30+ Free Light Festivals and Illuminated Trails UK (2024)

Free lights festivals to brighten the long, dark nights, without breaking the bank.

People stand inside an immersive light installation made of thousands of hanging lights

Be delighted by twinkling sculptures, impressive artworks and immersive illumination experiences. They’re not just for Christmas – light trails run throughout the winter. This post brings you a comprehensive calendar of free light festivals across the United Kingdom. All with no charges whatsoever!

We’ve taken the kids to several free light trails over the years. They’re a great reason to visit somewhere new, or celebrate your neighbourhood. As they don’t cost anything, apart from time and travel, it’s feels less of a tax to leave when they’ve had enough. And they’re usually cool enough for teens too.

This post will help find a free light trail near you. Mark your calendars and get ready for a dazzling light display!



CONTENT

  1. FREE LIGHT FESTIVALS JANUARY 2024
  2. FREE LIGHT FESTIVALS FEBRUARY 2024
  3. FREE LIGHT FESTIVALS SEPTEMBER 2024
  4. FREE LIGHT FESTIVALS OCTOBER 2024
  5. FREE LIGHT FESTIVALS NOVEMBER 2024
  6. FREE LIGHT FESTIVALS DECEMBER 2024
  7. TIPS FOR VISITING LIGHT FESTIVALS AND TRAILS
  8. PAID FOR CHRISTMAS LIGHT TRAILS 2024


Free Light events January 2024

A giant cat made out of lit red glass with its paw on a ball is in the water feature in front of Battersea Power Station

1. Winter Lights at Canary Wharf
📍Throughout the Canary Wharf Estate, London, E14
17-27 January 2024, 17:00-22:00
One of our favourite annual events returns with new lights. 13 installations by international artists merge nature and technology including flickering ‘flames’, giant laser projections, and Squidsoup’s Submergence.
Read my tips for visiting Winter Lights 2024 here.

2. Magical Winter Festival
📍Platinum Jubilee Park, Castle Hill, Ebbsfleet, Kent
20 January 2024, 16:00-20:00
Hosts 13 light installations, fire eaters, dancers, a New Orleans-style band, and Dhol drummers.

3. Glow Your Own Way: Festival of Light and Illumination
📍Magdalen Square, Gorleston-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth
20-21 January 2024,16:30-19:30
Features a procession with light projection bikes, installations, films, and digital activities.

4. IlluminoCity Light Festival
📍Citypoint and Principal Place, City of London
Showcases two cheerful installations by The Architects of Happiness.
Until 27 January 2024

5. Battersea Power Station Light Festival 2024
📍Battersea Power Station, London, SW11
25 January-25 February 2024, 08:00-23:00
Seven light works including illuminated butterflies, interactive installations, family-friendly workshops, and a ‘Light Piano 1.5’ with live performances.

6. Reflections Light Festival, Gravesham 
📍Gravesham, Kent
26-27 January 2024, 17:30-20:30
Gravesham illuminates streets with installations, workshops, performances, and music from local and international artists.

7. Bexhill After Dark 2024
📍Bexhill-on-sea, West Sussex
27 January 2024,16:30-20:30
Features family-friendly illuminated shows, a parade, Clock Tower Projection, and music. We loved this one!


Free Light events February 2024

A colourful neon playhouse in front of grey dark city offices

8. Nottingham Light Night 2024
📍Across Nottingham city centre, Nottinghamshire
2-3 February 2024, 17:00-22:00.
Nottingham city centre transforms with 30+ immersive installations, performances and activities including a forest soundscape and AI-generated evolving image sequences.

9. Bristol Light Festival
📍Across Bristol city centre, South West
2-11 February 2024, 17:00-22:00
Bristol city centre shines with 11 artworks by international artists, including giant lit-up flowers, interactive swings, illuminated arches, and vast rainbow bubbles.

10. Spectra: Scotland’s Festival of Light
📍Across Aberdeen city centre, Scotland
8-11 February 2024
The Granite City dazzles with eye-catching projections, interactive lightworks, Submergence immersive installation, laser light soundscape, and a luminous yarn ball light sculpture. Plus 10 interactive AR works by local artists.

