Step into Christmas and walk (or drive) in a winter wonderland. We have collated 10 charming festive trails from all over the UK to suit all interests and accessibility needs. Be transported to the toymaker’s workshop at The Nutcracker inspired (and beautifully bedazzled) Blenheim Palace, admire animal lanterns at Chester Zoo or cruise through the country’s only laser drive at Silverstone. There’s something for everyone — from little ones to loved-up couples.
1. Castle of Light
Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Friday 19th November 2021 – Sunday 9th January 2022
Steeped in superstition and the purported birthplace of Harry Potter, Edinburgh is a magical city. The 11th-century castle is one of the oldest fortified sites in Europe and an unmissable landmark. This festive season it will transform into a mesmerising ‘Castle of Light’, telling the tales of Scotland’s heroes through impressive installations. Rex the red lion will be your guide, helping you to unearth the castle’s hidden treasures and rich history.
Adults aged 16-64 gain entry for £20, while over-65s can enjoy a reduced rate of £16. Children under five and carers accompanying visitors with disabilities go free. Book in advance (especially if you require disabled parking, as spaces are limited) and allow around 90 minutes to fully experience the event. The last slot is at 8.30 pm.
Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire
Friday 19th November 2021 – Sunday 2nd January 2022
Explore the enchanting 18th century estate of Blenheim Palace — the childhood home of Winston Churchill — through twinkling tunnels of light, a resplendent ‘fire garden’ and trees aglow in jewel-like colour.
New for 2021, festive favourite The Nutcracker is brought to life within the Palace walls. Marvel at the toymaker’s workshop, meander through the winter wonderland of the ‘Land of Snow’ and tease your sweet tooth with the candy cane covered ‘Kingdom of Sweets’ (complete with larger-than-life gingerbread men). Enjoy savoury and sweet treats from independent street food vendors under the glow of over a million lights and lasers at this extra-special event.
Adult entry for the trail only (excluding parking) is £22.50 in advance or £24.50 on the day. Palace visits start at £29.50. Family passes are available and children under two go free. Book in advance due to popularity. Wheelchairs are available to hire – contact the friendly Customer Service team in advance – with further accessibility information on the website.
3. Santa’s Night Safari
Sir Thomas and Lady Dixon Park, Belfast
Thursday 16th — Sunday 19th December 2021
Immersive, interactive and illuminated are three words to describe this after-hours adventure. Little ones will love donning a safari hat, torch and treasure hunt style map to navigate the beautifully lit Belfast woodland in search of spectacular sights. Seek out Brussel Sprouts, dance with Ginger and Bred (the Gingerbread People) then ‘go Quackers’ with the Christmas ducks. You might even spot the holly jolly hosts Santa and Mrs Claus! The remarkable theatre show, art displays and festive food are sure to spark your Christmas cheer.
All ages are welcome. There’s an early, relaxed session on Friday 17th December for any guests with sensory or additional needs. Tickets are £16.50 (excluding booking fee) per person, but children under two go free. Contact in advance for access requirements.
4. The Lanterns at Chester Zoo
Cheshire, North West
Friday 12th November – Thursday 23rd December 2021
See Chester Zoo in a whole new light and let your imagination run wild when faced with its amazing animal lanterns. Now in its 10th year, this exhibition has turned into a tradition. The lanterns’ sheer scale and realism will take your breath away, as will enchanting festive encounters. The twilight trail takes 60 minutes, but the memories will last a lifetime. You will find tasty treats on your travels, from fluffy churros to mouth-watering hot chocolate.
Child tickets start at £11 and adult £13. Children under three and carers go free. Visitors attending with a carer are asked to provide proof of entitlement in the form of a PIP Letter or Blue Badge.
Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire
Friday 26th November – Tuesday 21st December 2021
A Christmas challenge awaits at this autumnal arboretum. Can you and your family reunite Santa Claus with his lost reindeer? His festive flying friends took a wrong turn in a storm and not even Rudolph’s red nose can guide them to safety! Children will relish this illuminated adventure through the 18,000 trees and speaking to elves to solve the mystery. Locate all nine reindeer to save Christmas… If you’re lucky, you may spot Santa too.
The trail is fully accessible for wheelchairs and mobility scooters. It’s possible to hire a free mobility scooter but worth checking availability before you book tickets.
Adults may enter for £18, children for £9 and under-twos for free.
Thursday 25th November – Monday 31st December 2021
This Bute Park bonanza is brand-new to Cardiff. Wander around this charming capital city’s landmarks in the largest lights trail Wales has ever seen.
