The best outdoor lights 2018: Get stylish exterior illumination for your home

Illuminate and add character to your garden or home exterior with a range of practical and unique outdoor lights

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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, without the risk of tumbling into your herbaceous borders in the dark and then being eaten by your robot lawnmower. Imagine that nightmare scenario!

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.

Best outdoor lights: solar or wired?

The first thing about buying outdoor lights is that this is a case where paying moreis 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

1. Yunlight Solar Outdoor Torch Lights

The best solar lights for outdoors

Reasons to buy
+Fantastic flame effect+Solid construction

These are the best solar lights I’ve ever come across. Unlike static, single LED torches, the Yunlights have 96 LEDs that flicker independently to give a very fetching simulation of a dancing tiki-torch flame. 

The Yunlights have a 2000mAh Li-ion battery for each torch, charged by an unobtrusive, top-mounted solar panel during the day. When dusk falls they come on and stay on for hours. 

They’re bigger than other stake models at 32cm x 12cm, and throw a solid amount of light. The housings are sturdy, well designed and swish looking even when off. Get a few pairs of these in and your garden will be the envy of your neighbours. 

John Lewis Flint Solar Glass Outdoor Light

2. John Lewis Flint Solar Glass Outdoor Light

Charming and versatile solar lanterns to dot about as you see fit

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 under £10 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 Satanic ritual.

3. Partaj – 500cm Long String lights

Classic string lights for outdoor parties and BBQs

Specifications
Dimensions: L500cm
Number of bulbs: 16
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: Warm white
Reasons to buy
+Great for hanging+Long cable
Reasons to avoid
-More for decoration than illumination

To create an ambient vibe in your garden, these classic string bulb lights are an ideal decorative lighting option. Ideally strung up between trees or hung along a fence, these bulb lights are the best outdoor lights on our list for garden parties. They connect to the mains so you may need an extension lead near your back door, but they have a long cable which makes them easy to place anywhere in the garden.

No, these aren't as attractive as the John Lewis string lights below, but they're considerably harder to annihilate, and you get more bulbs for your buck, too.

4. John Lewis Festoon

Posher - but more fragile - string lights

Specifications
Dimensions: L950cm
Number of bulbs: 10
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: Warm white
Reasons to buy
+Attractive bulbs+Gives off a good light
Reasons to avoid
-Fragile bulbs cannot be replaced

The more upmarket answer to #3, this John Lewis string has 10 LED bulbs that look great and give a warm light. 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?

5. 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.

6. Powerbee Endurance Deluxe Solar Fairy Lights

Best outdoor solar fairy lights

Reasons to buy
+Pleasant fairyland effect+Powerful solar panel
Reasons to avoid
-A bit trickier to install

Powerbee produces a wide range of great quality outdoor solar lights but we’re especially smitten with this string of 100 white fairy lights. Where so many solar-powered lights fade during the late evening and most of winter, this package has been designed with cloudy UK weather in mind. Hence, they come with an effective solar panel that soaks up more light than others, ensuring reliable light sensor-controlled illumination every night of every day.

Simply find a clear spot to site the solar panel – it spikes into the ground – and string up your tree, fence or shed, or whatever you like. It also comes with a control box offering a range of different lighting functions, from static to flashing to chase. 

Don’t panic if your garden’s north facing or you just don’t have enough natural light because it also comes with a USB charging port to boost the internal battery.

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.

8. 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.

9. 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

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. 8 lighting modes cater for everything from sedate glow to nightmarish rave strobe, and there's a low-power winter mode, too.

10. Elise LED Black Spike Light Modern- 6W

Best outdoor spotlight to illuminate your garden's features

Specifications
Dimensions: H39xD9.5xW15.5cm
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, angled spot lights are the best outdoor lights on our list 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 quite cheap, but to create a really good lighting effect you're likely to need to buy more than one, then position them from different angles to what you're trying to illuminate.

11. Coast Bianca Tall Post Lantern Black

Best 'statement' outdoor light and for Narnia dwellers

Specifications
Dimensions: H220xW58cm
Number of bulbs: 3
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: Soft white
Reasons to buy
+Traditional style lamp+Garden feature
Reasons to avoid
-Not one for smaller patches

If you are a lover of all things traditional and have the space for it, this outdoor lighting option could be a great statement piece in your front or back garden. 

Despite its size, this is easy to assemble and set up, and the lighting provides a warm yellow glow which looks suitably Victorian-esque. 

12. Searchlight 1641 Genoa Outdoor Hanging Porch Lantern

Vintage looking hanging light, perfect for porches

Specifications
Dimensions: H29cmx D15cm
Number of bulbs: 1
Power supply: Mains
Colour when lit: White
Reasons to buy
+Affordable+Vintage design
Reasons to avoid
-Not very bright

If you want a traditional light for your porch, then this hanging porch lantern is a great find. It’s not too expensive but looks traditional and vintage and would fit in well with cottages and other country homes. You can hang it anywhere so it also works well in the back garden on conservatories or summer houses. 

Another mains powered outdoor lighting option, so you will need to consider your power source before hanging this lantern up, but if you are looking for a traditional outdoor light, this lantern is a classic piece.

13. HOME Set of 18 LED Solar Colour Changing Lights

Best value outdoor lights

Specifications
Dimensions: H36xD6.2cm
Number of bulbs: 18
Power supply: Solar/batteries
Colour when lit: Multi
Reasons to buy
+Endless colour combos+Subtle
Reasons to avoid
-Not the best solar lights 

These multi-colour changing outdoor spike lights are great value for money with a whopping 18 lights in a pack. In spite of the bright colour ways, these solar lights are reportedly still rather subtle with primary and pastel colour options blending together to form a soft rainbow of lights across your garden. 

With a modern looking cone shaped casing on each light, these outdoor lights are probably slightly better suited to modern gardens. If you are looking to spruce up your outdoor space, these spike lights give you plenty of scope for decoration.