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New Forest in winter

The 14 most brrrilliant winter getaways in the UK

Reindeer, Rick Stein and the aurora borealis: check out our top picks for the best winter getaways in the UK for 2023

John Bills

It's time to wrap up, folks: winter is just around the corner, and to the eternally optimistic folks here at Time Out, it means rosy cheeks, romantic walks and zip-lining through massive caves in North Wales . We never claimed to be normal.

Don those extra layers, hats, scarves and gloves, and get ready to enjoy all the glorious winteriness that the UK has to offer. You can head out in search of the Northern Lights , reindeer, Rick Stein’s finest creations and more — there is a lot to love in the UK, but winter shimmers brightest in these spots. Check out our top picks for the best winter getaways in the UK. 

RECOMMENDED: 🌳The most amazing treehouses in the UK you can actually stay in 🚘 The best road trips in the UK 🏰The best castles in the UK 🧙‍♂️The best magical places to visit in the UK

At Time Out, all of our travel guides are written by local writers who know their cities inside out. For more about how we curate, see our editorial guidelines . This guide includes affiliate links, which have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, see our affiliate guidelines .

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Best winter getaways in the UK

Cornwall

1.  Cornwall

Make plans for a Cornwall road trip this winter, and your heart will almost certainly grow in size. Not literally, that would be dangerous, but the procession of quaint fishing villages and sweeping walks are the stuff winter dreams are made of. Indulge in all the Rick Stein food you can find in Padstow before falling head over heels in love with St Ives , Mousehole and the rest.

📍 Check out the best things to do in Cornwall

North Wales

2.  North Wales

One way to keep warm during the winter months is to get the adrenaline flowing, and there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. North  Wales offers a cavalcade of the things, from underground zip-lining in Llechwedd to rugged mountain biking in the wilds of Snowdonia National Park. The northern coast is gorgeous during the winter months, and towns like Conwy, Wrexham and Bangor come alive with frenzied conversation and plenty of pints.

📍Check out t he best things to do in North Wales

York

3.  York

The Yorkshire marvel is a fantastic city all year round, and the brilliant roster of museums, restaurants  and experiences make it a top-notch spot during winter. The National Railway Museum is arguably the best travel-centric museum in the country, while York ’s Viking history is most alive at this time of year. Hit up the Jorvik Viking Centre and learn about those brutal times, before heading on an evening ghost tour of this most fascinating city.

📍Check out the best things to do in York

Bath

4.  Bath

Bath is one of the most architecturally delightful cities in England, but there is something about a thin layer of snow that brings new characters out of the many constructions here. The Somerset stunner embraces the festive period like few other places, with a packed calendar of events and more romance than you can shake your fist at. Bath is plenty romantic all year round, but the feeling is taken to a new level during winter. The Christmas Market in Bath opens on November 24 and runs until December 11, so don’t miss that.

📍Check out the best things to do in Bath

Giant’s Causeway

5.  Giant’s Causeway

The epic nature of the Giant’s Causeway shouldn’t lend itself to a simple experience, right? Visit Northern Ireland ’s legendary interlocking columns when the air is crisp, the winds high and the temperature low, and put yourself in the boots of a hardy warrior from years gone by. Watch your step, obviously, and visit safe knowing that the warmth of the Bushmills distillery is only a couple of miles down the road.

📍Check out the best things to do in Northern Ireland

Glasgow

6.  Glasgow

The best music scene in the UK? Many cities will put their hands up with that one, but Glasgow might just pip them all to the prize. The gigs ramp up during the colder months as music fans across the city head for the warmth of the venues in search of the next Mogwai, Primal Scream or Belle & Sebastian. Hardy souls with excellent hats and scarves can take advantage of the idyllic green spaces, and the Glasgow Botanic Gardens are a celebration of flora that rival anything across the country.

📍Check out the   best things to do in Glasgow

Orkney Islands

7.  Orkney Islands

Of course, there is no guarantee when it comes to seeing the Northern Lights , but you still need to put yourself in the best position to see the phenomenon. In the UK, that means a trip to the stunning Orkney Islands, where the lights are referred to as the Merry Dancers. The aurora borealis is a fixture on many a bucket list, so head north during the colder months and hope the space particles are moving in your favour. Even if the colourful sky doesn’t materialise, the peace and tranquillity of Orkney is something to behold.

Pembrokeshire

8.  Pembrokeshire

No, you won’t find scorching winter temperatures anywhere during the winter here, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid the beach. Something is soothing about a beach during winter, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Pembrokeshire. This region in West Wales is all quaint villages and sweeping views, with brilliant walks and cosy pubs all over the place. If you’ve ever wanted to have an entire beach to yourself, Pembrokeshire in winter offers just that.

Cairngorms National Park

9.  Cairngorms National Park

Is there an animal more tied to winter than the magnificent reindeer? Santa’s faithful chauffeurs can be seen in several places across the UK, but Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park is the only place where they run free as nature intended. You can see the handsome beasts all year round, but, come on, reindeer and Christmas are a match made in heaven. The national park is a stunner in its own right. Be sure to read Nan Shepherd’s ‘The Living Mountain’   before you go to amp up the excitement.

📍Check out the most beautiful national parks in the UK

Norwich

10.  Norwich

It always feels somewhat dangerous to throw such accolades around, but Norwich might be the most underrated city in the UK. A fabulous collection of bars and restaurants accentuate a long history and an atmosphere that is all of its own. It also makes a great base for exploring the Norfolk coast, where seals come to rest in winter. Blakeney Point Nature Reserve (a 40-minute drive from Norwich) is the place to see those beauties.

📍Check out the best things to do in Norwich

Ards Peninsula

11.  Ards Peninsula

Peace, tranquillity, serenity. Yes, they all essentially mean the same thing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be seeking them out at every turn. Northern Ireland ’s Ards Peninsula is a hub of quietude in winter, with a wide range of beautiful walking spots that reward the hardy ambler with stunning views and all the romance one could need. Just wear a decent windbreaker because the winds get pretty rambunctious in these parts. 

Hay-on-Wye

12.  Hay-on-Wye

Book lovers have long known that Hay-on-Wye is the place to be, but even literary cynics will find plenty to sink their teeth into here during winter. The Hay Festival Winter Weekend takes place at the end of November (24 to 27 this year), and the entire extravaganza is a celebration of storytelling that will breathe new life into sceptical souls. The festival coincides with turning on the Christmas lights in town, which is always a cheerful occasion. 

New Forest

13.  New Forest

Ponies racing over crackling leaves and snow-covered ground will never not be a gorgeous image, and New Forest National Park is the place to go for such scenes. You’ll have to find the ponies first, of course, and treat them with the utmost respect, but there is plenty more to entice when the temperature is low. The park is at its quietest during the winter months, with fewer cars and general traffic, making for beautiful strolls and some of the finest sunsets the UK has to offer. 

📍Check out the best things to do in the New Forest

Ayr

14.  Ayr

Burns Night is a big deal, but where is the best place to celebrate it? Right in the heart of Burns Country, of course. Robert Burns was born in the village of Alloway, and the nearby town of Ayr is a hive of activity when the Scottish poet’s night comes along. That is January 25, for the record. Ayr is a medium-sized town with fewer than 50,000 people, but the appreciation of Burns here is second to none. You might as well make the pilgrimage to Alloway for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum while in the area. 

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These Are The 12 Most Beautiful Places To Visit In The UK For A Magical Winter Vacation

Have an unforgettable time visiting the UK this winter by adding some of these destinations in England, Scotland, and Wales to your itinerary.

Read update

Winter is a whimsical time to visit the United Kingdom. Whether traveling through Scotland, England, Wales, or Northern Ireland, the beauty of a frosted landscape surrounding historical castles is indescribable. Christmas and New Year's Eve are popular times to visit the UK because of the many celebrations and markets. See the most stunning locations in the UK this winter and stay at some dreamy, high-end hotels for the best experience.

UPDATE: 2023/01/18 16:03 EST BY KAT BELLO

There's no denying the stunning scenery of the United Kingdom, which becomes even more magical during the winter months. To continue helping readers plan a perfect vacation into the UK's many winter wonderlands, this article has been expanded and updated.

12 Edinburgh, Scotland

When visiting the UK during winter, Edinburgh, Scotland, should be on the top of travelers’ lists. This beautiful Scottish city has cobblestone streets, impressive architecture, and an old-world charm. Visiting in winter, as Edinburgh becomes even more magical, is an excellent choice. The old town lights up for the winter months, and drinking a good Scottish whiskey in one of Edinburgh's famous and traditional bars should warm any traveler right up. Edinburgh is also perfect for the holidays; the city lights up during winter, and National Geographic named the Edinburgh Christmas Market the best festive market in Europe . Stay at the Brewdog Doghouse Edinburgh to make use of its outdoor seating, complete with fireplaces to keep warm.

  • Accommodation: Brewdog Doghouse Edinburgh
  • Address: 5 New Street, Edinburgh, EH8 8BH
  • Amenities: Restaurant, Free WiFi, Bar/Lounge

Related: Visit These 10 Unique UK Towns For Charming Fall Colors

11 London, England

No trip to the UK is complete without spending at least one or two days exploring England’s capital, London. Although London is busy and touristy, there’s a reason for its popularity. It’s politically and historically significant, dotted with landmarks, has a lively theater scene, a bustling nightlife, and world-class restaurants to choose from. With a ton of fun winter activities to choose from, spending a chilly time in London is always a good idea. Choose a high-end hotel like Hotel 41 for its sustainability and location close to Buckingham Palace.

  • Accommodation: Hotel 41
  • Address: 41 Buckingham Palace Road, London, SW1W 0PS
  • Amenities: Restaurant, Free WiFi, Free Parking

10 Inverness, Scotland

Travelers can head to the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands this winter for a charming and peaceful experience in the UK. Inverness is on the country’s Northeast Coast and boasts a historic old town with an impressive 19th-century cathedral and an indoor Victorian Market. It’s the perfect place to do some holiday shopping before flying home for Christmas. Choose central accommodations like the Highland Apartments By Mansley , which are just 5 minutes away from the area’s major attractions.

  • Accommodation: Highland Apartments By Mansley
  • Address: Bridge House, 21-23 Bridge St, Inverness IV1 1HD, United Kingdom
  • Amenities: City View, River View, Terrace/Patio

9 The Cotswolds, England

In central and southwest England, there is a quaint region called The Cotswolds . It covers nearly 800 square miles and encompasses five counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire. When travelers imagine a traditional English village, they are likely picturing the many charming towns of The Cotswolds. Experience luxury in the English countryside with a high-end hotel like The Hare & Hounds Hotel in Tetbury.

  • Accommodation: The Hare & Hounds Hotel
  • Address: Westonbirt, Tetbury, En, Gl8 8Ql, Gb, Tetbury, GL8 8QL

Related: These Are The UK’s Poshest Tea Experiences

8 Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Adventurous travelers will fall in love with Wales when visiting Snowdonia National Park during the winter. Located in the northwest of the country, this mountainous region is full of hiking trails and breathtaking viewpoints. Some visitors climb Mount Snowdon, which can be challenging during the winter. However, a successful ascent during this season is even more special when conditions are right. Stay just 10 minutes away from Snowdonia National Park at the charming Plas Yn Dre in Bala.

  • Accommodation: Plas Yn Dre
  • Address: 23 High Street, Bala, LL23 7LU
  • Amenities: Free WiFi, Complimentary Breakfast, Restaurant

7 Isle Of Skye, Scotland

The Isle of Skye is a must-visit spot on any trip to Scotland. This island is connected to mainland Scotland on the northwest coast by a bridge. Travelers will want to stay in Portree, a town with quaint boutiques and pubs, at a charming hotel like the Cuillin Hills Hotel. The island has some of the most beautiful landscapes in Scotland and is home to many beautiful fishing villages as well.

  • Accommodation: Cuillin Hills Hotel
  • Address: Scorrybrec Road, Portree, IV51 9QU
  • Amenities: Restaurant, Free Parking, Free WiFi

6 Bath, England

Travelers who want a city experience in the UK during winter but don’t want to stay in main tourist hubs like London or Edinburgh will enjoy a visit to Bath in Somerset County. This city is best known for its historic Roman Baths, which are even more appealing in winter. Enhance the luxury of the experience by staying near the Thermae Bath Spa at the Bathen House.

  • Accommodation: Bathen House Boutique Hotel
  • Address: 88 Newbridge Hill, Bath, BA1 3QA
  • Amenities: Restaurant, Bar & Lounge, Laundry Service, Free WiFi

5 Swansea, Wales

Most people visit Cardiff when traveling to Wales, but Swansea is a fantastic alternative, especially leading up to the holidays, and is a delightful winter adventure in Wales. Swansea Market is the biggest indoor market in Wales, perfect for doing some shopping on a chilly winter day. Swansea is also generally more affordable than Cardiff and offers scenic waterfront views. Stay close to the ocean at Patrick’s Boathouse.

  • Accommodation: Patrick’s Boathouse
  • Address: 642 Mumbles Road, Swansea, SA3 4EA
  • Amenities: Free WiFi, Pets Allowed on Request, Private Bathroom

4 Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland belongs to the UK rather than the Republic of Ireland, so travelers exploring the UK this winter can venture over this beautiful area with fascinating castles and otherworldly landscapes. The Giant’s Causeway is a unique natural wonder of more than 40,000 interlocking basalt columns formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. Stay near this UNESCO World Heritage Site at The Causeway Hotel.

  • Accommodation: Causeway Hotel
  • Address: 40 Causeway Road, Bushmills

3 Cambridge, England

During winter, Cambridge, England, is one of the most charming spots to visit in the UK. A light dusting of snow covering the courtyards of historic buildings like the University of Cambridge, Ely Cathedral, or Houghton Mill only makes the experience more magical. Travelers can appreciate artwork at the Kettle’s Yard or tour museums like the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Gonville Hotel is a great choice of accommodation for its location and amenities.

  • Accommodation: Gonville Hotel
  • Address: Gonville Place, Cambridge
  • Amenities: Spa and Wellness Center, Restaurant, Free WiFi

2 Derry, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland's most well-preserved walled city, Derry, or Londonderry, is a vibrant town teeming with history. Known for its stunning murals and exciting festivals, there is hardly a bad time to travel to Derry. In winter, the 17th-century walls that once protected the city center feel like a magical pathway through Derry's long history, and the Love LegenDerry food festival closes winter off by celebrating the best of Derry's flavors. Stay right at the heart of the city at Bishop's Gate Hotel .

  • Accommodation: Bishop's Gate Hotel
  • Address: 24 Bishop Street, Londonderry, BT48 6PP
  • Amenities: Fitness Center, Restaurant, Bar & Lounge, Valet Parking, Free WiFi

1 Betws-y-Coed

Known as a gateway to Snowdonia National Park, this village in Wales has much more to offer than park-goer accommodation. Located within the Gwydyr Forest, this village is a picture-perfect stage for a wintry fairy-tale vacation. Whether hiking the scenic woods, hunting icy waterfalls, or getting to know the village's fantastic medieval landmarks, Betws-y-Coed is a perfect place for a magical winter vacation. Stay next to the gold court and enjoy the best of Betws-y-Coed's quaint charm at The Courthouse.

  • Accommodation: The Courthouse
  • Address: Old Church Road, Betws-y-Coed, LL24 0AL
  • Amenities: Hot Tub, Complimentary Breakfast, Free WiFi, Fireplace

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Best places to visit in the UK in winter

travel uk in winter

Oliver Berry

Thursday February 2 2023, 18:08pm

The thing about a British winter (or pretty much any season in Britain, for that matter) is that you never quite know what you’re going to get. Crisp cold days, frost on the fields, starling murmurations, wild walks on deserted beaches — or, just as likely, mizzle, drizzle, mist and sleet, frozen pipes, a broken boiler and several hours stuck on the A4 due to a soupçon of snow.

But while you can’t predict what kind of winter you’re going to get, you can plan your own wintry adventure — and that’s where this seasonally themed list comes in. Escape to an island off the coast of Skye, ramble along the Northumberland coast, stay in a forester’s cottage in the Highlands or go for a ride on a llama in Surrey.

Main photo: Alladale Lodge, Scotland

This article contains affiliate links.

Our travel journalism is written and edited by independent experts to inform, inspire and advise our readers about the best choices for your holidays. We also feature properties and itineraries from a specially selected list of trusted operators. These buttons and adverts are clearly signposted, and provide direct links through to external sites. If you click and buy a product, we may earn revenue.

1. Isle of Rona, Skye

Best for an island adventure These island cottages are made for far-flung winter escapes. You’ll find them huddled by the wild shoreline on Rona, the small island to the east of Skye’s Trotternish Peninsula and north of neighbouring Raasay. Sturdily Victorian, the cottages are stoutly built to keep out the worst of the island weather: stone-fronted and slate-topped, but stocked with all the modern comforts, including underfloor heating, wood burners and even a wind turbine for power. Rona is properly remote; there’s just one boat a week from Portree on Skye, and with just two permanent inhabitants on the island, you couldn’t really ask for more seclusion. It’s a place for solitary walks, seal-spotting and — if you’re really brave — a splash of wild winter swimming.

Book a stay

Discover the best hotels in the Highlands

travel uk in winter

2. Cartshed Cottages, Norfolk

Best for exploring the Norfolk coast In the grounds of Norfolk’s Sharrington Hall, these barn conversions sum up rustic simplicity: beams and eaves married with roll-top baths, minimalist furniture, neutral tones and artfully placed sprigs of foliage. With either one or two bedrooms depending on the cottage, they can sleep four comfortably, or six at a push. The estate is striking, a perfect patch of Norfolk countryside, and the cottages are brilliantly placed for exploring the north coast (winter walks) and the Blakeney and Cley Marshes (birdwatching).

sharringtonhall.com

Discover the best hotels in Norfolk

travel uk in winter

3. Frasers, Kent

Best for a family holiday An eco-friendly retreat in the heart of Kent , between Maidstone and Ashford, with ten suites spread across several converted farm buildings. There’s a traditional oast barn, an old cottage and a modern one-storey lodge, clad in timber and built to passive energy standards. Lodge rooms are cool and contemporary, with stone sinks, wooden floors, walk-in showers and solar panels on the roof; cottage rooms feel more traditional, with pink-striped bedspreads and old-fashioned brick. The Oast House suites have the most luxury and space — though each option here is cosy and there’s a good restaurant on site. When it comes to family fun, Leeds Castle and The Big Cat Sanctuary are both nearby.

Book a stay 

4. Alladale Wilderness Reserve, Highlands

Best for getting away from it all Come here if you want to leave the outside world far behind. It’s one of the UK’s largest rewilding projects, hidden in the heart of the Highlands, 90 minutes north of Inverness. The vast 23,000-acre reserve is home to some of the nation’s rarest creatures, including red squirrels, Scottish wildcats and eagles, and has four options for accommodation: two bothy cottages, a Victorian manor that sleeps up to fourteen and a super-secluded mountain lodge that has to be one of the most isolated winter getaways in all of Britain. The lodge chef can supply meals, or you can hunker down and brave out the Scottish winter in all its unpredictable glory. Expect snow, and lots of it.

5. Caradog Cottages, Monmouthshire

Best for Welsh walking The Brecon Beacons are a wonderland for winter walkers and these seven self-catering cottages in and around Abergavenny make ideal bases. They range from a converted post office to a traditional Welsh country cottage, all thoughtfully refurbished and — unusually for self-catering accommodation — available on a nightly basis. Kitchens come stocked with local goodies, and for a treat, there’s the Michelin-starred Walnut Tree Inn in Llanddewi Skirrid, also part of the Caradog family. Follow the old Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal for an easy walk, or if you’re more experienced, tackle the summit of Sugar Loaf — but make sure you’re prepared for winter conditions.

travel uk in winter

6. The Merry Harriers, Surrey

Best for hygge Remember when hygge was all the rage? It’s back at the Merry Harriers, a charming old country inn in Hambledon, on the Surrey Hills. Their three-night Hygge Holiday is geared around cosy comforts: long lazy lunches, board games by the fire, crafty workshops and — bizarrely — treks with the inn’s resident llamas (reindeers might have been more seasonally appropriate, but who are we to argue?). Guests also receive a complimentary Hygge Pack, including a blanket, hot chocolate sticks and marshmallows for toasting. Accommodation-wise, there are snug rooms in the main inn, separate garden rooms, or for maximum hygge, shepherd’s huts with sheepskin rugs, log burners and private fire-pits. Just the spot for winter stargazing — now, who’s got the marshmallows?

travel uk in winter

7. Inshriach Loghouse, Cairngorms National Park

Best for cabin chic Live out your Highland fantasies at this off-grid log cabin on the banks of the Spey, in 200 acres of woodland and pastureland to the south of Aviemore. The accommodation is intentionally rustic — old armchairs, a log burner, a pioneer-style kitchen, a gas-powered outdoor shower (shared with other guests) and a bunk sleeping platform — but that’s all part of the fun. There are trails to explore, wildlife-spotting excursions and Lochs Morlich and Insh for winter drama. For company, the Old Bridge Inn nearby is a local favourite, with grub and gigs throughout the winter.

canopyandstars.co.uk

Walk the Cairngorms in Winter Tour

travel uk in winter

8. The Barn on the Honeybridge Estate, West Sussex

Best for rambling on the South Downs This barn conversion is a handsome affair: oak beams, white walls, glass balconies and designer furniture, all set in a 17-acre Sussex estate. The upside-down barn sleeps up to twelve in four bedrooms (all of which are named after local wildlife), so there’s room for a couple of families to share. South Downs National Park is on your doorstep, and the coast isn’t too far away either — but if you prefer to stay closer to home, the estate’s amenities include a treehouse, zip-wire, fishing lake, six-person hot tub and even a games room, ideal for those inevitable wet winter days.

honeybridgeestate.co.uk/barn

Discover the best luxury hotels in Sussex 

travel uk in winter

9. Quercus, near Exeter

Best for a classic Devon cottage Thatched and whitewashed, with views over woods and green fields, this Devon cottage is as pretty as a postcard. Between Haldon Forest and the Teign Valley, it’s a rural idyll par excellence: interiors have been impeccably designed and outside spoils include the obligatory timber-clad hot tub, garden deck, firepit and a forest-fringed garden. It makes the perfect winter bolt hole, but you’ll have the chance to explore the trails along France Brook, too. There are three bedrooms, so space for six, or even eight at a push.

Discover the best hotels in Devon

Devon Hike, Bike & Kayak Tour

travel uk in winter

10. The Coinagehall, Lostwithiel

Best for quiet Cornwall In many Cornish villages, every other cottage is a holiday let or Airbnb these days — but the quiet market town of Lostwithiel is still off the tourist radar, and much the better for it. It’s also very handy for attractions like Lanhydrock, the Eden Project and the Lost Gardens of Heligan, which are much quieter at this time of year (Heligan puts on a fine display of winter lights). As its name suggests, this beautiful house was once the local coinage hall, where Cornish tin was assayed and stamped before being sold. The house is crammed with historic features: beams, sash windows, granite walls and ecclesiastical arches, and there’s a courtyard garden, too.

Discover the best things to do in Cornwall

11. Brucefield Estate, Clackmannanshire

Best for nature lovers This 420-acre estate is an environmental work in progress and is a wonderland for winter wildlife in Scotland . Owned by biologist Victoria Bruce-Winkler, it’s on a ten-year plan to regenerate woodland, restore peatland and preserve heathlands and meadows: red squirrels, pine martens, pipistrelle bats and barn owls are a few of the creatures that call Brucefield home. When it comes to bedding down, the estate has built contemporary “eco-bothies” using environmentally friendly materials (including wood fibre insulation and locally sourced birch ply) — so they stay warm and toasty even in the coldest Scottish winter. For more space, there’s Slackbrae, a converted forester’s cottage.

