The Best Winter Breaks in the UK
When it comes to holidays, winter isn't just a time to jet away to warmer climates. Not when there are so many UK locations that are oh-so-perfect for a cosy winter break. Whether you want to snuggle up by a crackling fire in a Cotswold pub, blow away the cobwebs on a picturesque walk or perhaps indulge in some festive fun with the kids at your favourite theme park, there's something to inspire everyone. At Holiday Extras we want to help take the hassle out of planning your next winter getaway which is why we've put together a handy guide of the best UK winter break destinations, along with recommendations on what to get up to while you're there. And who knows, you might just end up falling in love with the coldest season of the year…
Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
Looking for winter breaks in Scotland? The Cairngorms, located in the Scottish Highlands, is the UK's largest national park (twice the size of the Lake District) and boasts everything from jaw-dropping landscapes, dominated by dramatic mountains and deep blue lochs, to historic castles, quintessential Scottish distilleries to wild watersports. While a visit at any time of year is sure to be special, trust us when we say the Cairngorms in winter is truly an enchanted time.
- Feel like you've stepped into Narnia on a winter walk. Popular routes, especially when there's a beautiful dusting of snow, include exploring Loch an Eilein, hidden in the forest of Rothiemurchus, with its water-locked Castle or a walk amongst ancient Caledonian pines that will lead you to An Lochan Uaine (otherwise known as the 'Green Loch'). With sweeping views across the loch and beyond, this is the kind of winter wonderland scenery that you'll never forget.
- Roam with reindeers. The Cairngorm mountains are home to Britain's only free-ranging herd of reindeer. Book with The Cairngorm Reindeer Centre to learn all about the 150 strong herd and walk right amongst the reindeer. They're a tame and friendly bunch so stroking and selfies are welcomed!
For lots more information about the National Park, things to do and where to stay, be sure to check out the Visit Cairngorms National Park website.
While London in the summer has its obvious appeal, winter definitely isn't short of charm! With Christmas markets, ice skating, cosy pop-up cafes and bars, West End shows, free museums and galleries, fancy afternoon teas, and so much more, you're sure to find something that will brighten even the greyest of days. When it comes to winter city breaks, the capital shouldn't be overlooked, especially if you're looking to indulge in a little bit of luxury.
- Visit in December for Christmas cheer. London really gets into the festive spirit during the holidays and brings out a special kind of magic that can only be felt at this time of year. From Christmas markets, like the adored Southbank Centre Winter Market, overflowing with festive foods and unique gifts, to dazzling Christmas lights, particularly on Oxford Street and Regent Street, that will make you "ooh" and "ahh" uncontrollably, not to mention famous annual events like Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park and the Natural History Museum Ice Rink, there are so many things to enjoy that are sure to make the most wonderful time of the year, even more wonderful.
- See a West End show. After a day of exploring the city, what better place is there to escape the chilly temperatures and to sit back and relax for a few glorious hours, than at the theatre? From long standing classics like Phantom of the Opera to beloved favourites like The Lion King, plus exciting new shows like Dear Evan Hansen, there's something for everyone. At Holiday Extras we package all the biggest and best shows with an overnight stay at a top London hotel to help save you money and make things super simple. We have deals starting from just £99pp*! So, if you fancy a show-stopping winter getaway, be sure to browse our Theatre Break Packages. Find out more exciting ways of spending the festive season in London, with our guide to Christmas breaks in the UK this year.
The Cotswolds, England
Winter is a magical time of year to visit the Cotswolds. During the day, chocolate box villages, cosy country pubs and lush rolling countryside are yours to explore without the hustle and bustle of summer crowds. In the evenings, rest and recharge in a traditional Cotswolds cottage, complete with open fire and a good book. It's the ultimate UK winter break for couples! Plus, if you visit in December, nothing will get you into the festive spirit quite like the sparkly Christmas events dotted around the region. Speaking of Christmas, if you're lucky enough to experience some snowfall during your getaway, you'll feel like you've stepped into a Christmas card scene.
- Step inside Blenheim Palace's Annual Illuminated Trail. As the festive season rolls in, Blenheim Palace is transformed into a winter wonderland, dramatically illuminated by lights, along with incredible laser and light projections. Held every day between November and early January, visitors are invited to make their way through glittering tunnels of light, dancing lakeside reflections and trees drenched in festive colour.
