Where to see some seasonal sparkle this winter

While many festive light switch-on events have, by necessity, been cancelled winter is still set to shine, thanks to outdoor illuminations and winter light walking trails.

They are, of course, dependent on lockdown being eased in December, but here’s a few top spots still planning some winter sparkle…


A ‘world-first’ LED steam train illuminations in Hampshire

Winter is set to light up in Hampshire with a ‘world first’ spectacular steam train experience featuring a train decked out in more than 13,000 LEDs. Created by the design company behind stage light shows for Anastacia and Westlife, the one-of-a-kind illuminated steam train is on track to steam through the countryside on heritage railway the Watercress Line (various dates, December – 3 January 2021). Billed as offering a ‘unique, world first, pixel mappable digital LED train’, the Steam Illuminations will not only see the train covered in lights, but every passenger will also get LED wristbands – creating a colourful light show, both on, and in, the train. A total of 13,174 fully controllable colour mixing LED lights and LED wristbands – which visitors can take home after the event – will be programmed to display different colours and flashing patterns. The light show will be enhanced with popular and traditional music. Must be booked in advance.


A fairy light trail with a difference…

Staffordshire’s The Trentham Estate is set to offer some much-needed seasonal sparkle this winter, thanks to a new light trail offering an exclusive chance to explore one of the country’s top garden attractions after dark. Revealing the gardens in a new light, visitors will be able to experience the natural beauty of Trentham, on the edge of Stoke-on-Trent, as well as get a different perspective on its statues and architectural structures too.  And for a sprinkling of festive fairy dust, eight of Trentham’s wire sculptures, making-up the ever-popular Fairy Trail, will be dressed for the season… in fairy lights, of course. Featuring a one-way route, with sympathetic lighting highlighting natural planting as well as sculptures and garden installations, the new Winter Light Trail, aptly called ‘Fairy Lights’, is scheduled to run for a total of 19 nights, from 11 December 2020 until 3 January 2021. Helping to maintain social distancing and to create an exclusive atmosphere for visitors, the new trail will have a limited capacity each night.  Tickets must be pre-booked.


Illuminated Lincolnshire

This winter visitors will be able to wander through the glistening gardens of the National Trust’s Belton House, near Grantham, when its winter lights return in December, running through to 3 January. The outdoor walking trail, with social distancing measures, is set to transform the grounds of the country house estate into a mile-long light show. Discover giant luminescent candles rising high into the night sky on your way towards a meadow of light shimmering as it gently sways. There are giant baubles, glowing flowers and snowflakes where you least expect them, and clusters of trees wrapped in ever-changing ribbons of colour. Booking essential. Following the recent government’s Tier announcement, at this moment the objective is that Christmas at Belton should continue as planned, please check website and social media channels for the latest updates.


Staffordshire spectacle

Over the last few years Lichfield Cathedral has become a must-visit destination in the run-up to Christmas thanks to award-winning spectacular winter light and sound shows. For 2020, England’s only medieval cathedral with three spires will again be transformed using stunning sound and light projections, but for 2020 it will be outdoor only, with reduced capacity and a one-way system to ensure social distancing.  This year’s ticket-only ‘The Cathedral Illuminated, The Manger’ (16-22 December), is composed of imagery depicting everything ‘Christmassy’. And to mark the 150th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol, a special piece has been created in collaboration with the Dickens Museum London to kick off the illuminations, created by the artistic collaboration Luxmuralis. In case of the event not being able to take place, organisers will look to postpone/reschedule the event to suitable later date.


Winter Woodland

Start 2021 with a sparkle at the Hawk Conservancy Trust, near Andover, Hampshire, when it becomes even more magical with illuminations and a live owl display set in a stunning, colourful woodland (15 –31 January 2021). Follow a captivating trail that celebrates the wonder of the woods, as lights and narration illuminate many scenes of woodland life. Experience a rainstorm of light, the joy of sunrise and a dazzling owl ‘sky dance’. The owls will also feature in the finale with a live display in the woodland arena, where the trees will come alive with lights, music, sound and, of course, birds in flight. Visitor numbers will be restricted, and the event takes place outside with social distancing.



Please check websites for the latest updates and any restrictions.


  • slide

    Watercress Line Steam Illuminations, Hampshire - photo credit Tony Storey

  • slide

    Christmas at Belton House, Lincolnshire - National Trust

  • slide

    Lichfield Cathedral Illuminated, created and produced by Luxmuralis artistic collaboration.

  • slide

    Trentham Gardens 'Fairy Lights'