12. The Hop Garden, Monmouthshire

Best for beer enthusiasts The Wye Valley makes for a fine winter holiday in Wales : endless walks, cosy pubs and of course, Wordsworth’s beloved Tintern Abbey, which is at its most photogenic dusted with snow. This collection of five cabins is upriver from the abbey, next door to the Kingstone Brewery — renowned among Welsh beer nerds. All five are different in style and setting: our favourites are timber-clad Brambling Cross, a little lodge with a pine kitchen and cosy cupboard bed, and Cedar Falls, a treehouse-style cabin perched on a slope, with views over the Wye Valley. Both have outdoor hot tubs.

travel uk in winter

13. Alexander House, Perthshire

Best for winter glamping A yurt in rural Perthshire won’t be everyone’s dram of whisky, but for the adventurous, it makes a fantastically wintry experience. The site has three yurts and two converted lorries, all with wood burners and mountains of blankets to keep you warm; the Happy Hibernation package also includes a hamper and woollen beanies to keep your bonce warm while you’re basking in the hot tub. Activities including axe-throwing, archery, bushcraft and fire-lighting can be arranged, and whisky-tasting tours of the Tullibardine Distillery can be arranged. But it’s the views that sell this place: snowy vistas over Gleneagles and Ben Vorlich, and night-time skies that are out of this world.

alexanderhousescotland.com

14. Holkham Lodges, Norfolk

Best for architectural oddity The vast Holkham Estate, the Earl of Leicester’s ancestral seat, encompasses some of Norfolk’s most beautiful coast and countryside, including its eponymous beach and nature reserve. There are also five unusual cottages for rent: a woodland cottage, a grade II listed gatehouse and a brace of lodges designed by the Victorian architect Samuel Sanders Teulon. But for architectural interest, the Triumphal Arch takes top prize: designed by William Kent as a point of interest for passing tourists, it’s surely the only holiday cottage in England that also happens to be a grade I listed archway. If the weather takes a turn for the worse, the estate has several places to hunker down — including a beach café, a courtyard tearoom beside the main house, and a very pretty inn.

travel uk in winter

15. Newhall Mains, Ross-shire

Best for Scottish style For winter drama, how about a road trip around the Black Isle peninsula, some dolphin-spotting on Cromarty Firth and a few nights inside one of Scotland’s most luxurious mains? Owned by the Ramsay family, who have been farming in this corner of Scotland for generations, the mains (from an old Scots word meaning a complex of farm buildings) were on the brink of dereliction for many years, but they’ve been restored by a team of local craftspeople and London-based Kelling Design. There are five cottages and four suites arranged around the central mains courtyard. Deluxe touches include Tesla-charging points, underfloor heating and private meals provided nightly by the mains’ private chef.

travel uk in winter

16. Chapel of Rock, North Yorkshire

Best for winter in the Dales If another a chocolate box Yorkshire cottage doesn’t fill you with excitement, then how about this: a converted chapel that looks like it’s been redecorated by Liam Gallagher? It’s barmy. There’s a vintage juke box, a baby grand piano, walls plastered with vintage signs and music memorabilia — and with space for ten, it’s an outrageous venue for a family party to remember. For the ultimate northern seal of approval, it’s even been featured by the Hairy Bikers on one of their round-Britain trips. Harrogate is on hand for Christmas shopping and winter spas, while the Nidd Gorge and the Nidderdale Greenway are great for hikes.

17. Little Nut Cottage, Lake District

Best for a Lakeland bolt hole Elterwater is a sleepy corner of the Lake District, a pretty hamlet arranged around a village green, tucked away between bustling Ambleside and the dramatic, fell-framed valley of Great Langdale. It’s also the setting for this classic slate-fronted Lakeland cottage. Once a quarryman’s house, it’s been renovated with interiors by the designer Katharine Pooley, with two bedrooms, an open-plan lounge and a grand fireplace. The higher fells are off limits in winter except to hardcore hikers, but there are plenty of other walks to tackle nearby — and the classic post-hike hangout, the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, is a drive along the valley.

Cycle the Lake District

18. Edynwell, Northumberland

Best for North Sea sunsets Few corners of England look as epic as Northumberland in winter — brooding skies, sprawling beaches, ruined abbeys, and a higher castle quotient than any other English county. Bamburgh is the mightiest of the Northumbrian fortresses, and you get a grandstand view of it from the front room of this smart, grade II listed house, one of three in a small gated courtyard in the eponymous village. The sunsets over the North Sea can be breathtaking in winter — and don’t miss a trip across to the holy island of Lindisfarne.

Walk Northumberland Tour

19. The Lakes by YOO, Cotswolds

Best for winter luxury Spread over 850 acres of Gloucestershire lakes and wetlands, this private estate was created by John Hitchcox, who co-founded the luxury YOO brand with Philippe Starck. It’s like having a gigantic private playground all to yourself: there are canoes to paddle, zipwires to brave and workshops to attend, and the lakeside cottages and cabins are straight out of a coffee table book, all sleek surfaces, Scandi furniture and sliding glass doors on the water (guest designers include Kate Moss, Elle McPherson, Jade Jagger and Kelly Hoppen). It’s very exclusive — but for design aficionados with deep pockets, a dreamy winter getaway.

Discover the best spa hotels in the Cotswolds

travel uk in winter

20. The Falcon, Northamptonshire

Best for birdwatchers The edge of the A45 might not seem like much of a spot for twitching, but the Nene Valley between Rushden and Wellingborough is famous for the huge numbers of waterbirds who come here to spend the winter. More than 20,000 of them flock here as a stop-off on their migration routes from Russia, Canada and southern Africa. But for most people, it’s the spectacular starling murmurations that fill the skies between November and January that are the main attraction; on clear winter evenings, they really are a sight to see. The Nene Wetlands Nature Reserve on the edge of Rushden has a visitor centre which provides advice on the best bird-spotting locations. For somewhere to stay, try the Falcon in Castle Ashby, a rural pub-hotel with classy rooms, cottage suites, and a thoroughly decent restaurant.

Take me there

Inspired to have a winter break but yet to book your trip? Here are the best places to stay from Holiday Cottages and Forest Holidays . 

travel uk in winter

Global Grasshopper – travel inspiration for the road less travelled

Top 20 Best Places to Visit in the UK in the Winter

If there’s one thing the British know how to do – and do well – it’s winter! For the outdoor types, that same cold drizzle and biting wind that makes the cities seem so grey at times can also give the rugged countryside a real dramatic kick. Winter can be a great time to travel to the UK with plenty of unspoilt and atmospheric landscapes as well as some gorgeous cosy cities to choose from.

From all our collective trips over the UK during the so-called offseason, we’ve narrowed this list down to 20 of our favourite best places to visit in the UK in the winter…

1. The Cairngorms, The Scottish Highlands – best for outdoor winter activities

The Cairngorms, The Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands make a cosy getaway any time of the year but during the winter parts of it turn into a dramatic winter wonderland!

There’s arguably no more enchanting place to enjoy winter than the Cairngorms National Park, this truly beautiful and activity-rich protected park becomes much more than a place to hike.

Due to its high altitude during most winters you can expect the area to be covered in snow and ice. So visit for great outdoor adventures such as skiing, sledging, and snowboarding.

The park features both low-level and high-level hiking and snow activities, so no matter your adventure desires or experience level, you can find plenty of outdoor enjoyment here. Alternatively, just watch wildlife instead, in the winter you can spot red deer, winter hares, and ptarmigans.

  • Check out our popular post on the Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Edinburgh

2. York, Northeast England – wander cobbled streets and visit historic attractions

York, Northeast England - great winter UK destinations

York is a beautiful city to visit anytime time of the year but during the winter it’s particularly atmospheric. History plays a significant part in any trip to York as the city was founded in 71 AD.

Rich historic buildings have been lovingly restored throughout the years, so visitors are free to roam the cobbled streets and just take in the rich heritage of the picturesque city (as well as the cute independent shops)!

However, if you want a few indoor activities to keep you well out of the cold, York has plenty of those as well. For example, try the fantastic York Dungeon and the wonderful gothic York Minster .

So bring your camera and a good pair of walking shoes and remember to wrap up, it can get pretty chilly in the North of England during the winter months.

  • Check out our popular post on the Top 15 Cool and Unusual Hotels in York

3. Peak District – for wild, rugged and atmospheric landscapes

Visiting the Peak District in winter

One of the most naturally beautiful places to visit in England, the UK’s first national park is an excellent place to get a little exercise during the frosty winter months. Eschew the summer crowds and step into a magical winter wonderland.

This national park offers the chance to enjoy many outdoor winter activities such as snowboarding, but most people come to enjoy a comfortable walk to look at the spectacular scenery the Peak District is known for.

Also, throughout this area are many quaint pubs and cosy cottages ideal for warming up after a hike into the hills and valleys of the Peak District.

  • Check out our popular post on the Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Manchester

4. Canterbury and Whitstable – a great combination of an elegant historic city and a pretty coastal town

Canterbury in the winter

Whitstable (is a seaside town on the north coast of Kent in south-east England) and Canterbury (a cathedral city 5 miles away) seem to be, on the surface, summer destinations, but actually, these lovely areas of the UK are excellent throughout the year.

Whitstable’s illustrious coastline is a beauty to behold during winter and best of all, you will not be fighting the crowds during the offseason.

This is the ideal time to take in one of the many historic sites of Canterbury and Whitstable. Cathedrals and historic buildings seem to be around every corner in this area and even during the offseason, locals keep the electric atmosphere buzzing.

5. Woodstock, The Cotswolds – a fine Georgian town that literally lights up in the winter

Woodstock, The Cotswolds

A Christmas holiday is becoming more popular these days and if you want to take the kids to enjoy the festivities surrounding the Christmas season, Woodstock, the Cotswolds is the place to do it.

As well as truly stunning surrounding landscapes, the city lights up, literally during winter. Blenheim Palace provides a Christmas celebration to remember with a lighted trail featuring over 100,000 luminescent bulbs in the futuristic woodland Laser Garden.

Further down the trail, coloured lights take over the palace’s facade illuminating the castle perfectly. Walk the ground sipping on mulled cider or toast marshmallows on the fire pit.

There is even plenty for the young ones to enjoy with a classic Victorian-era carousel, Christmas market, and a helter-skelter. Woodstock, The Cotswolds is sure to be your family’s Christmas haven.

6. West Bay, Dorset – a stunning coastal community where Broadchurch was filmed

Visiting West Bay, Dorset in the winter

Along the English Channel coast, you will find West Bay Coastline. This is a hot spot for locals and tourists looking to soak up the sun during the summer months, but just because winter is here does not mean the area lacks any charm.

Visiting West Bay Coastline during the winter affords you the same breathtaking scenery as it does in the summer, but you need not worry about the hoards of other people obstructing your pictures.

Plus, there are many cafes and eateries that offer coastal cuisine without the hustle and bustle of summer crowds as well.

You can visit the atmospheric setting for the famous TV series Broadchurch and explore filming locations without battling crowds.

7. Bath, Somerset – an elegant historic city where you can warm up in the thermal spas!

Bath, Somerset in the winter

Bath is an elegant and beautiful city that also makes a wonderful winter destination. There are many lovely independent shops, bars, and their famous Christmas market to explore and somehow, the great British winter seems that little more bearable in one of the Baths ancient (or modern!) thermal spas .

Looking to warm up in indoor attractions then try the famous Pump Room , visit Bath Abbey , go to the theatre, or a live Jazz evening. Also, try shopping and sampling some of the city’s award-winning independent restaurants – you won’t regret it!

  • Check out our popular post on the Top 25 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Bath

8. Dartmoor, Devon – a vast moorland of craggy and atmospheric landscapes

Visiting Dartmoor in the winter

Dartmoor in lovely Devon seems to attract just as many film directors as it does tourists. This is largely due to its enchanting settings and otherworldly allure.

Visiting Dartmoor in winter is even more enchanting as the lush greenery mixes perfectly with the fallen snow or misty or frosty mornings. Visitors to Dartmoor in winter enjoy strolling through the pathways and hillsides to discover famous filming locations of movies such as War Horse.

Don’t forget to bring your camera when visiting Dartmoor during winter, landscapes are enchanting and awe-inspiring in this very special setting.

Our video on our visit to Dartmoor and Newquay…

9. Edinburgh – the winter holidays are both a sparkling and cosy affair in the Scottish capital

Visiting Edinburgh at Christmas

There are many, many reasons to visit Edinburgh in the winter – their wonderful and excellent Christmas markets, the beautifully decorated Dome which is truly stunning this time of year, the atmospheric cobbled streets, dungeons, and the chance to warm up with a wee dram in one of the many cosy taverns and bars.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city and definitely, one for fans of history and architecture so don’t forget to also visit their striking castle which dominates the skyline. Edinburgh has been settled for over 3000 years and over 20% of the entire city is listed as in conservation areas.

10. East Dean, East Sussex – go in search of smuggler’s haunts and bracing coastal walks

East Dean, East Sussex

East Dean on the surface is a quaint, picturesque village and if you want to simply stroll around the town taking pictures, you are welcome, but visitors to this area are often more interested in the dark past of East Dean rather than the almost fairytale setting of today.

It was once home to ruthless smugglers. One of the most famous accounts is James Dippery. A resident of East Dean, he was a renowned smuggler but bought his freedom in the early 1800s by ratting out other smugglers in the area.

He did lose his freedom to live in East Dean but is said to have died a rich man in Australia.

During the winter go in search of his old haunts in East Dean and then take a bracing walk to nearby Beachy Head pictured above (the walk is  5 miles and should take around 3.5 hours).

11. Oxford, Oxfordshire – an elegant university city home to many excellent shops, restaurants and Harry Potter!

Oxford, Oxfordshire in the winter

History is everywhere in Oxford. A trip here seems to invite you to take pictures of the many historic buildings dotting the city.

Apart from simply snapping pictures, Oxford features many small and larger attractions to explore during the winter season from their wonderful Christmas festivities (carol concerts and markets) to museums, libraries, bookshops, the Oxford Artisan Distillery and just gazing at their wonderful universities.

Pubs and restaurants in the area are very inviting as well when the temperature begins to fall. Even though winter is not the high tourist season in Oxford, many biking and walking tours are still available and should be taken advantage of during your stay (this includes the Harry Potter tour where you can walk the same mysterious hallways Harry, Hermione, and Ron once did!)

  • Check out our popular post on the Top 15 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Oxford

12. Wiltshire – for unspoilt countryside and ancient historic monuments

Wiltshire - beautiful UK winter destinations

One for the more hearty types, the ancient county of Wiltshire is characterized by wide valleys, dramatic architecture, and that famous ancient monument – Stonehenge. Stonehenge manages to become even more special if you’re lucky enough to see it in the snow.

A visit this time of year is truly spectacular and there’s arguably no better way to soak up the history and mystery of Wiltshire’s ancient monuments and countryside than on a winter’s walk and then warming up in a cosy pub afterwards!

13. North Yorkshire – explore the pristine wintry landscapes of the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales

Visiting North Yorkshire in the winter

This part of Yorkshire is a beautiful region all year round, but winter adds even more sparkle to the jewel of the North. Here you’ll find the wild, rugged and pristine landscapes of both the North York Moors and most of the Yorkshire Dales.

This is ‘Bronte’ country known for its rugged beauty, most of which is protected by national park status. Also, try Whitby Abbey (the ruined Benedictine Abbey shown above)and York for its incredible architecture and the largest gothic cathedral in Northern Europe.

All particularly beautiful in winter and perfect for wrapping up warm and heading out into the wilderness to explore.

14. Cornwall – for dramatic seascapes, scenic coastal towns and wild rugged landscapes

Cornwall in the winter

Cornwall is extremely popular all year round but arguably it’s best to visit Cornwall during the winter months. This is when the sometimes unbearable crowds of summer have long dispersed and the scenery can be more dramatic and more serene than any other season.

The winter weather in Cornwall can sometimes be warm but often wet and sometimes wild. Take your camera and your walking shoes and make sure you make the most of exploring the pretty fishing villages and dramatic winter seascapes and then warm up in a traditional Cornish tavern.

Also make sure you squeeze in a visit to the Eden Project , a popular all-year-round attraction.

15. London – discover many magical winter and Christmas events

London in the winter

Where do you start? London welcomes tourists all year round and there’s still plenty to do in the UK capital in the winter.

The run-up to Christmas is a particularly magical time and this is the season to go ice skating in Somerset House (pictured above), see the lights on Oxford Street, take a romantic winter’s walk along South Bank or head to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

For those looking for something to do away from the cold try indoor attractions such as the Tower of London, shopping at the toystore in Hamleys or visit the world-famous Madame Tussauds.

  • Check out our very popular post on the Top 20 Cool and Unusual Hotels in London

16. Northumberland – for breathtaking unspoilt landscapes and scenic Heritage Trails

Northumberland in the winter

Some Geordies would argue that summer never really starts in their corner of Britain! Picturesque Heritage Trails and some of the most breathtaking scenery in the UK await those hearty enough to face the rain.

One of the least unpolluted places in the country during the winter, Northumberland’s dramatic and incredible landscapes and historic market towns take on a whole new look.

From a crisp coastal walk to the hustle and bustle of the Christmas markets, Northumberland makes a fantastic UK winter break!

17. Cambridgeshire – combine a fine university city with picturesque countryside

Cambridgeshire in the winter

The ancient city of Cambridge is – of course – famed for having one of the most prestigious universities in the world and a trip here would be just as wonderful as the summer.

Eschew Pimms on the lawn and the summer crowds for exploring incredible independent bars, restaurants and shops or just wander around its pretty cobbled streets and lanes.

Also, head out further afield to see scenery ranging from dramatic flat fenlands (the marshy region in East England) to the quaint East Anglican villages of Cambridgeshire and a trip in winter here is particularly beautiful and atmospheric.

  • Check out our popular post on the Top 15 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Cambridge

18. Hampshire – discover a frosty New Forest and Jane Austen country

New Forest in the winter

From the ancient hunting grounds of the New Forest – England’s newest national park – to the lands that inspired the works of Jane Austen, the county of Hampshire will leave your imagination running wild.

A trip here in the winter is just as magical and here you can enjoy a winter’s walk on a crisp day under blue skies (or on a misty atmospheric day) on across Hampshire’s landscapes.

Warm-up at one of the many excellent pubs or eateries to found scattered across the beautiful county.

19. Cumbria – explore a misty and atmospheric Lake District and Hadrian’s Wall

Cumbria - great winter destinations in the UK

The most sparsely populated counties in the UK is also home to the famous Lake District National Park. Considered to be one of England’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty it has served as an inspiration for many an artist, writer and musician.

Beautiful and mountainous Cumbria makes an excellent travel destination in both summer and winter and there are some truly incredible landscapes to explore and hike including the heritage site Hadrian’s Wall (a defensive fortification in the Roman province of Britannia which began in AD 122).

Take a break from the chilly temperatures in one of the area’s Michelin-star restaurants, pubs or even a local distillery .

20. Pembrokeshire, Wales – for beautiful coastal walks and dog-friendly beaches

Pembrokeshire, Wales - great winter destinations

The Pembrokeshire coastline sees its fair share of visitors throughout the summer months and it can get remarkably crowded, but a visit during winter is even better.

Just like other coastal cities, Pembrokeshire slows down a bit during winter, but its rugged coastline remains to be explored. The best part about visiting Pembrokeshire during winter is the fact that the climate is never extreme.

Even on the coldest day, it is perfectly comfortable to stroll along the coast or within the towns.

If you have a dog the beaches allow dogs to wander unleashed during the off-season and the many pubs along your walk will draw you in for a quick warm-up making the experience all the more enjoyable.

  • Check out our popular post on the Top 15 Cool and Unusual Hotels in Cardiff

Enjoy your UK winter break!

We also have posts on…

  • The best places to visit in the UK in the autumn  
  • The most beautiful places to visit in the United Kingdom
  • The prettiest villages to visit in England
  • The most beautiful places to visit in Wiltshire
  • The most beautiful places to visit in Oxfordshire

Becky Moore

Becky Moore – Owner, writer and photographer

My first true adventure began as a six-month voyage around South East Asia as a fresh-faced backpacker and ever since I’ve lived a semi-nomadic existence, clocking up visits to over 40 countries. I’m a lover of US Road Trips, deserted beaches bathed in the warm glow of a sunset, Cuban mojitos, travel destinations far away from the tourist crowds, and all things Scandinavian – from cloudberry liquors to Nordic noirs. When not wandering the world and running Global Grasshopper, you’ll find me walking my ex-Athens street dog in leafy South West London, strolling around the Brighton Lanes on random day trips, hunting for photogenic landscapes or daydreaming about my favourite places; Havana, Copenhagen, Italy, Borneo, Finland, Greece, Berlin, Laos, California and the surreal and beautiful landscapes of a wintry Iceland.

Hotel Reviewing Experience – published hotel review in the 52 Sleeps Book organised by Laterooms.com and Lonely Planet. Asked by over 12 tourist boards and many high-profile travel brands to formally review hotels including Germany Tourist Board , Canada Tourist Board , Eviivo , France.fr , Visitoostende.be , Live Riga and Queensland Tourist Board . Also travelled around the world scouting out and reviewing all the most unique hotels in the world, check out our Instagram page for photos .

I’ve also been quoted in Forbes, National Geographic , The Times , LA Weekly , Yahoo Travel , Huffington Post , Business Insider , Thrillist , British Airways Magazine, Entrepreneur , Daily Express , Wanderlust , Telegraph Travel, Daily Mail and Metro . Winner of Travel Blog of the Year . Find me on Linkedin or Facebook .

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14 thoughts on “Top 12 Cool and Unique Hotels in London”

Loved your post! Is it a good decision to visit during last week of Dec till 1st week of Jan (say 23rd Dec to 7th Jan) if it’s my first time visiting? I would like a “full” UK experience but like you mentioned, a lot of the shops seem to be closed during that time.

UK is already a cold Country. If it comes in winter, it will be very difficult, but when does snowfall there. Well the fun is only in winter

No mention of the Midlands though, there’s plenty to see, Chatsworth House, Belvoir Castle, Warwick castle Nottingham castle, Matlock bath etc etc

Amazing photos, actually makes me look forward to returning in the winter, which I was dreading before!

Thanks – I know what you mean – but let’s just hope our transport system doesn’t grind to a halt with the first sign of ice!

Nothing compares to the Lakes in the winter! Great list!

Gorgeous photos, I recommend a winter walk in Hampshire it’s stunning!

that london picture with the gray skies is very nice

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Wonderful places to Visit in England in Winter (local tips!)

London symbols with BIG BEN, DOUBLE DECKER BUSES and Red Phone Booth in England, UK

Are you planning on visiting England in winter? There are lots of reasons to come to our little island in the cooler months, despite unpredictable weather!

The small country of England might not have the warmest weather, but we more than make up for it in history, beautiful landscapes and a unique culture.

The home of endless mugs of warm tea, roast dinners, Harry Potter, red buses, the Beatles, and so many more iconic things, there are endless things to do on this island, whatever the weather.

In England, the weather’s never that reliable anyway, which makes many attractions all-weather. Plus, visiting the country’s top tourist spots is much more enjoyable out of busy season (the summer).

What’s more, if you’re used to cold weather (hello Canadians, people from north USA and people from Central and Eastern Europe!), England’s winter weather will feel mild in comparison.

I grew up in London, but I moved to the West Country of England as an adult, living first in Bristol, then Bath and now Devon. I also have family in Cornwall and in Derbyshire, and have explored the length and breadth of this country in all seasons!

So, what are the best places to visit in England in winter?

We’ll go into them all in this blog post, which will help you plan your England winter trip!

Table of Contents

Reasons to visit England in the winter

travel uk in winter

So, why would you choose to visit England in the winter months? I can think of a few reasons:

England can be grey and rainy in the wintertime, but it’s often very atmospheric. I love a gloomy walk around Dartmoor on January’s day!

Plus, we get beautiful crisp, clear winter days too – and occasionally there’s even some snow. T here was tonnes of snow in the South East and north parts of the country in December 2022 (in the South West we didn’t get much, but it was very frosty!).

It’s rarely too cold, and while it can be rainy, most tourists find they can still get out and explore!

Attractions

Because good weather is never guaranteed in England – even in the summertime – we have plenty of all-weather attractions. 

Cosmopolitan cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham have a huge array of museums and other top-rated tourist attractions, inside and outside.

Or, if you are lucky and get some warmer weather, you can enjoy hikes around the coastline or through our national parks.

Fewer tourists

Summer in England can be heaving, especially in the South West which is known for its beaches. But visit in winter, and you’ll be virtually the only tourist!