11. Light Night Worcester
📍Across Worcester city centre, West Midlands
14-15 February 2024, 18:00-21:00
Giant light-based artworks, interactive ADHD grotto, digital dance line sideshow, shimmering spheres, stilt lightwalkers and more!

12. Baylight‘24 festival
📍Morecambe Promenade, Lancashire
15-17 February 2024, 18:00-22:00 (Friday Night Parade 18:00-19:00)
21 installations by local and international artists in a mile-long trail along the sea front. Includes giant tentacles, an interactive light playground, and a seafront parade.

13. Spilsby Light Night
📍Spilsby, Lincolnshire
17 February 2024, 17:30-20:30.
The UK’s smallest light night returns with illuminations, projections, performances, animations, and installations. A community celebration for everyone!

14. lLLUMINATE Oldham
📍Across Oldham town centre and Northern Roots, near Alexandra Park, Greater Manchester
24-25 February 2024, 18:00-21:00
Lantern Parade and lantern making workshops, light art installations, performances, and a special moonlight ball celebrating the magical world of moths.

15. UEL: After Dark Festival
📍London, E16
29 February 2024, 17:00-20:00
Celebrate the Olympic year with dazzling art, magical installations, technology showcases, giant puppets, African dance, and free activities for all. Click here to register.

Note: LuminoCity in Southend has been cancelled for 2024.


Free light events September 2024

16. Torchlight Kendal Carnival
📍Kendal, Lake District
2024 dates to be confirmed. Most recent dates: 23 September 2023.
Running since 1970, this event features craft stalls, live music, and an evening procession lighting up the town centre.


Free light events October 2024

A large light sculpture made out of neon strips arranged in petal formations to make a ball

17. Light Night Leeds
📍 Leeds, West Yorkshire
2024 return confirmed, dates to be announced. Most recent dates: 12-13 October 2023.
Experience art in the dark at the UK’s largest annual arts and light festival. With captivating artworks and performances by local, national, and international artists.

18. Lightpool
📍Blackpool, Lancashire
18-26 October 2024
The award-winning festival returns with a spectacular programme of light-based art installations, live performances, 3D projection shows and family-friendly activities.

19. River of Light: United by Light
📍Liverpool Waterfront and Docks
24 October-3 November 2024
Outdoor illuminated gallery featuring 12 light and sound works from local, national, and international artists. With sensory-friendly hour.

You might also be interested in Southend Halloween Parade, a family-friendly parade featuring dance performances, a lighting spectacular and giant lit up puppets made by local artists. 2024 dates are to be confirmed, it last ran on 28 October 2023.


Free light events November 2024

A boy stands staring into a glasshouse made out of uranium glass which glows purple and green

20. Winter Light
📍Southbank Centre, London
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 13 November 2023-7 January 2024
Explores contemporary issues with playful use of light and colour through large scale installations, light projections and neon tree canopy.

21. Light Night Wigan
📍Wigan and Leigh, Greater Manchester
2024 to be confirmed, last dates 16-18 November 2023
Stunning art displays highlighting canals, including mural ‘magic carpet’ projection on Wigan Pier, and lantern parade.

22. Lumiere
📍Durham and Bishop Auckland, County Durham
Due to return in 2025, last dates 16-19 November 2023
The UK’s light art biennial is led by world-renowned artists and features over 40 spectacular light installations.

23. We Shine Portsmouth
📍All around Portsmouth, Hampshire
Due to return in 2024, last ran 17-19 November 2022
An expansive and sprawling event with art installations, dance workshops, illuminated projections, a lantern parade, and cultural events. We really enjoyed this one!

24. Oxford’s Christmas Light Festival
📍Oxford, Oxfordshire
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 17-19 November 2023
A festival of arts, culture and community. Featuring a giant son et lumiere projection, light sculptures, art workshops, Diwali celebrations, storytelling, and dance in the city centre and local neighbourhoods.

25. Carnival of the Baubles
📍Ashford, Kent
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 25 November 2023
Spectacular procession of giant illuminated lanterns and baubles plus giant mechanical puppet, video mapping projection, live music, performances, lantern making workshops and makers market.

26. Sparkle in the Park
📍 Avery Hill Park, Greenwich, London
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 30 November-3 December 2023
Much-loved local event, illuminating the historic Winter Garden alongside light features, market, fun fair, and pop-up performances.

