Do you want to take the family out to admire festive displays and lights, but don't want to stump up the £100+ required for a hour or two at one of the country's stately homes displays? There are other options!

A display with a giant mushroom, waterfall of fairy lights and plants.

Christmas light displays are a relatively recent phenomenon in the UK, but one that seems to be gathering momentum. When the National Trust introduced their Festive Trails in the gardens of various properties across the country a few years ago, the Christmas light display really took off. People can now pay to take their family around a section of the garden which is filled with an assortment of light displays, some of which look truly amazing.

The problem for many people, is that the reality doesn't always live up to the promotional material, which would be fine if you weren't paying £20 - £30 per person for a ticket, but sticks in the craw a bit if you have - especially when you add on parking and travel costs.

The promotional material vs. the reality (Left photograph © The Guardian)

After you've parked in the mud swamp of the overflow car park and made your way to the entrance, you then spend the next hour or so being buffeted by the crowds as you inch your way around the mile long trail. The lights are pretty, but its hard to get close to them and it is impossible to get a photo of them without people in the way. You end up ejected into a heaving food court where you feel obliged to pay £3 for a mince pie and £5 for mulled wine in a plastic cup, just to make the event feel more festive and not be over so soon. You're cold and fed up with the screams from other peoples kids, have to trudge back to the swamp to get in the car and drive home in the dark.