Cheaper prices

And with fewer tourists, prices can be much cheaper! You’ll find deals for flights and accommodations and even some restaurants offer deals in January or February (if you visit over Christmas, prices are likely to be inflated).

Hearty food

Whether you want to tuck into a roast dinner in a warm pub or enjoy a fish and chip takeaway after a bracing coastal walk, England’s food is instantly warming. Plus, we’re the home of English breakfast tea – and we serve it more or less everywhere!

Places to visit in England in winter

There are plenty of places to visit in England in the winter season – which runs from November to March. Here are some of the best!

travel uk in winter

London is a surprisingly excellent European winter city break .

Any time of year, you can enjoy iconic attractions like the Tower of London or the London Eye , and you might find that they are much quieter in the cooler months. 

At Christmas , the place comes alive with festive cheer.

Enjoy the magical Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park or Christmas in Covent Garden.

With festive lights and plenty of chances to grab a mulled wine or hot chocolate, London in December has so many allures.

travel uk in winter

But there are also plenty of reasons to visit London in November , January and February too.

There are plenty of indoor attractions, including free museums like the Natural History Museum and V&A.

If you’ve got little ones in tow, you can take them to places like M&M world or the Science Museum. 

London is also one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with restaurants from all corners of the globe.

You can enjoy this glorious food scene – dining on anything from a falafel wrap to a steaming hot bowl of ramen – any time of year! 

Thanks to London’s great connections to the rest of England, there are even a number of winter day trips that you can enjoy – some of these head to other destinations I’ve recommended in this guide, like Bath and the Cotswolds.

Wrap up warm, and you’ll love London in winter – you can see my full guide to the city here .

travel uk in winter

Bath is a gorgeous spa city and UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s perfect to visit in the winter months.

With historic buildings lining the streets, plenty of independent shops to browse and tea rooms to cosy up in, you’ll have an idyllic time here. 

Bath was a prosperous Georgian town , and you can see that reflected in the beautiful city today. But its history stretches back even further. 

It was founded by the Romans and enjoyed a prestigious status as a spa town. You can relish this in the city today, as there’s a Thermae spa with a rooftop pool with steam rooms and other spa facilities.

Or, visit the Roman Baths and Museum and finish with afternoon tea in the Pump Room where you can try the fresh spring water. 

There are plenty of other indoor attractions in Bath as well. Visit the Jane Austen Museum, the Museum of East Asian Art and the Fashion Museum; or head to the newest exhibition, Mary Shelley’s House of Frankenstein (I visited this on a recent trip to Bath and absolutely loved it!).

February 19th. 2017 Broadway Village, Cotswolds, Worcestershire, Midlands, England, UK. This is the High Street in the famous and much visited tourist Costwolds village of Broadway. The road is lined on either side with honey coloured limestone buildings, traditional to the area. It is a bright warm afternoon in late winter. There are tourists and visitors in the picture.

The beautiful Cotswolds AONB is the perfect place for your winter holidays.

This vast area is home to an abundance of historic villages, interspersed with the rugged beauty of the English countryside. 

It’s hard to say which is the prettiest village in the Cotswolds, but people often think that it’s Bourton on the Water . Sometimes known as ‘The Venice of the Cotswolds’, think of gorgeous cottages lining canals when visiting.

The cute village of Stow-on-the-Wold  has one of the country’s oldest pubs and a beautiful church with a door that is framed by two trees.

The historic market town of Tetbury (which is the home of Prince Charles) is another lovely place to visit in the colder months, with lots of independent shops and restaurants and a few interesting museums. 

The York Minster in the United Kingdom, taken in the evening from the city wall.

It can get cold up north, but York is the perfect place for a winter break.

With a labyrinth of charismatic streets winding through a charming city centre, there are plenty of all-weather attractions including the cosy Betty’s Tea Room and countless museums. 

Learn about Vikings at the JORVIK Viking Centre and visit the National Railway Museum, where you can read about all things trains. 

You can even walk around York’s city walls all year round!

Canterbury, UK - Jan 29 2018. A view of Canterbury Cathedral at the bottom of the cobbled Butchery Lane.  The cathedral is the Mother Church of the  Anglican Communion and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury

Canterbury is a cathedral city in the southeast of England. My sister went to university here, and it’s a beautiful historical place with charming buildings that transport you back centuries.

If you’re looking for somewhere that feels quintessentially British and is just a short journey from London, I’d definitely recommend Canterbury.

Famous for being the centre of the Church of England for centuries, Canterbury cathedral  is worth a visit if you’re interested in history or religion.

Other attractions in Canterbury include various museums, St Augustines Abbey, Westgate Gardens and plenty of independent restaurants and fun bars.

You’re also not far from the coast here, so if you get a pleasant winter’s day, you could road trip to Herne Bay (this is where my dad lives, so I know the coastal town quite well!) or Whitstable.

Oxford 

Oxford Rad Cam

Oxford is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK.

Famous as the home of Oxford University (which is one of the most prestigious education institutions in the world!) Oxford University has historic buildings, an abundance of museums and university campuses to tour.

In the winter, Oxford has a fraction of the tourists compared to the summer – so you can explore without hundreds of other tourists around you!

Oxford is an expensive city, but you might experience a reduction in prices during the winter.

Again, it’s easy to reach from London; you can get the Oxford Tube (which confusingly, is a bus and not a train!) which costs just £12 one way and £18 for a return.

Lake District

A dramatic winter orange sunrise over Buttermere in the Lake District, UK. The photograph features a bare tree with the Cumbrian mountains in the background covered in snow. Clear reflections can be seen in the lake.

The incredible landscapes of the Lake District are worth visiting any time of year.

In the winter, there are fewer tourists and brisk days have a magical feel about them. It could just be you and the lakes!

There are plenty of winter walks if you get the opportunity, where you can enjoy the peaceful serenity of the area.

Also, visit traditional towns and villages like Hawkshead, Koniton and Keswick where you can shelter for a cup of tea if needed.

There are beautiful places to stay all over the Lake District, from spa hotels to cosy cottages where you can stay warm all winter!

Dartmoor National Park

travel uk in winter

With wild landscapes and looming tors, Dartmoor National Park is the largest in England and is a wonderful place for a wintery walk. 

Although it’s not always accessible due to rainy or potentially snowy weather, Dartmoor’s natural beauty makes it the ideal place for wintery walks.

I live close to Dartmoor, and my favourite spots are Hay Tor, Brent Tor (this one’s my favourite, it has a church on top of a hill with a sweeping view of the moorland!), the ancient ruins of Grimspound and the scenic Burrator Reservoir.

Don’t miss charming towns like Widecombe in the Moor (literally a village in the midst of Dartmoor!) and Ashburton (famous for antique shops and colourful houses!), and I’d also highly recommend dining at The Highwayman Inn , which has been called “ the weirdest pub in the UK “.

Dartmoor National Park is close to places like the coastal towns of Salcombe and Brixham and it’s not far from Exeter, Exmouth and Plymouth too. 

I write travel guides to South West England on my other blog, Go South West England – it’s the biggest blog focusing solely on the West Country. You can check out my Dartmoor travel guide here .

Peak District

Stunning Peak District Winter landscape of view from top of Hen Cloud over countryside and towards Tittesworth Reservoir

The Peak District is one of the most atmospheric landscapes in the country; a huge expanse of countryside with plenty of hills to climb up!

Situated mainly in Derbyshire, a midlands region, the Peak District extends into Yorkshire and other counties.

My mum grew up in Baslow, a Peak District village, and when we used to go and visit family, we enjoyed lots of walks like this one to Curbar Edge .

You can road trip through this natural landscape, stopping off in beautiful villages like Bakewell and Baslow, doing plenty of hikes if you get the weather for it!

If not, it’s the perfect place to rent a cosy cottage and hole up for the winter!

Winchester Cathedral and First World War soldier statue bathed in gorgeous light

With the backdrop of the 900-year-old Winchester Cathedral , this city has one of the best festive markets in the country. 

If you’re looking for places to visit in England at Christmas, head to Winchester!

Winchester is a deeply historic place, and along with the cathedral you can enjoy the Old Bishop’s Palace, the City Mill and the museum.

Plus, here you’re in gorgeous Hampshire countryside – perfect for a wintery walk.

Back in Winchester, enjoy plenty of locally-run restaurants made with fresh seasonal produce.

travel uk in winter

Cornwall is home to beautiful seaside towns and charming local culture. In the summertime, this region of the UK is heaving with tourists.

But in the winter, there are barely any other tourists!

If you have crisp, sunny weather, you can enjoy hiking on the epic South West Coast Path and exploring Cornwall’s many botanical gardens and other outdoor attractions. 

Plus, there are loads of museums in Cornwall.

Visit the Geevor Tin Mine museum to learn about Cornwall’s historic mining heritage, Jamaica Inn for smuggling history, the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro for the most comprehensive look into Cornish history and culture, and lots of English Heritage and National Trust properties. 

During Christmastime, Cornwall comes alive.

There are incredible Christmas lights in Mousehole and festivals and traditions all over the region! 

My other blog, Go South West England, has the most comprehensive resource on Cornwall on the internet; you can check out my full Cornwall travel guide here , which links to hundreds of posts about the region.

Things to do in winter in England

Make sure you tick off the following on your England winter bucket list!

Visit charming towns and cities

travel uk in winter

One thing that England does very well is beautiful historical cities . 

These cities are stunning any time of year, and in the winter you’ll find there are far fewer tourists. 

Enjoy epic architecture spanning through centuries as you’ll feel like you’re taking a walk through the past. 

Many of these cities have fascinating museums and historic restaurants, tea rooms, pubs and coffee houses for you to enjoy! 

Some of the best cities are Bath, Oxford, Canterbury and York.

Charming towns include anywhere in the Cotswolds, Port Isaac and Cornwall’s fishing villages, Rye, Sandwich, Holmbury St Mary (where The Holiday was filmed!) and plenty of places in the Peak and Lake Districts. 

Spend some time inside museums

travel uk in winter

There are dozens of amazing museums in England in winter! 

Even better, many are free – including some of the best and most famous museums in London. 

Visit the Natural History Museum, the V&A, the British Museum and the TATE Art Gallery, all without spending a dime. 

Many other museums, including the Bristol Museum and the RAMM in Exeter, are completely free of charge. 

There are hundreds of other museums in every city in the country too – from the Viking Museum in York to the SS Great Britain in Bristol! 

Warm up in a cosy tea room

It’s a British stereotype that’s completely true – we really love tea!

Tea rooms are dotted all over England – you’ll find one in virtually every town and village in the country!

Here, you can enjoy some of England’s staples, like cream teas, delicious cakes and dainty sandwiches. 

They’ve got a wonderful atmosphere and, in the winter, are the perfect places to warm up from the cold and shelter from the rain. 

Road trip around quaint villages

travel uk in winter

The charming countryside of England is dotted with picturesque villages with quaint houses and cobbled streets. 

Many of these villages can get too over-touristy in the summer months, but there’s plenty of room in the wintertime. 

You can bundle up and stroll around the charming streets, feeling like you’ve gone back in time. 

One of my favourite places in England is the cute village of Mousehole in West Cornwall. While the weather can be dramatic here in the winter, there are barely any tourists! 

Go for a brisk coastal walk

travel uk in winter

There are some beautiful coastal walks in England – an entire coast path runs the whole way around the country and takes in some of the most incredible landscapes in Europe. 

We don’t get rain all year round in England – sometimes we even get clear, brisk days in the winter.

Although the days can be short, you can fit in some great hikes in cool weather, while taking in some of the most incredible views in the country. 

Visit one of England’s spa towns

travel uk in winter

Fancy a soak in the spa? There are plenty of spa towns and cities in England , where you can pamper yourself to your heart’s content!

Bath is the obvious one, but you could also visit Harrogate or Buxton for interesting history and plenty of spas. 

Enjoy England’s Christmas markets

While England isn’t quite the same as traditional Bavaria, there are plenty of beautiful Christmas markets around the country. 

Here, you can go Christmas shopping, sip on mulled wine and even enjoy rides! 

Popular Christmas markets are in Bath, Winchester, Nottingham and of course, Winter Wonderland in London.

Enjoy a pub lunch with a roaring fire

travel uk in winter

A lot of English society revolves around pubs.

Fancy lunch? Head to the pub. Evening drinks? Visit the pub. Catch up with mates? Pub.

In the winter, pub lunches are gloriously hearty, and you can often sit right by a roaring fire.

Plus, you can enjoy pints of beer or wine as you unwind!

What is the weather like in England during winter? 

travel uk in winter

England can be cold in winter, but it rarely snows. The temperature can drop into the low single digits, or even below freezing, frequently, but it’s not often prime snowing conditions. 

Check out my full article that answers “does it snow in England?” by clicking here.

Expect average temperatures ranging from 15°C/ 60°F on either side of winter to 0°C/ 32°F – 5°C/ 41°F in the midst of winter! 

travel uk in winter

It can also rain quite a lot – England is rather famous for its cold drizzle – but sometimes we have brisk days with clear skies. 

Basically, prepare for all eventualities!

One of the most important things to remember is that it gets dark early.

Winter solstice is on 21st December when the sun sets before 4:00pm.

After this date, the nights start drawing out. 

What to pack for a winter trip to England

travel uk in winter

Most locals wear scarves , hats and gloves during winter in England.

If you are used to cooler temperatures, you might not need them.

You also may need a heavy coat and sturdy boots to stay warm.

Definitely take a cosy jumper (or a few!) – you’ll need them!

Also, it rains a lot in England in the winter – so don’t forget your waterproofs !

Other things that you might need are an unlocked smartphone , a kindle or other e-reader and an adapter (we use a three-prong plug in England).

How to get around England in the winter

travel uk in winter

You can get around England by bus, train or car. 

If you’re driving yourself, take care on the roads, as they can be icy (especially during the nighttime). Be particularly careful if you’re going down any quiet or country roads. 

Trains and coaches can be subject to cancellations because of adverse weather during these times. However, they are a safe way of exploring the country. 

Coaches are much cheaper than trains in summer and winter! Book trains early for more affordable prices.

Tips for visiting England in winter

travel uk in winter

  • Some attractions, like English Heritage or National Trust properties, are closed during the winter (particularly on weekdays). Factor this into your plans before heading out.
  • If the weather is particularly bad, s trike up a conversation about it with a loca l. We love moaning about the rain!
  • I’ve mentioned this earlier in the post, but if you have bad weather, head to the pub . This is what the locals do! Plus, there are some incredible pubs in the UK, many of which have associated stories and legends.

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Claire Martin

Claire is an expert in exploring Europe in the winter! She's from the UK and has been to over 20 countries on the continent in the winter season. She loves every bit of Europe in the cooler months, including finding winter sunshine in Spain, skiing in the Alps and the charm of the Nordic countries in the festive season.

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16 Best Places to Visit in Winter in the UK

Written by Shandley McMurray Updated Nov 13, 2023 We may earn a commission from affiliate links ( )

The UK is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year, but there's something about winter that brings out its true magic. Thatched roofs loaded with snow, frost-laden meadows, and outdoor skating rinks make everything feel festive and fun in winter.

Climb the snow-covered tors in Devon's Dartmoor National Park , browse London's Christmas markets , or sled through the Scottish Highlands . There are so many great places to visit in winter in the UK. Plus, you won't have to fight the spring crowds or balk at summer's high prices.

While it would be nice if the UK was all fluffy white flakes and bright blue skies during winter, that's not always the case. More often than not, its famously rainy countries will be plagued by cold drizzle, so pack an umbrella, waterproof boots (a.k.a. wellies), and a few extra layers of clothing.

Now that you know what to pack, plan your chilly but fun journey with our list of the best places to visit in winter in the UK.

1. Edinburgh, Scotland

2. york, england, 3. isle of skye, scotland, 4. the cotswolds, england, 5. london, england, 6. canterbury, england, 7. bath, england, 8. dartmoor national park, england, 9. cairngorms national park, scotland, 10. oxford, england, 11. the lake district, england, 12. brecon beacons, wales, 13. cambridge, england, 14. the new forest national park, hampshire, england, 15. isle of rona, scotland, 16. st. ives, cornwall, map of places to visit in winter in the uk.

Edinburgh on a snowy winter's day

Scotland's capital is majestic in every season. Add a sprinkling of snow and festive lights to the mix of ancient buildings and cobbled streets, and you've got yourself some romance. Did we mention the towering Edinburgh Castle perched atop a hill? Told you it was a magical setting, especially in winter.

Visit before the holidays and you'll be treated to the adorable Christmas markets, extravagant lights, and festive music on offer as part of the Edinburgh Winter Festival . This multi-day extravaganza lights up the city's already charming streets and boasts a fair-like festive atmosphere that draws crowds from across the UK. Lace-up a pair of rental skates and swirl your way around an outdoor ice rink, with St. Andrew Square and Murrayfield Ice Rink top of the list.

Those who visit for New Year's (a.k.a. Hogmanay ), one of the most popular holidays in the country, are in for a treat. Edinburgh celebrates the first of January with a three-day event. We're talking street parties, torchlight processions, and concerts. It ends with a bang fireworks style on the 31 st .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Edinburgh

York Minster

Like Edinburgh, York also plays host to festive Christmas markets. The famous and award-winning St. Nicholas Fair takes up most of the city's streets, runs from mid-November through to Christmas, and regularly attracts upwards of a million visitors each season. An outdoor ice rink, carol singers, a giant lighted tree, and a vast market featuring 100 wooden chalets line Parliament Street and St. Sampson's Square .

Grab a hot chocolate and wander around the historic Shambles , where you'll be transported to the 13 th century. A narrow street lined by medieval buildings made of timber, it is perfectly captivating and boasts a wide selection of eclectic shops and a Yuletide Village featuring local arts and crafts.

When you've had enough festive cheer, head to the town's crown jewel: the Gothic York Minster. You won't have to jostle through crowds to enjoy the hallowed walls of this top attraction. If you can, try to make it one of the Minster's wonderful Christmas Carol Concerts , as well as the York Minster Christmas Tree Festival.

Another fun thing to do in York in winter is to walk atop the city's ancient walls to enjoy unbeatable vistas without the foot traffic that plagues warmer months.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in York

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in York, England

The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye backed by the snowcapped Black Cuillin Mountains

Scotland's Isle of Skye is one of the most enchanting places in the UK, and possibly the world. This star of the inner Hebrides region has everything you'd hope for in a Scottish vacation, including castles, mountains, and fairy glens. As long as you dress warmly, you can enjoy them all.

Slip on a warm coat and waterproofs for a trip to the Fairy Pools . While you won't want to jump in for a swim (even in summer they're freezing), these lovely pools are worthy of a visit.

Bring your camera, as you'll want to snap a zillion photos of the warm winter light reflecting off the pools and the snowcapped Black Cuillin Mountains towering above them. Speaking of light, winter visitors get an added bonus: it's much easier to catch a sunrise at this time of year.

During summer, the sun makes an appearance at 4am (talk about early!). In winter, it doesn't rise until a more acceptable 9am. The sun begins to set around 3:30pm, showering the sky with remarkable pink hues and sometimes rainbows. If you're lucky, you may spot the northern lights .

While winter may not be the most popular or best time to visit Scotland, it is the cheapest, so you'll be saving a pretty penny when traveling at this time.

Accommodation: Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye

Read More: Top Tourist Attractions in the Isle of Skye

Snow-covered Castle Combe village in the Cotswolds

You'll be hard-pressed to find a more entrancingly beautiful place than the Cotswolds, especially when the region's tiny ancient towns are blanketed with snow. Grab a sled and hurl yourself down the hills near Broadway Tower or don hiking boots to marvel at the shimmering meadows of the Malvern Hills.

Then, head to the area's real showstoppers: its storybook villages . Cobblestone laneways, honey-colored stone buildings, and quaint thatched-roof cottages pepper each town, upping the charm factor dramatically. You won't be able to stop yourself from taking photographs and uttering an audible "ahh" (or 20) over its overt loveliness.

Popular towns like Castle Combe , Bibury , Bourton-on-the-Water , and Painswick are charming at all times but look even more phenomenal without the hordes of tourists that bombard their tiny streets in spring and summer.

Book a husky ride with Arctic Quest Sled Dog Adventures . Based in Tewkesbury , this creative company offers exciting sled dog adventures you won't forget. No snow? No problem. Arctic Quest also has unique sleds with wheels, so you'll get a full "mush" experience (where you're pulled behind a team of huskies) whatever the weather. After your ride, warm up at the campfire with a hot chocolate.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Cotswolds

London in the winter

There are many reasons to visit London in winter. The city is adorned with festiveness, stretching from the banks of the Thames River to the vibrant streets near Trafalgar Square . Once it snows, which happens rarely, the city becomes a unique utopia made even more beautiful by the recent dusting.

Take the opportunity to enjoy an empty Tower of London , and snap selfies on the now much quieter streets near Westminster Abbey and Big Ben . Then, skate outside the Natural History Museum or book tickets to a pantomime (a.k.a. "panto") for extra fun.

London's biggest (and busiest) celebration of the season is the spectacular Hyde Park Winter Wonderland . Set in the city's largest green space, this unique take on a Christmas Market runs for six weeks from mid-November through to New Year's Day and features everything from fairground rides to entertainment, shopping, and countless food experiences.

Shoppers unite at Covent Garden , which is peppered with local artisans selling their unique wares. Stick around for one of the impromptu concerts and prepare to be entertained (whether you want to or not) by the numerous buskers.

Those hoping for more highbrow finds head to the city's most celebrated and impressively decorated shopping district found along Regent and Oxford Streets . Snap photos of the adorable window decorations on Carnaby Street (just east of Regent Street) on your way to Hamley's , the city's best toy shop.

Canterbury Cathedral

The county of Kent is so attractive it was dubbed the "Garden of England" by Henry VIII. Rolling hills, dramatic cliffs, and medieval towns make this an unmissable locale, even in winter. Of all the region's beautiful cities, Canterbury is the most captivating.

Like most large English cities, Canterbury plays host to Christmas markets in late November through December and boasts festive lights that stay up much longer to enhance the charming cobblestone streets.

A trip to Canterbury Cathedral is a must. Gothic towers adorn this UNESCO World Heritage Site, stretching so high above the streets that they're impossible to miss. In its shadow lies King's Mile , a collection of winding streets spotted with independent shops and eateries selling everything from cheese to art.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Canterbury

The Pulteney bridge over the Avon River in Bath

Arguably one of England's most elegant and gorgeous cities, Bath thrives during the winter months. The town's Christmas Market has been voted one of the best in the country and features over 170 chalets selling unique gifts and tasty treats set within ancient streets lined by Georgian buildings.

Every November, the city hosts the annual Bath Mozartfest , a nine-day festival honoring the famed composer as well as his contemporaries like Beethoven and Schubert. Over 16 concerts are performed by world-class musicians in some of the town's most beautiful venues.

Bath's main attraction is over 2,000 years old and a perfect place to warm up. Established in 75 BCE, the award-winning Roman Baths boast ancient hot springs and an enviable spa. They also stay open for twilight hours and offer special three-course holiday meals in the on-site Pump Room Restaurant .

Bath Abbey is particularly enchanting when draped with snow. Head inside for some warmth, and admire the stained-glass windows (the King Edgar Window is incredibly intricate) and carved angels found throughout the building.

Visiting nearby Longleat (a stately home with its own safari park) is a must. Each winter, they decorate the home and park with dazzling outdoor exhibits, including an amazing display of Chinese lanterns as part of the Festival of Light .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Bath

Sunrise on a snowy morning in Dartmoor National Park

Moody and romantic, England's moors are the stuff of dreams and fairy tales: just read a novel by Emily Brontë!

A sprinkling of snow on Dartmoor National Park transforms this beautiful landscape into a magical winter wonderland. Add roaming ponies, sheep, and cows to the scenery, and you've got a wonderfully bucolic setting.

Located in Devon, a beautiful county on England's west coast , Dartmoor is beloved by outdoor adventurists. Deep river valleys, towering tors, and golden heaths mark this rugged landscape, inviting visitors to bike, hike, raft, or climb its granite boulders. Some even pack a sled (or sledge, as it's known in the UK).

