For too long, we’ve mainly thought of travel in terms of summer. But the UK is filled with incredible places to visit, too many to fit into just the summer months. Additionally, travelling in winter is often more budget-friendly and ensures you avoid the crowds and traffic jams. So if you can travel outside of summer, then we strongly urge you to consider it!
To help with this, we’re going to turn your attention to the 10 best places to visit in the UK in winter. We’ll cover each corner of the UK, and highlight some of the best destinations, whether you’re travelling in November or December.
Photo by James Kemp on Unsplash
1. Lewes, England
Winter in the UK usually peeks around the corner properly for the first time in November. That’s why the charming town of Lewes is first on the list of best places to visit in the UK in November. The town in East Sussex is known mostly for its beautifully preserved medieval streets, historic architecture and rich cultural heritage. The latter is exactly the reason why you should pay this spot a visit in November, as Lewes is mostly famous for its unique and elaborate Bonfire Night celebrations, which are the most renowned in all of the UK.
The town of Lewes is home to multiple Sussex Bonfire Societies, each with its own parade, bonfire and firework display. It's a place with a vibrant and slightly eccentric atmosphere. The people of Lewes take great pride in Bonfire Night and are great at making it quite the spectacle without the event losing its authenticity. So if you’ve always wanted to take part in a deeply rooted British tradition, Bonfire Night in Lewes is the time and the place.
Looking for a good campsite to pitch up, to conclude the night with a wintery camping experience? These are the best campsites for Bonfire Night events in the UK.
2. The Cotswolds, England
Once Bonfire Night is done and quite literally dusted, pretty much the whole of the UK leaps into the Christmas countdown. That’s why you’re probably looking for the best places to visit in the UK in December next, so you can start soaking up the Christmas atmosphere as soon as possible. You’ve come to the right place! Trying to figure out where to go in winter in the UK, especially in December? The answer is The Cotswolds.
You’re probably familiar with the classic Christmas film ‘The Holiday’, which — let’s be honest — you likely watch each year. This year, why not take a real-life winter stroll past cottages to the likes of the cosy one in which Cameron Diaz bunks up with Jude Law? England doesn’t get cuter than the Cotswolds. Imagine rolling hills, picturesque villages and traditional English pubs, all covered by a little layer of winter frost. There’s nothing quite like warming in front of a roaring log fire with a cup of tea or pint in hand, but doing it in the Cotswolds just adds a little extra charm to the experience.
Bringing your furry friend along? This ultimate dog-friendly guide to the Costwolds is about to make the region your pet’s favourite too.
3. Birmingham, England
Gluhwein, pretzels, flammkuchen and cinnamon sprinkled on literally everything… German Christmas markets really are the best. Here’s a sentence we’d never think we’d write, but you may well find the best Christmas bratwurst in… Birmingham. That’s right, the biggest German Christmas market outside Germany and Austria is found on Victoria Square: the Frankfurt Christmas Market.
If you’re looking to get your Christmas buzz on, this really is the place. German beer as well as glühwein, live music, a giant Christmas tree, carol singers, an ice rink and a massive Ferris wheel, Christmas is all around. But whatever you do, don’t miss the market’s absolute highlight: a singing Christmas moose that goes by the name of, you guessed it, Chris Moose. The market runs from the 2nd of November until the 24th of December, which gives you plenty of time to soak up all its splendour. So where to go in the UK in December? To Germany! In Birmingham.
Can't get enough mulled wine, hot chocolate and delicious treats? The fun doesn't have to end in Birmingham. Check out 15 more best Christmas markets in the UK and Europe.
Photo by cmophoto.net on Unsplash
4. Bath, England
Can’t get enough of the Christmas glee? Head to the next city that starts with a b! If you’d like to behold the city of Bath in all its glory, then December is the month. If only to catch a glimpse of the enormous Christmas tree right next to the beautifully lit abbey. But the whole city is quite a feast for the eyes, and its golden limestone buildings take on an extra warm glow in the winter light. We highly recommend a little trip to the Thermae Bath Spa in particular. It has an open-air rooftop pool that’s been heated to a lush temperature with thermal springs straight from the earth. Warm up your cold bones in natural warmth, and take in the winter night sky, and the stunning city below.
If soaking under the stars has left you with quite the appetite, move straight from the spa to the grub! Bath is home to numerous cosy tea rooms, cafes and traditional English pubs that form an inviting refuge from the winter chill. Our personal favourite is the classic pie and mash, for which you won't have to look far.
Looking to stretch your legs in the countryside after eating and drinking your way through this beautiful city? The hills that surround the city offer breathtaking panoramas and viewpoints from which you can admire the countless city lights in the valley beneath. We recommend the Bath Skyline walk to take it all in.
Photo by John-Mark Strange on Unsplash
5. Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
We wouldn’t dare leave Cairngorms National Park off a list of best places to visit in the UK in winter. It’s also on our list of the best places to visit in the UK in autumn, so if you’re up to date on those then we’re sorry to repeat ourselves, but boy do we love this place! Cairngorms National Park is a stunning destination throughout the whole year, but it holds a particular charm during the winter months.
The quaint village of Braemar is the heart of the park and a wonderful base from which to embark on winter activities such as winter hiking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Warm right back up in the village’s cosy pubs, in which you can enjoy traditional Scottish cuisine and locally brewed ales in front of the fire.
