No one said it better than Ned Stark did. Winter is coming. The sense of foreboding that phrase brought is something that many in the UK are familiar with. With winter comes darker days, biting winds, downpours of rain or snow, and you – rummaging in your closet for all your winter clothes.
But that’s not all winter brings.
With it comes the warm crackle of a fireplace in a pub. Drams of whisky and mulled ciders to warm up your insides. The twinkle of lights hung around town. The scent of hot cinnamon doughnuts coming from the Christmas market. Your morning commute blanketed in a fresh dusting of snow. So magical. So perfect. So cosy.
And the crème de la crème for those living in tourist-heavy destinations: a bit of peace and quiet. Travellers still abound, taking in the beauty of a British city adorned with twinkly lights like a Christmas tree in a living room, but things slow down in winter, making it one of the best times to travel yourself.
Don’t let the weather keep you inside. Don’t let the sharp bite of winter scare you away. Sometimes a landscape is far more beautiful when it’s covered in snow or lying sullenly under the dark gaze of a grey sky. Moody. That’s what we are here in the UK. We’re not known for our brilliant sunshine or our pristine beaches (though we have plenty of both, to be sure), we’re known for our sweeping landscapes backed by dramatic mountains and dark skies.
We think winter is a wonderful time to travel. The world hits differently then. The quiet darkness of winter is beautiful. As the sun sets, it makes sense that you’re lured into a warm pub. It’s winter, after all, and you deserve that mulled cider by the hearth.
Of course, not everywhere is ideal to visit during winter. We wish it weren’t so, but keeping safety and ease of travel in mind is always wise when exploring. So, where should you travel to in the UK in winter? We’ve had a wee think about it and have put together a little list below of a few places we think you’ll love this winter.
It’s a late afternoon in the Highlands of Scotland. The sun has already started slipping from the sky but it’s alright because you’ve found yourself inside just as a light sprinkling of snow has started. You have a dram of whisky brought to you by a large and hairy man that resembles everything you’ve ever pictured about Scotland. He gives you a smile as he hands you your first glass. It smells of ripe orchid fruit. It’s smooth as it slides down your throat, a wee burn lingering. You look around at your fellow travellers, people you didn’t know two days ago, but now you can call them friends.
You’re in Speyside. Some call it the whisky lover's paradise. This luscious region is home to over half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries. Here, having a dram of whisky is as important as having a croissant in Paris, or a pizza in Rome. You can’t really know Scotland without sampling some of its uisge beatha, water of life.
You’ve been on tour for three days now, and you’re about to head home. But not before a few more drams of whisky. When people think of Scotland, they think of the cold, of Nessie, of haggis and bagpipes and men in kilts. But without a distillery visit, you’ve not seen all her sides. And now, with a bottle of whisky tucked neatly away in your luggage, you can safely say you know Scotland a little better.
This is it. You’ve been dreaming of a Harry Potter winter and now know that Oxford is the place for you. Winding cobblestoned streets take you to the quiet halls of Oxford’s famous colleges. You wander down a hallway brimming with archways, and you half expect to see Professor Snape’s billowing black cape disappearing around the corner ahead of you.
Back out on the street and it’s started to snow. So, you duck into a nearby shop on a quiet street. It’s warm inside, like a hug from an old friend. And as you look around, you can almost hear your bank account screaming in protest... because you’ve stumbled upon one of Oxford’s many treasure-trove shops. How many journals is too many journals, you wonder. You spot a Venetian mask in the corner and wonder how it got there. Rolls of brilliantly coloured parchment decorate the wall to your left, and you ponder the sudden desire to have a craft cupboard in your own home. Perhaps now is the time to start collecting?
You pull yourself away from the craft cave with some restraint, a small journal for the coming new year tucked safely away in your bag. Back on the street, your stomach leads you to a local pub – or was it your nose? You tuck yourself into a booth surrounded by eclectic picture frames, under the watchful eyes of the mounted deer heads, curiously reading about your destination’s history scribbled in gold writing on green walls.