Pack warm, waterproof layers and be prepared to encounter all types of precipitation during your winter visit. Everything from heavy mist to pounding rain to sleet to snow to ice can envelop the area within a day.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Dartmoor National Park

River Luineag flowing into Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms National Park

Sometimes you come upon a place so beautiful, it takes your breath away. Cairngorms National Park is one of these places. While beautiful in all seasons, there's something about winter that ups the picturesque qualities, not to mention the tranquillity, of this Scottish gem.

Located in the Scottish Highlands , Cairngorms National Park presents visitors with a slew of things to do. Its high elevation almost ensures enough snow to ski, sled, or snowshoe during the winter months. Plus, the lack of leaves at this time makes it easier to spot the incredible wildlife.

Enjoy skiing? Hit the slopes at one of the area's three ski resorts: CairnGorm Mountain , Lecht , or Glenshee .

Accommodation: Where to Stay near Cairngorms National Park

Winter at All Souls College in Oxford

Oxford is one of the oldest and most majestic cities in England. History seeps from every crevice of this famed university town, which is spotted with some of the country's most impressive architecture.

It's best to visit the spectacular medieval buildings on foot. Walking tours of all types, including sightseeing tours and those aimed at fans of J.R.R. Tolkien and Harry Potter movie buffs, are available to book at the Visitor Information Center on Broad Street .

On your journey, you'll pass iconic structures like the Bodleian Library and Christ Church Cathedral , which are made even more stunning when sprinkled with snow. For a bird's-eye view, visit Carfax Tower in the center of town before being tempted by the shops and restaurants lining the pretty High Street .

Or climb the tower at the University Church of St. Mary the Virgin. It boasts impressive city and countryside vistas. At night, catch a concert or play at the Sheldonian Theater on Broad Street .

  • Read More: Top-Rated Places to Visit in Oxford

A winter morning at Rydal in the English Lake District

Cumbria is home to a truly phenomenal area of natural beauty: The Lake District . In addition to the 16 lakes that inspired the region's name, there are majestic mountains, the tallest of which is Scafell Pike ; verdant valleys; and romantic moors. But the fun doesn't stop there.

The towns of the Lake District put on a wonderful show at this time of year. Christmas markets filled with independent booths selling unique gifts spring up all over, including the towns of Windermere , Ambleside , Hawkshead , and Cockermouth .

Ulverston brings life to the classic Charles Dicken's holiday tale, A Christmas Carol . Each year, this historic market town transforms its streets into Dickensian-era markets featuring street performances and residents roaming the area in period costumes at the Ulverston Dickensian Christmas Festival .

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the Lake District

Snowcapped mountains in the Brecon Beacons, Wales

Winter really is the best season to see a mountain range, and the Brecon Beacons are more than worthy of a visit during the coldest months. One of the best tourist attractions in South Wales , this dramatic range is breathtakingly beautiful, and it covers over 46,000 hectares.

If you're hoping to hike (which is the best way to experience these peaks), we suggest gearing up properly and pre-planning your route. Don't head out if the weather is bad, tell a friend where you're going, and be aware of the tide schedule so you don't get caught.

Now that you're ready, head to the Begwyns . An easy 3.2-kilometer walking trail offers unsurpassable views without the need to hike up mountains. Plus, it only takes about an hour, so you won't get too cold.

Hoping for a more difficult trek? The Cwm Llwch from Cwm Gwdi Walk is a challenging way to summit Britain's highest mountain, Pen y Fan . It's almost 13 kilometers long, involves a climb of 576 meters, and will take about five hours to complete.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Brecon Beacons National Park

KIng's College Chapel in Cambridge

Wonderful things happen in Cambridge, and we're not just talking about the discoveries made by the city's talented university scholars. Punting along the River Cam is one of the most popular activities in Cambridge , even during the winter.

Each year, the city hosts the Big Christmas Lights Switch On , which happens in mid-November. A couple of weeks later, visitors are presented with the Mill Road Winter Fair . Here, they are treated to festive music, tasty treats, and even dancing in the streets.

Join in the fun in Parker's Piece Park , where you can show off your skating skills on the covered outdoor ice rink. When you've had enough, warm up at a cozy cafe with a hot chocolate topped with marshmallows.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cambridge

Horses grazing in New Forest National Park

England's New Forest National Park is a magical place filled with wild ponies, winding nature trails, and vast fields. The best thing to do in the New Forest is wander, exploring this natural wonderland either on foot or on a bicycle.

Set aside three hours (or two if you prefer walking at a faster pace) and head to Brockenhurst . From here, pick up the Buckland Rings Trail . It will guide you through the dense Roydon Woods nature reserve and over Setley Plain . Finally, you'll arrive at Buckland Rings, a historic site that served as a hill fort during the Iron Age.

Who says you can't enjoy water-based activities in the winter? Certainly not the New Forest Activities center. They boast kayaking, canoeing, and other fun adventures (including land-based activities) throughout the year. No matter what activities you choose, you'll be in awe of the winter landscape in the New Forest.

When it's time to warm your toes by a fire and enjoy a toasty stew, head to Lyndhurst. One of the best small towns in England , this little charmer lies in the heart of the New Forest.

Accommodation: Where to Stay in the New Forest National Park

View towards the Isle of Rona

A winter vacation to the Isle of Rona is about as cozy and romantic as you can get in the UK. A small and remote island located between the Isle of Skye and western Scotland, this teeny isle (it's only five miles long) is home to only two permanent residents and four cottages; three of which can be rented.

The cottages are lovely, fronted with stone and topped with slate. They boast underfloor heating and wood burners, so you'll easily beat the chill of a Scottish winter. With no shops or even roads on the island, be prepared to go off grid. You'll have to bring your food and drink with you. Think of it like camping but in luxurious accommodations.

The island itself is what people gravitate towards. It's peppered with varied terrain so beautiful that you'll forget about feeling wet and cold. Secret lochs and coves, rocky outcroppings, mossy woodlands, and of course, the dramatic Sound of Raasay . Wild animals like the red deer, otter, and seals populate the island, and various species of birds can be spotted.

Getting here isn't easy. You'll have to board a boat in Portree, and it only runs once a week. The trip takes about an hour and the walk to your cottage is about a kilometer away.

Harbour at St. Ives in winter

The charming seaside town of St. Ives in Cornwall is not only one of the best places to visit in winter in the UK for its stunning scenery, but it's also one of the mildest spots in the country at this time of year . Temperatures in this most south-westerly corner of the UK are generally a few degrees warmer, with snow a rarity. It also experiences less rainfall, too, which makes getting outdoors and exploring this lovely coastal town a pleasure at any time of year.

If you can visit in the lead-up to Christmas and New Year, so much the better. December brings with it a wide array of fun things to do in St. Ives, from a lovely lantern parade to a Christmas Market showcasing gifts and crafts made by local artisans. You'll also want to attend a pantomime. These family-friendly sendups of famous fairy tales are held at St. Ives Theatre and are a hoot for all ages, with plenty of jeering and booing expected from the audience.

The post-Christmas period is another good time to visit, with polar dips on Boxing Day for hardy types not averse to a cold swim. New Year's Eve is also fun, with a carnival and parade attracting residents and visitors dressed up in colorful costumes.

Even if you miss the festive season, the stunning coastline around St. Ives offers up memorable experiences of its own. Coastal walks , especially around the South West Coast Path, can be exceptionally atmospheric and beautiful during the winter months.

More Related Articles on PlanetWare.com

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More Places to Visit in Winter: The UK isn't the only spectacular spot to visit at the end of the year. If you're looking to ski, skate, or have a snowball fight, check out these awesome winter holidays with snow . Want a winter romance? Head to Prague between December and February.

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Other Places to See in the UK: Whether you're hoping to soak up history in York , luxuriate at a spa in Bath , or spy the King in Windsor , you'll love these fun weekend getaways in England . For more of an outdoor adventure, head to these gorgeous tourist attractions in Wales .

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Where to go for a winter holiday in the UK

By Emma Love and Olivia Morelli

The prettiest places to go for a winter break in the UK

Once the picnic hampers and swimwear from our summer beach breaks have been safely stowed away and we’re fairly sure that all the sand has drained from our suitcase, we can finally let our minds drift to the cosiest of all getaways: a UK winter holiday. Cashmere blankets, hot chocolates and Hunter wellies at the ready, when it comes to a break in the cooler climes, we’re all in for as much mud as we can get outside and as many logs as we can get on the fire inside. In short, ramp up the cottagecore atmosphere (a world of slow living, thatched roofs and bliss in domesticity), and we’re on our way.

And to help you work out where to hang your hat (and your coat, scarf and gloves), we’ve rounded up the best places to visit, and to stay, for a UK winter holiday, whether you’re after bracing walks on crisp and frosty mornings, icy lakes that glisten in the sun or picturesque snow-covered mountain peaks. Vive l'escapade cosy, right?

Best for a fairytale winter escape  Perfectly placed among the Cotswolds' prettiest villages Broadway is a storybook...

Broadway, Worcestershire

Best for: a fairytale winter escape

Perfectly placed among the Cotswolds' prettiest villages , Broadway is a storybook setting for a festive holiday. Come for cottagecore to the extreme – thatched roofs glistening with frost, chimneys puffing out the excess of roaring fires and endless rolling hills covered in a blanket of thick, soft snow. Spend mornings hiking along the Cotswolds Way walking route, and afternoons cosying up in some of England's best country pubs where roasts are piled high with all the trimmings and strolls home are best accompanied by a takeaway mulled wine while watching the festive lights twinkle away on the high street.

Where to stay: Right in the middle of the high street sits the Lygon Arms , a classic Cotswold getaway. James Martin has just opened two restaurants inside (the Grill and the Tavern), and the afternoon tea is a welcome warm-up routine post-walk. There is a spa, too, with a selection of treatments to choose from (the Warm Oil massage sounds like a perfect winter treat) and a sauna, steam room and 14-metre swimming pool.

Best for your nature fix  In Scotland's Cairngorms National Park Braemar is a cutesy village surrounded by endless...

Braemar, Scotland

Best for: your nature fix

In Scotland's Cairngorms National Park, Braemar is a cutesy village surrounded by endless greenery waiting to be explored. There are plenty of walking routes which are magical in the winter – think frosted branches, icy lochs and snow-heaped munros. Nearby, the royal castle of Balmoral is a must, while Braemar Castle is also a point of interest for history buffs. Out in the sticks, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife: red squirrels, deer, mountain hares and pine martens roam the grounds, while eagles and ospreys soar through the skies.

Where to stay: Since art dealers Ivan and Manuela Wirth opened The Fife Arms in 2018, the hotel quickly became one of Scotland's most iconic stays. Huddle up by the fire to gaze at the art adorning the wall (there's pieces by Picasso, Man Ray, Louise Bourgeois, Lucian Freud and Pieter Brueghel the Younger strewn around the place), or hunker down in the Clunie Dining Room where wood-fired cooking is the only thing that could tear eyes away from the bespoke wall paintings by artist Guillermo Kuitca.

Best for scenes straight out of a Christmas movie  This sleepy town is no stranger to the limelight. It's been used for...

Castle Combe, Wiltshire

Best for: scenes straight out of a Christmas movie

This sleepy town is no stranger to the limelight. It's been used for a host of different film and TV projects from Doctor Dolittle and War Horse to Stardust, Downton Abbey and Bridgerton . And the 16th-century hamlet isn't one to hunker down for the cold season – the village takes on a new leading role come winter. Amble through winding streets sprinkled with a thin layer of snow, stop by the village hall to see if there are any Christmas markets popping up and go on long, mucky walks through the surrounding hillsides.

Where to stay: Lucknam Park is a country-house hotel just a 10-minute drive from Castle Combe. After a day spent exploring the village, pull up to this grand estate where you'll be swept away by the perfectly pretty gardens, stunning bedrooms and old-school dining areas.

Bath Somerset

Bath, Somerset

Best for: leisurely cobblestone strolls

Positioned at the heart of the Somerset countryside and surrounded by the Avon river, Bath is one of England’s most well-known and well-loved city breaks all year round, though in the winter it really comes into its own. For among the grand Regency façades and scores of honey-hued streets lined with independent shops and delis, lie many opportunities to warm up in true Bath-style: in the thermae spas that it’s so famed for. Convalescing in the steaming waters here is a must-do experience that has enchanted humans through the ages, from the Romans to the petticoat-clad women of the Regency era and now, the solace-seeking visitors of the 21st century.

Where to stay: From its regal perch in the middle of the Royal Crescent arc, the Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa is one of the most famous hotels in Bath , fronted by manicured green gardens and boasting views down and over the city. For an authentic taste of Bath life, the handsome villa – enchantingly named ‘ Georgian Blushes ’ by Plum Guide sits in the well-heeled residential district of Bathwick. Commanding incredible views of the city of Bath, just a 20-minute walk away, it's easy to see why this neighbourhood is so sought-after. For more private stays, see our pick of the best Airbnbs in Bath . 

Best for kayaking in a private estuary  Beaulieu River is the idyllic location for invigorating twohour guided ‘winter...

Beaulieu, New Forest

Best for: kayaking in a private estuary

Beaulieu River is the idyllic location for invigorating two-hour guided ‘winter paddling’ sessions with New Forest Activities : choose from either open-top Canadian canoes or typical stable touring kayaks and push off from Baileys Hard. Large sections of the river are part of the North Solent Nature Reserve, which means plenty of birds flitting along the reed-covered banks to distract from any aching arms. Just remember to bring a flask of steaming hot chocolate to help you warm up afterwards.

Where to stay: One of our favourite hotels in the New Forest , The Montagu Arms Hotel , is idyllically placed on a corner in Beaulieu, sandwiched between the high street and the river. Another option is Chewton Glen , a classic English country hotel with a brilliant spa.

Ullswater Lake District

Ullswater, Lake District

Best for: scenic hikes

The setting for William Wordsworth’s famous poem  Daffodils  has much more to recommend than just that which would entice literary buffs. Ullswater - the second largest lake in the  Lake District  - ripples on the border between the historic counties of Cumberland and Westmorland, and is encircled by moor-covered fells and off-grid Airbnbs and guest houses that invite cosy nightcaps after a day’s thermal-clad explorations. The lake itself was scooped out by a glacier in the Last Ice Age and so it’s an area already au-fait with cold and so it will come as little surprise that chilly staycations here are well-catered for, with enchanting hiking trails matched by equally as enchanting stately homes and gardens for anyone wanting a respite from the crisp climate.

Where to stay:   Another Place , with its infinity pool basking in the imposing shadow of the mountain range beyond, is an 18th-century lakeside home turned upmarket hotel & spa, while this  traditional boathouse  on the shore of the lake itself offers a romantic hideaway for those wanting a front-row seat to the action. See our pick of the best Airbnbs in the Lake District for more options.

Salisbury Wiltshire

Salisbury, Wiltshire

Best for: a cultural fix

The medieval cathedral city of Salisbury in Wiltshire sprawls out from the ornate, 13th-century cathedral (which holds the original copy of the Magna Carta from 1215 A.D) and along the banks of the River Avon. Its rich and storied history never fails to enchant and delight those who visit, with the centre notable for its checkerboard layout, with enclosed gardens squeezed between the houses. Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plains is just nine miles from the middle of the city, though closer to its nucleus, a clutch of boutiques, first-rate eateries and museums are enough to keep those who visit well-entertained, both indoors and out.

Where to stay: for self-catering, this newly converted barn with breathtaking views over the picturesque Chalke Valley is dog-friendly and has a farm shop on-site, or the country-chic quarters of Bishopstrow Hotel & Spa feature a glass-fronted restaurant and a spa.

Best for fabulously festive illuminations  The illuminated light trail is always a highlight of the Christmas...

Woodstock, The Cotswolds

Best for: fabulously festive illuminations

The illuminated light trail is always a highlight of the Christmas celebrations at Blenheim Palace , from the vaulted Tunnel of Light that twinkles with more than 100,000 white bulbs to the futuristic woodland Laser Garden and the Water Terrace pièce de résistance, where coloured lights are projected onto the palace’s façade. Sip a cup of mulled cider as you explore the grounds, and afterwards toast marshmallows around the fire pit.

Where to stay: The Swan Inn , a smart pub with rooms in Chipping Norton, or take over one of our favourite Airbnbs in the Cotswolds .

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York North Yorkshire

York, North Yorkshire

Best for: exploring the medieval streets

There is something distinctively special about York in the winter, its grand cathedrals, ramshackle labyrinth of shopping streets and Bohemian spirit wrapped in a quilt of frost, the Great Bundled-up milling within its ancient walls. Originally a Roman and then Viking settlement, history is woven into every structure and street within its old centre, though the outskirts are now peppered with quirky boutiques, lively student haunts and an inventive foodie scene. Ghost tours are a hot ticket here, as is any sort of tour that affords a slightly off-beat take on the culture, and the Viking museum of Jorvik is a hit with visitors young and old.

Where to stay: Part of a convent that is still in operation, historic The Bar Convent (inventive, we know) is one of Britain's more unusual guest-houses and offers a thoughtful antidote to the pricier properties that well-heeled travellers tend to opt for. Sleeping four, The Grand Old Duchess sits on the right-hand side of the River Ouse close to the locally loved Bishopthorpe Road – a street given the nickname 'The Notting Hill of the North'.

Best for bird spotting and boat trips  You know winter is on its way when thousands of pinkfooted geese migrate to the...

Cley Marshes, Norfolk

Best for: bird spotting and boat trips

You know winter is on its way when thousands of pink-footed geese migrate to the UK. Each year these pink-grey birds swap their breeding grounds in Greenland and Iceland for the mudflats and salt marshes of Norfolk (most arrive by the end of November), where they spend their days feeding on the tops and tails of sugar beet left in the fields by farmers. The sight, as the flocks fly back to their roosts at dusk, is extraordinary. December and January are also peak months for grey seals to give birth to their pups: head out on boat trips from Morston Quay for an up-close look at these inquisitive creatures swimming in the water and lolling on the beaches.

Where to stay: The Victoria Inn, Holkham , a 19th-century hotel surrounded by acres of parkland. See our edit of the best hotels in Norfolk for more options. 

Best for a bookish weekend break in the UK  In normal years the main difference between the annual Winter Weekend...

Hay-on-Wye, Wales

Best for: a bookish weekend break in the UK

In normal years, the main difference between the annual Winter Weekend festival in Hay-on-Wye and its longer literary counterpart in May is that while the talks – by writers, artists, academics, thinkers – still take place in a tent, there’s a real focus on events in the town too. In 2020, the event will be streamed digitally – but visiting the town in winter to leaf through the many bookshops is still a wonderful low-key day trip.

Where to stay: Cheese Market Flats , which occupy a splendid vantage point in the historic market opposite the castle.

Best for surfing big breaks without the crowds  The water might be icy but theres no need to hang up your wetsuit winter...

Newquay, Cornwall

Best for: surfing big breaks without the crowds

The water might be icy but there’s no need to hang up your wetsuit: winter surfing in Cornwall is mercifully crowd free apart from a handful of hardcore locals who turn out in all weathers to make the most of the swells (during the colder months, low-pressure systems build up in the Atlantic, driving surf towards the west coast). And there are plenty of sweet spots to choose from, whether it’s Newquay’s legendary Fistral beach or protected Praa Sands, an hour’s drive away near Porthleven, where the northwest to northeast winds create hollow, fast waves.

Where to stay: Watergate Bay , a renowned beachside hotel with eco-friendly self-catering accommodation. For more options, see our edit of the best hotels in Cornwall .

Best for a mindful meander in winter gardens  Theres something rather wonderful about crunching along the frosty narrow...

Lode, Cambridgeshire

Best for: a mindful meander in winter gardens

There’s something rather wonderful about crunching along the frosty narrow path at Anglesey Abbey , just outside Cambridge , on a freezing sunny morning. Here, the Winter Garden has been specially designed with plants that are at their most vibrant in the colder months: flaming scarlet willow and red-barked dogwood, the Killarney strawberry tree, which bears fruit just before Christmas, and the grove of Himalayan silver birch trees with their stark white trunks. Snowdrops bloom in January and February, and the scent of winter–flowering honeysuckle and Christmas box fills the air. Those who want to make it more of a ‘mindful meander’ can pick up a sensory trail map from reception, which marks the most peaceful spots for contemplation.

Where to stay: The University Arms , a Victorian hotel transformed by Royal Family-approved classical architect John Simpson.

Best for a glimpse of the northern lights  Instead of hopping on a plane to the Arctic Circle to see the northern lights...

The Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

Best for: a glimpse of the northern lights

Instead of hopping on a plane to the Arctic Circle to see the northern lights, rent a car and drive a section of the Wild Atlantic Way , which stretches 1,500 miles along the west coast of Ireland . With secluded bays, rocky headlands and sheep-dotted hills, it’s pretty magical at any time of year but brave the changeable weather and there’s a chance of witnessing the Aurora Borealis too. The unpolluted skies of the unspoilt Northern Headlands at the tip of the route are your best bet for a clear sighting.

Where to stay: The Wild Honey Inn , an old-school restaurant with rooms.

Best for wild walking in the hills  Whether strolling the length of the sevenmile Borrowdale Valley or yomping up the...

The Lake District, Cumbria

Best for: wild walking in the hills

Whether strolling the length of the seven-mile Borrowdale Valley or yomping up the steep path to Tarn Hows, through woodland and past gushing waterfalls, the possibilities for wild winter walking in the Lake District are endless. Yes it’s glorious in the summer sun but it’s equally atmospheric in the off-season mist and drizzle, when there are far fewer walkers and the solitude of the mountains acts like a soulful reset. Pack waterproofs and sturdy boots, and plot your path so there’s a rewarding tea shop or cosy pub at the end.

Where to stay: The Kirkstile Inn , a handsome, traditional 16th-century inn.

Best for allaction winter sports   Forget Switzerland Scotland has skiing much closer to home. The varied terrain at...

Cairngorms, The Scottish Highlands

Best for: all-action winter sports (and reindeer)

Forget Switzerland , Scotland has skiing much closer to home. The varied terrain at Glenshee , in the Cairngorms National Park, makes it one of the best options for skiers and snowboarders of all levels. Runs extend across three valleys and several mountains, including Glas Maol, which offers access to some of the best off-piste slopes. While you’re in the Highlands , don’t miss the chance to visit the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd that roams the mountains .

Where to stay: Killiehuntly Farmhouse , an impeccably renovated 17th-century farmhouse.

Best for a buttonbusting foodie break  From Michelinstarred gastropubs  think chefowner Daniel Smiths refurbished...

Canterbury, Kent

Best for: a button-busting foodie break

From Michelin-starred gastropubs – think chef-owner Daniel Smith’s refurbished riverside pub The Fordwich Arms in Fordwich and Stephen Harris’ The Sportsman in Seasalter – to the Goods Shed farmers market and food hall in Canterbury, the foodie buzz about this corner of the UK has been growing for some time. Plan a weekend around a list of must-try restaurants and, in between meal times, cycle off what you eat along the Viking Coastal Trail, which takes in of-the-moment seaside towns such as Margate , Broadstairs and Ramsgate.

Where to stay: The Pig at Bridge Place , a foodie hideaway set in a 17th-century manor.

Open Road Odysseys

11 Fantastic UK Winter Road Trip Itineraries

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Are you dreaming of a UK winter road trip? The moody skies, the snowcapped peaks , the dreamy Christmas markets…if these things are making you itch to hit the open road, then these itineraries will be perfect for you!

Whether you want to see the northern lights, hit up as many Christmas markets as you can, or crave some castles , I’ve got you covered! Here are 11 of the best road trip itineraries for exploring the United Kingdom in the winter!

11 UK winter road trip itineraries

Duncansby Head along the NC500 in Northern Scotland

1. Northern Scotland

Suggested length: 5-6 days Perfect for: northern lights and adventurous travelers

For those who are itching to see the northern lights, you’ll want to head as far north as you can, which means taking a road trip along the NC500 is a perfect choice.

The NC500 is a spectacular route, traversing along the A9 from Inverness and then hugging the coast all the way around the top part of the country. You can visit places like Tain , Ebenezer Place (the world’s shortest street), John O’Groats (the most northern tip of mainland UK), various castles, and breathtaking views around every turn.

If you’re even more adventurous, you could head even further north to the Orkneys or the Shetland Islands and experience an even more remote part of the country.

