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The UK and Ireland offer magical places to visit any time of year, however, winter is an exceptionally special time! We’re counting down the best places to visit in the UK in winter to inspire you during the festive season!
From those tucked away in the great outdoors to bustling cities packed with festive things to do, our guide to the best places to visit in the UK in winter outlines the most magical places to enjoy a memorable getaway.
Whether you want to enjoy a spot of Christmas shopping or a quiet boating getaway, there’s bound to be somewhere on this list you’ll want to visit!
Read on to discover 13 of the best places to visit in the UK in winter…
Perfect for: Winter boating
Kicking off our guide to the best places to visit in the UK in Winter is the Norfolk Broads! If you’re looking for a tranquil winter staycation in the UK then this 125-mile national park packed with shimmering waters that are ideal for fishing is perfect!
As long as you have a license, you can angle to your heart’s content during a winter visit here. During the cooler months, pike, roach and bream are just a few species swimming around in the Broads’ waters.
Alternatively, you can enjoy a relaxing sailing experience along the River Yare. Not only will you be able to spot the sights of Dutch-style windmills but there are plenty of birdwatching opportunities in the Broads!
What will you spot, mistle thrushes, marsh harriers or lapwings?
Perfect for: Sights of the Northern Lights
The scenic, 1,600-mile delight of the Wild Atlantic Way is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in winter in the UK and Ireland. A scenic drive, far-reaching views and a wealth of breath-taking landmarks make this a special destination during winter.
A highlight of the coastal route is the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, where you can be in with the chance to see the Northern Lights! Another highlight is the Cliffs of Moher, a Harry Potter filming location that’s windy, yet a gorgeous place for a walk.
The idea of travelling 1,600 miles can be daunting but don’t worry, you can spend part of the winter season exploring one of the 14 stages of the route. Why not venture along the Ring of Kerry for amazing sights along the Inveragh Peninsula? Alternatively, travel along the Fanad Head section to view its iconic lighthouse.
Perfect for: Wintry walks
A delightful addition to this collection of the best places to visit in the UK in winter, Dartmoor National Park is home to many things to see. Most of these sights can be savoured on a hike.
A must-try walk during the chilly season is the Wistman’s Wood trail. Dating back to 7000 BCE, the ancient forest is a beautiful hiking area and will make you feel like you’re in Lord of the Rings. Alternatively, go for an exploration of the moors and tors where you may come across the wild ponies of Dartmoor.
Due to the lack of light pollution, the national park is another great place to go stargazing during the colder months. One of the best sites to do this is Haytor Car Park, where you can watch the stars fill the sky. Afterwards, why not warm up over a pint in a pub in one of the nearby towns such as Newton Abbot?
Perfect for: Festive events
Beautiful architecture, independent shops and welcoming bars are just a handful of the reasons why you should make Bath one of your winter destinations in the UK this year.
The main attraction, though, has to be the city’s sheer amount of winter events! There’s something for everyone here, including one of the best UK Christmas markets, and an ice rink in the Royal Victoria Park alongside the Enchanted Garden of Light at The American Museum.
After enjoying a spot of retail therapy in the city’s boutiques, be sure to stop in one of the city’s eateries for a hearty pub lunch or savour a glass of mulled wine in a cosy bar. Alternatively, enjoy a hike along the Bath Skyline and enjoy the sight of the rooftops’ twinkling, festive lights.
Perfect for: Enchanting landscapes
The Isle of Skye is next on our list of the best places to visit in the UK in winter, offering a wealth of magical sights for you to uncover. From historic castles and houses to Scottish swimming spots and sprawling moorland, it’s an awe-inspiring location.
An absolute must-see during winter is the Scottish hidden gem of the Fairy Pools. The pools are shrouded in myth and legend whilst offering turquoise waters for you to admire.
Another highlight of the cold season on the Isle of Skye is its winter sunrises. Rich purples and pinks fill the sky around 8am and can be admired during a walk. If you need inspiration for a winter walk on the island, we recommend the Neist Point Lighthouse trail or one of the Isle of Skye’s beaches for coastal views.
Remember to wrap up warm here, as the temperature can drop as low as one degree Celsius!
Perfect for: Christmas markets
Another of the best places to visit during winter in the UK is York! If you adore the festive season, then this should be at the top of your list of winter holiday destinations in the UK.
There is simply so much to do here, however, a visit to the St Nicholas Fair and Christmas Markets should be at the top of your itinerary. Here you can look forward to enjoying an ice rink, meeting Santa and savouring delicious treats in a Scandinavian setting.
Afterwards, take a stroll through the city to enjoy the beautiful lights that surround the buildings. Be sure to wander down the Shambles, a notable street featuring lovely little shops adorned with festive decorations and selling artisan delights.
If you want to enjoy a spookier winter here, York has no shortage of ghostly experiences! You could embark on a ghost tour and get lost in the city’s haunted past, or you could dare to tour the interactive and thrilling York Dungeon.
Perfect for: Winter wildlife
During the colder months, the Cairngorms National Park attracts fewer visitors, making it perfect for those wanting to make the most of the national park.
