Glow at RHS Wisley is a beautiful illuminated garden walk in the dead of winter, when the garden may not attract its usual visitors. It’s a special exhibit that takes colourful lights and illuminates the trees, garden and water features throughout its expansive grounds.
When your winter nights are long you look for a light in the darkness. It provides a bit of surreal escapism to visitors during the darkest months in the United Kingdom when the sun can set at 3:30pm and not rise again until near 8am.
There’s no surprise, then, that illuminated woodland walks are hugely popular throughout the United Kingdom during the months of December and January. These festive light shows really transform the spaces that they occupy, changing a barren garden into something mystical, fanciful and fun.
This year I had the pleasure of visiting Glow at RHS Wisley, where they have lit up their gardens, added some music for flair, and created a truly charming and engaging experience for the visitor;
RHS Wisley is one of five gardens run by the Royal Horticultural Society and is the most popular of the five gardens. Within the wider United Kingdom, it is the second most popular paid-entry garden, after Kew Garden in London. It’s made up of over 240 acres of land featuring a very diverse selection of plants, flowers and trees.
It features a spectacular Glasshouse with 3 different climates, walled gardens, bonsai walk, pinetum, rock garden, orchard, cottage garden, alpine meadow, and laboratory. All of these end up featured in Glow but also offer a spectacular place to visit year-round.
Logistics for Glow at RHS Wisley (Tickets, Opening Times, Dates)
When is Glow?
It usually runs between late November and early January; but closed on Christmas Eve to Boxing Day. Tickets are available from as early as 4pm and the exhibit closes at 8:30pm.
How much do tickets cost?
The ticket costs are broken down into two sections – Members or Non-Members.
- Non Members: £15 for Adult, £10 for Child
- Members: £7.95 for Adult, £3.50 for Child
Tickets can be purchased online on RHS Wisley’s website.
Length of Visit
The path through the garden is set up in a one-way system that winds through the different exhibits.
Guests should plan for at least an hour to complete the loop, and upwards to 2 hours to stroll at a leisurely pace and enjoy the offerings of warm drinks and treats along the route.
Parking at RHS Wisley
There is more than ample free parking at RHS Wisley.
Where can I find more information?
RHS Wisley’s website includes more details about the Glow installation.
How to get to RHS Wisley
RHS Wisley is located in Surrey, about 20 minutes from Woking, Guildford or Leatherhead. It’s located off of the A3 near the A3/M25 Junction. There are local brown tourist signs featuring a flower that can be followed from the A3 and M25.
Satnav users can use this postcode: GU23 6QB
There are several ways to get there by public transportation, and the garden does offer an entry discount for those who do not come by car. Good Journey detail the different options for public transportation journey to RHS Wisley.
Photos from Glow at RHS Wisley
It is difficult to miss any aspect of the illuminated gardens since the walk ensures that you see each exhibit with its one-way system. However, there are several that are worth a moment’s pause in your strolling to enjoy the art of the illumination and just how exquisite the workmanship of the exhibit is.
Welcome to Glow
The initial field is full of lights on sticks planted in the ground with a sculpted head in the background created from vegetation found in the garden. The trees in the background are the background of other exhibits along the walk but bring everything together. It’s a beautiful way to start the exhibit to showcase all the variety of colours throughout, with an awe-inspiring field of light, and the hint of the sculpture, which returns at several points along the way.
Reflection in the Pond
After walking through the eerie fog and down the path further, there is an opening to gain a view of the pond installation. It features a variety of illumination types that reflect vividly on the still water of the pond, creating a really unique visual.
Field of Lights
The field of lights follows the exhibit of the pond. It’s a variety of differently shaped spheres laid out on the lawn. The colours shift from vivid purples to cool greens and create a display that feels as if it’s in motion. The sculpted head at this point in the exhibit is made of flours and bouquets, creating a striking image.
Glasshouse Light Show
The iconic glasshouse is the backdrop for the next major installation. The sculpted head just next to the glasshouse is made of harvest vegetables, from pumpkins to gourds and many others. The lighthouse is accompanied by music and there are places here to step off the path and onto the lawn to watch the display. The colours and animated shapes play off of the glasshouse and create a wonderful experience.
Lights in the Rock Garden
There’s a pleasantly quiet walk through the rock garden with blue lights playing across the water features. It’s a calming walk compared to all the excitement from the glasshouse.
Tunnel of Lights & The Laboratroy
The end of the walk passes through an Instagram-perfect tunnel of lights. (Tip: you do not need to take a photo at the start, there are opportunities throughout!)
Other Nearby Illuminated Walks
There are several neighbouring illuminated walks in Surrey and nearby counties. These types of exhibitions have become increasingly popular within the last 5 years and I expect to see more next winter as the popularity continues to grow.
- Enchanted Woodlands at Syon Park (outer London)
- Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew (near Richmond)
- Ignite at Polesden Lacey (near Dorking, Surrey)
Tip: Most exhibits take pre-bookings. This year it will be extra popular and many were closed in 2020.
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