The best time to see the northern lights is from November to February , so if this is on your bucket list, make sure you plan this trip during these months. While there’s definitely no guarantee they will make an appearance, you’ll have a much better chance the further north you can get.

The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye are  a great place to visit on your UK winter road trip

2. Scotland Highlands

Suggested length: 7+ days Perfect for: breathtaking scenery and outdoor activities

The Scottish Highlands are a perfect UK winter road trip destination in every season. From stunning Glencoe to the otherworldly Isle of Skye , to the depths of Loch Ness and the mountains of the Cairngorms , there’s is so much to do that you’ll never experience it all in one trip.

I have two fantastic itinerary options below for you that include the Scottish Highlands. We did our Scotland trip in November and December and we thought it was the perfect time of year to experience this part of the country.

The Best 7-Day Scotland Road Trip For First-Timers The Ultimate 10-Day Scotland Highlands Road Trip Itinerary

If you are interested in skiing, there are also some great locations in the Highlands. Two options are Glencoe Mountain Resort & Nevis Range .

The Edinburgh Christmas Market is a must-see when visiting the city in the wintertime

3. Scotland Cities & Lowlands

Suggested length: 5+ days Perfect for: Christmas markets and city vibes

If Christmas markets are a big item on your winter wish list, exploring the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow might be a great choice for you.

The cities are only a little over an hour away from each other, making them easy to reach no matter where you want to base yourself. This road trip is best completed in late November through mid-December when the Christmas markets are open.

The Edinburgh Christmas Market is absolutely fantastic, and the city is beyond charming. In fact, Edinburgh is probably my favorite city! You definitely want to spend several days here to get a good feel of the place. Some can’t-miss places include Edinburgh Castle , the Royal Mile , National Museum of Scotland , and Holyrood Park .

You can also head to Glasgow and check out their Christmas market as well. Make some time to visit some other sites as well if you have the time, like Glasgow Cathedral & Necropolis and the Gallery of Modern Art .

If you want to spend some time outside the cities, check out some attractions to the south, such as Melrose Abbey , Tantallon Castle , and Rosslyn Chapel .

You can also do day trips into the Highlands if desired. In this case, I’d recommend booking a tour so you can see as much as possible in one day. Here’s a great option , or you can check out all the choices on Viator .

Stonehenge is a popular tourist attraction in Southcentral England and well worth a stop on a UK winter road trip

4. Southcentral England

Suggested length: 4-5 days Perfect for: history buffs and architecture lovers

England is an amazing place to take a UK winter road trip. There are so many fantastic places to visit that narrowing down the options is difficult! However, if you really enjoy history and architecture, this southcentral England road trip will be a solid choice.

The Winchester Christmas Market is considered one of the best in the entire country, so if you are visiting from late November to mid-December, you should definitely make a stop here! From there you can head to Salisbury Cathedral , a stunning church that has an original copy of the 1215 Magna Carta.

The Cotswolds are also a great place to spend a few days. Explore the charming villages and just slow down and enjoy the small-town life. You can also take a trip to Bath , and if it’s your thing, enjoy a few hours at the Thermae Bath Spa and take the chill away!

For Downton Abbey fans, Highclere Castle is a must. However, there are limited Christmas and wintertime tours and events, so if this is something you really want to do, check into this ahead of time. And you also can’t forget Stonehenge , one of the most famous English attractions of all time.

St Michael's Mount in Cornwall, England

5. Cornwall, England

Suggested length: 6+ days Perfect for: ocean views and unique attractions

Ah, Cornwall. This part of England is definitely one of my favorites, although it really is hard to choose! I spent about 6 days exploring this region and I would have loved to have had more time!

There is so much to do here so you definitely won’t run out of choices. Explore Tintagel Castle , marvel at St. Nectans Glen , wander around the Bodmin Moor , discover the fantastic Eden Project , gaze in awe at St Michael’s Mount , take a hike around Lizard Point , and take a tour around Minack Theatre . There is definitely a little something for everyone in this part of the country.

A fantastic drive to take to/from this area is the Atlantic Highway , which goes from Cornwall to Devon. It hugs the western coastline of the county and offers spectacular views.

Durdle Door along the Jurassic Coast of England

6. Jurassic Coast, England

Suggested length: 3-4 days Perfect for: ocean views and walks

If you love to take walks with spectacular ocean views and scenery, then the Jurassic Coast is the place for you. This whole area is connected by the South West Coast Path , a 630-mile trail across the coast of England. While you probably won’t have time to do the entire path, there are plenty of great areas to section hike and see some of the highlights.

Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove are two such landmarks that are definitely worth the hike. Other popular ones include Butter Rock , Mupe Bay Beach , and Tyneham Cap and Village .

If you want to do more than just hiking, there are lots of choices. Corfe Castle is really neat to see, and the train station reminds me so much of Hogsmeade Station from Harry Potter! If you’ve got a few rainy days, there are a couple of museums in Dorchester that are worth visiting, including The Tutankhamun Exhibition and the Terracotta Warrior Museum .

The Lake District in England is a great place for a UK winter road trip

7. Lake District, England

Suggested length: 3-4 days Perfect for: landscape views and small villages

The Lake District is one of the most beautiful places in England. Whether you’d rather spend your time relaxing in the various towns and eating all the good pub grub, or if hiking and being outside as much as possible is your cup of tea, the Lake District is a great choice.

Make sure you drive around Windermere , England’s largest lake. Experience all the scenery, take a hike or two in the national park, and just enjoy. You should also spend some time exploring the villages and eating all the good food.

York Minster in York, England

8. Central England

Suggested length: 7+ days Perfect for: cities & Christmas markets

You could spend months in just the central part of England and not even scratch the surface, but if you want to see as many Christmas markets as possible and would rather experience city life, then Central England is for you.

If there’s one city you cannot miss, it’s Birmingham for their Frankfurt Christmas Market . It’s the biggest German Christmas market outside Germany or Austria, and if you’re traveling in the winter months, this is a bucket list item for sure. While you’re there, you can also check out Symphony Hall , Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery , and Cadbury World .

From there, some other cities you can consider include Lincoln , Leeds , York , Manchester , and Liverpool . Each city has its own feel and claim to fame. If you make it all the way up to York, take a day trip out to North York Moors National Park . On the way, check out Castle Howard . They put on a tremendous Christmas display for the holidays that is worth seeing if you’re visiting at the right time of year.

Big Ben in London, England

Suggested length: 4+ days Perfect for: city lovers

Wait, a road trip in London? OK, so maybe London isn’t the best city to explore by car, especially since the public transportation system will get you everywhere you need to go. But even if you want to do a road trip, a few days in London before or after is still worth it, especially if you are flying in and out of the city.

You can also base yourself in the London area and do day trips from there if you feel the need to get out of the city. Places like Brighton , Oxford , Cambridge , Canterbury , or Dover would all be good options if you’re itching to hit the road.

While you’re in the city, there are so many things to see! Some can’t-miss places include the Tower of London , Westminster Abbey , St. Paul’s Cathedral , Big Ben , and Buckingham Palace . There are also so many museums! Plus if you’re there during Christmastime, the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is supposed to be spectacular!

Northern Ireland is one of the best places for a UK winter road trip. You'll get to see places like Giants Causeway

10. Northern Ireland

Suggested length: 4-5 days Perfect for: photographers and movie buffs

Northern Ireland is a perfect UK winter road trip destination. The Causeway Coastal Route , which is a 120-mile drive from Belfast to Derry, is a prime road trip route. It’s well maintained in the winter months and has so much to see in such a short distance, including some sites featured in popular movies and TV shows.

Start in Belfast , where you can’t miss the Titanic Museum . Other notable attractions include City Hall , St. Anne’s Cathedral , and Belfast Castle .

As you make your way along the coastal route, there are dozens of places you can stop depending on your interests. Some of the highlights are the Giant’s Causeway , the Dark Hedges (made famous from “Game of Thrones”), Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge , Old Bushmills Distillery , and Gobbins Cliff Path .

You can easily drive the entire route in 2 days, but take your time and see as many of the sights as you can. This whole area of Northern Ireland is jaw-dropping, and once you’re here, you’ll have a hard time leaving!

Snowdonia in Wales, UK

Suggested length: 5+ days Perfect for: hiking and fun driving roads

Wales is a country that often gets overlooked for its bigger siblings, Scotland and England. But Wales has SO much to offer, and even though you’ll only get a taste of it on this 5+ day road trip, it will leave you wanting to come back ASAP!

For outdoor lovers, Snowdonia is a paradise. With so many hiking trails and stunning views of Snowdon practically everywhere you go, you could spend days here and never get bored.

If you’re a driving enthusiast, Black Mountain Road in Brecon Beacons National Park is perfect for you. This road was featured in “Top Gear” and is full of twists, turns, and dips. Its official name is A4069, but how boring is that? Just be extra careful in the winter in case there is snow or ice on the road.

Other places in Wales that are worth visiting include Cardiff , St Davids , Tenby , and Portmeirion .

Why should I take a UK winter road trip?

If you’re wondering why you should even consider taking a road trip in the UK during the cold, rainy winter months, I think there are plenty of reasons! My husband and I have visited the UK during the off-season several times, and every trip has been fantastic and well worth it.

Less traffic and fewer tourists

One of the biggest selling points for me is the fact that there are way fewer tourists around. Oftentimes, I would get an entire attraction to myself, or at least only have a few other people around. You’ll experience a much quieter, authentic experience and have very few people in your photos.

Plus, if you aren’t used to driving on the narrow lanes and on the other side of the car and road, having fewer vehicles on the road will be a lot less stressful too.

Cheaper prices

The off-season also means cheaper prices. If you’re on a tighter budget, your money will go a heck of a lot farther in the winter than in the busy summer months. This includes accommodations, food, ticket prices, and even airfare.

The only exception to this is the holidays – prices over Christmas and New Year can be pretty expensive, so keep that in mind when deciding when you want to visit.

Stunning snow-covered scenery

While snow isn’t always guaranteed, how beautiful does everything look under a coating of white? To me, it makes everything seem just a bit more magical, and if you’re looking for a way to get into the Christmas spirit, what better way than a drive through a magical winter wonderland?

Christmas markets

And of course, who can resist a good Christmas market? These markets usually only run from late November up through Christmas and sometimes into January, but every one is different. So if you plan to visit the UK in the winter but after Christmas, you may miss these events. Do some research before you plan your trip if this is something you really want to experience.

Tyneham Cap along the Jurassic Coast in England

How long should my UK winter road trip be?

The short answer: however long you’d like!

Just like with any road trip, there are a few factors when considering how long your road trip should be . But ultimately, you can do any of these road trips in any time frame you’d like as long as you make a good plan and know how much you can really see in that amount of time.

You could even string several of these road trips together to create your perfect itinerary if you’ve got a longer period of time. I mean, that’s the dream, right?

How do you plan a UK winter road trip?

Planning any road trip takes a bit of time, but here are the basics you’ll need to consider.

  • Pick an area or the type of road trip you’d like to do. Would you rather spend more time outside, or does seeing the city sights excite you more? Have you been dying to see a particular part of the UK? Check out all the options above to find the road trip that appeals to you.
  • Figure out your desired length of time. Do you have an entire week at your disposal, or can you only manage 4-5 days? Know exactly how many days you’ll have to explore so you can continue planning.
  • Determine your budget. You can’t continue planning your road trip if you don’t know how much money you have to spend. This will help you figure out the rest of your plans, like where you can stay and how many attraction tickets you can realistically afford.
  • Research, research, research! I personally think this is the best part of the trip-planning phase. You get to figure out what you want to see and it will get you really excited to actually experience these places for yourself! This is also where you will find out what places are open at the time of year you are visiting. However, if researching all the things to do is too overwhelming for you, have someone else do it!
  • Pick your major points of interest. Once you’ve figured out your options, now you can narrow down and determine what your top choices are. You probably can’t fit everything in, so decide what are the top priorities and filter down from there.
  • Plan your route. Once you know what you want to see, determine the route you’ll take to get to each place. I’m not saying you have to plan everything out to a T, but knowing the approximate route can help you see as much as possible in the time frame you have. This will also help you with the next step in finding places to stay .
  • Start booking! Accommodations, car rental , flights, you name it – this is the time when you’ll start committing to your plan. Also, see if it’s worth buying certain attraction tickets ahead of time as the prices are sometimes cheaper if you book in advance.
  • Pack appropriately. Winters in the UK are pretty cold and rainy, so make sure you’ve got everything you need, including warm clothing, lots of layers, rain gear, and waterproof shoes. Here’s a list of everything to consider packing for a road trip!
  • Have a fantastic trip! Enjoy every minute of it and take lots of photos!

Corfe Castle in southern England

What will the weather be like on my UK winter road trip?

Just like most of the year, winter weather in the UK will be unpredictable. However, you can expect it to be cold, cloudy, and rainy most days. You may experience some snow, with it being more likely in the higher elevations and the further north you go.

Ultimately, plan for everything and you’ll be set!

UK winter road trip tips & tricks

  • Make sure the vehicle’s tires are in good condition and suitable for winter driving. If you are renting the car, give them a good inspection before leaving.
  • Make sure the windshield wipers are in good shape.
  • Have blankets, extra warm clothing, food, and water with you in case you get stuck somewhere. It’s better to be extra prepared than not prepared enough!
  • Consider upgrading to a 4WD vehicle if your budget allows – if not, make sure you have some experience driving in winter conditions with a 2WD vehicle. The majority of the time, any car should be fine to drive in the winter in the UK, but if you are uncomfortable with winter driving, a 4WD will give you better piece of mind.
  • Check the weather and be flexible if you need to adjust your plans. Safety should be the #1 priority. Don’t continue your trip if the roads are dangerous.
  • There will be some attractions and restaurants that are closed this time of year. Make sure you do your research so you aren’t disappointed.
  • The days will be shorter than you may be used to if you live further south in the hemisphere. You may only get about 7-8 hours of daylight depending on when and where you are visiting ( you can check sunrise and sunset times for your destination here ). Keep this in mind for outdoor activities and make sure you are mindful of when the sun goes down if you plan to be out hiking and exploring.

UK winter road trip car rentals

If you are not local and are coming into the UK from another country, you’ll need to rent a vehicle. I highly recommend using Discovercars.com to book your car rental.

It’s very easy to use and search for what you want, the customer service is fantastic and available 24/7, and you’ll always get free cancellations. Plus, they have the best prices, so you really can’t go wrong.

The city of Bath, England

Conclusion: UK winter road trip itineraries

A UK winter road trip will be a vacation you won’t soon forget. I hope these 11 itinerary options were helpful in helping you decide and plan your next road trip!

Your turn: which of these road trips do you plan on taking next? Let me know in the comments!

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Stefanie Henne is an experienced road trip travel blogger who specializes in helping others plan their dream vacation, no matter their budget or time restraints. Go here to read more about Stef's story. If you want to send Stef a message, visit her contact page here.

Do you have any itinerary to do a winter road trip across all the UK? We will be there next January for 3 weeks.

Hi Sergio, I don’t have a particular itinerary for that, but if you’re interested, please email me at stef [at] openroadodysseys.com and I can get you more information on my itinerary planning services that are launching this winter.

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UK Travel Planning

When is the best time to visit the UK? (Seasonal & monthly guide)

By: Author Tracy Collins

Posted on Last updated: August 8, 2023

When is the best time of year to visit the UK

Are you planning a trip to the UK but unsure of the best time of year to visit? In this article discover what each season has to offer as well as a month by month guide to major events across the UK. Everything you need to know to help you make the right decision for your trip.

If you’re dreaming of having a spot of tea in England or envisioning a bagpipe serenade on the moors of Scotland, then it sounds like you’re on the verge of planning one heck of a British vacation. The question is, when is the best time to visit the UK?

There are many considerations to make when planning your trip , including the pros and cons of travelling “in season,” what types of activities you want to do and especially what kind of weather should you expect.

In this article, we will answer all commonly asked questions including

  • what you can expect from the weather during each season
  • the dates of school and public holidays – and the pros and cons of travelling during these peak times
  • expected hours of daylight throughout the year and the impact this can have on your plans
  • what (and when) major events occur throughout the year
  • plus a guide to the best time to visit England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland

5 STEP itinerary planning challenge 1

FAQ’s about the best time of year to visit the UK

Many questions about when is the best time to visit the UK invariably revolve around the weather. The only certainty about the UK weather is that is unpredictable.

  • When is winter in the UK?

The winter months ranges from mid-November to early March.

  • When is summer in the UK?

The summer months range from early June to the end of August.

  • Can I see the Northern Lights in the UK?

For the best chance to see the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) head to to Northern Scotland.

  • What is the rainiest month in the UK?

Although December to February are the months that tend to have the most rainfall in the UK (and often can fall as snow especially on higher ground) expect rain at any time of year.

  • What is the hottest month of the year in the UK?

During the summer months expect generally warm to hot weather with July (on average) the month with the highest average temperatures.

  • When is peak season in the UK?

Peak season in the UK is July and August. This also coincides with school holidays across the country.

  • When is the shoulder season in the UK?

Shoulder season in the UK is May, June and September.

  • When are the major public holidays in the UK?

In addition to Christmas, New Year and Easter holidays there are a number of public holidays (called ‘Bank” holidays) throughout the year including May Day Bank Holiday (first Monday in May), Spring Bank Holiday (last Monday in May – and yes there are two Bank Holiday weekends in May!), and the Summer Bank Holiday (last Monday in August)

  • FAQ's about the best time of year to visit the UK

The weather

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Factors to consider when planning your trip

  • Pros and cons of travelling during Peak Season, Shoulder Season or Low Season
  • The impact of daylight hours

The UK is a small island divided into 4 separate nations — England , Wales , Northern Ireland and Scotland . Each has their own cultural identities and attractions to consider, not to mention their own weather idiosyncrasies.

Basically though, the entire UK has a temperate climate with warm summers that never get too hot and cold winters that never get too cold.

The UK weather is, however, famously unreliable and generally not the primary reason to visit the UK! Think about your many clothing options when packing— and don’t forget the umbrella (my UK packing guide for every season will help!)

The answer to the question, ‘When is the best time of year to visit the UK?’ really depends on what you’re looking for. The UK’s warmest weather is in the summer. Autumn and spring are charming but may be a little bit chilly for certain outdoor activities. Winter can be cold, blustery and damp, though it usually only snows around 24 days out of the year.

Spring in the UK begins in March and goes through to the end of May. The weather starts off cold and rainy but becomes more mild as the months progress. Finally, by the end of May and beginning of June, the UK starts to warm up. The average maximum temperatures are as follows:

  • March, 12°C (54°F)
  • April, 15°C (59°F)
  • May, 18°C (64°F)
  • June, 21°C (70°F)

Read – Complete Guide to visiting the UK in spring

The summer is generally very pleasant in the UK and tends to be dryer than in the autumn and winter months. The summer begins in June and ends in early September. The average maximum temperatures for the summer months are as follows:

  • July, 23°C (73°F)
  • August, 23°C (73°F)
  • September, 20°C (68°F)

Read – Complete Guide to visiting the UK in summer

Autumn goes from September through to the end of November. Days change from crisp to blustery and then get downright cold. There tends to be a higher level of precipitation during these months as well. The average maximum temperatures for the autumn months are as follows:

  • October, 16°C (61°F)
  • November, 12°C (54°F)
  • December, 9°C (48°F)

It can get rather bleak and cold in the UK during the winter months, which go from the start of December through to the end of February. The average maximum temperatures for the UK in winter months are as follows:

  • January, 9°C (48°F)
  • February, 9°C (48°F)

Read – Complete Guide to visiting the UK in winter

A picture showing all 4 seasons in the UK

Peak season for travel in the UK are the summer months of July and August. These dates also coincide with the long 6 week summer school holidays (and hopefully sunny weather)

What are the pros of visiting the UK during peak season?

  • The UK weather is generally at its best during these months.
  • Hours of daylight are long which means more time to explore the sights.
  • Some of the UK’s major events occur during July (Wimbledon) and August (Edinburgh Festival)
  • Many historic sights have special events on especially for families e.g jousting at Warwick Castle.

What are the cons of traveling during peak season?

  • It is the most expensive time of year to visit and prices for flights, accommodation and transportation can be sky-high.
  • Main attractions across the country are busy – buy tickets ahead of time (skip the line tickets are worth the expense unless you enjoy wasting precious holiday time in a queue!)
  • Restaurants and hotels are jam-packed.
  • Roads are busy and traffic jams are common which can add to the stress if you are planning to hire a car for a road trip

Shoulder season in the UK is in May, early June, September and early October.

What are the pros of visiting the UK during shoulder season?

  • Less expensive than peak season
  • Better availability for accommodation
  • Some of the UK’s most popular events occur during these months such as the Chelsea Flower Show (May), Trooping of the Colour (June)
  • Less crowded (though the Bank holidays can be busy)
  • There are 2 public (bank) holidays in May (first and last Mondays of May) and many popular historical sights organize events especially for families over these long weekends.
  • Expect fewer crowds at popular attractions (though school groups may visit museums, art galleries, and castles during term time)
  • Long daylight hours

November through to April is generally considered to be the low season for travel to the UK.

Note that some parts of the UK such as London and Edinburgh experience significant numbers of tourists during December and early January which can significantly impact costs.

Pros of visiting the UK during the low season

  • Budget friendly
  • Less crowded
  • Enjoy special events over the festive period including Christmas markets, Christmas lights and decorations in major cities and New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Cons of visiting the UK during the low season

  • Weather can be very cold (expect snow during the winter months)
  • Daylight hours are reduced (it can get dark as early as 3.30 pm)
  • Many popular attractions are closed over the winter months.

The amount of daylight you can expect fluctuates greatly across the year and can have a major impact on your plans.

The amount of daylight can also vary depending on your destination within the UK. The further north you travel the more daylight you can expect in summer and the less in winter.

Average hours of daylight in June (longest day)

London – 16 hours +

Scotland – 17 hours +

Average hours of daylight in December (shortest day)

London – 8 hours

Scotland – 7 hours

First of all, there’s no bad time to visit England , though travelling during every season has its advantages and disadvantages. You can, however, expect some seasonal variation in prices, crowd size and availability of activities.

The summer is the peak tourist season, which is from the end of May to early September. The daylight hours are at their maximum, up to 16 hours per day. The weather is usually delightful and kids are off school (July and August). The inevitable consequence is that everyone starts flocking to the tourist destinations and adding to the already long lines and crowds.

If you dream of gallivanting through the English countryside, add throngs of people sharing the roads and limited parking to your vision. Unfortunately, hotel rates and airfare are usually more expensive in the summer. Still, that charming weather can be a lure that outweighs all of those inconveniences.

If you travel in winter, it may be cold and bleak, and the daylight hours will have waned to just 8 to 10 hours per day. That’s the bad news. The good news is you won’t have to fight any crowds or struggle to get a dinner reservation. There will also be deals to be had on hotel rooms and flights. So if your itinerary contains a lot of indoor activities, maybe winter travel is right for you.

If you’re wondering when is a good time to visit London , it’s similar to travelling in the rest of the UK in terms of weather and seasonal availability. There are a few exceptions, however.

Christmas time in the capital city has been an incredibly popular destination for decades, what with the shopping, the decorations and abundant Christmassy charm.

If however you are a royal watcher, consider traveling in the summer when there are more opportunities to have a peek into the royal lifestyle . Many royal residences are open to the public during the summer because the royals themselves are away on vacation.

Taking all of this into consideration, if you want to know when the best time is to visit England, the answer is (if you can) spring or autumn. During these times the weather is favourable and the daylight hours vary from 11 to 15 hours per day, so there’ll be plenty of time for sightseeing.

Taking a road trip through the English countryside (the Cotswolds , Lake District , Peak District or Northumberland are just two suggestions) is gorgeous in the spring or autumn because either the flowers are blooming or the leaves are turning brilliant shades of orange and yellow. While there are crowds they are smaller and more manageable than in the peak summer season.

A beach with boats pulled up onto it and a blue sky

Just like it did for England, the timing of your Scotland trip depends upon what you activities have planned. The country’s winter may be more suited to hunkering down in an Edinburgh pub rather than hiking through the Highlands. The average temperature hovers around 0°C (32°F) and is likely to be even colder on the coast and in higher attitudes.

