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Bath in the snow
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14 brrrilliant winter getaways in the UK

Reindeer, Rick Stein and the aurora borealis: here are the best winter getaways in the UK

Written by
John Bills
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Buckle up, folks: winter is around the corner. That means different things to different people, but to the eternally optimistic folks here at Time Out, it means rosy cheeks, romantic walks and zip-lining through massive caves in North Wales. We never claimed to be normal.

All that and more can be found in our selection of the best winter getaways in the UK. Yes, you’ll have to wrap up, but that goes without saying once summer is over. Don the coat, hat and scarf, and head out in search of the Northern Lights, reindeer, Rick Stein’s finest creations and more. There is a lot to love in the UK, but winter shimmers brightest in these spots.

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Best winter getaways in the UK

Cornwall
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1. Cornwall

Make plans for a Cornwall road trip this winter, and your heart will almost certainly grow in size. Not literally, that would be dangerous, but the procession of quaint fishing villages and sweeping walks are the stuff winter dreams are made of. Indulge in all the Rick Stein food you can find in Padstow before falling head over heels in love with St Ives, Mousehole and the rest.

📍Check out the best things to do in Cornwall

North Wales
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2. North Wales

One way to keep warm during the winter months is to get the adrenaline flowing, and there are plenty of opportunities to do just that. North Wales offers a cavalcade of the things, from underground zip-lining in Llechwedd to rugged mountain biking in the wilds of Snowdonia National Park. The northern coast is gorgeous during the winter months, and towns like Conwy, Wrexham and Bangor come alive with frenzied conversation and plenty of pints.

📍Check out the best things to do in North Wales

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York
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3. York

The Yorkshire marvel is a fantastic city all year round, and the brilliant roster of museums and experiences make it a top-notch spot during winter. The National Railway Museum is arguably the best travel-centric museum in the country, while York’s Viking history is most alive at this time of year. Hit up the Jorvik Viking Centre and learn about those brutal times, before heading on an evening ghost tour of this most fascinating city.

📍Check out the best things to do in York

Bath
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4. Bath

Bath is one of the most architecturally delightful cities in England, but there is something about a thin layer of snow that brings new characters out of the many constructions here. The Somerset stunner embraces the festive period like few other places, with a packed calendar of events and more romance than you can shake your fist at. Bath is plenty romantic all year round, but the feeling is taken to a new level during winter. The Christmas Market in Bath opens on November 24 and runs until December 11, so don’t miss that.

📍Check out the best things to do in Bath

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Giant’s Causeway
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5. Giant’s Causeway

The epic nature of the Giant’s Causeway shouldn’t lend itself to a simple experience, right? Visit Northern Ireland’s legendary interlocking columns when the air is crisp, the winds high and the temperature low, and put yourself in the boots of a hardy warrior from years gone by. Watch your step, obviously, and visit safe knowing that the warmth of the Bushmills distillery is only a couple of miles down the road.

📍Check out the best things to do in Northern Ireland

Glasgow
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6. Glasgow

The best music scene in the UK? Many cities will put their hands up with that one, but Glasgow might just pip them all to the prize. The gigs ramp up during the colder months as music fans across the city head for the warmth of the venues in search of the next Mogwai, Primal Scream or Belle & Sebastian. Hardy souls with excellent hats and scarves can take advantage of the idyllic green spaces, and the Glasgow Botanic Gardens are a celebration of flora that rival anything across the country.

📍Check out the best things to do in Glasgow

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Orkney Islands
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7. Orkney Islands

Of course, there is no guarantee when it comes to seeing the Northern Lights, but you still need to put yourself in the best position to see the phenomenon. In the UK, that means a trip to the stunning Orkney Islands, where the lights are referred to as the Merry Dancers. The aurora borealis is a fixture on many a bucket list, so head north during the colder months and hope the space particles are moving in your favour. Even if the colourful sky doesn’t materialise, the peace and tranquillity of Orkney is something to behold.

Pembrokeshire
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8. Pembrokeshire

No, you won’t find scorching winter temperatures anywhere during the winter here, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid the beach. Something is soothing about a beach during winter, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Pembrokeshire. This region in West Wales is all quaint villages and sweeping views, with brilliant walks and cosy pubs all over the place. If you’ve ever wanted to have an entire beach to yourself, Pembrokeshire in winter offers just that.

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Cairngorms National Park
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9. Cairngorms National Park

Is there an animal more tied to winter than the magnificent reindeer? Santa’s faithful chauffeurs can be seen in several places across the UK, but Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park is the only place where they run free as nature intended. You can see the handsome beasts all year round, but, come on, reindeer and Christmas are a match made in heaven. The national park is a stunner in its own right. Be sure to read Nan Shepherd’s ‘The Living Mountain’ before you go to amp up the excitement.

📍Check out the most beautiful national parks in the UK

Norwich
Photograph: Mary Doggett / Shutterstock.com

10. Norwich

It always feels somewhat dangerous to throw such accolades around, but Norwich might be the most underrated city in the UK. A fabulous collection of bars and restaurants accentuate a long history and an atmosphere that is all of its own. It also makes a great base for exploring the Norfolk coast, where seals come to rest in winter. Blakeney Point Nature Reserve (a 40-minute drive from Norwich) is the place to see those beauties.

📍Check out the best things to do in Norwich

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Ards Peninsula
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11. Ards Peninsula

Peace, tranquillity, serenity. Yes, they all essentially mean the same thing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be seeking them out at every turn. Northern Ireland’s Ards Peninsula is a hub of quietude in winter, with a wide range of beautiful walking spots that reward the hardy ambler with stunning views and all the romance one could need. Just wear a decent windbreaker because the winds get pretty rambunctious in these parts. 

Hay-on-Wye
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12. Hay-on-Wye

Book lovers have long known that Hay-on-Wye is the place to be, but even literary cynics will find plenty to sink their teeth into here during winter. The Hay Festival Winter Weekend takes place at the end of November (24 to 27 this year), and the entire extravaganza is a celebration of storytelling that will breathe new life into sceptical souls. The festival coincides with turning on the Christmas lights in town, which is always a cheerful occasion. 

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New Forest
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13. New Forest

Ponies racing over crackling leaves and snow-covered ground will never not be a gorgeous image, and New Forest National Park is the place to go for such scenes. You’ll have to find the ponies first, of course, and treat them with the utmost respect, but there is plenty more to entice when the temperature is low. The park is at its quietest during the winter months, with fewer cars and general traffic, making for beautiful strolls and some of the finest sunsets the UK has to offer. 

📍Check out the best things to do in the New Forest

Ayr
Photograph: Rodney Hutchinson / Shutterstock.com

14. Ayr

Burns Night is a big deal, but where is the best place to celebrate it? Right in the heart of Burns Country, of course. Robert Burns was born in the village of Alloway, and the nearby town of Ayr is a hive of activity when the Scottish poet’s night comes along. That is January 25, for the record. Ayr is a medium-sized town with fewer than 50,000 people, but the appreciation of Burns here is second to none. You might as well make the pilgrimage to Alloway for the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum while in the area. 

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