As you read, you recall how Oscar Wilde called Oxford the ‘most beautiful thing in England’. And how Jane Austen stated, “I was entered at Oxford and have been properly idle ever since”. And you know that whether it’s dusted in snow or glowing in the late afternoon sun, Oxford is a dream destination and you’re lucky to be here.
What about something a little wilder? It’s almost as if you’re floating mid-air, high above an angry sea as it smashes against the rocks below. But you’re on this bridge for a reason. You’re crossing over to witness the rugged beauty of Tintagel Castle. Because this is the land of legends.
Devon and Cornwall. Stunning golden beaches. Wild expanses of granite moorland. Cosy villages. Ancient castles. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? But England's Wild West has a dark side. Once upon a time, not-so-chivalric knights besieged the land you now walk on. Canny smugglers would steal off with their newly acquired goods. Hell dogs prowled in the darkest corners, hunting their next victims. Luckily it’s not you. Not this time, at least.
And yet... as you look around now, you’re somewhat confused. Because the legends and dark histories don’t seem to match what you see. That’s because Devon and Cornwall trick you with their beauty. They've always done things their own way, drawing people in. Creating legends and myths. Enticing you with promises of adventure and grandeur. It's the land of Arthurian myths, after all. A haven for Celtic culture. A paradise for nature and food lovers.
So, what are you waiting for? Be tempted.
Sea winds aren’t kind to much. Not the battered landscape, nor the dilapidated skeletons of once-proud castles... not even you. But you’ve rolled down the window regardless because you want to remember this feeling. You want to remember being here, on the west coast of Ireland, coasting along the Wild Atlantic Way.
It’s Ireland's most poetic driving route. Whether you sample only a taste, or experience it all, it's worth every moment. And while the beaches are too wild and woolly in winter to go for a swim or to plan a picnic on, they make for the most dramatic photos. You’ve already decided standing in the icy winds will be worth it for the sunset alone. Let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation. And you’re prepared for this adventure.
Who doesn’t love a secret? We’re talking the good kind. The kind that makes you smile, that warms your insides. That’s Dumfries and Galloway. No one you know has been there yet, and now that you’re here, you realise what a shame that is. Though you hesitate to share this moment with the world because, right now, it’s your little secret.
But we’re here to spill the beans. Only a little. Because Dumfries and Galloway deserve your attention. They deserve some recognition for their beauty. And if you join us on tour, we’ll show you why we love this slice of paradise so much. We’ll tell you all about the raging battles that happened at Caerlaverock Castle. You’ll have time to explore the market town of Dumfries, the birthplace of Peter Pan. Together, we’ll explore the wild Rhins of Galloway and then the ancient woodlands of Galloway Forest Park.
When you return home, you might wonder if it was all a dream. We assure you it wasn’t. The only thing you have to decide now is whether or not to share this dream with others.
This is the ultimate nature playground. And it’s everything you’ve been looking for. Wales is funny like that. Not many people consider travelling there on holiday... and now that you’re here, you realise what a shame that is. Because here you are, standing on a wind-swept coastline, staring at the slow and steady movement of the ocean before you, and you feel absolutely blessed to have discovered Pembrokeshire National Park.
She may be one of the smallest national parks in the UK, but how does that saying go? “I’m not short, I’m concentrated awesome!”
That’s Pembrokeshire. Concentrated awesome. 420km of coastline. 200 circular walks. 50 beaches (11 of which are Blue Flagged for their water quality). Everywhere you look, there’s something to marvel at. Whether it be spotting the rare animal species like skylarks and dormice, or choosing which of the tracks you want to take.
As a company focused on giving back to the places we travel through our Responsible Travel Initiative, we feel a kinship with Pembrokeshire. Conservation and sustainability are at the forefront of this national park, including Blue-Flagged beaches and woodland management. And now that you’ve seen it for yourself, you know how vital it is that this beautiful place remains long after we’ve all gone.
While so many of your friends stayed at home this winter, fearing the weather, you got out there. You explored a new place. You had an adventure. And aren’t you grateful that you did?
Winter is nothing to be feared. Winter in the UK is a wonderland, a unique time to see our beautiful landscapes, and a quiet and peaceful time to explore. We hope to see you again soon.