Like England, airfares and hotel rooms will generally be cheaper and you won’t have to fight the crowds in the cities or in the train stations. You will, however, need to be ready for the reduced daylight hours. In January, for example, the sun rises at 8:47 a.m. and sets at 3:53 p.m.

There is good news, though. Because of Scotland’s high latitude and particularly dark winter nights, there’s a chance that you will be treated to the aurora borealis or the northern lights — a dazzling and somewhat ethereal light show in the sky.

A summer trip to Scotland is defined by pros and cons.

The pros — you’ll have lovely weather, as it never gets too terribly hot in Scotland. Temperatures range from 15°C (59°F) to 17°C (63 °F). The daylight hours are also long. In August, for example, the sun rises at 4:22 a.m. and sets at 8:03 p.m.

There will be a lot to do, like hiking, camping, driving tours, beautiful train journeys , exploring the cities, islands and the countryside.There are festivals for every taste, such as the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival  in Inverness.

Now for some cons — July and August are peak months for travel, and the crowds will be significantly larger and the prices will be higher. If you don’t mind competing for a little space and paying more for the privilege, then a summer trip may just be the perfect one for you.

As with England, visiting Scotland in the late spring/early summer or early autumn is ideal. By June, Scotland gets an amazing 17 hours of daylight. That combined with the spring’s pleasant weather, an average of 7°C (45°F) to 13 °C (55°F), and you will be able to conquer every outdoor activity there is to offer.

If you would prefer to spend your time in Scotland’s cities, the good news is that the summer tourists haven’t arrived yet, so lines won’t be as long and the prices will be more reasonable. The same thing is true for an autumn visit. Starting in November through middle December, airfares tend to be cheaper.

Early autumn is an ideal time of year to drive North Coast 500 , a spectacular 516-mile trip from Inverness along Scotland’s North Highlands that might be one of the most scenic drives in the world.

A deer with snowcapped mountains behind

No matter when you visit Wales , remember, the weather can be unpredictable and you should pack well and be prepared for a variety of temperatures.

The temperature in winter averages 6°C (43°F), but compared to Scotland, there is a good amount of daylight — sunrise is around 7:40 a.m. and sunset is around 6:28 p.m. In spite of the cooler weather, daffodils have been known to make their cheerful appearance late in the winter.

Another plus, if you travel on or near March 1st, you can join the locals in celebrating St. David’s Day. The patron saint of Wales is feted with parades, traditional Welsh dress and plenty of delicious food, not to mention scores of daffodils and leeks.

The summer is a lovely time to visit, as the weather is very agreeable, although the region can get quite a bit of rain. There is between 15-16 hours of daylight during the summer. Temperatures average 16 °C (61 °F), so hiking and camping would be fantastic during this time, as would any coastal family trips.

If you wish to see the Atlantic Puffins take over the island of Skomer, then early July is the time to go, especially if you want to see them parenting their new chicks.

Summer is the busiest time of year, so expect higher prices and be prepared to book well in advance for hotels (and popular Welsh castle hotel stays ), air travel, restaurants and activities.

The late spring and early autumn are great times to go to Wales. There are between 13 and 16 hours of daylight during both seasons. The temperature usually hovers around 13°C (55°F). In May and June, flowers will be blooming in a riot of colors, making the already breathtaking scenery fully come to life.

The Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile long footpath that winds its way along the coastline, makes for a perfect hike during this time. For something a little different, check out The Laugharne Weekend in West Wales — a local, literary and arts celebration of Dylan Thomas and other writers, musicians and comedians who’ve come from Wales.  

In the autumn, the mountains and valleys look to be on fire with all shades of gold and orange, and the nights begin to get crisp with a touch of chill. Places like Hay-on-Wye, a charming market town on the River Wye become even more magical in the autumn.

There will also be plenty of seasonal activities, such as at the medieval Powis Castle and Garden. Each year they create the Powis pumpkin trail, where kids can search for the carved pumpkins hidden throughout the garden.

If spending a night in a Welsh castle is on your bucket list why not book one of these amazing Welsh castle hotels ?

Lambs grazing in a field

If you wish to visit Northern Ireland when the temperatures are at their warmest, then go during July and August. The average temperature in the summer is 17°C (63°F), but beware because summertime is also when the country’s rainfall is at its peak.

The summer in Northern Ireland has amazingly long daylight hours, 5:00 a.m. to 10:00pm, so you’ll be able to pack in a lot of activities. It is the peak season, which means you’ll be fighting the crowds as you see the sights.

Also, keep in mind, summer vacations for their school children start a few weeks earlier than they do in England, meaning the tourist sites may be more crowded starting at the end of June.

In winter, Northern Ireland is a little colder than England and has about 7-8 hours of daylight. That won’t matter too much if you seek out Belfast’s St. George’s Market, Northern Ireland’s last surviving Victorian market. In December, they offer twilight days for evening shopping. There will also be crafts from local artisans, delightful food and family entertainment.

Like with the other UK regions, you get the best of everything by visiting in the spring or autumn. By late spring, you’ll start to see lambs and calves in the pastures as the temperatures rise to between 10°C (50°C) to 16°C (60°F).

Visit Rathlin Island in the late spring and you’ll see all kinds of nesting birds and the area’s famous puffins. Also, for those festival fans, check out the two-day Bushmills Salmon and Whiskey festiva l held in early June.

In the autumn, as the leaves are changing colors, it’s a perfect time to visit the Glens of Antrim, or known locally simply as The Glens. It’s a region of County Antrim known for it’s astonishing natural beauty.

In October, the Glens Storytelling Festival is a five-day event for tourists and locals alike to experience the magic of this area’s story telling traditions. Expect family-friendly stories to have a touch of Halloween magic.

A coast and bay in Northern Ireland

Which is the best month to visit the UK? Month by month pros and cons + guide to all the major events in the UK

❄️ Visiting the UK in winter

🌷 Visiting the UK in spring

☀️ Visiting the UK in the summer

🍂 Visiting the UK in autumn

🧣 Visiting Scotland in winter

January in the UK falls within the low tourist season, which creates some distinct advantages for travellers. Students return to school and the cold weather, gloomy skies and waning daylight translate into fewer people, cheaper hotel rooms and inexpensive airfare.

Also, the after-Christmas sales are in full swing, so bargain hunters will have a field day shopping. Theatre tickets and restaurant reservations will also be easier to get. A January trip is sounding better and better. Here are some fun things to do in January:

• New Year’s Day Parade in London —This is a fabulous, free and family-friendly parade in the city’s West End. It’s three and a half hours of music and revere that won’t soon be forgotten.

• Simplyhealth Great Edinburgh Winter Run— If you’re in Scotland and are a fitness buff, join 3000 other hardcore health nuts for this 5k of fun that also affords fantastic views of the city.

• Big Burns Supper in Dumfries Scotland— Part of the country’s Burns Night, this event occurs in the latter half of the month and offers all sorts of venues with everything from comedy to cabaret.

February in the UK falls securely within low season for travellers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have an absolutely fantastic vacation if you choose to travel then. If you don’t mind cooler weather, the seaside towns should be virtually empty, for example.

Keep in mind that UK schools have a half-term break in February, which may cause unexpected crowds at tourist sites. Here are some fun things to do in February:

• V alentine’s Day in London —A visit to multiple artisan chocolate shops would definitely be in order, as would a romantic dinner for two in one of London’s many fine-dining restaurants.

• The Orchid Festival at London’s Kew Gardens —If you adore flowers and don’t want to travel all the way to Indonesia, then this show is not to be missed. There will be over 5000 species of orchids to admire.

• London’s Classic Car Show in Olympia Exhibition Centre —You’ll see some of the finest and most collectable vintage models in the world.

A frosty morning in a field with sheep

Flowers will be just beginning to bloom throughout the UK, a promise that spring is just around the corner.

March is a shoulder season for tourists, which means it’s not too busy and not too light. So you can throw on a coat and start taking advantage of some of the outdoor fun that the UK has to offer. Here are some fun things to do in March:

• Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race in London — When is the best time to travel to England? When there are 250,000 screaming rowing fans cheering on the edge of the Thames. This is one of the largest sporting events held in London and it’s free! (Sometimes this event happens in April, so check online to see.)

• Glasgow International Comedy Festival —Are you a comedy fan? In the latter half of March, travel to Scotland and see the funniest stars from all around the UK hit the stage in what is Europe’s largest comedy festival.

• St. Patrick’s Day in Northern Ireland —On March 17th, County Armagh and County Down host the annual Home of Saint Patrick Festival that consists of concerts, family-friendly activities and general fun.

Ah, April. The flowers are blooming and the days are getting longer. It’s a shoulder season, so it’s a pretty good time to enjoy the natural beauty that the UK has to offer without having to brave too many crowds.

Students in the UK have a school break around Easter, which usually falls in this month, so that may alter the tourist scene slightly. Regardless, there are also a lot of fun, local activities to choose from. Here are some examples:

• Isle of Wight Walking Festival —Fun for all ages and all fitness levels. Thousands of locals and tourists alike explore the island and take in its stark, scenic beauty.

• Shakespeare’s Birthday in Stratford-upon-Avon —Celebrate The Bard’s birthday by traveling to his birthplace for performances, music and all kinds of fun.

• Cardiff Flower Show —If you’re a gardener or a flower appreciator and are planning to be in Wales, you might want to visit the Royal Horticultural Society’s Cardiff Flower Show. There are countless exhibits and demonstrations to inspire and fascinate those with or without a green thumb.

A field of daffodils

The weather is getting ever warmer and the days are getting longer in the UK, yet May is still a shoulder season, which means its an excellent time to visit. Things can get busy over the Bank holiday weekends with many Brits enjoying a spring staycation .

It’s also getting dryer, so rain may not be as much of an issue as it is in other months. Still, bring a few layers to wrap up in, just in case. Here are some fun things to do in May:

• Chelsea Flower Show – Since 1913, except during the two world wars, the famous Chelsea Flower Show has been a glamorous affair celebrating British flowers and garden design. It takes place on the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea and makes for a fun and historical activity whilst in the UK.

• Gloucester Docks Tall Ship Festival — Come see tall ships in all of their splendor along with fun and games for the whole family. There will be live stages with local bands as well as a food market

• Gordon Castle Highland Games and Country Fair – Join over 10,000 locals and tourists at Scotland’s only highland games and country fair. It’s at the magnificent Gordon Castle located near Fochabers in Moray.

The middle of June marks the beginning of peak season for traveling in the UK, so make sure you’ve got those reservations, tickets and bookings well ahead of time.

You have an excellent chance of pleasant weather and agreeable temperatures, so live it up! Here are some fun things to do in June:

• Glastonbury Festival — This world-famous five-day festival takes place in Pilton, Somerset, in the south west of England. It features big-name contemporary musical acts as well as dance, cabaret and theater.

• Gregynog Music Festival — Attention classical music lovers! In the gorgeous Welsh countryside in the village of Tergynon, you’ll find the oldest classical music festival in Wales, which attracts some of the world’s finest musicians.

• The Royal Highland Show — Scotland’s largest agricultural show put on by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland. Thousands of visitors come from all over the globe to see over 1000 exhibitors and scores of livestock. It’s in Ingliston, an area of West Edinburgh.

Flowers in all sorts of colours on display

July is peak travel season with very long days and probably the best weather offered by the UK. Restaurants will be jam-packed and tourist sites will be overflowing with visitors.

Add in the students who have just been released from school on summer break and you will have a lot of people to contend with. No wonder there is a lot going on the UK during the summer! Here are some examples:

• Wimbledon — In a town called Wimbledon, there’s a little yearly tennis tournament. Actually, it’s probably the most major tournament in the tennis world.

Good to know – If you want to do it on the cheap, go outside the stadium to Henman Hill and buy a £30 ticket to watch the matches on a giant TV. If you want the real thing, then you’ll need to shell out quite a bit more, depending on which match you see.

• The Big Cheese at Caerphilly — History buffs, would you like to be sent back to medieval days at Caerphilly Castle ? See reenactments and battles, along with entertainment, food, period dance and a whole lot of fun.

The weather is warm, so that distracts you from the peak season crowds traveling throughout the UK. All schools are enjoying summer break, so expect to be shoulder to shoulder with locals and tourists alike at all the tourist sites.

Here are some fun things to do in August:

• Wilderness Festival —Located in Oxfordshire’s Cornbury Park, this festival offers easy-going music, theatrical productions, amazing food and really cool art, all in a gorgeous lakeside setting.

• Edinburgh Fringe Festival — If you like crowds, music and having serious fun, then try out the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest arts festival. It goes on for days and hosts so much talent, it takes hundreds of venues just to fit everything in. Check their website to see the list of performers.

• The National Eisteddfod — A festival celebrating all things Welsh . It’s in the first 8 days of August and there is food, music, arts and design.

A tennis racquet, strawberries and some champagne glasses

The beginning of September is part of the summer peak season but with the end of summer and beginning of autumn, the rest of the month is a shoulder season.

Most students head back to school early in September, so vacationers return home and tourist sites will be less crowded. Here are some fun things to do in September:

• The Jane Austen Festival — Do you dream of spending a quiet evening with Mr. Darcy or Elizabeth Bennet? Travel to Bath and spend 10 days choosing from over 80 Jane Austen-related events. There’s even a Regency Costumed Masked Ball!

• Culture Night Belfast – For the past several years, in the second half of September, people hit the Belfast streets from City Hall to the Cathedral Quarter to enjoy a free celebration of art, language and history of Northern Ireland. There is something to do for all ages.

There’s a crisp autumn chill in the air and Halloween ghosts and goblins are just around the corner. The beginning of October is a shoulder season, and by the end, it slows down into low season. Still, there are lots of interesting things to tackle in the UK during October.

• Harwich International Shanty Festival – For those who can’t resist the call of that salty ocean air, sail on over to Harwich and sing an old song of the sea. There’ll be concerts and barge trips and crafts for the saltiest old sailors to the youngest of landlubbers.

• The Callander Jazz and Blues Festival — Who doesn’t enjoy jazz in a charming rural setting? In 2006, this festival was born and has grown larger every year. It’s a long weekend of all types of music in a variety of venues. You’ll see live blues, jazz, boogie and soul from a huge variety of artists.

A picture made up of different coloured pumpkins

This is the low season for travel in the UK. The weather is brisk and it’s best to remember to bring a bunch of comfy layers and a jacket in your suitcase. Here are some fun things to do in November:

• Guy Fawkes Night —This celebration marks the night back in 1605 when Guy Fawkes tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament. He did not succeed, and the anniversary has traditionally been remembered with a bonfire. Given that could easily get out of hand, most celebrations have switched to fireworks.

• Diwali on Trafalgar Square – Diwali is the festival of lights celebrated by Hindu, Jain and Sikh people all over the world. This one is the biggest in the UK and features amazing dancers in stunningly beautiful and colorful dress. Expect to see market stalls with amazing food, as well as crafts and fun activities for the whole family.

Yes, it’s pretty chilly in the UK during December, and the days have grown a wee bit short. There’s still a lot to love about this winter month. Keep in mind, that students in the UK usually have the final weeks in December off, so that could affect the crowd levels.

The weeks closest to Christmas are considered a peak tourist season, so there are many Christmas activities to choose from including festive markets all over the UK.

• Belfast Giants Ice Hockey — For something really different, grab the whole family, live like a local and check out an ice hockey game. Their website has all the information about tickets and times.

• Elfingrove at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum —This magnificent museum in Glasgow transforms itself and offers night-time tours along with local food and singing.

The British Museum in London

This is really a difficult question to answer and really deserves a post all of its own.

Many people insist that it’s Christmas. Trafalgar Square has a giant lit up Christmas tree dripping in ornaments and Christmas cheer. Carol singing and festive events occur all throughout London.

There are several London Christmas Markets that will surely take care of everyone on that Christmas list. There are also a number of festive events held annually around Christmas at many of the castles near London.

But in summer the hours of daylight are longer and exploring London’s attractions on a warm sunny day is also a wonderful experience.

To be honest for me deciding when to visit London is best answered with the words “it is always a good idea!”

Read more – Visiting London in winter | 21 Festive things to do and see in London in December | 29 Things to do in London in Spring | Guide to visiting London in Fall

Lots of Christmas trees and a lady standing in the middle with a red bag

So the only true answer to the question, “When is the best time to go to England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland?” really does depend on your own interests and available time to go.

Once you have settled on the time of year to visit the UK you are now ready to start planning your trip itinerary.

My UK Trip Planner will help you to plan the perfect UK vacation in 10 easy to follow steps – I recommend starting there!

For UK inspiration my top 21 landmarks in England , 19 places to visit in Scotland , top 10 things to see in Wales , top 10 things to do in Northern Ireland and London bucket list articles are great places to start.

I recommend prioritising what you want to see and do. You can also take some virtual tours of London and UK landmarks and sights to help you plan.

Other useful resources to help you plan your trip:

  • How much does a holiday in the UK cost? Read my UK travel budget guide to help calculate your budget!
  • Choose from my selection of the best guidebooks for UK travel
  • Click here for my recommendations of the best booking sites for travel to the UK
  • Prefer an organised tour? Check out our recommendations of the best UK tours available for 2021 and beyond!
  • How to get around the UK (Complete Guide to Transportation in the UK)

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15 Reasons Why You Should Visit England in Winter

Snow

England may not be the first place that you think of when planning a winter getaway, but the colder months are the best time of year to visit if you’re looking to explore the countryside and the cities of this beautiful country . Not convinced? Here are 15 reasons why you should visit England in winter.

There are less visitors.

If you visit at any other time of the year, you will find England’s main sights packed full of fellow tourists, but in winter it’s not uncommon to have a beautiful natural landmark to yourself. The same goes for visiting cities; less travellers visit England during the winter months so galleries and museums are likely to be less busy.

Moody landscapes

To enjoy crisp winter walks

travel uk in winter

To visit the Christmas markets

From the traditional stalls that line the streets of Bath every year to Manchester’s sprawling Christmas markets that spread throughout the city, England’s streets come to life during December. Most major cities throughout the country host festive markets, with many stall holders travelling from across Europe for a multi-cultural offering.

people cheering on a mountain

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travel uk in winter

To admire the moody landscapes

Yes, England’s landscapes are beautiful at any time of year, but there’s a particular allure that comes with the winter months. Literacy lovers will flock to the Pennine moors to evoke visions of Wuthering Heights , while the country’s coastline is especially enchanting on a stormy day.

English coast

For cheaper accommodation

Hotels, apartments, B&BS and glamping sites all drop their prices dramatically over the winter months. Not only will you have more choice with fewer tourists to compete with for rooms, but the prices could be slashed by as much as half price giving you options that perhaps could be out of your budget at any other time of year.

To relax in cosy pubs

English pubs are great all year round, but if you want to experience a cosy pub with an open fire, you have to visit during the winter months. There’s nothing better than nipping into a country pub following a long walk to enjoy a pint of local ale beside a roaring fire.

Spider web on a misty morning

For the beautiful light

The light in winter is very different to any other time of year, offering perfect conditions for landscape photography. Whether you’re blessed with clear skies or you wake up to a misty morning, the sun lying low in the sky helps to create the perfect conditions for capturing beautiful vistas.

Because there’s a chance of snow

It’s never guaranteed, but there’s always the chance of waking up to a flurry of snow during the winter months. If you venture to the Lake District or the Peak District or any other mountainous area, the peaks are usually capped with white for much of the winter months, making a beautiful sight even if you just admire the views from below.

Snow

To enjoy the beautiful sunrises and sunsets

If you enjoy admiring spectacular sunsets and sunrises, the conditions are usually perfect during an English winter. Not only are the times of the sun rising and setting more convenient for observing, but the metrological conditions are usually perfect for blazing red skies.

Sunset in the English countryside

You can visit the many museums and galleries

During a summer visit, you may feel guilty spending your time indoors when the weather is encouraging you to get outdoors. If you visit England during the winter, you can enjoy whole days of visiting the many incredible galleries, museums and theatres without having to debate if you should be making the most of the weather and getting outdoors.

A rainy day

To dine on seafood

Winter is one of the best times of year to dine on fresh seafood in England with scores of fish in season all around the county. Everything from razor clams and cockles to seabass and mackerel are freshly and widely available during the winter, meaning that if you visit a coastal region you can dine like kings on fresh, sustainable seafood.

To spot winter wildlife

Animal lovers will relish a visit to England during the winter for the chance to spot a variety of interesting creatures in the wild. Birdwatchers will delight in watching murmurations of starlings creating spectacular patterns in the sky all around the country, and will also want to keep their eyes peeled at night for sightings of elusive owls. Winter is also the perfect time of year to visit grey seals in places such as Norfolk as this is when the pups are born.

English woods

To wrap up warm

England’s weather may be temperamental, but if you’re planning a winter visit at least you know that you need to wrap up warm. Pack a couple of cosy jumpers, a winter coat and woollen hat, scarf and gloves and you’ll be suitably snug and stylish during your trip.

You can stroll around quaint villages

Following a dusting of snow, England’s small villages take on a magical ambiance that conjures up memories of quintessentially British stories. Take that image of Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade during the winter months and compare it to the small villages in the Cotswolds or the Peak District and you won’t be disappointed!

Quaint villages

To celebrate the New Year

All across the country, but particularly in London you’ll find an exciting array of celebrations lined up to welcome in the New Year. There’s likely to be fireworks in every town, lighting up the sky with colourful sparks as everyone counts down to midnight. If winter isn’t your favourite season, perhaps consider visiting England in autumn instead?

landscape with balloons floating in the air

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16 UK Winter holiday destinations: best places to visit in UK in Winter

Looking for the best UK Winter holiday destinations? In this post, we’ll dive (or sleigh) right into the best places to visit in UK in Winter so you can plan your perfect festive getaway.

Please note that this blog post most likely contains affiliate links to products or services I use and love! If you click on the links, it means I get a little extra pocket money at no additional cost to you. This is what keeps my website ticking over – thank you!

There are some beautiful places to visit in UK in Winter! Whether you’re looking for a cosy staycation or an enchanting Winter holiday, the United Kingdom has some fantastic destinations to choose from. In this travel guide, we explore some of the best.

As a Brit who had most of my holidays within the UK until my late-20s, I’m a big fan of ‘Winter staycations’. While you’ll definitely need a waterproof Winter coat, gloves and some thick boots, much of the UK – particularly Southern England – remains relatively mild, at least in comparison to other parts of the world, which require a lot more planning to travel through the Winter Season.

That said, as you go further North, there are some beautiful places to see snow and white-tipped mountain ranges too. And, if you’re lucky, you may see snow throughout the UK. Below, our recommendations for the best UK Winter holiday destinations are as varied as they are beautiful.

I’ve also included places to visit in UK in December, so you can finish of your year with a warm dose of festive sparkling. From historical towns decorated with twinkling festive lights and traditional European Christmas markets to incredible natural scenery that breathes new life into the coldest season, there are many splendid locations to choose from for your seasonal vacation.

Read on to discover the best places to visit in Winter in the UK.

1. MOURNE MOUNTAINS

by Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor 

It’s relatively rare to get heavy snow on the island of Ireland, and more so in the low-lying coastal regions. So in Northern Ireland, the best place to find winter scenery is in the Mourne Mountains, the country’s highest mountain range, where the tallest peak of Slieve Donard will have snow even in the cooler months. The region is also well known for its natural beauty and was the inspiration for the Chronicles of Narnia as C.S Lewis would almost expect a “giant might raise his head over the next ridge”.

Walking Wild from Ben Crom Reservoir to Silent Valley on the Mourne Mountains 1

There is a lot to explore in the Mourne region, with wintery walks crisscrossing the various peaks, including some standalone attractions such as the Silent Valley and the Bloody Bridge. There are also famous parks, such as Tollymore Forest Park (which is also stunning in Autumn ) and Castlewellan. Camping is also popular, although the heated Glamping pods may be a better option, and it is best to have personal transport. Otherwise, the seaside town of Newcastle makes an excellent base, and it’s just a short journey by bus (around 1 hour) from Belfast City Centre. Walking directly from the town centre to the highest peak at Slieve Donard is also possible.

