UK breaks: cosy retreats

Spa treats, home-cooked organic meals and snug sitting room fires

UK breaks: cosy retreats The Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel - © Luca Giuffrida
By Lucy Halfhead

Don't shy away from Britain's tempestuous winter climate – find the perfect weekend break retreat, sit back, relax and watch the weather go wild.

Bressay, Shetland Islands

Northern Lights Holistic Spa and Guesthouse

Run by husband-and-wife team Paul and Vee Parsons, this is Britain's northernmost spa – a five-minute ferry ride from Lerwick on the Shetland mainland. As its name hints, it is possible to view the aurora borealis from here; the winter months are the best time to see them. As well as a wide range of therapies and home-cooked organic meals, the spa benefits from the beautiful and pristine environment of the islands.

Sound View, UpHouse, Bressay, ZE1 9ES (01595 820257, www.shetlandspa.com). Doubles from £100.

Cornwall

Headland Hotel

Dramatically perched on a rocky promontory on the edge of the Atlantic, this elegant haven allows you to embrace the elements in style. The long-drop windows provide front row seats for watching the waves crashing on to Fistral Beach – an international mecca for surfers – and battering the rocks below. Book one of the cosy self-catered cottages for a spectacular three-night storm watching break and enjoy a complimentary dinner in the hotel's Sand Brasserie.

Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall, TR7 1EW (01637 87221, www.headlandhotel.co.uk). Doubles from £79.

Cumbria

The Cottage in the Wood

This former seventeenth-century coaching inn is nestled in the Lake District's Whinlatter Forest – the only mountainous forest in England. If you're feeling energetic there is a range of superb walks and cycle trails, but guests are often found playing games of Scrabble in front of the snug sitting room fire. If you can, opt for the Oak or Sycamore rooms which boast stunning views across the forest valley to the awesome Skiddaw mountain range.

Whinlatter Forest, Braithwaite, Keswick, Cumbria, CA12 5TW (017687
78409, www.thecottageinthewood.co.uk).
Doubles from £96.

Dumfries and Galloway

Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel

Hoping for the worst possible forecast to give an excuse to cosy-up with your squeeze indoors? Head just north of Stranraer to this exceptional getaway on the Scottish coastline. This working lighthouse has beamed a warning for ships approaching the mouth of Loch Ryan since 1815 and affords fine views of the Kintyre Peninsular and the Firth of Clyde. The Lighthouse Suite has a private sea-facing conservatory that's made for watching storms blow through the North Channel.

Corsewall Point, Kirkcolm, Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, DG9 0QG (01776 853 220, www.lighthousehotel.co.uk). Doubles from £170.

Isle of Skye

The Three Chimneys and House Over-by

This five-star restaurant is housed within the bare stone walls of a traditional crofter's cottage, situated beside the sea on the shores of Loch Dunvegan. Snow seekers should be satisfied here; the panoramic views over the mountains of Uist and Harris on the western horizon are sensational. Next door, the six delightful suites are stylish and spacious, each has wild, striking vistas and a path leading down to the shore.

Colbost, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye (01470 511258, www.threechimneys.co.uk). Doubles from £285.

Pembrokeshire

St Brides Spa Hotel

The coastline of west Wales faces the full force of the Atlantic and experiences, on average, more than 30 gales a year. In Carmarthen Bay the powerful ocean currents and tidal races churn up the water into an even greater maelstrom. In contrast to its windswept location the hotel's 36 bedrooms offer clean lines and muted tones. For an even deeper sense of calm take your pick from an array of relaxing treatments such as the aptly named Ocean Breeze – a two-hour long session combining a facial, a pedicure and a massage.

St Brides Hill, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, SA69 9NH (01834 812 304, www.stbridesspahotel.com). Doubles from £150.

Powys

Gliffaes Country House Hotel

Set beneath the magnificent uplands of the Brecon Beacons National Park, this is an ideal destination for hardy walkers, cyclists and canoeists eager to venture out on a frosty morning in (hopefully) the bright winter sun. Set in large grounds and with sweeping views of the River Usk, the Victorian house has its own salmon and trout fishing and a first-class kitchen. Relax after your exertions with a drink next to the open fires in the sitting room or the bar.

