A few years ago, a new light and music extravaganza arrived in Cheshire that injected a fresh dose of enchantment into winter garden visits. I confess I was a little sceptical when the first installations arrived at the National Trust Gardens of Dunham Massey near Altrincham back in 2017. What was the attraction, I asked myself. Surely the plants and emerging bulbs would be trampled underfoot. Of course, I need not have worried and several years on Christmas light trails are just as much a part of the family festive experience as a visit to Father Christmas or the pantomime.

Great British Life: RHS Bridgewater celebrates winter. (c) Alison MooreRHS Bridgewater celebrates winter. (c) Alison Moore

Despite being a regular visitor to Dunham at all times of the year, it was a similar event at RHS Bridgewater in Salford I first went to see a couple of years ago. It was early evening, with clear skies and a full moon and the garden was wonderfully atmospheric. Clever lighting and swirling mist highlighted the ghostly skeletons of the plants and garden structures and the trees over the lake were lit up with a kaleidoscope of colours. I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to experience the garden after dark, and with a cup of mulled wine to keep the evening chill at bay, I was won over by the delights of Glow. This year, a new trail promises a magical experience culminating in a dramatic fountain display at Moon Bridge Water. Along the way, you can hit the rainbow dance floor at Garden Cottage and watch the amazing halo light show by Jago Juggling Arts. The RHS Garden Centre stays open late throughout Glow, so a little Christmas shopping is the perfect way to end the visit.


Great British Life: The house at Dunham Massey lit up for the festive season. (c) Alison MooreThe house at Dunham Massey lit up for the festive season. (c) Alison Moore

Last year, the family, including four youngsters under 10, headed to Christmas at Dunham Massey, an extravagant spectacle of light and sound that appeals to all ages, especially children. It is hugely popular and gets bigger and better every year, with different routes through the gardens and changing themes and installations. Music provides a key element to the experience throughout the mile-long trail, varying from jolly festive tunes to quieter ballads depending on the light installation. My personal favourite installations last year were the colour-changing Gladioli Tunnel and Light a Wish with its giant dandelion clocks.

Great British Life: Gladioli Tunnel at Dunham Massey 2022. (c) Alison MooreGladioli Tunnel at Dunham Massey 2022. (c) Alison Moore

For 2023, some old favourites such as the giant sparkling reindeer will be joined on the one-mile trail by colour-changing batons of light, a huge silver star shrouded in mist and star-shaped arches. It’s an experience to delight all the senses and It’s also good to see that Dunham offering calmer sessions with reduced visitor numbers and lowered audio. To find out more about these particular sessions you can email dunhammassey@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Great British Life: Neon gallopers at Dunham Massey. (c) Alison MooreNeon gallopers at Dunham Massey. (c) Alison Moore

So, if you're searching for an adventure that'll make the start of the festive season sparkle, Christmas at Dunham Massey will certainly be an evening to remember. Georgina Lofthouse, general manager, says: 'It’s wonderful to see so many people enjoying the Georgian house, gardens and deer park adorned with seasonal sparkle at Christmas time. Every ticket sold supports the National Trust to look after this special place for everyone to enjoy.'


As well as the two events that I’ve visited, there are a number of other venues throughout Cheshire to start your Christmas celebrations off in a wonderfully magical way. Whether you prefer the excitement of Christmas at Dunham Massey or the quieter spectacle of Glow, there is a family experience to suit everyone. Which one will you choose?

More Christmas Light Events in Cheshire

o Luminate at Walton Hall and Gardens. A captivating light trail through the ground of Walton Hall.

o Lanterns and Light at Chester Zoo, a journey through enchanting lands, with life-sized, hand-crafted animals and illuminations including orangutans, lions, dolphins and woolly mammoths.

o BeWILDerwood – a sparkly light trail through the woods, with silly snowmen, curious Christmas crackers, a giant Christmas pudding and lots more.

o Christmas at the Magical Woodland Blakemere – dazzling cathedral canopies of fairy lights, interactive light features in the 15-acre enchanted Cheshire Woodland.

o Christmas at Bolesworth Castle – a winter wonderland with a festive light trail and ice skating rink.

Alison Moore of Renaissance Garden Design is a garden designer and photographer based in Sale.

She writes a blog about her garden and other gardens she visits in Cheshire. For information, see renaissance-gardendesign.co.uk

Twitter: @renaissancegd

Instagram: @alisonmoore