A trip to Britain in winter has its own unmissable delights. Enjoy everything from holiday traditions and refreshing walks in crisp country air to evenings in local pubs that ooze cosiness and Christmas charm. From London to the Highlands, discover the highlights of Britain in all their festive glory.
London, south England
As winter approaches, London transforms into the capital of cosy. Lights twinkle as far as the eye can see, shops go all out with magical window displays and pubs bustle with traditional decorations and crackling log fires.
Daytime activity – see the city’s festive lights
Winter in London is a must for those wanting a holiday filled with festive magic and romance. Walk under canopies of glittering lights, marvel at giant Christmas trees and see some of the best festive shop displays in the city. Stop by the famous Christmas tree at Trafalgar Square, see the lights of Carnaby Street and browse the amazing window displays of department stores including Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges or Harrods. You can also sightsee in style on a Christmas taxi tour or wrap up warm to enjoy a Christmas Lights London by Night open-top bus tour, an evening journey taking in the best of the capital’s festive sights.
Winter tradition – explore London on ice!
Built in 1881, the awe-inspiring Romanesque architecture of London’s Natural History Museum makes it one of the city’s best known and most beautiful icons. Packed with fascinating exhibitions throughout the year, during the winter months something extra special pops up, as the building becomes the stunning backdrop to one of the city’s most popular ice rinks. Lit with twinkling fairy lights and with a majestic Christmas tree at its centre, the rink will make its final appearance in 2021 before the museum’s garden is transformed into an urban wildlife hub. If you’re seeking the perfect spot for a romantic London date or family outing during the winter months, this is the place for you.
Where to stay – sleep like royalty
Said to be one of London’s ‘best kept secrets’, Hazlitt’s Hotel is every-inch as regal, charming and luxurious as its Georgian townhouse exterior implies. Nestled in the heart of Soho, the hotel’s elegant décor is typified by chandeliers, tall windows and antique furniture, while its honesty bar, library and top-notch service make it the perfect base if you’re looking for a uniquely stylish stay in the capital. Alternatively, put yourself at the heart of the festivities with a stopover at the Covent Garden Hotel, ideally situated for the Christmas performances coming to London’s West End theatres, including Aladdin, The Nutcracker and The Snowman. You can also check out other hotel options at VisitLondon.
Where to eat – dine like a queen
Want to relax and warm up in a traditional pub? Head to The Queen’s Head. A cosy haven in the middle of bustling King’s Cross, the pub comes complete with a crackling open fire, a selection of great ales and seasonal beers, whiskies, and even a special cheese board if you’re feeling peckish. Alternatively, pop in for a warming brew at one of the pub’s sister sites, Mother Kelly’s, which has taprooms in Bethnal Green, Stratford and Vauxhall. For Christmas with a twist, sample The Great Christmas Feast, a festive experience which takes visitors back to Victorian London and the home of Charles Dickens, where feasting is woven into a magical retelling of A Christmas Carol.
The Cotswolds, south England
Located just a three-hour drive from central London, the Cotswolds is a world away from the buzzing streets of the capital.
Daytime activity – discover chocolate-box beauty
For a taste of the Cotswold’s picturesque cottage lifestyle, head to Chipping Campden. This quaint British town offers traditional sand-coloured cottages, friendly, locally-run shops and a historic church, not to mention a choice of charming tearooms – ideal for a warming pot of tea and a traditional teacake or two.
Winter tradition – experience Christmas at Blenheim Palace
Discover Christmas at Blenheim Palace. A World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, the palace is an endlessly interesting historic house, with grand rooms and glorious gardens. Known for its annual Christmas celebrations, in 2021 the palace will be transformed into a fantasy world straight from The Nutcracker. In addition to magical light trails and a Christmas market, the palace rooms are set to be packed with hidden surprises, from the toymaker’s workshop to the Kingdom of Sweets. Alternatively, if you’re travelling with children, you can hop aboard the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway to Ride with Santa while being surrounded by the region’s spectacular scenery.
Where to stay – unwind in eco-friendly luxury
If you’re searching for five-star luxury combined with eco-friendly facilities, you need look no further. Offering a stay in one of two historic honey-coloured stone cottages, Eco Chic Cottages is the embodiment of Cotswolds’ charm. With a masseur service, afternoon tea on request and exceptional stargazing opportunities, you can unwind in readiness for the festive season. Or you can sit back and relax amid the decorations and roaring log fires of the Lygon Arms, a luxurious former coaching inn in the heart of Broadway, just minute’s from the village’s Christmas market. Looking for alternative accommodation? Discover more here.
