Where to drive to get in the festive spirit

Struggling to get into the festive spirit? Venues, towns and villages across the UK are hosting a huge amount of unique and wonderful Christmas events to help you. From winter light trails and Christmas markets to immersive fairy-tale experiences, there’s no excuse not to jump in the car and drive somewhere that’s sure to get you in the festive spirit.

Chatsworth House, Bakewell

10 November 2018 – 6 January 2019

Chatsworth House


The enchanting Chatsworth House will be full of festive cheer this year, hosting a Christmas market and an enchanting storybook world. With more than 100 market stalls selling gifts and decorations, the Christmas market offers the perfect opportunity to get into the festive spirit. Open weekdays from 10am to 5.30pm, and weekends 10am to 6pm from November 16th to December 4th, the market promises beautiful handmade gifts, as well as mulled wine, a German beer tent, hog roasts and more.

Chatsworth House is also inviting guests to ‘enter a land of make-believe’ at its Once Upon a Time storybook world. Wander the house through classic tales from Snow White and Cinderella to James and the Giant Peach and Charlotte’s Web. The sophisticated design and impressive sights, scents and sounds make this event perfect for adults as well as children.

The team at Chatsworth said: “It wouldn’t be Christmas without a huge helping of dressed Christmas trees along the route, and don’t miss the mirrors on the wall for the perfect photo opportunity. There will be costumes to try on for those who want to get into character too. As an enchanting end to the route, snowball decorations swirl around The Snowman in the Vestibule and snowflake lights glitter in the pale glow of the Sculpture Gallery.”

Drive from: Sheffield (45 minutes), Nottingham (1 hour 5 minutes) Manchester (1 hour 30 minutes)

Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire

10 November – 16 December 2018

Waddesdon Manor

Image: Waddesdon Manor

Magnificent 3D light projections, lavishly-decorated grand rooms and a mesmerising garden light trail await revellers at Waddesdon Manor this Christmas. The whole of the Waddesdon Manor estate will transform into a winter wonderland, with everyone invited to roam through the house, explore the buzzing Christmas fair and by night, experience the spectacular winter lights display in the landscaped gardens. We spoke to the team to find out more: “With over 10,000 fairy lights, 8,000 baubles, 14 fifteen-foot Christmas trees and displays that took 15 days to install, visitors can experience Christmas on a big scale at Waddesdon.

“From beautifully-decorated interiors, immersive winter light trails and projections, to our biggest ever Christmas Fair, there’s something for everyone at Christmas Carnival.

“Our Christmas theme is distinctively and uniquely Waddesdon, as our curators draw upon their specialist knowledge of the collections to come up with a festive theme. This year’s theme, Christmas Carnival, reflects Waddesdon’s history as a place for entertaining and parties, taking inspiration from sumptuous feasts, lavish gifts and masked balls, fancy dress and fairy-tales.”

Drive from: Oxford (50 minutes), London (2 hours), Bristol (2 hours 20 minutes)

Kew Gardens, Richmond

22 November 2018 – 5 January 2019

Kew Gardens


Kew Gardens will be illuminated once again this festive season with a spectacular winter trail. More than a million sparkling lights and laser beams will transform Kew Gardens into a winter wonderland, with decorated arches to walk through and tree canopies illuminated with Christmas colour. On the lake, admire the waterside reflections made by a flotilla of hundreds of boats glowing on the surface.

“This will be the sixth Christmas at Kew and it will be a truly remarkable affair,” said the team at Kew. “If you’ve not been, it’s a trail through the gardens lit by over one million twinkling lights and an array of incredible installations from a roster of international artists.

“The immersive experience will feature 300 illuminated origami boats on Kew’s glistening lake, trees positively dripping with lights, a flickering fire garden, a mesmerising cathedral of light and much more.”

Finish your visit to Kew Gardens with a spiced cider, mulled wine or hot chocolate under the stars, as well as tempting roasted chestnuts and toasted marshmallows. If that’s not worth the drive, we don’t know what is!

Drive from: Reading (1 hour), Southampton (1 hour 30 minutes), Brighton (1 hour 50 minutes)

Blenheim Palace

23 November 2018 – 1 January 2019

Explore the illuminated Christmas Lights Trail at Blenheim Palace this season. With elegant pea-lights, projections and lasers, the palace is transformed into a festive sanctuary. As you walk beneath tree canopies, marvel at the glistening baubles and lights covering the trees. If you’re visiting with children, you can even pay a visit to Santa and his elves at the palace! But the spectacular Field of Light, scented Fire Garden, Canopy of Light and mystifying Singing Trees are all well worth the visit for adults. The Christmas Lights Trail will be open from November 23rd to January 1st, open from 4.40pm to 10pm each day.

New for 2018, the interior of Blenheim Palace will be adorned with Cinderella-themed decorations and hidden surprises, with the staterooms each representing part of the beautiful fairy-tale. For Christmas food and gifts, don’t miss the palace’s brand-new Christmas market. You’ll struggle to find a more spectacular location to shop for unique festive gifts.

Drive from: Oxford (30 minutes), Bristol (1 hour 45 minutes), London (2 hours)

Eden Project, Cornwall

24 November – 30 December 2018

Eden Project


Escape to a magical world of festive cheer at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Complete with an ice rink, and with its iconic domes illuminated, there has never been a better time to visit this world-class attraction. For families, Father Christmas will be paying a visit to the Eden Project along with his elves, and when the sun goes down, the awe-inspiring light displays are not to be missed. From the moment you enter the Eden Project, you’ll be greeted by light sculptures from the viewing platform all the way down to the domes. In the Rainforest Biome, colour and light are used to reflect the changing climates. This is a truly unique way to get into the festive spirit.

Drive from: Plymouth (1 hour), Exeter (1 hour 20 minutes), Taunton (2 hours)

Dunster by Candlelight

7-8 December 2018

Dunster by Candlelight


Image: Dunster by Candlelight

Wander through a medieval village in Somerset illuminated by candlelight this Christmas. For a traditional festive celebration, Dunster by Candlelight welcomes revellers to get into the festive spirit surrounded by historic buildings, candles and lanterns, with the magical Dunster Castle overlooking the village. The quaint neighbourhood pubs are full of Christmas cheer and small independent shops and boutiques sell their wares for anyone looking for a last-minute gift. For a classic Christmas, drive to Dunster near Minehead.

Drive from: Taunton (45 minutes), Exeter (1 hour 15 minutes), Bristol (1 hour 40 minutes)

Mousehole Cornwall

15 December 2018 – 4 January 2019



The picturesque little port of Mousehole has become renowned in the UK for its stunning Christmas lights display. Illuminating the pretty harbour each year, the lights vary from trees, boats and sea serpents floating in the water to fairy lights lining the harbourfront cottages. Drive down to Cornwall and catch a glimpse of these magical lights from December 15th to January 6th. The event organisers said: “Expect a spectacular view of a Cornish village at Christmas! We design and make all of our own displays.” Look out for festive stalls selling mulled wine to warm you up as you admire the lights and bask in the warmth of Mousehole’s festive cheer. If you’re not in the festive spirit after this experience, we’re not sure what will do it!

Drive from: Truro (1 hour), Plymouth (2 hours), Exeter (2 hours 20 minutes)

Ready to set off for one or more of these fabulously festive events, but not found the right car? We offer a number of Ford cars in the UK that are perfect for the occasion.

Image Credit: Alex Liivet, Chatsworth House