As days get shorter, and temperatures plummet, it can start to feel a little bleak in the UK. However, during winter and the Christmas period, there are plenty of places to enjoy a winter weekend getaway in the UK. Small towns come alive with local festivals and Christmas lights, whilst city’s host markets with international cuisine and gifts. Places which are over run by tourists during the summer months become serene and romantic in Winter, taking on a whole new feel. If winter blues are getting you down, it is time to think about booking a UK winter escape. Here are my top picks for weekend getaway destinations perfect for the winter season.
If you are looking for a special winter weekend getaway, visit London during the Christmas period. It is a truly magical experience, as the whole city is getting ready for the holidays. Shops are decorated and playing Christmas music all day and the streets are lit with festive lights. Carnaby Street has outrageously tacky and colourful lights every year: perfect for Instagram lovers. Christmas markets attract locals as well as tourists. They are a great place to wander around and admire the beautiful handmade products for sale. German sausages, cheesy snacks and roasted chestnuts are very popular at the food stalls. The biggest Christmas market, “Winter Wonderland” in Hyde Park, is awash with festive foodie treats. Seek out the Hungarian stand selling deep-fried bread seasoned with garlic, and chimney cake flavoured with coconut, cinnamon or sugar. Thrill seekers will love Winter Wonderland as it has 9 roller coasters plus a Haunted House, Ferris Wheel and bumper cars. During winter, London has many pop-up ice rinks as well. In Winter Wonderland, couples can spend a romantic evening skating around a Victorian bandstand. However, if you are looking for a different experience the Natural History Museum, Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Somerset House are all great backgrounds for the ice rinks that they set up on their grounds.Christmas at Kew is another must do in London and is suitable for any age. There is a mile-long path that you will walk through, which is decorated in many unique ways. Tickets sell fast, so book early! All these Christmas events are very popular and attract lots of people, so you can expect crowds, especially on weekends and in the evenings. If you would prefer to visit the capital city of London during less busy times and you are not really into Christmas events I suggest planning your trip for January or February. You will have way less waiting time at the attractions and accommodation prices are also slightly lower. Eniko, TravelhackerGirl
The Lake District
The Lake District is often thought of a summer destination, a place where you can grab your hiking gear and wander the fells in the sunshine. however, during summer prices soar and the small village streets can become over crowded. Visiting during winter months can be rewarding. Trees are a vibrant shade of orange, and lakes are glassy and calm. The area is notorious for photography around the Autumn and Winter months, and offers some of the most Instagram friendly places in the UK. Popular walking tracks are much quieter, and whilst you will still encounter other people, you will be able to enjoy the undeniable peacefulness of the countryside. I suggest basing yourself in one of the larger towns such as Windermere, Ambleside or Keswick. From here, you can grab a map or head to the tourist information centre and explore the area. In the run up to Christmas, various towns will have Christmas light ceremonies for the first switch on of the season. Small markets can be found most weekends in the smaller villages, selling mince pies, unique hand made gifts and local produce. The Lake District is infamous for the friendly locals and inviting pubs. Join locals and walkers alike for an afternoon pint next to a cosy roaring fire. Try out some of the local ales that are on offer, and sample locally sourced cuisine. Many pubs offer hearty Sunday Roasts, as well as warming soups and Hot Chocolates throughout the day to get you into a festive spirit. There are plenty of independent retailers if you are looking for a special gift for someone. Local craftsmen and artists have tiny shops tucked away down village backstreets, so you can find some interesting one off pieces. Ensure you bring some sturdy boots, and a warm water proof jacket for a perfect winter weekend getaway to the Lake District.
