Top UK winter holiday destinations

Fall into Winter, Seasonal, Destinations

Posted by Stephane Lawes on 29th November 2023

A couple walking through the snow

The UK isn’t exactly the most obvious choice for a winter break. Many of us plan foreign holidays in an attempt to escape our unpredictable weather forecasts. It can be a time when many of us feel the dread of the shorter days, darker mornings and colder evenings. But it doesn’t have to be an endurance test until springtime. 

The UK can be a beautiful place to explore during this season. Our country is just as wonderful to celebrate in winter too, and we have some inspiring ideas for where to spend a winter staycation in the UK for you. Read on to discover our favourite UK winter holiday destinations. 

Why not stay with us at one of our self-catering holiday cottages this winter? We have properties in beautiful locations all across England, Scotland, and Wales. 

Winter cottages

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A snowy Edinburgh skyline and Edinburgh Castle


Edinburgh in Scotland is very lively in the winter months with bustling German Christmas markets, glittering lights, fairground rides, Europe’s largest open-air ice rink, and of course the world-famous Hogmanay New Year celebrations. Banish the winter blues with Christmas shopping and fabulous festive food and drink in world-class restaurants, and listen to the choirs of St Giles’s Cathedral as you explore the city’s cheerful atmosphere.

Climb up to Arthur’s Seat or Holyrood Park in the heart of Edinburgh for a blustery and refreshing walk on a chilly winter’s day. Your reward: magical views of the city.

Only half an hour from Edinburgh by train, you’ll reach North Berwick. Home to the Scottish Seabird Centre, this is the place to be for witnessing the world’s largest single-rock gannet colony returning to the famous Bass Rock in January. There are many delightful coastal walks to enjoy around the area, so wrap up warm, get out there and plan some days out.

Top winter visitor attractions in Edinburgh: 

  • Edinburgh Castle: perhaps even more enchanting in the winter light, don’t miss the chance to see this famous landmark
  • The Royal Mile: the architecturally impressive Royal Mile is unmissable for photo opportunities galore
  • The National Galleries of Scotland: art lovers can keep warm with a turn around the exhibition spaces of one of the UK's best galleries

Edinburgh cottages

Mountains in the Lake District on a frosty day

Lake District

A favoured holiday destination all year round, the Lake District is magical whatever month you choose to visit. In the winter months, enjoy the undisturbed wilderness of the hills and lakes in the quieter season – the same beauty without the crowds.

Among the most popular spots are Lake Windermere, Coniston Water, Derwentwater and Ullswater - each lake is surrounded by a variety of walks suitable for various abilities, from flat lakeside strolls to hikes up into the surrounding fells. Check out our Discover the Lakes guide for more winter holiday destinations in England's largest national park.

Top winter visitor attractions in the Lake District:

  • Wasdale Head: Wastwater is said to be one of the Lake District’s most popular lakes for enjoying long walks, and Wasdale Head is home to England's smallest church
  • The Bluebird K7: visit the Ruskin Museum to see the Bluebird wing to learn all about Donald Campbell's record-breaking speed craft
  • Hill Top Farm: take a day trip to the former home of the children's author, Beatrix Potter, near Esthwaite Water

Lake District cottages

The Peak District countryside in the winter

Peak District

Known for its dramatic landscapes of deep valleys and rugged moorland, the Peak District changes every year into a winter wonderland of snow-capped hills and glistening villages. Like a scene from a film, a winter’s stay in the Peak District promises days of crisp air and tranquillity, making it the perfect UK winter holiday destination. Whether you plan to retreat to the warmth of local pubs or take on the many frosty walking trails, there is so much to do this winter across the Peak District.

As a national park, the region’s natural beauty blends seamlessly with historic towns and villages such as Ashford-in-the-Water, the market town of Bakewell, and the village of Castleton. And with attractions such as the historic Chatsworth House, The Monsal Trail and endless cave networks to explore, you’re never short of days out. For more Peak District inspiration this winter, check out our ‘Top 10 things to do in the Peak District’ guide.

Top winter visitor attractions in the Peak District: 

  • Chatsworth House: the historic stately home renowned for its architecture, art collection and gardens
  • Walking trails: explore some of the UK’s most dramatic trails that promise breathtaking scenery and wildlife
  • Castle hunting: discover a lost age of architecture and gardens at Bolsover Castle or Peveril Castle

Peak District cottages

The Brecon Beacons countryside in the snow and a wild pony

Brecon Beacons/Bannau Brycheiniog

The Brecon Beacons/Bannau Brycheiniog in Wales becomes a winter wonderland in the cold grasp of late autumn and winter, and this national park is a lovely place to visit even on the greyest of days. Just over an hour away at most from the attractions of Cardiff, there are plenty of crisp walks to take in the charming landscape around, making the region a UK winter holiday destination that lovers of the outdoors will embrace. 

Bordering the Beacons, the stunning Wye Valley is also worth visiting in the winter months. We recommend taking a walk around Abergavenny, the historic market town sheltered by the breathtaking scenery of the Black Mountains. Pick up a traditional love spoon from the indoor market for your loved one in time for St Dwynwen’s Day on 25 January. If you need even more reasons to come to Wales this winter, read our Ultimate Guide to the Brecon Beacons.

