owned by French chef Nicolas Boucher, with dog-friendly rooms and a renowned restaurant (doubles from £115 B&B, ramsheadinn.co.uk). Selected dates from 17 November to 30 December, rhs.org.uk

Kew Gardens, London

Christmas at Kew.
In the light garden: Christmas at Kew. Photograph: Jeff Eden

One of the first – and still one of the best – illuminated trails, Christmas at Kew is a chance to see these extraordinary gardens from an entirely different perspective. The 2.6km trail takes in seas of lights, walls of flame and swathes of illuminated trees with a spectacular light show across the Palm and Temperate houses. Pair a visit to Kew with a walk in Richmond Park and a stay at the Richmond Harbour Hotel, perched on a hill with lovely views and a fabulous cocktail bar (doubles from £153 room-only, harbourhotels.co.uk). Selected dates from 16 November to 6 January, kew.org

• This article was amended on 27 November 2022. Audley End is in Essex, not Suffolk as an earlier version said; and the RHS garden Rosemoor is in Torrington, not Exmouth.


Annabelle Thorpe

The GuardianTramp

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