Go for glow! Where to see the Xmas lights
Devon's gardens, woods, a zoo and even a steam train are all getting a Christmas glow-up. Here's our pick of the best illuminations around the county.
Christmas Train of Lights, Queen’s Park Station, Paignton, from Weds 24 Nov – Thurs 30 Dec
All aboard! If walking through the lights isn’t adrenaline-fuelled enough for you, add a pinch of steam (quite a lot actually), Christmas tunes piped through the speakers, vintage carriages decorated with thousands of lights full of over-excited kids and you have a a fabulous illuminated train journey from Paignton to Kingswear. Muddy did it with the kids a few years back and this ride really delivers.
Buckland’s River of Light, Buckland Abbey, Yelverton, 4 Dec – 2 Jan
When the National Trust team trim Buckland Abbey’s Barn for Christmas it always makes Muddy feel festive and this year sounds amazing, a river of blue light created by an indoor forest winding its way to the big Estate tree.
Connaught@Christmas Illuminated Walk, Connaught Gardens, Sidmouth, Tues 7 – Sun 12 Dec, 4.30pm – 9.30pm (last entry 8.30pm)
Something new for Sidmouth – an Illuminated Trail through the gardens high on the town’s clifftops within Connaught Gardens, where the kids can visit Santa in his grotto, enjoy Yuletide toons and a tot of mulled wine or hot choc. If you fancy some shopping, then head to the Christmas Food & Craft Village for 35 stalls selling gifts and treats. Tickets online, Adults £8, kids £5, under 2s free (the Christmas Food and Craft Village is free)
Christmas Illuminated Trail, National Trust Killerton House, Broadclyst, nr Exeter, 26 Nov – 2 Jan 2022
Killerton’s gardens are always a treat but lit up it’s a real winter wonderland with sparkling tunnels of light, giant baubles and trees decorated in multi colour. We like the sounds of the indie street food vendors with their toasted marshmallow, hot choccie and tasty winter warmers too.
Christmas Zoo Nights, Dartmoor Zoo, Sparkwell, Fri 10, Sat 11, then Fri 17 -Thurs 23 Dec
Do lions, tigers and meerkats know it’s Christmas? Sadly, we’ll never know but we do know you’ll love seeing their Zoo after dusk, decked for Crimbo on this enchanting light trail. From £8.25, kids under 2 FREE, family ticket £30 (evening only).
Glow 2021, Rosemoor Gardens, Great Torrington
Tall trees, windy paths and lakes make the perfect combination for illuminations and this year the RHS gardens are promising their longest ever trail with an extended route and striking new light features.
Christmas Wonderland Illuminations, Babbacombe Model Village, Torquay, Sat 18 – Fri 24 Dec and Mon 27 – Fri 31 Dec (open from 10am, lights on 4-6pm)
Enjoy the teeny town and its teeny townsfolk sparkling for Crimbo, with new lighting and fire effects for 2021. Get there mid afternoon for the full transformation from day through dusk for a totally magic time.
Lanterns, Light and ‘luminations, Brixham Harbour, Sat 27 Nov
Market stalls, stilt walkers, live music, a Best Dressed Dog for Christmas competition (so cute!) and a lantern parade led by Santa at 4.45pm (outside the Prince William) after which he’ll do the honours with the lights switch on and you can sit back and enjoy the fireworks.
Christmas at the Castle, Powderham Castle, Kenton, nr Exeter, Mon 29 Nov – Fri 31 Dec (except Mon 13, Weds – except 22 Nov and 25 Dec)
The trail at this 14th century castle has been extended to a mile-long this year, with a new route (so no muddy boots!). The Barn has been transformed into a market and you can fill your tum with festive fuel – and meet Santa – in the Secret Garden. Adults £10, children £5. Grotto +£5.
Clovelly Christmas Lights, Clovelly, North Devon, Sun 28 Nov
As if Clovelly isn’t charming enough by day, just wait till they flick the switch for the Christmas lights! Head down-along the coastal cobbles for a festive choir led by the vicar, a glass of warming grog and a hog roast, plus Santa making a not-so-surprise visit. £10 per car at the Visitor Centre after 3 pm. All proceeds to RNLI.
