Beautiful Destinations in the UK to visit in Winter

Best UK Destinations for a Winter Holiday

Whether you’re looking for a cosy staycation or an enchanting Winter holiday, the UK has some fantastic destinations to choose from. In this post, we explore some of the best places to visit!

The UK is a fantastic country to travel to in the Winter months. While you’ll definitely need a waterproof Winter coat, gloves and some thick boots, much of the UK – and in particular Southern England – remains fairly mild, at least in comparison to other parts of the world, which require a lot more planning in order to travel through the Winter Season. That said, as you go further North, there are some wonderful places to see snow and white-tipped mountain ranges too. And, if you’re lucky, may see snow throughout the region.

Below, our recommendations for the best UK destinations for a Winter holiday are as varied as they are beautiful. From historical towns decorated with twinkling festive lights and traditional European Christmas markets to wonderful natural scenery that breathes new life into the coldest season, there are many splendid locations to choose from for your seasonal vacation.

MOURNE MOUNTAINS

by Allan from It’s Sometimes Sunny in Bangor 

It’s fairly rare to get heavy snows on the island of Ireland, and more so with 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”.

There is a lot to explore in the Mourne region with wintery walks crisscrossing the various peaks including some standalone attractions with the Silent Valley, the Bloody Bridge, and famous parks including Tollymore Forest Park 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 a great base for and it’s just a short journey by bus (around 1-hour) from Belfast City Centre. It is also possible to walk directly from the town centre to the highest peak at Slieve Donard.

BELFAST

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 that 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 the last-surviving covered market in Belfast offers a twilight Christmas celebration and shopping experience.

These days Belfast has some of the finest chefs in the world presenting food fit for a queen and if you want a true luxury stay why not book into the 5-star Merchant Hotel. Located in the heart of the Cathedral District – the place for dining and celebrating. The Merchant is a stunning Georgian Italianate building from the 1800’s 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 including 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, interesting historical sites, designer shopping and as we say in Ireland some great craic.

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 still 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 and there are a couple of areas to choose from, although Aviemore is by far the most famous. Here, you can enjoy European type chalets and ski shops, as well as some decent slopes once the snow sets in.

Despite the snow, it’s still fairly 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. 

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 and 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 December and last 3 days. There are three main components of this celebration: 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, as well as the spectacular torchlight procession. 

The highlight of Edinburgh winter celebrations has to be 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! 

HARROGATE

by Coralie from Grey Globetrotters

The elegant spa town of Harrogate in the beautiful English county of North Yorkshire is a very special 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 in the town, plus the fabulous Valley Gardens Park, and the stunning RHS gardens of Harlow Carr offering beautiful 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 then retire in sublime luxury at Rudding Park for the ultimate winter treat

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.

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). The temperature will also feel much lower than in the valleys as these areas are exposed, so dress accordingly. To warm up again, head back to a pub for a hot chocolate by the fire.

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

SHEFFIELD

by Dan from Urban Abroad

When you are on the lookout for the best places to visit in the UK for a special winter escape, whether alone or with the family, what could be better than a trip to 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 from all around the world.

Also, by visiting in November or December you’ll find the Christmas markets 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.

SNOWDONIA

by Kat from Biker Girl Life

For a winter getaway with a focus 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 all contained within the park’s boundaries and there are plenty of places that 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 there are plenty of award-winning restaurants to appeal to foodies.

NORWICH

by Zoe fromTogether In Transit 

For a city winter escape located in the UK, Norwich is the next place to visit. 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!

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 of course to listen to one of the many Choir sessions that are held here over the Christmas period.

For a wintery walk, head out to the coast for a walk at the dunes or pier. Here it’s perfect to get 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 piece of cake to warm up with afterwards. 

CAMBRIDGE

by Alice from Adventures of Alice

Cambridge is amazing and beautiful all year round and it’s easy to fall in love with the place. The winter is no exception to this and although it isn’t quite as busy as cities such as London, there’s plenty of fun activities to take part in. This includes the North Pole at Parkers Piece, which is like Cambridge’s own Winter Wonderland. Here, they have an outdoor ice rink, An outdoor bar serving delicious ales, beers and cider and there’s plenty there for the children too.

It would also be well worth visiting Cambridge University, which is a fantastic building and it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best universities in the world. They have a Botanic Garden there with flowers all year round, no matter how cold it is, so it’s great if you are wanting a peaceful stroll or wanting to take part in a mindfulness activity. 

They also have the Christmas light switch on, which is usually done by a minor celebrity. The event is held in the Market Square, usually starting at 11am. There’s plenty of activities to take part in there such as rides, games and food and drinks. There are also lots of little stalls there selling various different things. 

Even without those activities, Cambridge is fantastic in winter, and definitely well worth a visit. 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.’

OXFORD

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 wonderful winter escape in the UK.

There’s a host of wonderful 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.

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 open fireplace as dusk descends on the city. Before hitting Oxford’s cool nightlife, experience Evensong in the grandeur of a college chapel.

Oxford takes on something of a hibernation in the middle of winter, but the top-quality attractions remain open, so you can enjoy the best of the charming city at your own pace, without the crowds.

THE COTSWOLDS

by Tracy from UK Travel Planning

The Cotswolds is one of the most beautiful regions in England.   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 country 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 one has a character all of its own – from quaint boutiques to old coaching inns – and each has some wonderful walking trails right on its doorstep.

The Cotswolds has something for everyone – from families and couples to foodies and history buffs. During the winter months, the Cotswolds are quieter which makes it the perfect time to book a stay and get a real glimpse of what makes this place so special.

BATH

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 the winter. The 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. 

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. 

In January and February, Bath doesn’t have its famous Christmas market, but it does have fewer tourists (it can get very crowded in the summer!) and all of the attractions are open. So it’s well worth spending a wintery weekend in Bath!

LONDON

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EXETER

by Sophie Nadeau from solosophie.com

Exeter can be found in the county of Devon and is, in actual fact, the capital city of the 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 and 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 in search of a cosy winter getaway with surely find it in one of the many boutique hotels and cosy 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 the Cathedral Green selling everything from hot snacks and toasty beverages to bespoke and unique Christmas gifts.

Elsewhere in the city, renovations in recent years (and in particular at the Guildhall and Princesshay shopping areas of the city) means that the city is wonderful for Christmas shopping whether you’re in search of a gift for a loved one or a treat for yourself.

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 come 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 which dates 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 huge expanse of sand offers far-reaching coastal views and the beach is backed by sand dunes.

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 as well as plenty of appealing cafes and restaurants.

If you’d like to learn more about the history of Rye and how it was once an important harbour – but 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 interesting artefacts.

WHITSTABLE

by Joanna from The World in my Pocket

Whitstable is one of the most beautiful destinations on the coast of Kent. It makes a fantastic destination to be visited in winter because the number of tourists in the cold season is quite low, and you can get to 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 in winter, and not in summer. The native oysters season starts at the end of September and ends in early April.

One of the best things to do in Whitstable is exploring the harbour. Being a working harbour, you can see the local fishermen bringing in the catch of the day at the beginning of the day, but also taste the freshest fish cooked at the restaurants around the water.

Whitstable is also quite a bohemian town, with many galleries displaying the work of local artists. You can visit the galleries but also buy a painting or work of art if you’re looking for a unique souvenir. In Whitstable, you will also find quite a few 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 houses along the promenade.

8 Comments

  1. 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

  2. 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!)

  3. 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.

  4. 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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