Free light events December 2024

A child puts her hand out next to a water feature with coloured floating lights and steam. Tall dark city offices and lit trees are in the background.

Psst: If you’re looking for completely free places in London to see Father Christmas or spectacular Christmas trees, check out this post.

27. Lightwaves Salford
📍Salford Docks and Media City, Greater Manchester
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 7-10 December 2023
A trail of 15 illuminated works from established and emerging artists, both local, national and international.

28. Winter in Wembley Park
📍Wembley Park, London
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 2 December 2023-2 January 2024
Wembley Park offers creative light installations, including light mazes, art installations, festive markets, live choirs, events and more.

29. The Illumination Trail
📍Along Torquay Seafront, Devon
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 1 December 2023-2nd January 2024
A 1.5 mile route with glittering and unexpected light installations, a light tunnel, and roaming entertainers on selected nights. Part of Torquay’s Bay of Lights.

30. Enchanted Woodland in Hotham Park
📍Hotham Park, Bognor Regis, West Sussex
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 5-17 December 2023
A magical sensory winter experience with lights, sounds and projections brings free festive cheer to Sussex.

31. Christmas Tree Wonderland
📍Bournemouth, Dorset
2024 dates to be confirmed, last ran 17 November 2023-1 January 2024
Showcasing more than 100 stunning trees spanning from the town square to the seafront, along with light exhibits and a 60-foot Christmas tree to walk through.


Tips for visiting Light Festivals and trails 

A curved and lit glass stairwell at dusk with a colourful projection on the flat side of the building which leads the eye towards the staircase
  • Visit on a weeknight, if you can. It will be a lot quieter!
  • The quietest times are usually the first hour, and the last. 
  • Some light installations might be turned on half an hour or so before the official start time.
  • Most light festivals have family-friendly activities and installations. Check listings beforehand to target the most promising ones. Aim for a few interactive works with children, as a whole trail might be too demanding for them.
  • Check the event page before heading out. An outdoor event can be postponed due to weather or other issues.
  • Dress for the outdoors! Wear layers for warmth and something waterproof. In winter I use pocket warmers.
  • Pick one or two highlights and head for those first. 
  • Keep warm with hot drinks, and freshly cooked food. Check if the trail has food vans, or if hoping to eat indoors, book ahead.


Paid-for Christmas Lights trails

A large glasshouse is lit purple and blue with yellow and blue searchlights, and hundreds of lit coloured points in a lake, with lit fountains of water shooting directly upwards

Are you looking for a winter wonderland, filled with sparkling lights, festive sounds, and mesmerising installations? So far, I’ve focused on free artist Light Trails. But if you have the cash to splash, there’s some amazing paid-for Christmas Light trails. My personal favourite is Christmas at Kew. Here’s a selection of the biggest and best Christmas lights across the country:

  1. Christmas at Kew, London. 13 November 2024-5 January 2025. Tickets on sale. 
  2. Christmas at Blenheim Palace, Oxfordshire. 15 November 2024-1 January 2025. Tickets on sale.
  3. Enchanted Christmas at Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire. 2024 dates to be confirmed.
  4. Christmas at the Botanics at Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. 2024 dates to be confirmed.
  5. Glow at RHS Wisley, Surrey. 2024 dates to be confirmed.
  6. Christmas at Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire. 2024 dates to be confirmed.
  7. Christmas at Dunham Massey, Greater Manchester. 2024 dates to be confirmed.
  8. Aglow at Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland. 2024 dates to be confirmed.
  9. English Heritage Christmas light trails in partnership with Kilimanjaro Live e.g. Christmas at Eltham Palace, Christmas at Kenwood. 2024 dates to be confirmed.


I hope this post helps you find a free light trail near you! Let me know if you make it to any – comment below, or message me on Instagram

And if you would like your free light festival event listed, drop me a line! Select ‘contact’ at the top of this post.

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Written by Vyki Sparkes AKA Museum Mum. Award-winning culture blogger, content creator, museum curator, podcaster, and mum to three. I’ve worked in museums for 18+ years, have a masters in museum studies, but more importantly, have been letting my kids loose in museums for decades. This blog shares all my hard-earned knowledge and experience.

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