Britain may not be the most obvious choice for a winter break, yet it has a great deal to offer the more adventurous visitor. Of course our weather is 'challenging' but as long as you come prepared for rain, drizzle, wind, hail, sleet, snow and even the occasional burst of sunshine, you'll be fine. So, assuming you have the right gear, what are the positives of visiting our green and pleasant land?
- There are far fewer visitors so you can easily get into places that have big queues in the summer months. This is especially relevant in London, which has so many fascinating museums, art galleries, historic houses, theatres and major attractions like the London Eye. Imagine being able to visit Madame Tussaud's without waiting in line half way down Marylebone Road or getting a spectacular view from London Eye within minutes of arriving. However, this also applies to places all over Britain. Edinburgh and Belfast, York and Cardiff are all much quieter and more pleasant to get around in the winter.
- Accommodation is much cheaper. You can get some excellent deals at this time of year and lots of hotels, B&B, holiday homes, caravans and camp sites are open to a bit of negotiating if you call and ask what their best price is. (Although make sure to check school holidays such as half-term and Easter.) Rates can often be up to 50% less than in July or August.
- Many attractions have 'out-of-season' reduced rates and often lay on special events to encourage people to come along and see what they have on offer. Why not take a train ride through the stunning Yorkshire Dales, over the Ribblehead Viaduct and into the Cumbria countryside on the famous Settle-Carlisle Railway - if you're lucky you may even get a seat on one of the iconic steam trains.
- Nature provides a beautiful plus to observing her glorious scenery by stripping many of our trees of leaves, enabling you to see through impressively skeletal trees to views that you can't usually see once those branches are bedecked with green leaves, blossom or fruit. Check out our National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty for a selection of stunning outdoor destinations throughout the UK.
- Outdoor light is very different from other seasons of the year. You can get incredibly clear skies which give an amazing clarity to your photos of those mountains in the Lake District. A misty fog swirls evocatively across a Scottish river. The low-lying sun filters through bleached-out clouds above a deserted moor. Rosy dawn breaks over a the pier in a tranquil seaside town ...
- Of course some days you just don't want to venture far due to heavy rain or strong winds, or one of our infrequent but curiously immobilising snow storms. But then you've got a great excuse to duck into one of our welcoming country pubs or cosy tea shops. Britain is made for 'changeable' weather and some of our most traditional attractions come in the form of an oak-beamed inn or a quaint cottage art gallery. Or maybe you feel really brave and will just wrap up warm and go for a bracing walk along a Cornish beach or a Midland canal towpath.
- People have more time to chat, to help and show you around. Travel and tourism businesses that are open in the winter rely on visitors like you and really appreciate that you have taken the time to visit their establishment. The important thing to remember is that you need to plan a bit in advance. For example, many National Trust properties are closed in the winter months but their gardens are open, so do check websites or contact the regional Tourist Office for latest information.
As one of our most famous walkers, Alfred Wainwright, said, "There's not such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes." Now, pack a waterproof, umbrella, sturdy shoes and some warm jumpers and make the most of your visit to Britain this winter. You can read more of Zoë Dawes‘ entertaining articles on her travels around the UK and abroad in her award-winning blog Quirky Traveller’s Tales where she shares secret places off-the beaten track and travels in mind, body and spirit. Follow her on Twitter @quirkytraveller and ‘like’ her page on Face Book