The best outdoor lights 2020: stylish exterior illumination for your abode

Illuminate and add character to your garden, patio or BBQ area with a range of practical decorative outdoor lights

Best outdoor solar lights and electric wired lights

The best outdoor lights will transform your garden into a stylish and unique personal space that makes your home stand out from the crowd. They'll also enable you to be outdoors longer – over May's spring bank holidays, for instance – without the risk of tumbling into your herbaceous borders in the dark. Whether you’re looking to add extra lighting for better visibility after dark, or something purely decorative; we've got a range of options available to suit all styles.

• We now have a guide to the Best Philips Hue Outdoor lighting too.

• Shop Philips Hue Outdoor lights at Amazon

Best outdoor lights: solar or wired?

The first thing about buying outdoor lights is that this is a case where paying more is advisable, unless you want to replace your lights every year. That's especially true of solar lights. For that reason, we suggest you make John Lewis your first port of call.

For most people, solar garden lights are best, but anything attached to the exterior of your house is probably better off being wired. We will now point out to you that legally speaking, this should be done by a qualified professional or you may find it impossible to sell your house, when the time comes. 

As a more minor consequence, you might also electrocute someone, and they may die. Yes, we know wiring lights is extremely easy, but doing so outside your house is a lot more difficult, and the law is the law.

The best lights to brighten up the garden are wall-mounted lamps for smaller spaces, with string lights or fairy lights for further down the garden path. These can be kept up all year around. Another great option is to get a load of freestanding solar lanterns and leave them on tables, hanging from tree branches and, for more adventurous hosts, glued to your summer hat.

Spike lights are the classic choice for pitching in the garden to illuminate or highlight ponds and pathways. These are usually solar powered so ensure they get at least some sunlight during the day, so they can be useful at night.

The other classic option is buying more directional lights and using them to pick out a statement plant or statue.

Before purchasing any kind of outdoor lights, be sure to check they are suitably weatherproof and waterproof according to the area you plan to use them. Pond lighting requires very different levels of waterproofing to decorative garden lighting, for obvious reasons, and none of the mains-powered options here should be considered suitable.

The best outdoor lights, in order

Best outdoor lights: ATLAS SOLAR SPOTLIGHTS (SET OF 4)

(Image credit: The Solar Centre)

1. ATLAS SOLAR SPOTLIGHTS (SET OF 4)

Superb solar spotlight set for illuminating the shrubbery

Specifications
Dimensions: H9xD4cm
Number of bulbs: 4
Power supply: Solar
Colour when lit: Warm white
Reasons to buy
+Excellent brightness+Long running time+Simple to install
Reasons to avoid
-Solar panel is quite large

•Buy the Atlas Solar Spotlights from The Solar Centre

If you’re looking to light up a cosy corner of your garden and don’t fancy the thought of having to hire the services of an electrician, consider installing this exceptional set of four solar-powered spots instead.

Simply stake the 24cm x 20cm solar panel into the ground and attach the four 4.5m waterproof cables to each high-quality spot. The panel absorbs the sun’s energy during the day and, come darkness, its built-in light sensor flicks the lights on.

The reasonably-priced 200-lumen Atlas system has a combined illumination range of about five metres so its perfect for highlighting small trees, shrubs and water features. In summer, you can safely expect them to go on shining till well past bedtime. Highly recommended.

Best outdoor lights: John Lewis Flint Solar Glass Outdoor Light

2. John Lewis Flint Solar Glass Outdoor Light

Best cheap outdoor lights

Specifications
Dimensions: H11xD11cm
Number of bulbs: 1
Power supply: Solar
Colour when lit: Warm white
Reasons to buy
+Look good, cost little+Easy to use+Rope handle for easy hanging
Reasons to avoid
-Not the last word in robustness

With a solar cell and LEDs that last for 20,000 hours, these cheap lanterns are easily placed on tables, shelves, the floor, or hung from trees or your washing line. Just don't tread on them or let them fall, or that will be that. At £12 a chuck, that doesn't seem too big a problem however.

The amount of light given off is more suited to building atmosphere than reading War and Peace, but they are also obviously very portable. You can easily leave them in a sunny part of the garden to charge up before distributing to darker corners as the sun sets and your guests arrive for this week's party, BBQ or Satanic ritual.

Best outdoor lights: TRUEFLAME MINI SOLAR TORCH LIGHTS

(Image credit: The Solar Centre)

3. TRUEFLAME MINI SOLAR TORCH LIGHTS

Highly realistic flaming LED torches for pathways and borders

Specifications
Dimensions: H12xD9cm
Number of bulbs: 2
Power supply: Solar
Colour when lit: Flame like
Reasons to buy
+Very realistic flame simulation+Long running time+Surprisingly bright

•Buy the TrueFlame Mini Solar Torch Lights from The Solar Centre

Stake-style solar lights like this two-pack set from the Solar Centre are a perfect, fuss-free way to illuminate garden paths, flower borders, pond surrounds and patios.

Each solar-powered TrueFlame is equipped with a Li-ion battery for storing energy and a battalion of LEDs that flicker independently to simulate a flickering flame. When night falls they automatically switch on and stay on for up to 10 hours at a time (less in winter).

The light these keenly-priced torches emit is startlingly realistic, even from up close. They’re also surprisingly bright. Top buy.