OVER THE BORDER
Heligan Night Garden – An Enchanting Lantern Experience, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall, 20 Nov – 2 Jan
Enjoy an enchanting lantern experience set amidst the atmospheric Lost Gardens – back again for 2021. This was truly beautiful last year – make sure that you book in advance to explore the gardens as they are beautifully lit by a variety of traditional paraffin lanterns and discover a breath-taking display of flora and fauna lanterns, illuminated within Heligan’s much-loved and iconic locations.
Tunnel of Lights: Arctic Adventure, Shipwreck Museum, Charlestown, Cornwall, until Jan
An immersive frozen adventure through the Shipwreck Treasure Museum’s underground tunnels as it’s transformed into a sparkling wonderland of ice. Follow the footsteps of Polar Explorers as you discover glittering waterfalls, giant icebergs, and frozen shipwrecks. Building on the success of the hugely popular Tunnel of Lights in 2020, the event returns with thousands of lights, atmospheric Arctic soundscapes and a magical journey through a polar world.
Light tunnel, Camel Creek Adventure Park, Wadebridge, Cornwall, 27 Nov – 23 Dec
Stretching for 100 glittering meters, the twinkling tunnel will be adorned with 2km of lights, and as the centrepiece of the Park’s Christmas activities, will cast a magical glow over the winter wonderland experience – Christmas spirit guaranteed! Say hello to Father Christmas, help Santa’s Elves in their workshop or get lost in a Christmas Tree Forest. Little ones can also enjoy a sweet Christmas treat in the Chocolate Factory while grown-ups enjoy warm mulled wine.
The Enchanted Gardens of Light, American Museum, near Bath, Somerset, 9 – 31 Dec
The entire house, gardens and woodland will be bathed in colour, with sparkling reindeer and twinkling tunnels of light. Spiced apple drink, mulled wine and hot choc will help keep your illuminated pecker up.
Illuminate, Hestercombe House & Gardens, near Taunton, Somerset, 27 Nov – 2 Jan
Fifty acres and 300 years of garden design will be all lit up: a multi-coloured Rook Wood and Victorian shrubbery, a yew tunnel studded with thousands of lights and a dynamic pixel display in front of the House. Father Christmas will be in his grotto; hot choc and homemade sausage rolls in the café.
Christmas at Kingston Lacy, near Wimborne, Dorset, 3 Dec – 2 Jan
Giant illuminated baubles, tunnels of light, trees bedecked with lights, flickering flames in the fire garden and Father Christmas along the way – all accompanied by a festive Sony soundtrack – in the gardens of the Italianate mansion now owned by the National Trust. Hot chocs all round afterwards.
Christmas Tree Wonderland Trail, Lower Gardens, Bournemouth, Dorset, 19 Nov – 2 Jan
Does what it says on the tin – and then some – with themed replica trees from around the world, including a 60ft walk-through Bournemouth Wonderland Tree, in the Lower Gardens and beyond. The free trail takes in a Christmas market, alpine bar and ice rink, too. Here’s a map.
The Electric William Burges Odyssey, Knightshayes, Tiverton, Thurs 11 – Sat 27 Nov (Thursday, Friday and Saturday)
Part theatre, part illuminated trail, featuring projections and lights, puppets and toffee apples, this sounds like a festive and fun way to introduce us to the madcap brain of Knightshayes’ chief designer William Burges for a 60-minute all weather show. Booking essential, £12 per person.
Illuminate, Plymouth, Thurs 15 – Sun 28 Nov
Not specifically for Christmas but a bobby dazzler none the less. Plymouth’s much-loved light festival organised by the brilliant Real Ideas Organisation returns in the form of a two-week program mainly around Ocean Studios in the Royal William Yard and also at the Market Hall in Devonport. Expect light art, installations and immersive experiences as well as a host of workshops with the theme of climate crisis. And all for FREE (booking essential).
Have we missed anywhere fairy light-tastic? Let us know in the comments below. And if all the sparkle has got you feeling festive, get your skates on and glide over to Devon’s pop-up ice rinks.