Top winter visitor attractions in the Brecon Beacons:

  • Fforest Fawr: once an ancient hunting ground, this is a magical area to visit in the winter
  • The Begwns: an easy, safe, 2-mile circuit that shows off the Beacons' beauty without perilous climbs
  • Hay-on-Wye: at the edge of the Brecon Beacons is the fabled town of books

Brecon Beacons cottages

Norfolk's windmills and fields in the snow


Head to Norfolk for great festive markets, delicious traditional food and magnificent winter wildlife displays. The spectacular flight of thousands of pink-footed geese leaving their night-time roost on The Wash and heading inland to feed is just one of the region’s special winter sights. Norfolk boasts 90 miles of coastline to explore, so there are plenty of opportunities for brisk beach walks with clear sea views. Norfolk Snowsports in Trowse is fantastic for active visitors, and the artificial slopes provide the perfect venue for skiers and snowboarders.

This time of year is perfect for walking and lapping up the region's scenery. Head to Thetford Forest to see the wild horses, or perhaps to the coast of North Norfolk for unspoilt views of the shoreline, the sea and the sky. You also shouldn't miss the boat trips heading out from Blakeney Point - your chance to see over a thousand grey seals and their pups. If you're on the hunt for UK winter holiday destinations and Norfolk has caught your eye, then check out our Discover Norfolk guide for more inspiration.

Top winter visitor attractions in Norfolk:

  • Holkham Beach: one of the most unspoilt beaches in the country, the winter months mean fewer crowds and more wildlife to enjoy
  • Cley-next-the-Sea: view wintering birds from RSPB Cley Marshes and take long beach walks in the reed banks and at Blakeney Point (read our Winter RSPB blog for more inspiration)
  • Cromer: take a winter stroll along the level promenade at Cromer before heading into a cosy cafe for a warming lunch

Norfolk cottages

The New Forest coast and countryside in the winter

New Forest

Thriving with rare wildlife and incredible scenery, the New Forest is a haven for lovers of the great outdoors. But if the only thing you love more than mother nature is a charming winter holiday destination in the UK, then we’ve got a feeling you’ll love New Forest even more.

Discover the many scenic walks through the charming woodlands that were once proclaimed a Royal Forest by William the Conqueror, and along the way spot some of the country’s rarest species of birds. Any lovers of history might already know of New Forest’s mention in the Domesday Book, meaning there’s a wide range of medieval sites to discover such as the famous Beaulieu Abbey. If you’re visiting as a family, why not check out our ‘Best kids’ days out in the New Forest’ guide for some inspiration?

Top winter visitor attractions in New Forest:

New Forest cottages

A village and the countryside in the Cotswolds during the winter

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds exudes charm with its rolling hills peppered with quaint villages of golden-hued stone buildings. As stunning as the region is throughout the year, come wintertime it finds itself transformed into a serene, frost-kissed landscape of warm glimmering lights. It’s quintessentially English and packed full of natural beauty, making it an excellent choice for a UK winter holiday destination.

If you’re on the hunt for the region’s world-famous architecture, then the unspoilt village of Blockley, Bourton-on-the-Water (known as the Venice of the Cotswolds), and the historic town of Chipping Campden are perfect examples. Make sure to visit the historic inns and independent shops found in each town and village for an authentic local experience. 

When it comes to attractions in the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace tops the list with its stunning architecture, but more importantly its popular Christmas Lights Trail that brings the palace to life in the festive period. For more Cotswolds inspiration, read our ‘Discover the Cotswolds’ guide.

Top winter visitor attractions in the Cotswolds: 

  • Blenheim Palace: one of England’s largest and most beautiful palaces
  • Broadway Tower: the Cotswolds’ highest fortress with stunning views across 16 counties
  • Country pubs: discover the charming and historic pubs from across the region

Cotswolds cottages

The Devon countryside and coast in the winter time


Although famed for its climate in the summer months, the county of Devon makes for a fantastic winter holiday destination thanks to the region's picturesque thatched cottages and market squares glistening with morning frost. Lovers of the outdoors can enjoy the spectacular wilderness of Exmoor and Dartmoor on a fine and crisp winter’s day, with plenty of scenery and wildlife waiting to be discovered. There are plenty of warm and welcoming country pubs to stop in along the way for a hearty lunch or hot drink. Devon is beautiful all year round, but it has a special magic about it during winter. 

South Devon is renowned for its warmer temperatures, so if the thought of a frosty holiday in the countryside gives you the shivers, head to the palm tree-lined shores of the English Riviera and enjoy the natural suntrap of Torbay. We recommend catching the train on the Tarka Line and heading down the coast to Plymouth for some essential Christmas shopping in the annual Christmas markets. Drake Circus is a great venue to pick up January sale bargains too. 

For even more inspiration for your winter holiday, visit our Discover Devon guide. We have also compiled a guide about Devon's top 10 National Trust properties.

Top winter visitor attractions in Devon: 

  • Killerton House and Gardens: one of the best National Trust properties in the county to visit during winter
  • Exeter: the city of Exeter is full of winter cheer, especially around Christmas - visit the cathedral, the quay, and the tunnels
  • Wistlandpound Reservoir: an easy-going, level walk in beautiful surroundings, this Exmoor circuit is a great winter choice

Devon cottages

Stay at a self-catering cottage this winter

One of the best ways to get to know a place is to book a break at a holiday cottage. We have properties up and down the country for everybody, from young families to couples, and large groups of friends. Browse our collection today and see which of these winter holiday destinations are your favourite. 

Winter cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.