The Scottish Highlands are magical to visit in wintertime, as many of the tourists have disappeared, yet the quiet spirit of the moors and lochs remain for you to explore. Aviemore, the doorway to Cairngorms National Park, is the perfect winter destination for those looking to explore nature and immerse themselves in the smaller-town feel of a beautiful getaway town. In the heart of town, Christmas parades and markets are held in December, and the jovial sound of laughing and live, local Scottish music plays from the Cairngorm Hotel. The Cairngorms, Scotland’s largest natural park, are known for their beauty and adventurous activities, especially in winter. Just a short drive up the road from Aviemore into the mountains is the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre, a fun and educational facility that cares for the only free-roaming reindeer herd in the United Kingdom. Throughout the year (except January into mid-February), visitors are able to take a walk into the hills with a reindeer guide for the opportunity to see these beautiful creatures in person. The nearby Loch Morlich is a stunning location to catch the morning sunrise as well as take a winter walk to see the evergreens covered in snow and frost. Just a bit further up the road is Cairngorm Mountain, which is the perfect destination to ski or snowshoe the Mountain’s numerous trails. Keep an eye out for ptarmigans in their snow-white winter plumage, a rare and thrilling sight. Aviemore also hosts dog sledding activities through the Cairngorm Sleddog Centre, including dog sledding trips and safaris through the Cairngorm pass to experience the scenery from a new perspective! After a day full of adventure, enjoy fresh, local dishes at the Winking Owl or The Old Bridge Inn. Feeling luxurious? Enjoy afternoon tea at the MacDonald Aviemore Hotel, or take your indulgence a step further to join in on one of the Hotel’s many activities, such as Santa Weekends, Christmas and Hogmanay Parties, or even multi-night, all-inclusive stays over Christmastime. You’ll love spending your getaway in this winter wonderland! Christa, ExpeditionWildlife
Bath in England is a lovely place to visit in the winter. No matter the weather there are plenty of indoor activities to experience, such as visiting the historic Roman Baths or having a spa day in those famous hot springs yourself at the Thermae Bath Spa. You could also have high tea at the elegant Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa or tour the Jane Austen Centre. The city centre’s UNESCO world heritage site is great for a stroll with many upscale stores and boutiques. A fun way to explore the city with children is to check out the Christmas Tree Carol Trail. There are 10 trees scattered throughout the city centre that you need to find. The trees all have different musical themes. Christmas shopping possibilities are endless, not only at the stores, but also at the city’s famous Christmas market which lines the cobbled streets around Bath Abbey. Like the European Christmas markets, there’s plenty of mulled wine mince pies, a very British tradition! The huge Christmas market is made up of 150+ wooden stalls selling artisanal items sourced from throughout Southwest Britain. In addition, charities set up their own Christmas fairs throughout the season. Don’t worry about the evenings getting dark earlier because there is glow in the dark mini golf at Victoria Park. Or stay warm indoors by experiencing Christmas the traditional way at a pantomime performance at the Theatre Royal. Looking for some winter sporting fun? There’s a large 1000 square meter outdoor skating rink at Royal Victoria Park. Or, if you fancy skipping the sport and going straight to the post slope drinks, head over to the Apres Ski Bar which is located outside the Abbey Hotel. No need to tire yourself out downhill skiing. After all, Christmas shopping counts as a winter sport! Shobha, JustGoPlacesBlog
Take a trip to the Cotswolds in winter for the perfect cosy winter escape. The area known as the Cotswolds is the place to go to discover the prettiest villages you have ever seen, take long walks in the crisp air and then warm up in a local pub by an open fire. Just a 2 hour drive from London, the Cotswolds covers over 800 square miles in the west of England. The rolling green hills in this area of outstanding natural beauty are home to over 8,000 paths and byways. In the winter, when the trees are stripped bare, the countryside becomes a magical frosty scene that is wonderful to explore. Once your cheeks are rosy and you have built up an appetite, stop at a cosy pub to refuel with a hearty meal and warm yourself by the fire. We enjoyed a delicious roast beef dinner at The Swan Inn in Swinbrook, complete with Yorkshire pudding and lashings of gravy. In the afternoon, road trip from village to village, and just try to pick the prettiest. From Castle Combe to Lacock and Bourton on the Water, it’s very difficult to decide on a winner indeed. Each of the villages hosts celebrations throughout the season with mulled wine, Christmas markets, carols and light displays. The sight of lights twinkling in the trees and windows is straight out of a fairytale. If you want even more festive cheer then stop by the forest at Westonbirt Arboretum. Throughout December the forest paths are illuminated for their Enchanted Christmas event, where you can also enjoy fairground rides and Christmas treats. Our favourite hotel in the Cotswolds is the historic Abbots Grange hotel in Broadway. It dates back to the 14th century and has modern luxuries plus a cosy lounge. It’s the perfect place to for relax after exploring the nearby villages and countryside. Katy, UntoldMorsels
