The days are shorter and the temperatures are dropping, but that doesn’t mean you have to hide away indoors until spring. There are plenty of amazing winter destinations in the UK to explore.
From scenic mountain ranges to lively cities, here are some of the best places to visit during winter.
Bundle up and get ready for an adventure!
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Best place to visit in December
If you’re looking for a fun-filled destination to travel to in December then the Northern Ireland city of Belfast may be right up your street.
Brimming with lively pubs and bars with fantastic attractions, Belfast is a great location to celebrate the festive season. With temperatures as low as 5 degrees, packing your thermals instead of your bikini is recommended!
Visit Belfast Christmas market for a mulled wine and a browse around the vast array of Alpine-style wooden huts selling handmade Yuletide gifts and home accessories.
Shop for last minute gifts at Victoria Square where you can find popular high street stores such as Mango, Goldsmiths and Tommy Hilfiger. It is also home to Belfast’s one and only Apple store which may come in handy when looking for that perfect present.
The infamous Titanic Belfast museum is worth a visit. Explore the iconic building and dive into the history of Titanic and all those onboard the ship during that fateful time. With places to eat and shop along the way, Titanic Belfast is a great day out for all the family.
Belfast is jam-packed with things to do socially, however the countryside here is simply unmatched. So throw on a pair of hiking boots and explore this beautiful land.
Best Place For Winter Sun
Even during the hottest months of the year, the sun is never guaranteed anywhere in the UK, and even more so in the winter. But if you are going to find the sun anywhere in December your best bet is to travel down south.
Cornwall is known for reaching high temperatures during the summer months and even though it will be cold in December, that little bit of sun is good for the soul.
You will find that Newquay is generally a lot quieter than it is in the summer months. The bars and clubs are not as busy and there are less people out and about. But don’t let that stop you from exploring this charming corner of the UK.
Take a wintry walk along iconic Fistral Beach which is known across Europe for its ridiculously good waves. The beach takes on a different persona in the colder months as it changes from a jam-packed tourist spot to an eerily quiet spot paired with harsh winds and crashing waves. An afternoon stroll across this terrifyingly electric beach will most definitely blow away the cobwebs!
Warm yourself up with some delicious pub grub from Lanherne pub and restaurant, serving traditional home cooked food in a friendly setting.
Keep the children entertained with a trip to Blue Reef Aquarium where they will find loggerhead sea turtles, blacktip reef sharks and thousands of vibrant shoals of fish. Book ahead to reserve your spots.
Overall Best Place To Visit in Winter
York is a beautiful place to visit at any time of year. With its stunning architecture, ancient Shambles and sheer selection of pubs, bars and restaurants, you can’t go wrong.
Most people avoid travelling at this time of year so the town is less crowded which is great for visitors as they avoid the hustle and bustle of the busy streets.
Firstly, the York Christmas Markets are a must-do. Begin the festivities with a delicious hog roast bap washed down with a pint of spiced mulled cider before perusing the adorable wooden chalets for unique trinkets and handmade decorations.
Pay a visit to the breathtaking York Minster to see the jaw-dropping interiors of this historic cathedral. The Shambles is possibly the most visited attraction in york in which some buildings date back as far as the 13th century. Dive into the history of these timber-framed buildings that are arguably the best preserved in the world.
Hungry? Have a pit stop at one of the oldest pubs in York, The Old White Swan. The building dates back to the 16th century and is said to be haunted. The tallest man in the world, who stood at a whopping 8 feet tall, was also exhibited here in 1781.
Best Place For A January Break
When the festive period is over and done with, it is time to get back to reality before the “January Blues” kicks in. And when they do, just book a getaway to the picturesque Cotswolds!
Start the New Year with a mini break to this remarkable area of the UK known for its picture perfect landscape and long, scenic walking trails.
Walking through the Cotswolds is like being in a fairytale with its charming little villages and adorable bridges that cross over miniature waterways. It is a bit like Venice but on a much smaller scale.