Where to eat – savour local ale and haute cuisine
Just a stone’s throw from the Eco Chic Cottages lies the Shilton Rose & Crown, a charming local pub where you can enjoy high-end pub food while sipping on local ale by a roaring open fire. With exposed beams, candlelit tables and stonewalls bathed in golden lamp light, this pub offers a cosy slice of quintessential British country life. Alternatively, embrace the Instagrammable surroundings of Luxe café bar in Cirencester, an independent coffee shop serving up a delightful array of sweet treats and warming brews to accompany its flowery interior.
Bath, south-west England
A city of cathedrals, world-famous architecture and Jane Austen characters, Bath is an unmissable stop on the ultimate winter tour of Britain. Located in the southwest, under a two-hour drive from Chipping Campden, it’s a place steeped in history, culture and charm.
Daytime activity – admire royally good architecture
Discover one of Britain’s most recognisable pieces of Georgian architecture, the Royal Crescent. The backdrop to many Jane Austen adaptations, this sweeping stone crescent includes thirty grand terraced houses and is a must-see sight if you’re a lover of history and period dramas. The exterior also doubled up as the home of the Featheringtons in hit Netflix show Bridgerton. Curious to learn more about Georgian life and culture? Visit the Museum of Georgian life at No. 1 Royal Crescent, and step back in time to experience life in Britain’s upper-class 18th-century society.
Winter tradition – wander an illuminated Christmas trail
Bath’s American Museum & Gardens is set to light up this Christmas with an array of dazzling displays. Located two-miles from the centre of Bath, explore The Enchanted Garden of Light and discover a one-hour long trail of illuminations covering the main property, as well as its woodland and gardens. Add to the festive feel by sampling one of the many treats on offer to enjoy the smells and tastes of the Christmas season.
Where to stay – unwind at a spa
Known for the healing properties of its water, Bath has been a famous spa town since Roman times
, and gained a second UNESCO World Heritage listing in 2021 as one of 11 Great Spa Towns of Europe, so where better place to stay than Bath Spa Hotel? A wonderful five-star accommodation with elegant décor and a choice of fine-dining venues, you can enjoy the spa, the pool or indulge in a special festive afternoon tea, for an extra special seasonal experience. Hunting down another hotel? Discover all the options at Visit Bath.
Where to dine – get cosy at The Mill
Just one mile along the canal from the centre of Bath lies the welcoming The Mill at Bathampton. A great spot for a taste of rural cosiness within a cultural hub, this canal-side pub offers warming food, wine and ale accompanied by beautiful river views. Alternatively, head to Oak Restaurant in the heart of Bath to sample its ever-changing menu of sustainable sourced vegetarian and vegan delights, with many ingredients coming fresh from the restaurant’s own allotment.
Fort William, Scottish Highlands
If you’re seeking epic Scottish scenery and warming local whisky, Fort William offers endless charm and stunning views, not to mention some the country’s finest ‘water of life’!
Daytime activity – soak up Scottish vistas
If you want to soak up some of the famous Scottish scenery, spend the day at Lochaber Geopark, near Fort William. With lochs, endless skies and waterfalls in abundance, this is a great starting point for a rewarding hike or a driving adventure of the area. Alternatively, climb aboard the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola for a trip up the north face of Aonach Mòr. As Britain’s only mountain gondola, it provides a unique perspective over the striking surrounding landscape, including Ben Nevis, as well as access to a number of ski runs and winter hiking routes.
Winter tradition – taste the art of whisky
Love Scottish whisky? Enjoy a guided tour around one of the oldest distilleries in the country. Located just a few minutes’ drive from Fort William, Ben Nevis Distillery has produced its own unique spirit for nearly 200 years. Explore the production rooms and sample a wee dram of whisky, made from the dew of Ben Nevis, while gaining a unique insight into the world of Scottish whisky.
Where to stay – sleep in a former church
Looking for a historic hotel? Head to Limetree Hotel, a former church building dating back to the mid-1800s. Now a family-run hotel, serving food in an award-winning restaurant in a warm, welcoming environment, Limetree is a unique base from which to explore the surrounding city and countryside. Or rest up in the luxurious surrounds of Inverlochy Castle Hotel, a 19th-century castle set amid some of the region’s most eye-catching scenery. Want to discover all the options? Explore other hotels at VisitScotland.
Where to dine – savour hearty Scottish scran
Located on Fort William high street, the Ben Nevis Bar offers good ale and hearty dishes including wild venison burgers, Lochaber larder traditional sausages and mash, or classic fish and chips. And with regular live open music sessions, including traditional Scottish music and ceilidhs, it’s the perfect place to dance off the winter chill in true Scottish style.
Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.