FIRST LOOK: Heart glowing showstopper as holding hands lights up Christmas at The Botanics
Holding hands has always been a loving sign of glowing affection - it lights up the heart.
And now it does that for real at Edinburgh's all new Christmas At The Botanics.
Interactive surprises are plentiful on the mile-long lights and sound trail, but the new festive showstopper is called Lighthearted. When two people or more hold hands and a handrail on a special viewing platform next to it, the human connection completes a circuit and, as if by magic, the huge heart sculpture lights up.
It’s completely safe, of course.
In fact the only shock could be the length of selfie and video queues as families and romantic couples turn up to make new Christmas memories.
BOOK TICKETS: Save money by buying in advance - adult £17, member £15 , family £52 , child (four to 16) £11. Carers and under-fours get free entry. Full details, on day pricing, timings and to book online visit www.rbge.org.uk.
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VIDEO: Watch videos on this page for our first look sneak peek highlights, interviews, plus the verdict of some of this year's first visitors.
Christmas At The Botanics, a spectacular and innovative lights and sounds experience, is like the big day itself, all about bringing loved ones together to celebrate the most wonderful time of year.
And there are more than a million reasons this year to visit the Botanics.
That's how many sparkling lights have been switched on at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh to transform the haven again into a dazzling winter wonderland.
Tree tops glisten and shimmer, drenched in seasonal colours, as the after-dark experience returns for a third consecutive year and runs for 30 nights to December 29.
Decked with lights, projections and lasers, played to a soundtrack of Christmas classics and with the smells of roasted hot chestnuts and mulled wine, it’s easy to see why this festive attack on the senses is fast becoming a new traditional outing with almost 80,000 visits last year.
But organisers promised bigger, better and more magical.
And they’ve delivered - just like the man in the red suit, who also makes a brief appearance with his playful elf, Connie Fir.
New this year you start your journey navigating through a forest of larger-than-life icicles and neon spiral trees in the Icicle Garden, then later weave your way through dancing laser beams and theatrical fog in the Laser Garden.
Along the way is Voyage, a flotilla of hundreds of brightly lit colour changing origami styled boats, bobbing on the garden's pond, slowing the pace for some waterside reflection - a reminder that this is a calming, at times hypnotic antidote to the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping and parties.
Festive favourites returning include the jaw-dropping Cathedral of Light - a towering, 60-metres long walk-through archway, festooned with over 100,000 lights next to the venue’s famed Beech Hedge.
A Fire Garden, using real flames is also back with a new look.
So are colourful projections that play in time to a soundscape of popular Christmas tunes for breathtaking light shows on the venue's huge Victorian Palm House and Inverleith House.
Creative producer Zoe Bottrell, of trail creators Cultural Creative, describes it as a sanctuary to relax and unwind, spending quality time with loved ones.
It’s well illustrated with Light Hearted, the heart shaped installation which glows when people connect with it holding hands.
Zoe said: “We need people to get together with their family to help us make this work. There's a platform where you stand, with one person on one side and one on the other - grab hold of a handrail and when you all join hands, something magical will happen.”
She added: "We create the Trail to be an attack on all of your senses.
"The taste, the smell, the lights and the sound. Hopefully a little bit of everything to give you a full immersive experience."
Ian Bone, a director and head of production at Culture Creative, added: “No one's going to go home disappointed.
"We always come back with new things. We have lots of ideas to keep refreshing the whole thing. We will be back next year."
Kari Coghill. RBGE's Director of Enterprise and Communication, explained how visitors also help to financially support its conservation and research work.
"Anytime you buy something in the shop or a ticket for this event, you're going to support the work we do and we're working in over 50 countries around the world, looking at plant conservation.
"We like to think of Christmas At The Botanics as the jewel in our crown.”
Jonathan Marks, Chief Development Director at Raymond Gubbay, a division of Sony Music, which promotes Christmas At The Botanics, said: “Edinburgh has welcomed the event with open arms and fully embraced the magic surrounding a lightshow at this time of year. By introducing new installations, we are ensuring that the event stays current and unique for people to come back time and time again and enjoy the beautiful landscape.”