So if you’re looking for UK Winter destinations that promise Narnia-worthy views and a healthy sprinkle of snow, then the Mourne Mountains is an ideal option.

Mourne Mountains uk winter holiday destinations

by Faith from Xyu and Beyond

Belfast in Winter is a magical place, especially around Christmas. The city is full of sparkling lights, gourmet dining and brilliant Christmas markets.

You can step back in time and enjoy The Old Curiosity Shop at Titanic Belfast while visiting Father Christmas and enjoying a luxury High Tea. Then head to Belfast City Hall to shop and eat at the Belfast Christmas Market, which takes place every evening in the run-up to Christmas.

The Belfast Christmas Market offer crafts, artwork, superb street food, and rides for the kids on heritage fairground attractions like a beautiful old carousel. Or you could head to the Christmas Market at Castle Ward (the site of the  Game of Thrones  Winterfell) and enjoy an 18th-century Georgian Christmas. St George’s market is the last-surviving covered market in Belfast and offers a twilight Christmas celebration and shopping experience.

Carousel Belfast City Hall

These days Belfast has some of the finest chefs in the world presenting food fit for a queen. If you want a true luxury stay, why not book into the 5-star Merchant Hotel? The Merchant is a stunning Georgian Italianate building from the 1800s and is located in the heart of the Cathedral District – the place for dining and celebrating. These days, it is an opulent hotel with many luxuries, including a fabulous cocktail bar and a rooftop hot tub.

The city is full of winter activities, such as the usual lighting of the Christmas lights, a Santa Claus parade, and beautiful choirs in the cathedral. If you want something a little more athletic, why not take in a hockey game at the Belfast arena, or how about some horseracing in Co Down?

Belfast is a safe and welcoming city that will surprise you with its many amenities and fascinating historical sites – which can be easily visited on this hop on hop off tour – alongside designer shopping and as we say in Ireland some great craic.

With sparkling Christmas markets, plenty of festive activities, and historic pubs to warm up in, Belfast undoubtedly one of the best places to see in UK in Winter.

Christmas Market Belfast

3. CAIRNGORMS

by Kat from Wandering Bird

If you want to get away from crowds and enjoy the most breathtaking winter scenery, head to the Cairngorms National Park in Scotland. This is the largest National Park in the UK and is so beautiful that National Geographic voted it one of the top 20 places to visit IN THE WORLD.

The park is 4500 square km and contains a mix of mountains, valleys, castles and whiskey distilleries. Although the Cairngorms are famous for hiking and summer outdoor pursuits, there is plenty to entertain you during the cold winter months.

For a start, it snows. A lot. This is one of the few places in the UK where you can enjoy decent skiing. There are a couple of areas to choose from, although Aviemore is by far the most famous. Here, you can enjoy European-type chalets, ski shops, and decent slopes once the snow sets in.

Despite the snow, it’s still reasonably easy to travel around and explore the Cairngorms in winter – especially if you have your own vehicle. Many hotels stay open- particularly near the big resorts- or, if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, go  campervanning in Scotland  and stay in your van (make sure there’s heating!)

Many of the hikes are still open, but you must be prepared- layers, safety gear, and decent crampons are essential.

After all that cold outdoors, you can warm up in one of the whiskey distilleries in the area- nothing like a hot toddy to warm you from the inside out during a chilly UK Winter!

cairngorms mountains beautiful Scottish winter destinations

4. EDINBURGH

by Tracy from Tracy’s Travels in Time

Edinburgh is a wonderful winter destination to visit in the UK. Edinburgh has so many things to offer in the winter season it’s impossible to list everything. Highlights include the Edinburgh Christmas markets, which kick off the festive season, Hogmanay to welcome in the New Year and Burns night at the end of January. 

The Edinburgh Christmas markets are a must-visit in the winter. Around 40 stalls sell  festive gifts , food, and drinks, including many types of mulled wines. Traditional German bratwurst and hot chestnuts all make for an enjoyable experience. 

Hogmanay celebrations commence on the 30th of December and last 3 days. This celebration has three main components: Torchlight Procession, Concert in the Gardens and Ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance party with live music). It is a massive event with thousands of people enjoying the spectacular fireworks and ceilidh.

The highlight of Edinburgh winter celebrations is Burns night (25th January). Throughout the month of January, many places such as restaurants and pubs host “Burns Suppers”. This includes a three-course meal with haggis, neeps and tatties, a recital of Robbie Burns’ poetry and a toast with champagne. 

Edinburgh in winter is an experience not to be missed! 

Edinburgh uk winter holiday destinations

5. HARROGATE

by Coralie from Grey Globetrotters

The elegant spa town of Harrogate in the beautiful English county of North Yorkshire is an exceptional place to visit for a winter break. Just 40 minutes away from Leeds and York, Harrogate town is perfect for history buffs, nature lovers, foodies, and discerning shoppers to enjoy.

Take a tour of the intact Royal Turkish Baths, loved by European royalty, then indulge in a luxurious spa treatment too. Moments away, you’ll find the legendary Betty’s tearoom – the ultimate place to stop for silver service afternoon tea or maybe just a “fat rascal”. The stylish independent shops and restaurants in the Montpellier Quarter are the perfect place to browse for something special, dine-in outstanding restaurants and visit the Christmas market that attracts visitors from miles around.

Harrogate is a very green town, with 200 acres of protected parkland known as the Stray, plus the fabulous Valley Gardens Park and the stunning RHS gardens of Harlow Carr offering attractive opportunities for a leisurely wander.

Moments from the town itself, the wider Harrogate area is simply beautiful, with myriad things to see and do. Ripley Village and Castle. Knaresborough Town and the ancient city of Ripon are moments away, as is the magnificent must-see UNESCO World Heritage site of  Fountains Abbey  and Studley Royal, all of which are exquisite in the winter.

Keen walkers and climbers flock to Harrogate as it is on the doorstep of the glorious Yorkshire Dales. It is the perfect base to return to and relax after an exhilarating day out exploring the countryside. Pop into the Fat Badger or Major Tom’s Social for a pre-dinner drink, dine in style at the Ivy and then retire in sublime luxury at Rudding Park for the ultimate winter treat.

With so much to explore both indoors and out, Harrogate easily makes our list of best places to visit in England in December.

Snowy places in England

6. PEAK DISTRICT

by Jenny from Peak District Kids

Winter in the Peak District can feel like you’ve stepped into a Dickens novel; quaint limestone villages decorated in festive cheer, the warm, inviting glow from the local pub with holly framing the log fire, and a covering of snow on the hilltops and escarpments. Honestly, what could be better for a UK Winter staycation?

Peak District best UK destinations for a Winter Holiday

If you’re looking for snow, best to head to the Dark Peak (the Northern side) of the Peak District, as this is higher ground. If there’s going to be snow anywhere, you’ll find it on this  Mam Tor walk  or upon the Kinder Plateau, and the views are absolutely incredible.

However, please take care. When visibility is low, it’s very easy to get lost up there (make sure you are confident in navigation and don’t rely on your phone), and footpaths can be very icy (we advise taking slip-on crampons). As these areas are exposed, the temperature will also feel much lower than in the valleys, so dress accordingly. Head back to a pub for a hot chocolate by the fire to warm up again.

And if you’re visiting over Christmas, go to the markets and festive displays at Chatsworth House, one of the grandest estates in the UK. Nearby, Matlock, Bakewell, and Buxton also run Winter markets. 

And if you’re looking for a longer England Winter holiday to see the best of the British mountains, extend your trip with a visit to the Lake District National Park, less than 2 hours drive away.

Peak District beautiful Winter holidays in England

7. SHEFFIELD

by Dan from Urban Abroad

If you are looking for the best places in Winter in UK for a memorable festive escape, whether alone or with the family, what could be better than a UK Winter city break visiting the Winter Gardens? Based in Sheffield city centre, across from the world-famous Crucible Theatre, you’ll find an indoor plant garden that allows you to escape the chilly daytime breeze and connect yourself with one of the largest temperate glasshouses ever designed in the UK. As one of the most visited free things to do in Sheffield here, you can connect yourself with the collection of more than 2,000 plants on display.

If you visit in November or December, the Christmas markets are open on the nearby Fargate. There you’ll have the opportunity to browse one of the many traditional wooden cottages where you can purchase a plethora of Christmasy treats such as hot Mulled Wine, Christmas puddings, or even treat a loved one to some of the lovely local produce on offer.

Sheffield UK Winter city breaks

8. SNOWDONIA

by Kat from  Biker Girl Life

For places to visit in Winter in the UK focused on the outdoors, head to Snowdonia National Park in Wales. 

Snowdonia is home to some of the highest peaks in the UK, including the famous Mount Snowdon, and it was the first established National Park in Wales. There is generally a decent snowfall during winter, although there isn’t the same level of skiing or snow activities that you find in the Scottish Highlands.

As well as mountains, the park contains open land and over 30 miles of dramatic coastline and beaches. There are also lakes, rivers and villages within the park’s boundaries, and plenty of places remain open during winter. 

If you enjoy hiking, it’s still possible to climb Mount Snowdon during winter, and there are some really clear days where you can see Ireland from the top, but please check the weather carefully and carry appropriate safety gear- the clouds and fog can come in very quickly, not to mention the effect of the cold! 

History lovers will enjoy the impressive Caernarfon Castle- one of the best castles in the UK- and plenty of award-winning restaurants to appeal to foodies.

Snowdonia Wales beautiful British destinations

by Zoe from Together In Transit 

Norwich is definitely one of the best places to visit in UK in Winter if you need a city break. Located North of London in Norfolk County, it’s easy to get to by car, train and even possible to fly to Norwich airport. 

During the winter period, the city centre and large shopping mall are lit up with cute Christmas decorations from themed window stores, hanging decorations and decorations throughout the walkways. There are lights everywhere, too; for example, you can find yourself walking in a beautifully lit Tunnel of Light made up of over 50,000 lights. The city also organises a show of projections on Norwich Castle. So it’s well worth a walk here!

Norwich Winter holiday destinations in Britain

Another beautiful festive event is the local festivities at Norwich Cathedral. Spread over many days, you can shop at the fayre and stalls before enjoying the warm food and drinks served. Else you can see some farm animals that will stay here for those who will visit with children. Lastly, listen to one of the many Choir sessions held here over Christmas.

For a wintery walk, head out to the coast for  a walk at the dunes  or pier. Here it’s perfect for getting a little windswept with some of the fresh sea air – perfect for getting away from the city for an afternoon. There is even a little cafe for a warm drink or a piece of cake to warm up with afterwards. 

Norwich Winter escapes in the UK

10. CAMBRIDGE

by Alice from Adventures of Alice

Cambridge is beautiful all year round and the winter is no exception. Although Cambridge isn’t quite as busy as cities such as London, there are plenty of fun activities to participate in.

This includes the North Pole at Parkers Piece, which is Cambridge’s own Winter Wonderland. Here, they have an outdoor ice rink and an outdoor bar serving delicious ales, beers and cider. There’s plenty there for children too.

Another fun Christmas activity is the Christmas light switch-on, which is usually done by a minor celebrity. The event is held in Market Square, generally starting at 11 am, and includes rides, games, and stalls with food, drinks and gifts. For a peaceful stroll away from the crowds, you can visit Cambridge University – a beautiful, historical set of buildings – or the Botanic Gardens.

Cambridge is fantastic in winter and definitely well worth adding to your list of places to visit in UK in Winter. If you plan on driving there, it might be worth researching off-street parking or park and ride beforehand, as there is often not much on-street parking available.

Winter staycation UK

by Paul from Anywhere We Roam

Having educated 28 prime ministers, a few US presidents, 12 saints and Kate Beckinsale, there’s no denying that history oozes from the wonky laneways of Oxford. But the honey-hued old centre takes on a magical ambience when frosted in snow, making it a superb winter escape in the UK.

There’s a host of beautiful  things to do in Oxford  that are even more atmospheric in winter. Visit one of the many colleges, quiet from the lack of visitors and the absence of students. Stroll the Christmas markets; shop in the Covered Market; or visit a world-class museum such as the Ashmolean.

Oxford in Winter beautiful UK holiday locations

Have a pint in a traditional old English pub – The Turf Tavern was a favourite of Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke – and cosy up to an open fireplace as dusk descends on the city. Before hitting Oxford’s fabulous nightlife, experience Evensong in the grandeur of a college chapel.

Oxford takes on something of a hibernation in the middle of winter, but it’s still one of the best places to visit in UK in January or February. The top-quality attractions remain open so that you can enjoy the best of the charming city at your own pace, without the crowds.

Oxford British Wintertime Holidays

12. THE COTSWOLDS

by Tracy from UK Travel Planning

The Cotswolds is one of the most beautiful regions in England, so there’s no question of it being among the top UK Winter holiday destinations. 

It’s not just because it’s so picturesque – with its rolling hills and quaint villages, each one more lovely than the last. Nor is it just because you can indulge your love for cosy pubs and fresh cream teas. The real reason to visit this time of year? The snow!

It may be cold outside, but there’s nothing like a walk through the frost-covered countryside or a cosy night by an open fire.  And the Cotswolds are just waiting for you to discover them.

The beautiful villages of Stanton, Bourton-on-the-Water and Moreton-in-Marsh are the perfect places to visit as winter sets in. Each has a character all of its own – from quaint boutiques to old coaching inns – and some have lovely walking trails right on their doorstep.

The Cotswolds has something for everyone – from families and couples to foodies and history buffs. And there’s no question that it’s one of the best UK Winter breaks. During the winter, the Cotswolds are quieter, making it the perfect time to  book a stay  and get a real glimpse of what makes this place so special.

Bibury Cotswolds beautiful UK holidays

by Claire from Go South West England

With stunning buildings and buzzing Christmas markets, Bath is one of the best places to visit in England in winter. This Somerset city is popular all year round – it is famous for its UNESCO World Heritage Status, Roman Baths and Georgian buildings – but there’s something special about Bath in winter. 

You can still enjoy all of Bath’s main attractions, including the Roman Baths, afternoon tea at the Pump House, and the historic cathedral, in the winter, and if you get a brisk sunny day, it’s perfect for a walk to see the iconic crescent and circus roads. You could also walk up to the Bath Skyline to get an epic view of the city. 

Bath Skyline

In November and December, the Bath Christmas markets descend on the town. The city is lit up in gorgeous Christmassy scenes, and you can purchase plenty of Christmas presents from the local vendors – and warm up afterwards with a mug of mulled wine! 

Another way to warm up is in the fabulous Bath Thermae Spa. This spa features three pools, four different types of steam rooms and the famous heated rooftop pool, where you can catch a lovely view over the city centre. 

Bath no longer has its famous Christmas market in January and February, but it has fewer tourists, and all the attractions are open. So it’s well worth spending a wintery weekend in Bath !

Bath Abbey Winter escapes in England

by Sophie Nadeau from solosophie.com

Exeter can be found in the county of Devon and is actually the capital city of this English region! Home to a Norman cathedral, lovely quay, and plenty of historic streets, the Devonian city is most famous for its location close to the beach and the ancient Dartmoor National Park, as well as its plethora of wonderful eateries and pubs.

As such, the city makes for a great base from which to explore the wider region. Some of the best day trips from Exeter include heading to the seaside resort towns of Teignmouth and Sheldon or alternatively heading inland towards the quaint market town of Topsham.

Those searching for a cosy England winter getaway will surely find it in one of the many boutique hotels and comfortable cottages in and around Exeter. Not to mention that the green in front of the cathedral is home to the  Exeter Christmas Market  each winter during the festive season.

The annual event is touted as one of the best Christmas markets in the UK and sees dozens of stalls set up on Cathedral Green, selling everything from hot snacks and toasty beverages to bespoke and unique Christmas gifts.

Elsewhere in the city, renovations (particularly at the Guildhall and Princesshay shopping areas) mean that the city is fantastic for Christmas shopping, whether you’re searching for a gift for a loved one or a treat for yourself.

Exeter beautiful Christmas Markets in the UK

15. RYE AND CAMBER SANDS

by Annabel from Smudged Passport

The characterful  East Sussex  town of Rye is lovely to visit at any time of the year but visit in midwinter for maximum atmosphere.

The narrow cobblestone lanes are often shrouded with mist from the nearby sea, and it’s easy to imagine smugglers sneaking into the timber-framed old inns which line some of the streets. Ensure you stop for a drink at the Mermaid Inn, dating back to the 15th century. It’s the type of old English pub you’d imagine spotting ghosts in.

If the weather is fine, there’s no better place for a winter walk than Camber Sands, which is just a five-minute drive from Rye. This vast expanse of sand offers far-reaching coastal views, and the beach is backed by sand dunes.

Winter staycations UK Cambersands 1

Back in Rye, following a walk along the beach, the best place to warm up is Knoops – a shop and café dedicated to hot chocolate. There’s a great range of other shops to explore and plenty of cute cafes and restaurants.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Rye and how it was once an important harbour – but is now surrounded by land – head to the little museum at Ypres Tower. Part of the original defensive walls, there’s a good view from here and exciting artefacts.

Mermaid Inn best places to stay in Winter UK

16. WHITSTABLE

by Joanna from The World in my Pocket

Whitstable is one of the most beautiful destinations on the coast of Kent. It’s one of the best winter destinations UK offers because the number of tourists in the cold season is relatively low, and you can explore the town in its quiet time.

Whitstable is famous all over the country for its fresh oysters, but few people know that the season for native oysters is actually Winter. The native oyster season starts at the end of September and ends in early April.

One of  the best things to do in Whitstable  during a staycation is exploring the harbour. Being a working harbour, you can see the local fishermen bringing in the catch of the day in the morning before tasting the fresh fish cooked at the restaurants around the water.

Whitstable is also a pretty bohemian town, with many galleries displaying the work of local artists. You can visit the galleries and buy a painting if you want a unique souvenir. In Whitstable, you will also find several independent shops where local producers and crafters display and sell their work.

Whilst you won’t be able to sunbathe in winter, you can still walk along the beautiful Whitstable beach and enjoy the pretty old fishermen’s houses along the promenade.

Whitstable sunny Winter holidays in England

Read more: The best places to visit in Winter in Europe

There are so many beautiful UK Winter holiday destinations to choose from, and I hope this list of the best places to visit in the UK in Winter helped inspire your next staycation! Happy travels!

Uk winter holiday destinations PIn

Christmas markets in Bath or Belfast would be fun to check out. Christmas in Edinburgh also sounds amazing!

Love this curated list of the best UK destinations for a winter holiday! All of them look fabulous!

Oxford and the Cotswolds are my favorite 🤩 so beautiful. And, I can’t wait to get back to England and explore more. Thanks for all these brilliant ideas

I love a good winter beach day so I think I’d head straight to Rye if I were in the UK in the winter! (Especially if there’s rye bread too!)

This is a great selection of places to visit. I particularly enjoyed the Cairngorms one winter – the area is so wild and cold! Loved it. Thanks for all the inspiration.

I love that you shared a mix of nature and cities in this list of winter destinations in the UK! So many beautiful places to explore!

This year is my first time spending winter in the UK so I’ll definitely be checking some of these out! Thanks for putting this together 🙂

Such a great selection of places to visit in the UK. Your pictures are so pretty I’m almost convinced that winter is a good time to visit the UK but I’d be coming from a hot Sydney summer? Airfares are cheap that time of year & a white Christmas would be fun. Dublin, Bath & Harrowgate are especially appealing!

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Friends swimming in the sea on a wintry-looking day.

From dog-sledding to saunas: nine winter adventures in the UK

Embrace your inner Scandi, wrap up and make the most of the winter months

Sauna and a swim on the Dorset coast

Tara and I are happily glowing when our sauna host, Sarah, enters with a bucket of birch water and a tea towel. Tara is sitting on the top level of the sauna, squinting out of a small window at the bright Dorset coast and the seaweed-slippery sea we’ve just come from, while I am down a rung, where the heat is milder. Sarah is beaded with sweat, her eyes bright blue above a deep smile. She emanates the kind of wellness that can make those around her feel a bit blessed, which is ideal as what I am doing here is a kind of worship: of water, friendship, the sea and the seasons. Swimming can be a non-liturgical service, a naked exchange between you and the planet where words fall away and you drop back into the world as if you belong.

Today, we’re ramping up the winter swim experience and drawing it out by introducing some heat – why this has been missing for so long from the English winter swimming scene in all its stoic forebearance, I don’t know, but I thank the swim gods that it is here now. We have run between the sauna and the sea for a while now and are a long way into our hot-cold-hot-cold sauna-swim journey. I feel like human honey: all warm, smooth contentment and peace.

The Seaside Saunahause in Bridport on a blue-sky day with sea views and the sauna cabin in close-up.

Sarah kneels to put some more wood in the burner and ladles the birch water (literally water with birch leaves) on to the big caged rock mass that is throwing out heat. She invites us to close our eyes, feel the moment, let it go … and soon pretty much everything has gone, wafted away in curtains of hot citrus air. I can’t see her, but I can sense her, vigorously spiralling the tea towel over her head in figures of eight.

It’s part ritual, part flamboyant theatre: Sarah has looked at the cold countries – Lithuania, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark – that are steeped in sauna rituals and, with the UK sauna scene being so young, has just start inventing her own. Next, some frankincense goes on the burner, and the tea towel starts helicoptering, pulling the steam down to warm our feet, and then we’re back outside in the elements, plunging into the sea.

I am not one of those who gets high from winter swimming particularly – it often leaves me cold and a bit tired – so if it means I can do it and feel content for the rest of the day, let me in.

Sessions at Seaside Saunahause in Bridport cost from £60 for up to five people. To find a sauna near you, visit wildsaunas.info . Kate Rew is author of The Outdoor Swimmers’ Handbook (Rider, £22) Kate Rew

Theatre and Christmas carols

Choirboys at Salisbury Cathedral for a candlelit Christmas service.

When I was growing up, one of my most treasured family traditions was, in retrospect, a hygge -inspired affair; one of cosiness and contentment. On Christmas Eve, my siblings and I would settle down to wrap our presents, with fairy lights twinkling and the King’s College carol service softly playing on the radio. For us, Christmas didn’t begin until an angelic chorister had delivered the opening lines of Once in Royal David’s City. To borrow from another popular carol: all was calm; all was bright.

A few years ago, I went to a carol service at Christ Church, Oxford, and the college carol service experience was even more enchanting in real life. For an hour or so, the mad bustle of the festive season stopped and serenity seeped in. For that sense of occasion and history, any of the Oxbridge colleges is worth a visit (the chapels are all so different and all so beautiful), and they often put on a whole series of concerts in the run-up to Christmas.

Beyond the university setting, there’s something rather grand yet comforting about the carol services at Saint Martin’s-in-the-Fields, near Trafalgar Square in London. It does a number of family-focused concerts and, as a bonus, has a ridiculously good shop in the crypt. Further afield, Carols By Candlelight at Fountains Abbey near Ripon, North Yorkshire, always gets rave reviews, Salisbury Cathedral is a knockout any time of year and there’s something spiritual about some of London’s busiest spots – Southbank, Barbican, Saint Paul’s – standing still for a bit of a sing-song.

Theatres also get a lot cosier – somehow softer and more inviting – around the festive season. Productions of A Christmas Carol pop up just about everywhere, but you can’t beat the now-traditional Jack Thorne adaptation at London’s Old Vic, with a stunning score that will warm your insides. With its hug-of-a-venue, Leicester’s Curve always feels welcoming at Christmas, and there’s something about the Globe’s open architecture that is extra special in winter. This year an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s festive tale The Fir Tree will see the Globe transformed into a hand-crafted forest full of puppets, and there will be mulled wine and hot chocolate by the bucket-load. Aaaaand relax. Miriam Gillinson

Wild camping in Snowdonia

Wild camp with a view of Tryfan mountain in Snowdonia, North Wales.

It starts slowly at first – the dimming light of the afternoon fading from blue to a gunmetal grey. For a while I sit in the porch of my tent in the half-light, snuggling deeper into the feather-filled baffles of my duvet jacket. I wait, patiently, for the moment when the last of the light will erupt on the horizon in the final throes of sunset.

