LONGLEAT'S third Festival of Light was launched in spectacular style last night.

Motorised gliders streaming fireworks behind them marked the switching on of 25,000 individual lights just after dusk.

The illuminations form a series of dazzling tableaux recreating famous episodes from Beatrix Potter’s favourite stories to mark the 150th anniversary of her birth.

The figures have been handmade by a team of artists from Zigong in China’s Sichuan province, which has been staging lantern festivals for more than 2,000 years.

A highlight is Jeremy Fisher’s lucky escape from a gigantic trout has been recreated on Longleat's Half Mile Lake alongside Squirrel Nutkin’s ill-fated rowing trip to collect acorns on Old Brown’s Owl Island.

Along the way visitors will also meet a troop of huge porcelain elephants created from tens of thousands of Chinese plates, bowls, cups and spoons and can marvel at the Fritillary Arches and Mr McGregor's Garden.

The 20-metre-tall birthday cake to celebrate 50 years of Longleat is in prime position on the lawn in front of the house, and its scale has to be seen to be appreciated, surrounded by animals having a party to celebrate the momentous occasion among a giant pile of presents.

The notorious monkeys have taken over the Jungle Cruise boat in another scene, surrounded by seals and hippos.

The event features more than 25,000 individual lights, 20km of silk, more than 30,000 bulbs and over 4km of LED lighting.

The Festival of Light is running alongside the traditional Christmas celebrations which include the Santa train, a new animated, spectacularly-lit musical Christmas tree and Arctic Corner-themed play zone for children, where they can slide down icebergs like penguins and step inside a life-sized snow globe, plus a special exhibition featuring costumes from the 1971 Royal Opera House ballet production of The Tales of Beatrix Potter.

The Festival of Light is open Fridays to Sundays until November 27 and then daily from December 1 to January 2 (excluding Christmas Day).