We bade a sad farewell to the summer scorcher and mourned the loss over the last few months, but that doesn’t mean the UK is all out of reasons to love it. Yes, the sunshine’s gone until, well, who knows. But if there’s one thing the UK does well, it’s make the most of the colder weather.
With Christmas markets, winter wonderlands, and cosy cabin retreats, there’s no need to feel gloomy as the frost settles in. Check out our guide of the best places to visit over the winter, without having to leave our shores.
First things first, ensure that you have a reliable form of transport to get you to one of these fantastic winter retreats. Lookers offer car service plans which can be a life saver when planning a long-distance UK staycation.
Edinburgh – What to do
17th November – 5th January
Last year, Edinburgh’s Christmas Market was voted the best in the UK, so it’s definitely worth visiting this year to see why!
Even the most hardened of Scrooges can’t help but warm up to the multitude of food and drinks stalls. Plus, the beautiful range of local and homemade gifts are sure to light up anyone’s Christmas Day.
The market doesn’t stop at stalls either. You certainly won’t get bored as Edinburgh sets out an exciting array of rides, such as the Forth 1 Big Wheel and the Star Flyer! And, of course, Santa will be visiting the market when Santa’s Grotto opens from 10:30am on 17th November.
Edinburgh Zoo’s Winter Event
16th November – 17th February
Light up those cold nights and chase away the winter blues with a trip through Edinburgh Zoo. You might be surprised to see a few new ‘animals’ staying at the zoo, with unicorns and the centaur-like Nuckelavee taking up residence! Alongside many other myths and legends, they’ll light your way along the route as you explore the Giant Lanterns of China.
There’s over 450 handmade Chinese lanterns glowing through the route. Plus, you can stay warm and toasty as you go through, with a marketplace on offer serving hot drinks and snacks.
Where to stay
Cairn Hotel Edinburgh
Close to Edinburgh Waverley Station, the Cairn Hotel is perfectly placed for your winter staycation. It’s just a ten minute walk from the hotel to Princes Street Gardens, where the Christmas Markets are held, and less than a 20 minute drive to Edinburgh Zoo. With free Wi-Fi in all rooms, you’ll be able to upload all your photos of the gorgeous Giant Lanterns and the festive Christmas Markets.
Standard rooms include the following perks:
- En-suite bathroom
- Tea and coffee making facilities
- Complimentary snacks and bottled water.
Price: Small double room from £243.00* based on 2 adults for 2 nights.
Belfast – What to do
Game of Thrones Tours
Winter is here. Whether you’re an avid fan of the world-engrossing Game of Thrones series, or you just want to see some the most spectacular and beautiful sights Belfast has to offer, you can’t miss the Game of Thrones Tours.
From Belfast, there’s two routes to choose from:
- Belfast Iron Islands, Giant’s Causeway, and Rope Bridge Adventure — this route will see you cover everything in its title, as well as settings used for Arya in Braavos and the Red Lady’s Cave. Plus, you’ll get to explore the natural formation of The Dark Hedges. These beech trees were planted in the 18th century and form a beautifully haunting tunnel. It is even said that the famous Grey Lady wanders through the road…
- Belfast Winterfell Locations Trek – If you’re a loyal follower of the King in the North, then this route is for you. You’ll see sets and settings for scenes from Robb’s Camp to the fateful spot where the Starks found their Direwolf Pups.
17th November – 22nd December
With the grand backdrop of the Belfast City Hall, soak up all the festive fun at Belfast’s Christmas markets. The outdoor food court means you can sit down for a while and relish in some of the best foods of the continent, from speciality cheeses to a hog roast.
Santa’s got a busy schedule this year, as he’ll be hosting a Santa’s Grotto in Belfast as well as Edinburgh.
Where to stay
Jury’s Inn, Great Victoria Street
With free Wi-Fi and Freeview, Jury’s Inn has the perfect rooms for you to cosy down in after a day out in the winter-fresh chill. Plus, if you’re heading out for the Game of Thrones Tours, the coach arrives outside this hotel at 8:15am.
The Christmas markets are just a five-minute walk away too, so you’re in the best position for seeing all the sights.
Jury’s Inn offers standard rooms, or you can make your staycation really special with their Superior Package, which includes:
- Air conditioning
- Complimentary mineral water and biscuits
- 10% lunch and dinner discount
- Daily complimentary Costa coffee per guest.
Price: Double Room with Superior Package from £283.50* for 2 adults for 2 nights.
Escaping the hustle and bustle
For some of us, the Christmas crowds and excitement can be a little overwhelming. If your idea of a Christmas staycation is to stay away from the loud noises and crowds of people, why not seek refuge in one of the many amazing forests in the UK?
You could book a woodland cabin for you and the family and cosy up away from the Christmas craziness. Stroll through the winter morning in a lush forest and unwind with a Christmas dinner without sweating in the kitchen.
Forest Holidays even offers a real Christmas tree with lights in your cabin if you stay over the Christmas period, between 21st to 31st December, complete with a decoration crafting kit. Plus, you’ll find all the entertainment of the busy city within the quiet getaway of the forest, with a visit from Santa and carollers.
Alternatively, book a hot tub cabin and remain toasty and calm through the chilly winter weeks.
Prices: For Thorpe Forest, prices for 2 adults sharing 1 bedroom at Golden Oak Hideaway for 3 nights start at £695.00*. Please note there are a number of locations available up and down the UK.
*Prices correct as of 12th November 2018