The RHS Garden Bridgewater opened up in May 2021. The gardens are close to where I grew up, so when I heard about the RHS Bridgewater lights, I had to get tickets. So is the latest festive lights trail on the block worth taking the family to?
RHS Garden Bridgewater – what’s it all about?
The RHS Garden Bridgewater is 154 acres in total and it’s the Royal Horticultural Society’s fifth public display garden. The society’s other gardens are Harlow Carr in North Yorkshire, Hyde Hall in Essex, Rosemoor in Devon and Wisley in Surrey.
You’ll find RHS Garden Bridgewater close to junction 13, off the M60 motorway.
Where is Bridgewater? (Clue, it’s near Manchester)
I presume that the RHS team included the word “Bridgewater” in the name because it’s near the Bridgewater Canal. But it isn’t really reflective of the garden’s location. It’s actually in Worsley, a town in the city of Salford.
Worsley is around eight miles from Manchester city centre, to the west of the city. The gardens are just off Leigh Road (which connects the town of Worsley to the village of Boothstown).
The gardens are also a 10-minute drive from that other northern tourist attraction; The Trafford Centre.
RHS Bridgewater Glow… the lights trail
Throughout November and December, RHS lights up the gardens and visitors can buy tickets to go and see the garden alive at night.
The event runs Wednesday-Saturday, from 17 November-18 December and Monday-Thursday, from 20-30 December. Ticket times vary, but there are slots from 4:30pm-7:30pm. The garden closes at 9:30pm.
The prices are as follows:
- RHS member prices: Adults: £5.50; family guests: £5.50; children (aged 5-16): £2.75; children under 5: free
- Non-member prices: Adults: £11; children (aged 5-16): £5.50; children under 5 free
Parking at the RHS Bridgewater
We were pretty impressed with parking at RHS Garden Bridgewater. Not only was there plenty of it, but we didn’t have to pay any extra to park the car.
If you decide to visit, then ideally you should take the car. The gardens are just off Leigh Road, which connects Worsley to Boothstown. There are buses that travel down that road, but if you’re travelling with kids and you have your own transport, I’d recommend that you drive.
What should you expect from this lights trail?
If you decide to visit the Glow event, you will see many of the garden’s features lit up. That includes the Weston Walled Garden, the Chinese Streamside Garden and the Ellesmere Lake. As well as this, trees, shrubs and water features are also lit up.
There is a trail to follow and it will take you around an hour to walk around. However, there is a large tipi part way around, with wooden tables, a hot-dog stand and a hot chocolate vender. If you decide to stop off, you should allow two hours to get around the RHS Bridgewater lights. If not, you could probably do the whole loop in an hour.
Visiting RHS Bridgewater Glow
I enjoyed walking around the garden and certain areas, like the Ellesmere Lake, did look pretty spectacular. However, there were areas, like the Chinese Streamside Garden that seemed to be lacking slightly. I do think that RHS Garden Bridgewater will add to the Glow show though and I expect that it will be even better in 2022.
I visited the RHS Bridgewater lights trail with a five toddlers and three babies in tow (plus a group of accompanying adults). Although the kids enjoyed themselves, I think if my son may have been bored if he’d been on his own. There was no music and no light instillations (like the ones you’d find at Lightopia). So although this is a nice winter lights experience and it gave me the festive feels, I’m not sure it came with any festive magic for small kids.
I also think the general lighting could have been better. I was a little concerned because the trail wasn’t very well lit and I was worried about one of the children accidentally running into a pond, or a large puddle of water. This didn’t happen, but I did feel that the trail could have been made clearer.
The overall Glow experience – will it light up your life?
There are lots of festive experiences to enjoy in the Greater Manchester area. Christmas at Dunham Massey and Lightopia Manchester are both pretty popular and I don’t think that the RHS Bridgewater lights are comparable with these two attractions, which seem to grow in popularity year after year.
But it is important to remember that RHS Garden Bridgewater’s Glow offering is the new show in town. The gardens only opened in May 2021 and the aim here to create festive gimmicks, it’s to see the beautiful gardens lit up by night.
I’ve heard that there is sometimes a band in place. We did see them performing when we arrived at the gift shop, but I think hearing them perform within the garden would have added some extra festive sparkle.
The price seems fair for what you get and we had a lovely evening exploring the gardens. We will probably visit again next year (if we manage to get tickets), as it was a pleasant way to spend an evening and we felt that the tickets offered value for money.
The gift shop at the end is full of lots of wonderful things and I challenge you to get out of there without buying at least one item! We came away with a tree bauble ourselves!
If you’re considering visiting the Glow event at RHS Bridgewater, then you should manage your expectations accordingly. Those that are looking for an immersive experience, full of Christmas magic, will probably get more out of Christmas at Dunham Massey. If you’re keen to see interesting light instillations, then you should head to Lightopia. But if you’re after a wholesome winter lights trail and you appreciate beautiful gardens, then make sure you head to the RHS Bridgewater lights trail.
If you’re looking for places to take the kids within the North West, then check out my article, which explain how you can get the biggest bang for your buck at Chester Zoo.