Top 5 UK winter holiday destinations

Fall into Winter, Seasonal, Destinations

Posted by Hannah Jury on 6th January 2022

Top 5 UK winter holiday destinations

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. Have a look at some of our holiday blogs and see why our country is just as wonderful to celebrate in winter too. 

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. 

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1. Devon

Choose a winter holiday in Devon, if not for the picturesque thatched cottages and market squares glistening with morning frost, then for the spectacular wilderness of Exmoor and Dartmoor on a fine and crisp winter’s day, Devon is beautiful all year round, but it has a special magic about it during winter. Take a drive up to Exmoor in North Devon on a winter’s day and be blown away by the panoramic countryside views and picturesque beauty. There are plenty of warm and welcoming country pubs to stop in along the way for a hearty lunch or hot drink.

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. The cathedral, the quay, and the tunnels are all worth your time.
  • Wistlandpound Reservoir: for an easy-going, level walk in beautiful surroundings, this Exmoor circuit is a great winter choice.

Devon Cottages

Lake District

2. 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 peaceful and 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 even more winter holiday ideas.

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. Wasdale Head is also 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


3. Norfolk

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 the active visitor, 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. Discover Norfolk this winter and get to know the county in our helpful guide.

Top winter destinations 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 light lunch.

Norfolk Cottages

The Brecon Beacons

4. The Brecon Beacons

The Brecon Beacons 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 winter walks to take in the glittering sights of beautiful wintery days.

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 25th January. If you need even more reasons to come to Wales this winter, read our Ultimate Guide to the Brecon Beacons.

Top winter destinations 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. You can find just about any book here.

Brecon Beacons Cottages


5. Edinburgh

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, 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

Stay at a self-catering cottage this winter

Once you have decided on where you would like to spend your holiday, read this blog on the UK's top places to stay in the 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. 

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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.