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Blackpool Illuminations

Blackpool, Lancashire

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Blackpool's Festival of Light has been a major tourist annual attraction since 1879 when the first displays were of 8 arc lamps. At this time they were described as artificial sunshine and 100,000 people visited. Today it is a spectacle which runs for 66 nights and brings around 3.5 million visitors per year.

When most seaside towns are thinking of closing after the summer season, Blackpool takes on a new life and by offering this light spectacular takes it's tourist season to the beginning of November.

The Big Switch On is when thousands of people gather to witness the first illuminating night of the season, and the pulling of that famous switch by a celebrity or two is the start and attracts many visitors. In 2008 the Top Gear Presenters of Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond had this honour, James May was supposed to be there but didn't get there on time.

They offer a host of different experiences and feature a number of interactive installations designed to both amuse and provoke thought. As well as the lights which cris-cross the road down the 6 mile route, there are also fixed installations at the north end of the town, and fixed to lamp posts along the sea front.

There are many ways to view them, you can of course drive the route either by car, motorbike or on a coach. There are many organised coach trips from many corners of the UK visiting, but these methods do not allow you to take in the full impact of the lights or get those photographs that you want. The best way to see them in on foot, it takes a good couple of hours, a warm coat and a bag of chips is always handy. Walking allows you to intermingle with the crowds, get up close to the lights, wander down the piers to get vista views back cross with them illuminating the sea. On the piers of course there are fairground rides and more that can also be photographed. If you haven't got the leg power to walk to whole route, then you can of course jump on and off the many trams that run. Some of the trams are also festooned in lights during the illuminations period masquerading in shapes of rockets, boats and more.

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The Trams

Blackpool tramways dates back to 1885 and since then has been serving Blackpool and its suburbs from Starr Gate on the South Shore to Fleetwood. It is one of the oldest electric tramways in the world, with the oldest part being the strip along the Blackpool Promenade. The trams are both single deck, double decks and some open top with some of them dating back to the 1930's. They operate throughout the year, but are an integral part of the illuminations period transporting visitors up and down the 6 mile route. Some of them are decorated during this time with lights and made to look like boats, rockets, western style train and more. They do get very crowded as the night progresses, but are a magical way to travel and rest those weary feet.

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Some Facts and Figures:
  • They run from the end of August to beginning of November each year for 66 nights.

  • It's a 6 mile route from Starr Gate at the South Shore end to Bispham at the North End.

  • 40 large tableaux holding more than 5,000 square metres in surface area are included in the display.

  • Over a million lamps in the display with more than 500 floodlights and spotlights. Most of the display operates on low voltage.

  • There is more than 100 miles of strip strung between promenade poles and across the carriageway, whilst cabling and wiring in the display stretches more than 200 miles. Using new technology in 2003 they cut their electricity consumption by 11%, and in 2004 a wind turbine at the Solarium on the New South Promenade help to power them. In 2008 there are now 3 wind turbines to help cut the power bill.

  • The equipment weighs around 711,000 kilograms and is worth about 10 million.

  • It takes 22 weeks to erect the Illuminations and 9 weeks to take them down again.

  • The Illuminations cost 2.4 million to stage but brings in 3.5million visitors who in turn bring 275 million to the local economy.


I have visited Blackpool now a number of times, and only once did I try to drive it at the beginning and after two hours of not moving very far I gave up and left. I have also visited Blackpool for a weeks holiday during this period, staying in accommodation and visiting Blackpool's other attractions by day, like the Tower, and then observing and photographing the lights by night. I think probably my favourite visits though have been when I have arrived around lunch time, had a chance to walk and grab pictures of the beach and piers whilst it's light, and most importantly be able to get into Blackpool without all the traffic problems and able to park up in a residential road at the Bispham end. I have then taken the tram and walked parts, but walked all the way back to the car to be able to take in and photograph the lighted tableaux's at the Bispham end, and if not too late finishing off with a nice warm bag of chips!

Part of The Four Seasons Dalek from Dr Who Display A Christmas Display

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There is a lot to photograph from the fixed displays, the moving illuminated trams, fairground rides and illuminated piers, the illuminated tower, also of course you can get shots of the very slow moving vehicles on the roads, high up on bridges which go across the roads to take tram and car trails and so much more. If you want to get pictures or experiment taking photos in the dark then Blackpool is a place for this.

Further information Grid



Blackpool Illuminations, Blackpool, Lancashire

Ceremonial County: Lancashire

Grid Reference:


Map Link:

Google Map

Aerial photo:  



Best Times to Visit:

Any time during the 66 days, but probably towards the end of the season when the lights are switched on earlier and therefore not having to stay too late.





Other useful websites:

Wiki         www.blackpool-illuminations.net

Nearby Locations:  
Other Relevant pages:

Illuminated Events

Photographing Illuminated Carnivals

Photographing Street Scenes at Night



Planning Grid


Blackpool Illuminations, Blackpool, Lancashire

Grid Reference:


Getting there:

From M6 J32 take the M55 to J4 then follow the A583 as you approach Blackpool you will see signs to the centre. If you intend to drive the route then there will be signs pointing you to various start points to take you along the seafront road.


On foot and of course the trams which run from Southshore through to Bispham and on to Fleetwood.


Pay for car parks in the main centre area. However between Bispham and North Shore there are many residential roads that have no parking restrictions.


Lots all around

Things To Do, See and Photograph:

Beach scenes, illuminated static displays, illuminated streets and street trails, lighted fairground rides and piers, illuminated trams, the Tower and so much more.

What to take:

Wrap up warm it can get cold as the night goes on. Good and comfortable walking footwear. Not too much kit, keep the weight down.

Nature highlights:

Horse and carriages, sea birds


Blackpool, Lancashire





Opening times:

Various each year but generally from August to November. Daily Switch on times vary, with later times at the beginning of the season to 5pm at the end. See our diary for the August Switch on date, and check their website for time schedules.



Photo Restrictions:


Other Restrictions:  
Special Needs Access:  
Special Needs Facilities:  
Children Facilities: Plenty within the main centre area, and of course the trams take the strain.
Dogs Allowed: Yes

Please let us know any other information that we can add to the Further information and Planning Grids or page and any errors that you discover. Before making a long trip to any location it is always wise to double check the current information, websites like magazines may be correct at the time the information is written, but things change and it is of course impossible to double check all entries on a regular basis. If you have any good photographs that you feel would improve the illustration of this page then please let us have copies. In referring to this page it is helpful if you quote both the Page Ref and Classification from the Grids above. To print the planning grid select it then right click and print the selected area.

Please submit information on locations you discover so that this system continues to grow.


By: Tracey Park Section: Illuminations Key:
Page Ref: blackpool_illuminations Topic: Activities and Educational  Last Updated: 10/2013

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