The hour has changed bringing dark evenings and I’m pulling on gloves for Halloween and bonfire night but I’m also looking forward to more outdoor fun at Christmas. You’ll agree that gardens can be gorgeous at any time of year but if you really want to be blown away and create an experience that everyone will remember go out after dark for a light festival this Christmas. Here are 6 of the best:
It’s 50 years since the Lions of Longleat first came to Wiltshire and this year to celebrate the real lions will be backed up by brightly lit lantern cousins. The whole menagerie will be there in what promises to be Europe’s largest lantern festival and one you absolutely should not miss. If the eight majestic lion lanterns don’t wow you then wait for the glowing Beatrix Potter figures around the house. Longleat’s Festival of Light runs from 11 November to 2 January.
Christmas is my favourite time of year at the Alnwick Garden, when it is all dancing with light you can really appreciate the architectural brilliance of the gardens and the majesty of the Grand Cascade. ‘Sparkle’ is a light installation that will illuminate all the arbours and mature trees between 1 November and 31 December but the high spot is the Grand Lantern Parade led by Spark the light-wielding band whose glowing drums will bring the atmosphere of the lighted garden up into the town on 18th December between 5.15 and 6.30pm.
This year is Blenheim’s first ever festive trail of lights. Between 25 November and 2 January the gardens will be ablaze with decorative lights and light installations which lead you through a series of stories to help visitors enjoy Blenheim’s spectacular formal gardens and part of the Capability Brown parkland in an entirely new way. It promises to make the great outdoors magical and everything suggests that you’ll not regret pulling on your woolly hat.
Stockeld Park have been running Christmas adventures for many years so they are really good at it and the Enchanted Forest will not disappoint. Different sections of the light installations in the woodland can be enjoyed on foot or from the skating rink or the Nordic ski trail. The highlight is definitely the illuminated yew maze. Firstly, its vast – nearly 2 miles of paths and 8 separate lighted zones with towers, bridges and surprises and secondly, it is thrilling feeling just a little bit lost in the dark in a sparkling labyrinth surrounded by twinkling lights.
At Fountains, the National Trust host Music and Lights between 26 November and 18 December. The trees are twinkling and the columns of the great abbey building flicker with rainbow streams of light. The enclosing valley feels very dark and magical and nothing beats the atmosphere of walking in the dark back towards the lighted abbey and hearing a choir sing – even recorded plainsong does the trick.
From Sunday to Tuesday from 27 November to 13 December the gardens at Powis Castle will be transformed into a magical wonderland with coloured light displays to show off the best of the formal gardens, terraces and courtyard. The gardens are open from 5 to 8.30pm.