Visit Churchill’s birthplace at the outstanding Blenheim Palace. Featured in the popular James Bond film, Spectre, this historic building is filled with lavish interiors and ancient ornaments. Explore the exquisite gardens adorned with climbing roses and ancient trees as you take in the splendour of this magnificent landmark.
Whether you have donned your thermals for a wintry walk or you have spent the day exploring local attractions, there is always time for a spot of Afternoon Tea. The Old Bakery Tea Room offers a wide selection of food and drinks to keep those hunger pangs at bay. Warm your hands with a creamy Belgian hot chocolate or followed by homemade scones with a generous helping of Cornish clotted cream and jam.
Best Place For A Winter City Break
Edinburgh is the perfect place for a fun-filled city break, particularly during the winter months as there is so much to see and do.
Known for its sheer amount of festive activities and wild Hogmanay celebrations, the city of Edinburgh is a great choice if you are looking for an action-packed break.
Visit the Christmas markets at Princes Street Gardens where you will find plenty of festive food and drink, an ice rink, Santa’s Grotto and an exciting children’s funfair. The streets are layered with glamorous decorations and twinkling lights which can be observed while strolling through the cobbled streets. George Street has produced some amazing light displays over the years which are always worth seeing.
Winter isn’t just about Christmas though, so why not dig deep into the fascinating history of the Scottish capital, by enjoying a day out at Edinburgh Castle. There is so much to see here including The Great Hall, the 12th century chapel, the cannons and the dazzling Scottish Crown Jewels. Other Royal attractions include Royal Yacht Britannia and Holyrood Palace. Booking your tickets in advance is strongly advised as these attractions are busy all year round.
Put on your bobble hat and gloves to take a walk along Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. Attractions include the Museum of Edinburgh and the Scotch Whisky tasting museum – that will warm you up!
Whether you need to shop for Christmas presents or to hit up the January sales, Edinburgh has you covered. With a vast amount of designer and high street stores, you are sure to find what you are looking for. There is no shortage of pubs, bars and restaurants either so treat yourself to a well-deserved meal to celebrate your memorable city break in Edinburgh.
The temperature may be close to freezing but that shouldn’t stop you from getting outdoors to take part in some utterly thrilling activities.
Hike in the Lake District
The best things in life really are free. At least they are if you love hiking!
With plenty of marked routes, the Lake District is the perfect place for both experienced and amateur hikers. Whether you are looking for an intense hike or a leisurely stroll, there is a walk for everyone in this picture perfect haven.
Glenridding will take you on a 6.5 mile journey to Howtown where you can see great views of Ullswater and scenic fields and hills. Alternatively, the route from Aira Force to Glenridding will take you on a much shorter walk where you will pass by a stone arch bridge, a waterfall and ancient trees.
The beauty of hiking is that it is enjoyable whatever the weather. Breathing in the fresh countryside air does wonders for the mind and doesn’t cost a penny!
Surf down South
You may need more than just a pair of swimming shorts to go surfing in these sub zero temperatures. Cornwall is renowned for having some of the best waves along the English coastline due to the build-up of low pressure from the Arctic and Atlantic.
Croyde Bay is one of the most popular surfing destinations in the UK where you will find plenty of other surfers as well as surfing lessons and some great local pubs for a spot of lunch afterwards.
Snowboard in Scotland
For a spot of snowboarding, head to Nevis Range Mountain for some serious downhill action. Located in The Highlands, these slopes have 35 ski runs which cross over Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.
The most popular ski resort can be found at Cairngorms Mountain. This ski resort has 23 ski runs and can be found in Cairngorms National Park which spans over 1400 square miles and is Britain’s largest National Park.
You don’t have to be an experienced skier to take part as lessons are available at most resorts to teach you the basics. You will probably get a laugh out of it too!
