101 places to go – The best British Christmas lights

We’ve got a bumper festive issue of ‘101 places to go’ this week. The big day may be several more weeks away but the preparations have begun in earnest; not least at cottages4you, where we’ve been busily beavering away on our Christmas celebrations and working hard to find fantastic festive offers for our customers (more info here:  http://bit.ly/PTOByR).

This week we’ve focussed on one thing that gets us more in the festive mood than listening to Bing Crosby while writing Christmas cards in a snow covered cottage. We’re talking about the unsung hero of the most magical time of the year: Christmas lights. So for this installment we’re looking at some of the best places to enjoy festive illuminations.

Westonbirt Arboretum

Regular readers won’t be unfamiliar with our love of this special place. A trip to the National Arboretum boasts a wealth of wonder at any time of year, with the seasons beautifully showcased through its living exhibits. Christmas at Westonbirt offers a unique magical trail through the trees with shadows and lights creating a wonderful festive tapestry. Father Christmas and his reindeer will be turning on the lights on 30 November, but don’t worry if you don’t make it; he’s going to be on-site in the run-up to Christmas, along with craft activities, refreshments and more.

Alnwick Gardens

Slightly closer to his home, Father Christmas will also be appearing at the North East Pole at Alnwick Gardens this year. Before then there’s a host of other festive activities to enjoy including the Duchess of Northumberland unveiling the gardens’ permanent lighting exhibit ‘Sparkle’. Phase one of the project will see the iconic hornbeam tunnels transformed into a ‘stunning spectacle of light and colour.’ Sounds unmissable to us but if you need more convincing there are also a number of craft workshops and lantern walks to get you into the festive spirit at this already magical location.


The Georgian streets and buildings of this fantastic World Heritage City provide some of the most atmospheric festive locations you could wish for. If you did need more help to get into the festive spirit then the Bath lights were officially switched on the One Show’s Matt Baker and Alex Jones with John Bishop on 12 November. On 30 November Bath’s festive market opens with stalls, carols and refreshment under the shadow of the stunning cathedral. If you’re looking for the most traditional festive lights on this list then you need look no further.

The Eden Project

Looking for a more unconventional Christmas? The Eden Project’s exotic topiary may provide a slightly off-beat festive attraction but it’s no less fun for it. The indoor ice rink has returned in 2012 with special skating sessions for youngsters, and there are plenty more festive activities including the chance to meet Father Christmas, his reindeer and elves, lantern parades, live music, food and drink, craft workshops and more – all within the magnificent illuminated ‘biomes’.

Manning Close

For many of us, Christmas doesn’t really start until we hang the lights on the tree or in the window. Spare a thought then for Paul Toole who spends the best part of the year planning the display at his parents’ house in Wells, Somerset. The Manning Close Christmas light show has grown in fame and stature each year propelling Paul into the spotlight (you may have seen him in Channel 4’s ‘King of Christmas Lights’ last year). This year’s switch-on is on 30 November and promises to be bigger and better with 40,000 light bulbs and participation from Paul’s neighbours on Manning Close.

Do you agree with the list? Share your favourite Christmas illuminations below!

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