Check out our itinerary for driving the snow roads scenic route whilst in the Cairngorms. As the name of this itinerary suggests, winter is the best time to get the best views on this drive. It’s then that the park's peaks are mostly likely to be covered in a thin layer of snow, making the contrast with the dark rock formations of the surroundings truly striking. If you’re on a road trip, you’ll also find ample options for pitching your motorhome here. Especially as we’ve rounded up the best campsites in the Cairngorms for you.
Did we mention that Cairngorms National Park is also one of the best places to see the Northern Lights in Scotland? On a clear night, the dark sky above the park’s open spaces may well put an a once in a lifetime light show.
6. Cambridge, England
Speaking of light shows, the beauty of the darker months is that in Britain, we love lighting them right back up again. In many cities, this is done in quite an artful way, such as light shows or even light festivals. One we’d like to highlight, pun intended, in particular, is Cambridge Botanical Lights.
The historic city of Cambridge is home to one of the world's biggest botanical gardens, which are beautiful in every season. But this December, Cambridge University Botanical Garden is opening a light trail for the first time, and it will be quite a dreamy, gleaming spectacle. Cambridge Botanic Lights will be open for 13 nights in December, making it a great place to visit in the UK in December in particular.
Photo by Vadim Sherbakov on Unsplash
7. The Isle of Skye, Scotland
That the Isle of Skye is beautiful isn’t up for debate. But if you haven’t seen it in winter, you have seen nothing yet. The Isle of Skye is one of the best places to visit in the UK in December, as its natural beauty is amplified in the winter. Rugged mountains, dramatic cliffs and serene lochs really do look even more stunning against a backdrop of snow and frost. If you’re into winter photography, then this is the place for you. There’s something magical and enchanting about Scottish landscapes in winter light — but do plan your trip well, as there’s not a lot of it in wintertime.
If you don’t shy away from a little frosty adventure, you may even want to embark upon this great Isle of Skye road trip itinerary. Please keep in mind that the key to a comfortable road trip in winter is preparation. Make sure you pack enough wet and cold weather gear and that your vehicle is up for the task of driving on icy roads. Always check the weather forecast to make sure it’s safe to drive around. Finding a place to camp can be a little hard in winter, but there are quite a few campsites in Scotland that are open all year, or you can try your luck at wild camping in Scotland.
8. Dartmoor National Park, England
The only place in England that officially allows wild camping, that’s what Dartmoor National Park was long known as. Wild camping in Dartmoor has always been a key driver for lovers of the outdoors to visit the area, until a wealthy local landowner won a court case on the quest to ban it earlier this year. Luckily the national park authority won a widely supported court appeal which allowed wild camping in Dartmoor once again.
Although backpackers with tents are enjoying their right to camp under the stars to the fullest, finding a good spot to pitch up in a campervan is trickier. However, if you beat the crowds by choosing to do so in winter, you’re more likely to succeed. Keep in mind you’re not allowed to park up in layby’s, on the roadside or in car parks, but with a little help from our friends at Wild With Consent you’ll still be able to enjoy the ‘wild camping experience’. Wild With Consent connects campervanners to local landowners, who give them permission to wild camp on their land. This way, you can still enjoy full immersion in nature even when travelling on wheels.
9. Isle of Wight, England
The Isle of Wight is a captivating destination for many, and a long-time favourite for those seeking a relaxed retreat to escape the bustle of the British mainland. But even on the diamond-shaped isle, the crowds can add up in the summertime, which can result in quite the opposite experience. In winter, however, the thinning crowds make way for one specific kind of visitor: wildlife enthusiasts.
And with good reason. The island is a haven for birdwatchers in winter, as many migratory birds flock to the island in search of a milder climate. The island experiences a gentler winter than many other parts of the UK due to several geographical and meteorological factors, making it a comfortable place to visit in wintertime for people as well. Thanks to its sunny, warmer-than-average weather the island’s also home to plenty of exotic plants, which is why it is often nicknamed the ‘Garden Isle’. Winter is also the best time to spot seals, dolphins and other marine life from the shores, or from the water on a guided boat tour.
Exploring the Garden Isle from the comfort of a campervan? With this Isle of Wight road trip itinerary you’ll know exactly where to go.
10. Pembrokeshire, Wales
The UK coastline spans more than 11,000 miles, so it wouldn’t be right to conclude this list of best places to visit in the UK in winter without mentioning another proper coastal destination. If we had to choose one of our favourite coastal destinations to visit in wintertime specifically, it would have to be Pembrokeshire. This wild stretch of Welsh land is dotted with some of the most charming villages. They have a completely different feel to them when they’re not overflowing with summer crowds, and the same goes for some of the most noteworthy historic sites in the country. The region is especially known for its warm and welcoming hospitality, and it’s very unlikely you’ll meet a local who isn’t eager to share their love for the region.
Just like many other destinations on this list, the natural beauty of Pembrokeshire steps up its game in wintertime. A walk along the rugged cliffs, serene coves and dramatic seascapes truly is a whole different experience when the wind is howling and ginormous winter waves crash against the rocks. You can walk for hours on the magnificent Pembrokeshire Coast Path, without stumbling into a soul — apart from the odd local with their dog. So if you’re looking for a proper wild and quiet winter escape, Pembrokeshire is the place for you.
Travel shouldn’t be restricted to summer, and with these 10 best destinations to visit in the UK in winter, it doesn’t have to be. Experience the joy of travelling outside of peak season, and we promise, you’ll never look back.
Struggling to decide where to go in winter in the UK? A great way to combine some of these highlights is by hiring a motorhome and setting off on a winter road trip! Don’t let the cold hold you back. On Goboony you can hire plenty of vehicles that are winter-proof, complete with a heater and hot water.