Stunning spectacles around the 1.4k route include fire sculptures, mirror ball displays, towering illuminated trees and a ‘fairy tree avenue’. The star of the show will be the ‘Sea of Light’ installation by Ithaca Studio, famed for creating displays for Kew Gardens, Blenheim Palace and Glastonbury Festival to supercharge the Christmas spirit. Thrill-seekers can enjoy the funfair and foodies the locally-sourced street vendors’ delights.
Tickets cost £18 for adults, £13 for children and under twos go free. The event is fully accessible to wheelchairs and prams to create an inclusive Christmas celebration.
York, North West
Saturday 13th November 2021 – January 2022
York at Yuletide is a special place to be. Step out from the cold and venture back to Victorian England at Kirkgate — a remarkable recreation of a historic street. Better yet, it’s transformed into a sparklingly snowy ‘stage’ where large-scale projections present a special story. This centres around puppets Annie and Tom, who embark upon a mission to find festive cheer to sprinkle over Kirkgate. Merry music and dazzling lights create an immersive experience that will leave you dreaming of Dickens.
Adults can enter for £13 and children £6.50. Alternatively, tickets to this Christmas experience are included within general admission to York Castle Museum. Reading the Accessibility Guide is advised; cars with a disabled permit can park for up to three hours on the road outside the main museum entrance.
8. Kew Gardens
Wednesday 17th November 2021 – Sunday 9th January 2022
This much-loved magical light trail returns for its ninth year to deliver a festive fantasy like no other. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is bedazzled with over a million glittering lights and mood-boosting colours to celebrate the wonder of biodiversity.
Innovative video design studio Novak will treat spectacular trees from Kew’s arboretum as a canvas to bring its archived botanical illustrations to life. ‘Spheric’ is another new installation; this 15-metre-wide dome dressed in 2,000 LED pixels will cast a mirrored illusion over the lake as visitors cross. Sound and light artists Ithaca will create ‘Aurora’ — a 200-metre-high installation recreating the phenomenal Aurora Borealis.
Returning for 2021 is the ‘Wings of Freedom’ — a technicolour LED display inspired by the transformative ability of butterflies. The final stop is the panoramic Palm House, involving projections over the historic glasshouse and lake to the soundtrack of Christmas classics. Enjoy a classy Christmas dinner at The Botanical restaurant or a light bite from a street vendor.
For adults, off-peak tickets are £21.50 and on-peak £26.50. Family tickets are also available. Kew members will receive a discount. Carers supporting visitors with a disability and blind or partially sighted visitors go free. Mobility scooters are available to hire; wider accessibility information is available on the website.
Northamptonshire, East Midlands
Friday 26th November 2021 – Monday 3rd January 2022
Legendary circuit Silverstone has hosted trophy-winning races… And its scooped awards for this festive event, too! Treat yourself to an evening at the ONLY light and laser drive in the UK. Follow Santa’s illuminated journey around the world (or technically 3.5 miles) from the comfort of your own car. The 440 laser beams are powerful enough to hit the moon and a sight to behold! The magic doesn’t end there… Get your skates on and glide into Christmas at the irradiated ice rink. Re-fuel at The Lodge — a cosy hang-out offering food and fun.
Tickets start at £30 per vehicle. If ice skating appeals, prices begin at £8 per adult and £6 per child with pre-booking recommended. Access to The Lodge is included with your ticket. If your friends or family plan on travelling in a separate vehicle, purchase tickets for the total number of cars in one transaction.
Silverstone staff are trained to handle accessibility requests.
Sunday 11th December – Sunday 19th December 2021
Christmas as we know (and love) it was heavily influenced by Charles Dickens. His words added pomp, sparkle and over a century of tradition to yuletide. This relaxed, informative walking tour celebrates the acclaimed author’s life, his London and his Christmas.
Walk in his footsteps to London locales rich in Dickensian lore, from the 17th-century hostelry featured in the Pickwick Papers to the inspiration for Scrooge’s counting-house in A Christmas Carol. Merriment meets the macabre as you meander through a magnificent market, onto Gothic church towers and gated graveyards. Led by the suitably Victorian attired and knowledgeable Richard Jones, you’ll see the legend’s literature in a whole new light.
Meet your fellow fiction fans outside exit three of Bank underground station for a 1-hour 55-minute tour. Part ways at Cornhill Close (again, close to Bank tube). Bank’s lifts enable step-free access but only from DLR platforms, so visitors with limited mobility might prefer alternative transport methods like a taxi.
London Walking Tours are planned to minimise steps and ensure ramps are en-route; you may wish to liaise with your tour guide in advance regarding any specific needs. Tickets are £12 per person.
Fill up on festive spirit, make memories and keep on being you!