An array of Scottish wildlife spotting opportunities can easily be enjoyed during the winter season, with moose, red squirrels, Scottish wildcats and otters dotted throughout. Birdwatching opportunities are also aplenty, with osprey and white-tailed eagles roaming the Cairngorms’ skies.
If you want to get active during a winter break, the Cairngorms has you covered! Cairngorm Mountain offers walking routes as well as ample skiing and snowboarding opportunities. After hitting the slopes, why not enjoy a rewarding tipple during a tour of one of the park’s many distilleries?
Perfect for: Snow-topped mountains
Resting in the sixth spot on this list of best places to visit in winter in the UK is the Lake District National Park. The park is renowned for its beauty, however, it’s simply captivating during winter, thanks to its snow-capped mountains!
The fells of the Lake District are the perfect photo opportunity during winter and suit a variety of walking abilities. If you’re an expert hiker, we recommend trying your hand at scrambling up Helvellyn, whilst Wansfell Pike is perfect for beginners. There are also an abundance of dog-friendly walks in the Lake District for you and your pooch to tackle.
Another highlight of the national park is its collection of historic houses, all of which are decked out in festive decór and offer a warm welcome. Two must-sees include Hill Top and Dove Cottage, both of which offer a fantastic insight into the park’s former residents, Beatrix Potter and William Wordsworth.
Perfect for: Festive towns and villages
The Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty of the Cotswolds was bound to make this list, offering a plethora of quintessentially English villages and towns that are packed with things to see.
Why not head to Bourton-on-the-Water? This charming town is beautiful during winter, with its streets lined with pretty lights and filled with Christmas market stalls. A walk along the town’s river during winter is a delightful experience with the town’s tree perched in the middle.
Blenheim Palace is the perfect place to visit during the festive season, thanks to its Festival of Lights. Between November and January, you can look forward to following an enchanting trail of lights before enjoying a hot chocolate amidst the scenery.
When you want to take a break from the towns and attractions, why not venture down The Cotswolds Way for a lengthy, crisp hike packed with winter views?
Perfect for: Christmas shopping
The bustling city of Edinburgh narrowly misses out on the top three in this ranking of best places to go in winter in the UK. There’s so much to enjoy here during the winter holidays, from shopping sprees to Hogmanay.
Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets are a huge highlight at this time of year, taking over the majority of Princes Street Gardens. The German-style stalls offer mouth-watering food and a collection of thrilling rides to try!
For more festive shopping, be sure to head to one of the city’s shopping centres. These will be covered in beautiful lights and Christmas decorations, helping you get into the festive spirit!
More festive fun awaits at the Christmas Lights, with the switch-on taking place during November. It’s an extravagant event, with choirs, firework displays and Santa’s “flight” taking place.
Perfect for: Stargazing
If you’re looking for a winter holiday destination in the UK that’s filled with lakes and snowy mountains, consider heading to the Brecon Beacons. The national park enjoys 1,200 miles of public rights of way, so you can easily enjoy a Brecon Beacons walk boasting beautiful sights here.
Being home to a Dark Sky Reserve, the national park offers mind-blowing sights of the stars above. From the Milky Way to meteor showers, it’s the perfect stargazing spot during the festive season!
The park is also home to an array of welcoming towns and villages, where toasty pubs and cafés welcome you after an exploration of the many peaks, such as Pen y Fan and Corn Du.
The town of Brecon is another must-visit spot during the chilly season, being home to the Theatr Brycheiniog; why not enjoy a festive play or pantomime here?
Perfect for: Lengthy hikes with panoramic vistas
If long walks with uninterrupted, snowy views are your thing, then the Peak District should be top of your list of best places to visit in the UK in winter. The park is packed with routes where you can enjoy invigorating, crisp walks.
An amazing hike to do during winter is the six-mile trail between Chatsworth House and Bakewell. During the hike, you can look forward to spotting Chatsworth Deer as well as the stunning architecture of the historic house.
An unmissable winter walk is the trail around the highest point of the park, Kinder Scout. After snowfall, embarking on this hike will feel like you’re traversing the Antarctic plains. The views are truly stunning and are rife with opportunities to spot unusual rock formations!
After enjoying a refreshing walk in the national park, why not stop in one of its towns and villages for a post-hike treat? Buxton is a superb choice and is one of the most magical places to visit at Christmas!
Perfect for: Riding the Polar Express
Unsurprisingly, the Yorkshire Dales National Park has claimed the top spot in this list of best places to visit in winter in the UK due to its wealth of gorgeous wintry panoramas and Christmassy activities. Whether you’re looking to throw yourself into festive fun or while away the time on a Yorkshire Dales walk, this is a must-visit location.
One winter activity you should try here is the Polar Express Train Ride. This family-friendly experience offers you the chance to meet Santa Claus and enjoy the glorious sights of the national park whilst tucking into a tasty snack.
The Yorkshire Dales is also renowned for its winter festivals, including the Grassington Victorian Market and the Yuletide Festival in Skipton. Delicious, hot food and tipples can be enjoyed here alongside festive activities.
Did any of the best places to visit in winter in the UK catch your eye? Begin your winter staycation in the UK today by booking one of these Winter short breaks! Or browse this collection of cottages available over Christmas before using our Inspire Travel Guide to help plan your holiday.
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