Britain’s countryside takes on a dreamlike quality in winter, when days can be atmospheric and gloriously sunny. Visit during one of the most special times of the year to explore these 7 places in Southwest England that buzz with winter magic.
1. The Japanese maple garden at Westonbirt Arboretum
Westonbirt Arboretum is one of Britain’s most spectacular tree gardens. The stunning, rare Japanese maples that live here turn a dramatic scarlet red in late autumn, and with the arrival of winter, their twisting branches can look glowing and otherworldly. Visit between mid November and January to see a unique spectacle: a mile-long avenue of trees illuminated with technicolour lights, twisting like witches’ fingers in the winter dark. See how to visit the illuminated tree trail.
2. The frosty, wild moors of Devon
Southwest England is home to both Exmoor and Dartmoor national parks – exposed moorlands carpeted with moss, heather and exposed rock. In winter months, the rugged landscapes take on a magical frosty glow, especially at sunrise, when huge skies stretch out above the flat land and cool sunbeams stretch for miles. Hardy yet cute Exmoor and Dartmoor ponies can be spotted year round, bracing their thick, shaggy manes against the winter chill. Go walking on Dartmoor.
3. The wilderness coastline of Devon
One for wilderness lovers, the Hartland Heritage Coast is a protected stretch of beaches and cliffs in north Devon and a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The wild and stormy sea invokes the history of the wreckers and smugglers the area was once notorious for, and in winter the cliffs and shimmering yellow beaches have a magical quality to them. On a sunny winter’s day, stroll along the rugged cliff face, look out to sea to see Lundy Island, and venture to Speke’s Mouth waterfall to brace yourself against the icy spray.
4. Frost-flecked hills, Somerset
Another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Mendip Hills in Somerset feel very special, not least in the frost and snow. There are many walks you can take that capture the area’s wintry beauty: stroll through rolling fields and ancient woodland, or along meandering hills, and climb one of the gentle peaks to get spectacular views of the finest English countryside. Discover caves and rivers that run underground, or dramatic Cheddar Gorge, before warming up with a pint in one of the pretty local village pubs. Find walks in the Mendip Hills.
5. Britain's toe, Cornwall
Windswept Land’s End is the westernmost point in Great Britain, jutting out into the blue ocean in a cluster of cliffs and coves. Culminating the best of Cornwall’s dramatic landscape, it’s made up with beautiful sandy beaches, wild clifftops and exposed rocky paths. A brisk coastal walk in winter is the perfect way to appreciate the scenery of this wild and beautiful part of Britain’s coastline – walk north to see the Mayon Cliff shipwreck, or venture down to a secluded sandy beach to taste the sea air.
6. Find the Lost Gardens, Cornwall
Walking through the Lost Gardens of Heligan can feel as though you’re in a dream year-round, but they are particularly beautiful in winter. The botanical gardens are dotted with ivy-clad, half submerged sculptures which appear peaceful topped with a dusting of frost, and rickety rope bridges that give way to a tropical forest of plants. Admire the sleeping statues and listen to the peaceful song of winter birds as you explore the wild and wonderful landscape.
7. A garden designed for winter, Devon
There’s something magical about this landscaped garden, set in a steep valley and planted with flowers that bloom all the colours of the rainbow in spring and summer. Rosemoor’s garden is unusually colourful in autumn and winter, as it has been thoughtfully planted to produce a kaleidoscope of colour year-round. Purple-hued branches, fiery coloured stems and unusual barks make this one of the most special gardens to visit in colder months.