Salcombe is a vibrant South Devon coastal village, which is full to bursting in the summer months. The marina is packed with visiting boats and the pubs spill onto the terraces that overlook the estuary below. Once the winter months arrive the frenetic bustle of the tourist season dies down, but the village still has a distinct charm. Most of the restaurants remain open and all of the pubs are cosy and welcoming. However, unlike the summer it is much easier to get a seat by the roaring log fires overlooking the water than it is to find a table on the terrace in the summer. In early December the lights are switched on providing a pretty feel to the village and stunning reflections in the water. The shops look festive, and it is the perfect place for some independent Christmas shopping. There is a Christmas Fair in nearby Kingsbridge on the first weekend in December, which ends with a lantern procession and carolling. Even closer to Christmas there is more carolling around the tree in nearby Whitestrand. An invigorating walk from Salcombe is Start Point Lighthouse. This sits on the top of a cliff overlooking the treacherous waters of Start Point Race. In the summer months it is open to tourists who can climb the tower and look towards Salcombe. In winter it is deserted, other than a few walkers. However, it is the perfect place to stay on a weekend visiting Salcombe and South Devon. The lighthouse keepers cottages are warm and snug with amazing views from every window. In a storm you can watch the waves crashing over the cliffs not so far below or watch the sun rise over a glistening frosty cliff top. They even supply ear plugs so you get a good nights sleep when the fog horn is in use! Perfect at any time of the year but in the winter, it feels just that little bit more special. Suzanne, https://suzanneeaston.com
From the middle of November something magical happens to Edinburgh: the cheer of Christmas arrives and takes over city. There are not just a few Christmas lights, it’s a full on festival celebrating the best of everything the season has to offer. Every year is a little different, but always special. Most of the activity is focused around Princes Street Gardens, where the stalls are laid out under the impressive shadow of the castle. The market consists of a large collection of alpine style cabins, selling both continental and Scottish products. It is during early evening when the place really comes into its own. With colourful festive lights, the bustle of people, the sound of festive music and the delicious mix of mulled wine and grilled bratwurst filling the air. Adjacent to the market is a large funfair, complete with a huge wheel that provides great views across the city. All ages will enjoy the classic attraction. Next to the Scott Monument there is a traditional ice rink. Alternatively, you can venture a little way up to St Andrews Square, a beautiful little park in the heart of Edinburgh New Town. Here you will find another more intimate ice rink along with a café, should you feel the need for a refreshment. Take the lift to the top floor of Harvey Nichols to enjoy a champagne cocktail overlooking the fun and frolics below. Should you feel hungry the newly opened Ivy restaurant, also located in the square, offers food fit for a frozen Princess. There are many other eating options along adjoining George Street, including the fabulous Dome restaurant and bar. This is a real Edinburgh institution with its amazing Christmas decorations – check out Instagram for proof. The outside is impressive, but the inside is spectacular! The winter festival continues at the Charlotte Square end of George Street, this year there is Silent Light (Silent disco street party) and Light Night (Christmas lights switch on). So if you love Christmas and enjoy all things winter has to offer, then Edinburgh should be a destination near the top of your list during the festive season. There really is something for everyone, a perfect winter weekend getaway. Jonathan, ScotlandBucketList
Cardiff in Wales is a great destination for a winter weekend getaway. Be it as a family or for a couple’s getaway, the city has so much to offer visitors. From museums such as St Fagans National Museum of History and the National Museum, to great shopping in St David’s, to the chilled-out affair that is Cardiff Bay, there is something for everyone. And there are plenty of restaurants, bars and cafes throughout the city centre to satisfy even the pickiest of eaters. For those on the tourist trail, the best way to see the city is on one of the sightseeing buses. Hop off at Cardiff Castle and discover the hidden secrets of the castle walls (I won’t spoil it for you), as well as the castle apartments and the Norman Keep. Use the bus to visit Cardiff Bay and see the Norwegian church, and maybe have a bite to eat while you’re there. During the winter months of November and December, however, Cardiff comes alive with a special visitor to the city located on City Hall’s Lawns in front of both City Hall and the National Museum. The Cardiff Winter Wonderland, which runs from the beginning of November to the beginning of January, has things like an ice-skating rink, a fun fair and a restaurant and bar. It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours during a winter visit to the city. If that doesn’t appeal, then head to the small collection of Christmas markets located in the area known as the Hayes, not far from St David’s shopping centre. With stands selling homemade crafts directly from the makers themselves, to food and drink stands to get you in the festive spirit. It’s worth strolling through, if only to take in the sights and festive smells wafting from the stalls. Cardiff has a large number of hotels, both in the city centre and further afield such as Cardiff Bay. Whether you choose the city centre or further afield, Cardiff has good public transport links and of course you could hop in a taxi or Uber. St David’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay is a stunning hotel with a spa that will relax you after a day of shopping and fun in the city. I’ve sampled the spa myself and can highly recommend it. But be warned, it’s one of priciest hotels. There are others on offer to suit budgets of all ranges. Either way, you’re sure to have a great time in the Welsh capital. Cath,https://passportsandadventures.com
I hope this post has given you a little winter inspiration, let me know in the comments where you will be going for a winter weekend break this year!
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