Crickhowell, Powys, NP8 1RH (01874 730371, www.gliffaeshotel.com). Doubles from £98.50.

Scarborough

Raven Hall

Situated on the edge of the wild North Yorkshire Moors, Raven Hall has a commanding view 600 feet above sea level overlooking Robin Hood's Bay. The mock battlements, built from stone blasted out of the impressive cliffs, are the perfect place to watch the powerful ocean currents and great white horses charging towards the shore. A short drive away is the coastal town of Whitby, where Bram Stoker was inspired to write 'Dracula' after witnessing one hell of a storm out at sea.

Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO13 0ET (01723 870353, www.ravenhall.co.uk). Doubles from £124.

West Sussex

The Crab & Lobster

This 350-year-old pub that faces picturesque Sidlesham Quay has beautifully restored bedrooms which have retained a cosy rustic charm. Curl up and stay snug while you listen to the howling winds and lashing rain of a perfect winter storm after indulging in a feast of sea bass, mackerel and crab caught by local fishermen. One room even has a telescope – great for surveying lightning over the open marshland.

Mill Lane, Sidlesham, West Sussex, PO20 7NB (01243 641233, www.crab-lobster.co.uk). Doubles from £140.

York

The Abbey Inn

The perfect retreat for a romantic winter weekend, this tiny inn faces the haunting ruins of the ancient Byland Abbey, owned by English Heritage and once one of the great Yorkshire Cistercian abbeys housing more than 200 monks. The three gracefully appointed bedrooms boast mighty beams, exposed bricks and four-poster beds from which, fingers crossed, you can catch a lightning storm or a full moon illuminating the pointed Gothic arches.

Byland Abbey, Coxwold, York, YO61 4BD (01347 868204, www.bylandabbeyinn.com). Doubles from £100.

Expert view: the weatherman

By Nick Middleton, a travel writer and geographer at Oxford University. He presented the Channel 4 series 'Britain's Worst Weather'.

Nothing matches the exhilaration that courses through your body when horizontal rain spatters your face, or a strong gust of wind whips off your hat and sends it tumbling through the grass. Forget wild flowers or bird-watching, this is what communing with nature really means.

British people are obsessed with the weather and if it's bad, so much the better. There's more to moan about. But bad weather doesn't have to be a bad thing. It can be invigorating to experience and dramatic to watch. Shakespeare understood this. A great storm helps to hasten King Lear's decline. Think of the three witches in Macbeth: 'When shall we three meet again, in thunder, lightning or in rain?'

Much of our worst weather comes from the west. The Isle of Tiree is Britain's windiest place. There's nothing to stop great waves rolling in across 2,000 miles of Atlantic Ocean to smash against its rocky coast. Or take a hike over Bodmin Moor, where thick mist can turn to driving rain or snow in an instant.

That's not to say that inclement weather doesn't visit any part of the country when the fancy takes it. The Scottish village of Forvie, on the North Sea coast, was swallowed up by a great winter storm in the fifteenth century. Dunwich, one-time capital of East Anglia, suffered a similar fate. One of John Constable's most powerful studies of angry skies, 'Seascape Study with Rain Cloud', an explosion of cumulus at sea, was painted from Brighton.

Never mind Tennyson's 'blue unclouded weather'; it's bad weather that permeates the national consciousness. Only monstrous meteorology can properly ignite an arsenal of emotions in the British soul. So take off and explore. You can sit beside a roaring fire and watch it through the window if you want, but it may be better to step outside.

Get drenched, feel big winds, or just hunch your shoulders beneath a leaden sky. And remember, there's actually no such thing as bad weather, just inadequate clothing.

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Comments

By Isabella Morgan - Jun 1 2015

I love going away for the weekend and it's good to add a few new places to my list. One of my favourite places is the Felin Fach Griffin located between the Brecons and the Black Mountains. Really good food - review on http://frockfriday.co.uk/felin-fach-griffin/. It's won lots of awards and keeps doing so for obvious reasons.

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