Snowden is one of the most popular mountains to climb in the UK and is visited all year round. There are six possible routes that will take you to the top of the 1,085 metre summit and the views from the top are definitely worth the climb.
Each route is around seven to nine miles to the top so be prepared for a full day of hiking. Children can take part however, it may not be too enjoyable for them, particularly in low temperatures.
You do not need to have any previous hiking experience and remember to pack a bag with food, drinks, a compass and a map.
Go for a Wintry Dip in Derry
Will you be daring enough to take a dip in the icy waters of Portnahapple? We didn’t think so!
Portnahapple can be found along the scenic coastline of County Derry when taking a walk down Port Path. Here you will find an old natural swimming cove which is sometimes used by visitors in the warmer months.
Port Path is a 6.5 mile trail where you will come across national treasures such as St. Patrick’s Well which according to history, was used to store Holy Water in the Stone Age. You may also stumble upon small stone houses in which ice was once stored during the colder months to preserve salmon when temperatures increased.
Booking a winter destination near a National Park ensures you will make the most out of your mini break away from reality. Many parks are open all year round with some great activities for thrillseekers and adrenaline junkies.
The Peak District National Park
Best For: Caving
The Peak District is where you will find the highest natural cavern in the UK. Titan Cave in Castleton was discovered by local pot-holers in 2000 and is a whopping 464 feet from top to bottom. Caving is one of the most popular things to do in Derbyshire and it’s easy to see why.
You can try your hand at caving under the guidance of an expert and all the necessary equipment will be provided for you. All you need to do is join in!
Alternatively, there are many underground formations dotted around the Peak District which you can see by visiting a show cavern. These safe and well-lit caves make for a memorable and informative experience.
Exmoor National Park
Best For: Stargazing
Well known for its vast amount of walking trails, Exmoor National Park has dozens of paths that cater to all fitness levels and is the best place for stargazing.
Exmoor has some of the darkest skies due to minimal light pollution. If you look closely on a cloudless night, you will see the milky way along with magnificent astronomical sights and thousands of twinkling stars.
There is plenty to see on the walking trails such as vast bodies of water and lush countryside. Wildlife such as Red Deer and Ponies can be seen in their natural habitat, grazing lazily and resting. Be careful not to startle these enchanting creatures.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park
Best For: Coastline walks
Get ready for some phenomenal seaside scenery by visiting the Pembrokeshire Coast. Take in the wintry Welsh sun and fresh sea air with a walk along this fantastic trail.
If you look closely you will be able to spot Whales and Dolphins in the ferocious sea below. The cliff tops are great for birdwatching and witnessing the striking sunsets in the early evening.
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is one of the smallest in the UK, but don’t let that stop you from exploring the wonderful scenic landscape and magnificent sea views.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
Best For: Boating
In 2002, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs became the first of two Scottish National Parks established by the Scottish parliament.
Rent a boat and cruise the icy waters of Loch Lomond to take in the stunning natural beauty of the Scottish landscape. There are over 30 islands dotted around the loch, so feel free to pay a visit to any one.
“The Trossachs” refers to a romantic area of mysterious woodland, rocky hills and views of the glittering lochs. Enjoy a wintry walk with the wind in your face which shares a link with some of the most famous poets in history including Sir Walter Scott, Coleridge and Wordsworth.
Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve is hauntingly beautiful in the winter months. The bare branches give way to breathtaking views of the surrounding area and you will hear the distinctive call of geese flying high above in the wintry skies.
Winter is a great time to visit for admiring the waddling ducks and elegant swans. There may not be much colour during this time of the year, but the impressive snow-capped mountains and piercing blue skies are enough to make your visit to this National Park an unforgettable experience.
Hi, I'm Kat, an Australian that moved to London in 2013 to start a new adventure. What a roller-coaster that was! I love helping others move to the UK and people explore the world! I’d be honoured if you’d say, “Thanks!” with a £3 coffee on Ko-fi.