Experience ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ this festive season – a sparkling, starlit walk through a winter wonderland

The bare winter trees illuminated with sparkling colour and light

The night before Storm Arwen roared into town, it was a crisp cold dry night for the launch of ‘Christmas at the Botanics’ at the Royal Botanic Garden. Returning for its fifth year, this one-mile illuminated trail is inspired by the beauty of nature through the avenues of trees, plants, meadows, ponds and waterfalls with dazzling visual effects.  

Follow the not-so-yellow brick road – (lions and tigers and bears, oh my!)

As you set off on the adventure through the magical forest, the creatively curated, amplified music soundtrack will immediately put you in festive mood.  As you walk around, hear snatches of lyrics from a medley of all the famous, classic songs, Walking in a winter wonderland,  Michael Buble, Driving Home for Christmas, Chris Rea, White Christmas and Let it Snow, Bing Crosby, O Holy Night, Il Divo and Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky

The lake beside the Chinese Garden sparkles with colourful lights over the waterlilies like a Monet-esque painting.  ‘Digital Rain’ is a dazzling show of slender LED lights hung from the branches to give the effect of a shimmering, dripping rain shower.

The amazing water effect of Digital Rain

A fabulous flutter of ‘Fireflies in the Woods’ is a dance sequence of 100 fairy lights flitting between the branches is like stepping into a Disney animated movie. Truly magical but impossible to capture on camera as they disappear into the dark night in an instant!

You never know what’s around the corner, such as this surreal woodland of Teepee trees like alien spaceships.

A surreal collection of Teepee Trees

Enjoy a slow stroll along a meandering path with decorative sculptures to depict milkmaids, geese, partridge et al. for the carol, The 12 Days of Christmas.

Sculptured figures, birds and animals dramatise The 12 Days of Christmas

 The ‘Aquastell’ installation features seventeen luminous arches with beams of light flashing like shooting stars across the night sky.

Beside the Rock Garden is a mesmerising scene of trees, plants and bushes around the blue-tinted waterfalls

The Waterfalls tumble over the rocks by moonlight

Visitors walk through the dazzling domed canopy of the ‘Christmas Cathedral’ featuring thousands of individual flower buds on long ribbons of sparkling lights.  

Christmas Cathedral

Warm up as you wander around the edge of the ‘Fire Garden,’ a grassy meadow dotted with flaming torches and lanterns; a peaceful spot to pause to observe the flickering light and silhouette of trees, as you listen to Robert Burns’ Auld Lang Syne, a global anthem to reflect the end of the year and the start anew.

The warming flames of the Fire Garden

If you love to trim your Christmas Tree with old tinsel and trinkets, you will be inspired by the collection of Giant Baubles, 3 feet high or so, glittering gold and silver balls lying amongst the bushes. 

A highlight of the trail is ‘Sea of Light’, an audio visual spectacle to recreate the swirling rhythm of the waves of water flowing in harmony to the music, a special sound installation created by ITHACA. 

Swirling waves flow around the Sea of Light

The magnificent mansion, Inverleith House appears in the darkness like a huge Doll’s house with superb imagery lighting up the windows with pictures of wreaths, gifts and Christmas cards through a medley of songs, Jingle Bells, Papa Elf and Home Alone.

As you experience the joyful music and dazzling installations, it’s the technical wizardry which impresses with theatrical sound and vision. A few statistics: 17 kilometres of power cable, 650 LED lights (to keep energy output low), 1,500 string lights, and 4,950 candles in the Fire Garden.

Adults and children alike will enjoy this leisurely winter walk through the garden, transformed with razzle- dazzle festive decorations; drinks and snacks available around the trail and the Terrace café. 

Father Christmas welcomes you beside his log cabin

‘Christmas at the Botanics’ runs for 32 nights on selected dates from 25 November, 2021 – 2 January, 2022. Tickets are on sale from www.rbge.org.uk/christmas.

Adult £20, Member £17, Child (4-16) £14, Family £66. (Children under 4 and carers, free).

‘Christmas at the Botanics’ by Culture Creative and Raymond Gubbay Limited, a division of Sony Music, is one of 14 illuminated trails across the UK presented in partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Photographs courtesy of Kenneth J Scott

Image of ‘Christmas Cathedral’ by Mandylights

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About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

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