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Christmas light trail outside

5 top light trails and displays to see this winter

Nothing says Christmas like wrapping up in your warmest winter woollies and wandering round a festive light trail – preferably with a mulled wine or a mince pie in hand. And as the winter nights draw in, cities around the country are gearing up to host some incredible illuminations, from fairy-lit garden trails to 3D light shows. We’ve picked out five of the best light trails and displays around the UK where you’ll get a properly festive experience and an incredible city to explore at the same time. Plus, you can save some cash by getting there with megabus, which means you’ve got more to spend on Christmas shopping while you’re there.

Christmas at the Botanics, Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is worth a visit all year round – it’s home to one of the biggest and most diverse plant collections in the world. But it’s decked out like a scene from a festive movie from mid-November to the end of December, when Christmas at the Botanics comes to town. Follow the light trail to see huge floating seed heads, lawns of glowing crocuses, and the front of Inverleith House illuminated with plant-themed projections. There are street food stalls along the way, so you can fill up on festive treats as you wander. And it’s only a mile north of the city centre, so you can easily explore Edinburgh’s Christmas lights, market and shops. Time your trip for Light Night and you can watch the lights being switched on with a big fireworks display. It’s usually on the second-last Sunday of November.
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Christmas at Kew, London
Another botanical garden worth adding to your shortlist is Kew, in West London. While it’s a Tube ride out of the city centre, it’s well worth making a special trip over to Christmas at Kew in the evening once you’ve ticked off some Christmas shopping in Covent Garden. After sunset, you can follow a three-kilometre light trail that winds its way beneath 12,000 neon-lit trees. There are immersive animations and optical illusions along the way, and the light show that illuminates the Palm House comes with a soundtrack of festive classics. Want to stay all day? Visit Kew Gardens themselves during the daytime, head out for food in Richmond, then come back in for the evening light attraction – just remember to book separate tickets for each. 
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Luminate, Birmingham
Fancy visiting Birmingham? Luminate’s Birmingham winter light trail takes over the city’s botanical gardens from the end of November to the start of January. The mile-long trail packs in animations, illuminations, a wishing tree and endless photo ops along the way. It’s not a traditional Christmas trail – Santa doesn’t make an appearance – but ambient music creates a really immersive atmosphere. Plus, you’ll find marshmallow toasting stations and plenty of festive eats on the route. The gardens are close to Birmingham City University’s south campus, and there’s lots to see in the city centre in the daylight. Pay a visit to the Christmas lights and market in Cathedral Square, Frankfurt Christmas Market in Victoria Square and along New Street, and the ice skating rink in Centenary Square.
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Christmas at Bute Park, Cardiff
Cardiff’s Bute Park is home to the most popular light trail outside of London, so make sure you book ahead for this one. Christmas at Bute Park runs from the end of November to New Year’s Day, with thousands of glittering lights illuminating a winding route through the park. There are lazers and projections, plus some incredible light displays choreographed to music and live musicians along the route. Hungry? Stop off at the Christmas Village at the start and end of the trail. The street food stalls sell everything from slabs of stone-baked pizza to fluffy bao buns and loaded hot dogs, with churros and waffles for pudding. Bute Park is close to Cardiff Castle and walkable from the city centre, so it’s an ideal evening experience after you’ve spent the day exploring.
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Northern Lights, Newcastle
Northern Lights is a new light trail set to brighten up the wintry scenes at Newcastle’s Leazes Park this year. Light sculptures, displays and special effects will line the mile-long route, with festive food and drink for sale at the Christmas village. The park is just behind Newcastle University, nice and close to the city centre. That means you can wander over to Newcastle's Christmas Market, which covers Grainger Street, the top of Grey Street and Old Eldon Square with stalls. Rummage for stocking fillers, watch carol singers and festive performances around the Grey’s Monument, and sip a steaming mulled wine at Moosenwirt – a pop-up Alpine bar.
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