Best outdoor lights: John Lewis Festoon

4. John Lewis Festoon

Classy but slightly fragile string lights

Specifications
Dimensions: L950cm
Number of bulbs: 10
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: Warm white
Reasons to buy
+Attractive bulbs+Provides a warm yellow glow
Reasons to avoid
-Fragile bulbs cannot be replaced

•Buy the John Lewis Festoon from John Lewis & Partners

This John Lewis string has 10 clear LED bulbs that look great, give a warm yellow-ish glow (equivalent to a 25-watt filament in old skool tech) and last for 20,000 hours. The cable runs for 5m before the first bulb makes an appearance but it's worth noting that the power adaptor is intended to be kept indoors. Or to put it another way, you can't hang these more than 5m outside your door or window or wherever you are plugged in.

The bulbs are suitably chic, but they are glass and if you break them there are no replacements to be had, so be a little careful, huh?

Best outdoor lights: HUE LILY OUTDOOR COLOUR AMBIENCE SPOT LIGHT SET

(Image credit: Philips)

5. HUE LILY OUTDOOR COLOUR AMBIENCE SPOT LIGHT SET

A top choice for multi-coloured garden lighting

Specifications
Dimensions: H19xD8cm
Number of bulbs: 3
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: 16 million colours
Reasons to buy
+16 million colour schemes at your fingertip+Low voltage+App enabled
Reasons to avoid
-Very expensive-Requires a Hue Bridge

Philips Hue is arguably the most versatile outdoor lighting system on the market since it allows you to change the colour of each bulb to suit the mood simply by fiddling about with an app. And by colour we mean every colour and shade in the spectrum. This particular model is comprised of three mat black aluminium spot lights with stands for wall mounting and spikes for ground installation.

Set up isn’t as straightforward as the solar-powered Atlas system reviewed above but it’s not too taxing if you already have an outdoor power outlet. The spots themselves are bright enough to illuminate trees and shrubs up to about four metres in height.

The Lily kit isn’t cheap by any stretch of the imagination (you will also need to add a Hue Bridge – £50 – to the checkout basket) but it’s a fantastic way to improve ambience, whether it’s highlighting shrubs, trees and water features or adding atmospheric lighting to the patio.

Best outdoor lights: NORDLUX VEJERS OUTDOOR WALL LANTERN

6. Nordlux Vejers Outdoor Wall Lantern

Best wall-mounted garden/outdoor light

Specifications
Dimensions: H23x W22cm
Number of bulbs: 1
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: Warm white
Reasons to buy
+Smart looking+Bright 
Reasons to avoid
- Tricky to install 

This swish looking outdoor wall lantern from John Lewis will save you fumbling for your keys in the dark of an evening. It aims to provides a warm but bright light which is ideal for placing by the front or back door or a gated entrance for better visibility as well as style. 

The industrial-style, black casing of this outdoor wall light make it ideal for modern homes and with its galvanised steel anti-rust coating, it promises to stand the test of time (and British weather). You should get an electrician to fit this light as it is mains powered.

Best outdoor lights: John Lewis Strom

7. John Lewis Strom

Best outdoor light for wall lighting

Specifications
Dimensions: H16.4xW8.5xD9.3cm
Number of bulbs: 2
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: White
Reasons to buy
+Metallic finish in copper, silver or black+Robust

Available in still-reasonably-on-trend copper, as well as steely silver and black, this up and down wall light has a very modern look, and puts out a decent amount of illumination via two standard, replaceable LED bulbs. 

With the beams shooting up and down rather than radiating outwards, the Strom does throw less 'useful' light than the Nordlux Vejers above, but it's a very chic option that should also weather interestingly over time.

Best outdoor lights: Elise LED Black Spike Light Modern- 6W

8. Elise LED Black Spike Light Modern- 6W

Best outdoor spotlight to illuminate your garden's features

Specifications
Dimensions: H39xD9.5cm
Number of bulbs: 1
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: White
Reasons to buy
+Light up statement features of your garden+Pitch them anywhere
Reasons to avoid
-Obviously, directional rather than ambient light

These modern solar-powered spot lights are a good, cheap option for shedding light on a garden centrepiece or water feature. The adjustable head of these spike lights mean that you can manipulate them to point at the perfect spot in your entrance way or garden space. 

They're individually cheap to buy (£6), but to create a really good lighting effect you're likely to need to purchase several at a time. We’ve been very impressed by the brightness of these spots and, reading the online reviews, it seems we’re not the only ones.

Best outdoor lights: Wickes LED White Deck Lights

9. Wickes LED White Deck Lights

Best outdoor lights for your decking

Specifications
Dimensions: W4.5xL4.5cm
Number of bulbs: various
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: White
Reasons to buy
+Weatherproof+Bright 
Reasons to avoid
-Wiring required

Dull decking can make a garden look pretty drab. These white deck lights from Wickes aim to provide powerful spots of light in any decking type. The bright white glow emanates a strong and power amount of light per bulb and they come prepped with a fully sealed casing making them water jet proof. 

They do require some tools to install so if you’re not a dab hand at DIY you may want to get a professional to fit them, and as they're wired you'll need an electrician too. They're so cheap to buy, that seems worth it – they'll add a real air of luxury to your garden.

Best outdoor lights: The Solar Centre Lumify 300

10. The Solar Centre Lumify 300

Another excellent outdoor fairy-light set

Specifications
Dimensions: L320cm
Number of bulbs: 300
Power supply: Solar
Colour when lit: White
Reasons to buy
+Great for trees and adding atmosphere to patios+Solar convenience
Reasons to avoid
-Not hugely bright, of course

•Buy the Lumify 300 from The Solar Centre

Bring your trees to life and make it Christmas in July with this string of 300 softly glowing fairy lights.

Because they're powered from a detachable, solar-powered capacitor (which can also be topped up via USB), they're extremely easy to place. Eight lighting modes cater for everything from sedate glow to nightmarish rave strobe, and there's a low-power winter mode, too.