Snow lies thick on the ground, muffling any other sound, as I gaze out at the Welsh peaks of the Snowdonia range known as the Glyderau. The light is pallid now, providing a foil to the deep, green walls of my tent. In summer this area is swarming with tourists. Even late into the evening you may see other wild campers pitching up, or climbers finishing a day on an epic crag. But as it’s winter, a time when most people put away their tents for the season, I am quite alone.

I take a sip of hot chocolate from my flask – camping in cold weather requires a steady stream of warm drinks – and keep watching. Then it begins. As the sun slumps beyond the last in the line of mountains, a plethora of reds, ambers and purples illuminate the darkness in Technicolor ribbons. It feels as though this natural lightshow is happening just for me.

When people ask me why I continue to camp in the winter, it’s this moment that always comes to mind. Because being out there, alone, with the right gear (lots of layers and a decent sleeping bag and camping mat), I no longer feel the cold. I am instead at one with my surroundings, completely immersed in the wilderness.

The first time I experienced a true winter camp was under the big skies of Norfolk more than a decade ago. I hadn’t planned to sleep out in quite such cold conditions, but an unexpected cold weather front descended on Britain’s eastern shores directly from the Arctic during a research trip, and the B&B I was meant to stay at had a power cut and was forced to close. So I took my tent and checked in to a proper campsite and, unsurprisingly, was the only one there. As I had my car with me, I took a duvet as well as a sleeping bag and a hot-water bottle to keep me warm. I had to cook my meal in the washroom as my stove kept cutting out in the biting wind. But as hard as it was, I relished the challenge of sticking it out, and as sunset that evening silhouetted my tent against the sky and silence surrounded me, whatever I was feeling, I knew I wanted more.

Since then I have never let the seasons stop my wild nights out. I’ve undertaken a 40-night crossing of mainland Britain from north to south, in November and December, wild camping the entire time, experiencing temperatures as low as -15C. I have slept on the summit of Britain’s highest mountain on Christmas Eve and woken up to my tent walls coated in frost and a cloud inversion billowing at my feet. And I have experienced the utter silence of an English forest made mute by the snow while the light of dusk paints the sky like a rainbow.

When the temperature drops, the magic of Britain’s wild places doesn’t stop – and neither do my outdoor adventures. Phoebe Smith

Fishing in southern England

A man fishing on the River Itchen in Hampshire.

Can there be any greater sign of appreciation for the harsh beauty of winter than ice fishing? The willingness to sit alone for hours on end in a landscape devoid of obvious life and colour, jigging a baited line through a hole drilled in the ceiling of a frozen river or lake. It’s about as tantric as it gets – very little movement or sound, no distractions, and a big spiritual payoff.

Scandinavians love it. The website Fishing in Finland says: “At some point in their life, almost every Finn has sat by an ice hole, ice-fishing for perch.” And Finland was the happiest country in the world in 2022 – for the fifth year in a row. I once fished lying on reindeer fur on the glassy-roofed river Torne in northern Sweden. It was good for me.

But then as a child I spent winter weekends fishing for roach and perch from dawn to dusk on a mill race off the River Trent. It was my happiest place for at least eight years in a row.

What did I love so much about it? The fact that though the world appeared to be in a state of suspended animation – the skeletal trees, the dead undergrowth, the watery sun – the river was alive with movement and possibility. No matter how hot with anger I was when I arrived at the bank, the cold air would cool me down, and the river would still my mind. Except for the time I set my parka on fire when the lighted charcoal fell out of my Highlander hand warmer and smoke billowed from my pocket.

Over more recent winters, I have started fishing the chalk streams of southern England for grayling – a highly prized fish in Sweden and other parts of Europe, but once considered a pest over here. This beautiful silvery fish acts as a valuable barometer in our precious chalk streams, as they are extremely sensitive to pollution and chemicals. They also provide more reasonable sport outside the expensive trout-fishing season.

Winter offers a different perspective on the chalk streams also. These are rivers that in spring and summer are redolent of storybook England with gin-clear water, ribbons of green ranunculus weed and clouds of mayfly on the wing. In winter, they are a less manicured affair – messy, brown and muddy, with wind-blown flotsam and jetsam bumping the banks. But even in their seasonal scrappiness, they still offer that calming, steady pulse.

Fishing Breaks offers fishing for grayling on a number of rivers in England, visit fishingbreaks.co.uk Andy Pietrasik

Dog-sledding in the Cotswolds

A team of dogs take two riders on a dog-sled ride in the Cotswolds

There is nothing quite like it: the knife of freezing air in your throat, the tussle with the tangled harnesses, the deranged noise of the dogs. Then, abruptly, it all goes. With a cathartic jolt, you leap forward and are whizzing across the frozen landscape accompanied by no more than the steady hiss of sled runners on the snow. For a blissful minute your mind is as tranquil and empty as the great northern forests. Only a minute, mind you. Then the huskies, running full tilt, take a corner too fast, or start fighting, or start their morning ablutions, and the bliss is over until the next start.

There may not be much frozen tundra in Tewkesbury or Ashby-de-la-Zouch, but dog-sledding in Britain can still create those moments of epiphany, thanks to the teamwork of human and hound. The sled becomes a trolley, but you still get that exhilarating sense of speed, and the madcap joy of dogs being allowed to run as fast as they can in a pack – a pack that has enthusiastically adopted you for this journey.

While some may yearn for frozen torture in the Finnmarksløpet, Europe’s longest and most demanding dog sled race, the UK’s nascent and rather less-furiously paced dog-sledding world is quietly gaining adherents. Away from the sled and trolley, huskies can be seen as a breed of madness to be avoided, but this experience is a mind-changer. Their sheer vitality and giddy pleasure in group running is infectious.

The following businesses all offer musher training and experiences , from £70-£120 for a two-hour session: Tewkesbury, arcticquest.co.uk ; Leicestershire, uk9dogsportscentre.co.uk ; Stonehaven, Aberdeen, huskyhaven.co.uk ; Denbigh, north Wales, mynyddsleddogadventures.com ; Skipton, North Yorkshire, runwiththepack.co.uk . To commune with huskies on a walk in Kent, visit eagleheights.co.uk . Kevin Rushby

Scandinavian cookery in Cornwall

Top close-up view of homemade Swedish cardamom and cumin rolls on a oven tray.

There’s little as comforting as the sight of a well-stocked log pile like the one outside the kitchen at Philleigh Way Cookery School. It speaks of warmth and comfort in the winter months. My Danish friends would inevitably reach for the word hygge.

The term comes to mind again when I enter the converted stable block to the smell of fresh coffee and baking bread for a day learning to cook Scandinavian style. Philleigh Way, on a working farm in a quiet corner of Cornwall’s Roseland peninsula, is run by former professional rugby player, Rupert Cooper. After fika – the Swedish version of the coffee break, so important it is enshrined in Swedish employment law – Rupert guides five of us, ranging from complete novices like me to competent cooks, through a series of recipes from across Sweden, Denmark and Norway, from semlor buns and cinnamon knots to meatballs and pickled sardines.

This is definitively not a healthy-eating course, he warns us as we prepare what will become our lunch; it is all about eating for enjoyment, for comfort, flavour and punch. If this is in preparation for the amount of cream, sugar and butter we are about to use, it is well timed. We move between the farmhouse table where Rupert demonstrates each recipe, and the Bake Off-style preparation area where we knead dough and stir sauces, with Rupert occasionally moving in to add more cream when we aren’t looking. Unlike in The Great British Bake Off, there is no competition, just more coffee breaks, and we return home with boxes of freshly baked rolls, meatballs in rich cream sauce, slabs of gravlax, jars of rollmops, and rye crackers wrapped in paper – provisions we can put aside to keep us full and warm as the cold months set in. And if that’s not hygge, I’m not sure what is.

The o ne-day Scandinavian Cooking course at Philleigh Way on 9 Dec costs £120pp ; its Italian Christmas course , 15 Dec, costs £110 pp. Stay at the nearby 17th-century Trewithian Farm (doubles from £70 B&B ) Wyl Menmuir

Birdwatching in Norfolk

Many pink-footed Geese Anser brachyrynchus in a photo taken at Holkham Norfolk in winter

Winter has many consolations, and one of the greatest is the sound of a gaggle of pink-footed geese coming into land. This strangely relaxing cacophony is heard all around the Norfolk coast as overwintering flocks shuttle at dawn and dusk between saltmarsh, pasture and fields of sugar beet inland.

On a cold, clear winter’s dusk, there is no better place to hear it than at Hickling Broad national nature reserve . There may not be the sheer quantity of geese in this boggy corner of east Norfolk as congregate along the more celebrated north Norfolk coast, but what’s found alongside them is truly spectacular. Hickling is the largest of the lakes formed by medieval peat-diggings, but it is the size of the surrounding reed beds that is the key to its superlative birdlife.

As dusk approaches and the huge winter skies turn orange and pink, birds fly into roost on this inaccessible wilderness of marshland and reed bed. The path out to Stubb Mill, one of numerous ruined wind pumps that originally drained Britain’s largest lowland wetland, passes a small wood where woodpeckers dash, and a watery scrape where lapwing flounce and avocets and curlew loiter. There’s usually a barn owl quartering the fields, too.

Beside the mill is a viewing platform that offers a wide prospect of bleak reed bed. Standing here, hunkered against the chill wind, is strangely soothing and meditative. For a few minutes, nothing much happens. Then a large bird of prey glides in – a marsh harrier seeking to spend the night in the reed beds and low scrub. Suddenly, it’s followed by a traffic jam of harriers, dozens of them: they are now common in these parts but still nationally rarer than the golden eagle. There are often hen harriers too, swivelling their owl-like faces above the reeds, and the spectacular cranes, which re-established UK populations here in the 1980s.

In spring, both cranes and marsh harriers breed here alongside bitterns, but winter is the real time for birds, both the regulars and chance rarities gusted here by the fierce winds – the Hickling visitor centre manager says that 60 cranes are now coming in to roost at Stubb Mill this autumn. Bathing in their sights and sounds is both peaceful and exhilarating, in the way that only the natural world can be. PB Hickling Broad national nature reserve opens daily dawn until dusk, v isitor centre Thur–Sun 10am–4pm Patrick Barkham

Night walks on the South Downs

Dew pond near Ditchling Beacon, East Sussex, UK, at night, with the moon reflected in the water, and city lights glowing on the horizon.

As winter closes in, night walking is the perfect way to extend the day. Head into countryside or walk across a deserted beach. Look up at starlit skies, spot owls, watch bats swooping and breathe in the earthy night air.

You can strap on a head torch, but to really reap the wellness benefits of night walking, it’s best to dispense with artificial illumination and allow your night vision to kick in. As it does, your other senses begin to sharpen; you really feel the ground beneath your feet, become aware of the breeze caressing your face, hear the calls of the wild and see the swirling of clouds against the night sky. Darkness forces you to be present, allowing a powerful reconnection with nature.

I embraced night walking after a trip to northern Norway during the polar night, when the sun never rises. Undeterred, locals wrapped up and strode through snowy valleys and icy hills, stopping to look up at the midwinter sky as they sipped hot chocolate from flasks.

Back home, the South Downs provided the perfect antidote to winter blues. The chalky paths shine in the dark, lending themselves to the hygge of hiking. My favourite route is along the Juggs Road, an old fishwives’ trail between Lewes and Brighton. The ridge along which it runs is easy to spot beneath the paler strip of sky. And a silhouetted windmill, familiar copse and mobile-phone mast make useful navigational aids. The air feels different at night, heavier and earthier. Owls swoop, foxes cry and the silver strip of the English Channel lights the way down.

To walk in safety after dark, it’s best to know your route by day. Then you can more easily pinpoint landmarks against the night sky. Moonlight is not essential but it’s best to avoid wooded areas, which block out too much residual daylight. Avoid bad weather, which also reduces visibility. Wear warm, waterproof clothing and take a torch – just in case. Some Ramblers groups organise night hikes, and Adventure Cafe leads walks in both town and country. Numerous charities also run organised night walks – the original is the MoonWalk, run by breast cancer charity Walk the Walk . Nature lovers can walk with the Bat Conservation Trust or School of the Wild , and stargazers can stroll under the stars as part of a growing number of dark sky festivals . Lizzie Enfield

Silent retreats in Devon

A man sits in contemplation on a bench in a wooded area of The Sharpham Trust retreat in Devon, UK.

Winter is an exquisite time to retreat, when we have every excuse to “go inside”, get comfy and (hopefully) just be in the present moment – it’s what the Scandinavian concept of focusing on simple pleasures is all about. And while the dominant Scandi aesthetic is a pared-back space, I find the most important space to pare back is the inside of my own head.

I am a Vedic meditator, and meditate twice a day all year round, but every time the seasons change I retreat for an extra dose of spaciousness. Sharpham in south Devon is one of my go-to places – an astonishingly lovely private estate on a bend of the River Dart in Ashprington. It offers friendly and approachable secular meditation retreats for anyone – including those new to both retreating and meditating.

One of my favourites is the Find Your Peace five-night retreat , during which daily guided meditations, optional morning movement sessions and afternoon walks take place in a nurturing silence. There’s a chance to connect each morning in a small group, but without having to give a backstory and engage in daily chit-chat, my mind is freer to think clearly and creatively, and I feel more, rather than less, connected to the group and humanity in general.

It helps that the home-cooked vegetarian meals are generous and delicious (quinoa pilaf with tahini sauce and greens straight from the garden; an insanely good orange cake with cream). And accommodation is in a Palladian mansion, where colourful oil paintings grace the walls of a spiral staircase, and you can stay in heritage rooms like Walnut, with top-floor views out to the river. Leaving rejigged and re-centred, I find it easier to look after myself, whether that means having the courage for a wild swim even though the sea’s now freezing or saying no (nicely) to a party invite when I’d far rather just stay home.

The next Find Your Peace retreat starts 12 Nov , but if you don’t fancy silence and are exhausted, try the Rest Deeply retreat starting 1 Dec . T he Coach House , which opened this year on the estate has a four-night Burnout retreat from 4 Dec . Retreats £495-£645pp . For more retreat ideas visit Queen of Retreats Caroline Sylger Jones

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Fierce Storm Sends Flights Bound for One Country to Another

Ferocious winds forced pilots to abort landings and divert passengers hundreds of miles from their original destinations.

An Etihad Airways plane comes in for a landing above a line of rowhouses in London.

By Amanda Holpuch and Remy Tumin

A powerful storm diverted dozens of flights in Britain and Ireland on Sunday and Monday, sending passengers to Germany, France and northern Britain, and stranding some at airports overnight.

At Dublin Airport, 166 flights were canceled Sunday night, another 29 flights were canceled on Monday, 36 flights were diverted to other airports and 34 aircraft performed what are known as “go-arounds,” or aborted landings, according to the airport.

Despite the flight chaos, the airport was open and operational on both Sunday and Monday, Graeme McQueen, a spokesman for Dublin Airport, said in a statement to The New York Times. Winds from the storm, named Isha, eased overnight on Sunday and changed to a more favorable westerly direction to allow “for a smooth first wave of flights.”

Winter Storm Makes Landings Difficult at Heathrow

Planes struggled to stick their landings, as storm isha brought powerful winds across britain..

Oh, she’s up. She’s down. She’s gone. Oh, big power up there. See? Altitude is your friend. Speed is also your friend in these conditions. Oh, go around.

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The storm’s wind challenged flight crews, with gusts between 70 and 75 miles per hour in the south of England and Ireland, Steve Fox, the head of network operations at NATS, which provides air traffic control services in Britain, said in a statement on Monday. In the north, gusts were more than 90 m.p.h.

Mr. Fox said that aircraft that could not land safely were diverted to other airports.

“Yesterday, because the storm blanketed the whole country, we alerted airlines that their normal diversion airfield might not be available and they should plan to potentially have to divert further afield,” he said, adding that flights were diverted to destinations that were “least affected” and still had space available “at the pilot’s critical decision point.”

Many of the flights were operated by Ryanair, a budget airline, including one from Manchester to Dublin that was diverted to Paris and another from Stansted to Newquay, England , that was diverted to Málaga, Spain.

Ryanair said that the storm caused some flights to and from airports in Britain and Ireland to be canceled or delayed on Sunday and Monday, and advised passengers with flights on Monday to check the Ryanair app for updates. It did not specify how many flights had been canceled, delayed or diverted.

A Ryanair flight from Budapest to London Stansted was supposed to depart at 6 p.m. on Sunday. But the two-and-a-half-hour flight turned into a 24-hour journey for Terrell Crossley and her boyfriend, who were trying to get home after a weekend away celebrating his birthday.

The pilot tried to land the plane twice but couldn’t because of the wind speed, Ms. Crossley told The Times. Instead, the pilot diverted the plane to Manchester, about 200 miles northwest of their original destination.

“It was extremely tense and everyone sat in absolute silence,” she wrote of their final descent. “When we landed in Manchester, everybody applauded the pilot and you could feel a sense of relief from the passengers. Everyone was thankful to be on the ground.”

But once the plane had landed, Ms. Crossley said, the passengers were held on the tarmac for two and a half hours, during which there was a medical emergency that required an ambulance. She said there was no communication from the pilot and no access to food or water. Finally, the pilot told passengers that they could get off in Manchester. Not everyone did, and some ended up back in Budapest . Ryanair did not immediately return a request for comment.

Ms. Crossley and her boyfriend booked a hotel for the night in Manchester and took the train to Stansted on Monday, before finally arriving in London just before 6 p.m. that evening.

Greg Manahan, a television director based in Dublin, was nearly home after a week on vacation on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, when passengers on his Ryanair flight on Sunday night were told that they could not land in Dublin, which was about 20 minutes away, and would instead be heading south to Bordeaux, France.

“Bordeaux is a long way away from Dublin, we were almost halfway back to Lanzarote,” Mr. Manahan said.

He said that the passengers had to wait on the plane for an hour after it landed, and that once they were in the airport, there was only one shop selling food still open and “whatever was left got stripped out.”

Mr. Manahan said that the passengers were directed to a line to be set up with accommodations. But after landing in Bordeaux around 6:30 p.m., they were still in the airport at 11 p.m. At that point, many people, including Mr. Manahan, decided to find hotel rooms for themselves.

His new flight to Dublin left after an hour delay on Monday morning, and Mr. Manahan said it arrived around 11 a.m., nearly 24 hours after the flight from Lanzarote took off.

Amanda Holpuch is a general assignment reporter. More about Amanda Holpuch

Remy Tumin is a reporter for The Times covering breaking news and other topics. More about Remy Tumin

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Storm Jocelyn latest: Major river breached; 80mph winds on way; significant travel disruption expected today

The 10th named storm of the season, Storm Jocelyn, has arrived - and is already affecting western parts of the UK, the Met Office has said. Today is expected to be a wet day - before wind speeds start to pick up towards the evening.

Tuesday 23 January 2024 16:12, UK

Flood water at Naburn Lock on the outskirts of York

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Storm Isha saw a number of flights re-routed, told to circle until safe to land or even sent back to their origin airports - with many commentators on social media highlighting unusual-looking flight paths on sites such as Flightradar24. 

That seems to be continuing  as Storm Jocelyn hits, with one X user spotting a Ryanair flight forced to circle a number of times off Wicklow before approaching Dublin. 

Ryanair flight RYR10RQ arrived at the Irish capital nearly an hour and a half after its scheduled arrival time - having left London Gatwick  an hour late - according to Flightradar24 . 

It is unclear whether the plane was forced to circle or was delayed because of the weather - although winds caused by storms Isha and Jocelyn have already and are expected to continue to cause disruption to flights across the UK and Ireland. 

ScotRail is urging travellers to check when their last train departs ahead of a near-complete shutdown of the network in Scotland at 7pm. 

"Most services will be finished by 7pm today - this means your last train of the day will likely be before then," a ScotRail statement read. 

"Please check when your train home is now," it added. 

You can check the latest updates on your route here . 

The last few trains from Glasgow and Edinburgh will depart before the deadline, with services to and from Scotland not expected to resume until at least noon tomorrow.

ScotRail made the decision to shut down the network across the country as the fallout from Storm Isha continues - which will later be coupled with the worst of the effects of Storm Jocelyn this evening and into tomorrow morning. 

It wasn't the only operator to issue such warnings - with Avanti West Coast urging passengers not to travel north of Preston after 3.30pm today. 

The last scheduled service from London to Glasgow was scheduled to leave the capital just moments ago at 3.30pm - calling at Preston at 5.41pm - and is "expected to be extremely busy", the operator warned.

A woman has suffered life-threatening injuries after a tree fell on a road near Bristol, police say.

A man, who was also in the car on Broad Road, near the village of Blagdon, has sustained potentially life-changing injuries.

Their car was either struck by the tree as it fell or collided with the tree after it had fallen, said Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

The man, aged in his 60s, and the woman, in her 50s, are receiving treatment at Southmead Hospital for serious head injuries.

Police have appealed for anyone who witnessed the incident to contact them.

Some 10,900 people remain without power across the UK, according to providers

Approximately 4,900 are off supply in England and the south of Scotland, while 6,000 people have been disconnected in Northern Ireland, says the Energy Networks Association and Northern Ireland Electricity Networks.

Tens of thousands of homes suffered power cuts during Storm Isha, and the Met Office has warned Storm Jocelyn is likely to cause more of them.

The forecaster said power cuts were possible in the whole of Scotland and Northern Ireland, North West England, northern Wales and Yorkshire, as well as parts of North East England (Durham and Northumberland) and the Midlands (Derbyshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Stoke-on-Trent, and Telford and Wrekin).

In  Scotland and central southern England , 370 Southern Electricity Networks customers remain without power, but SSEN said they expect to reconnect them by the end of the day.

Scottish Power estimated 450 customers were disconnected in the Borders; 420 in Dumfries and Galloway; and a further 300 in Ayrshire.

In the Falkirk area, a tree knocked power out for 368 homes, according to network operator GTC. Fixing the problem requires cutting supply to 1,868 homes until 4pm, it said.

A further 2,000 people are without power in North West England , according to Electricity North West.

More on power outages:  We've not received any recent updates from the following operators, who reported the following figures yesterday.

UK Power Networks, a provider in  London, the South East and East of England,  said it was still working to reconnect 1,700 customers.

In Ireland, 68,000 ESB Networks customers were without power.

 One of Northern Ireland's most popular visitor attractions has closed to the public due to storm damage.

The Titanic Belfast museum said it had closed its doors to safeguard the public and staff following damage to its roof during Storm Isha and the risks posed by Storm Jocelyn.

Meanwhile, Stormont's Department for Infrastructure said crews had been working around the clock to restore electricity supplies damaged by falling trees.

Approximately 7,000 homes in Northern Ireland are still without power.

Industrial action being taken by public sector workers may disrupt the clear-up operation, the department added.

A number of community assistance centres have opened across the country from noon until 3pm for those still affected by power cuts, offering hot drinks and information.

The River Ouse has breached its banks in York, flooding walkways alongside it.

Photographs showed a tree blown to the ground amid the floodwaters near some residential properties.

And on the outskirts of the city, Naburn Lock flooded its small bridges and a building.

Drivers have been warned to expect "very challenging conditions" and to avoid parking under trees.

Road users in northern parts of the UK should be particularly careful of the heavy rainfall and debris, said RAC spokesperson Alice Simpson.

Spray from large vehicles will severely reduce visibility, and the amount of water on the tarmac will increase stopping distances, she said.

"We urge drivers to consider postponing their journeys in these areas if at all possible.

"Those that do need to drive should try to avoid exposed coastal routes where strong winds will make driving much more difficult."

High-speed ferries between the Isle of Wight and Southampton have been suspended.

Operator Red Funnel has stopped its Red Jet service for foot passengers until further notice due to "adverse weather".

The route between West Cowes and Southampton terminal two has been affected.

Slower Red Funnel ferries carrying passengers and vehicles between East Cowes and Southampton terminal one remain in operation, according to their website.

The Met Office has issued a new yellow weather warning for rain in most of Wales.

Locations:  Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire, Powys, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Swansea, Vale of Glamorgan and Wrexham

Begins: 12.30pm

Warning:  Storm Jocelyn is set to bring heavy rain which could result in flooding on roads and in homes and businesses. Bus and train services will probably be affected.

Parts of York have been left flooded by Storm Isha.

Further heavy rain is forecast there throughout the day, as Storm Jocelyn brings more wet and windy weather to northern and western parts of the UK.

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