- Enjoy a countryside pub walk. Don your comfiest walking boots and go crunching across the Cotswold countryside. Marvel at the sights, breathe in the crisp air and, of course, afterwards reward yourself with a visit to a cosy pub where you can warm up in front of a log fire and indulge in a hearty meal. One of our favourite walks is the Cotswold Way Circular Walk 1 through the charming town of Chipping Campden, around shaded woodlands and past stunning views. For more details, check out the walking route. When it comes to your celebratory feast, you'll be pleased to hear there are plenty of lovely spots to choose from in the area, including a couple of awarding-winning pubs: the Eight Bells Inn and The Ebrington Arms.
The North Norfolk Coast, England
If you're looking for coastal winter breaks in the UK with stunning sandy beaches and amazing wildlife spots, North Norfolk might be the perfect destination for you. From candy-coloured beach huts in Wells-next-to-Sea to Banksy's 'Great British Spraycation' artwork at Cromer, boat trips along the Norfolk Broads to Christmas shopping in Norwich, there's something sure to delight everyone
- Take a boat trip to see the seals. Blakeney Point is home to England's largest Grey Seal colony with over 3,000 pups born each winter. The Grey pups have fluffy white coats and huge black eyes making them an adorable sight indeed. The best way to see this wildlife spectacle is to book a trip on one of the locally operated ferry boats departing from Morston Quay. For more information, check out the National Trust website. As well as Seal pups, during the winter months there???s a high chance of seeing a number of duck and geese including Mallard, Widgeon, Teal, Pintail and Pinkfooted Geese. Binoculars and cameras at the ready!
Just a short drive away (around 15 - 20 minutes) are the award-winning beaches of Holkham and Well-next-to-Sea. With lots of places to eat and unspoilt stretches of sand, perfect for scenic walks, they're well worth adding to your itinerary that day!
- Drift along the Norfolk Broads Winter on the Broads is the definition of tranquility. It's quieter than the warmer months, wildlife is thriving, mornings are fresh, waters are still and you can look forward to a toasty fireside meal and hot chocolate in one of the many local pubs. Journey along the beautiful waterways of the Norfolk Broads at your own pace by hiring a day boat or cruiser (equipped with heating!) via Broads Tours. Please note: throughout winter, day boats are available to hire during weekdays only. As you drift along be sure to keep an eye out for all the wildlife, from Water Voles to Weasels, Marsh Harriers to Cranes.
The Shetland Islands, Scotland
The Shetland Islands, located so far to the north that they're closer to Norway than mainland Scotland, boast an otherworldly beauty in winter, from breathtaking landscapes to spectacular wildlife, including Shetland's world famous small ponies. Short winter days can be spent doing all sorts, from discovering the Island's rich Viking history to enjoying the crystal clear waters and golden sand at one of the many gorgeous beaches. And on a clear winters night, you might just be lucky enough to experience the skies brought to life with the awe-inspiring Northern Lights.
- Sit under the stars and watch the Northern Lights. Even though you can't take seeing the aurora borealis for granted - it is, after all, a natural phenomenon - because Shetland lies closer to the North Pole than any other part of the UK and has low light pollution, it's undoubtedly the best place to see the Northern Lights here at home. Catching a glimpse of the colourful dancing displays (aptly known as Mirrie Dancers by Shetlanders) in person is sure to be a bucket-list experience you'll treasure for years to come. Take a look at our top tips for seeing the Northern Lights below:
- Plan your trip between mid-October and mid-March. You want a clear, dark winter night.
- Find a location away from light pollution. This includes street lights, cars, buildings and even a full moon.
- Be patient and vigilant. Aurora-watching may take you outside for several hours on cold nights so be sure to wrap up warm. Also, there's a chance that displays last only a couple of minutes so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. A good display may last up to 15-30 minutes.
- Plan a multi-night itinerary. If you don't see them the first time, keep on trying. You know it will be worth it! To help you plan, be sure to bookmark AuroraWatch UK - a super handy, free service offering alerts of when the Northern Lights might be visible in Shetland.
- Go wildlife watching. Calling all wildlife lovers! Shetland is home to an incredible array of wildlife during the winter months, from Shetland ponies grazing on hillsides to otters foraging and rearing cubs, semi-resident orca pods hunting close to the shore (check out the dedicated Orca sighting Facebook page for up to date info) to humpback whales off the south coast, plus vast colonies of wildfowl, it's a special season to be out exploring nature.
Winter Breaks in the UK - Family Ideas