10 last-minute winter staycations you can do in the U.K.
The winter months of December to March may be windy and wet, but it’s not all gloom. Savvy travelers know that winter presents the perfect low season for travel. If you’re a Brit, chances are that you’re among the 99% of locals making plans for a staycation within the U.K. this winter, or over a third of the population searching for never-done-before experiences, as shared by the latest Tripadvisor Winter Travel Index.
Good news is, there’s still time to make plans. Whether you’re keen to savour a toasty night-time soak in Bath’s geothermal pools or to chase ski season all over the idyllic snow-capped peaks of Lake District, here are the top 10 trending wintery staycation destinations with activities you might enjoy.
1. Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
Settled along the rolling banks of River Trent, Nottingham is the cultural mecca of Nottinghamshire, celebrated for large-scale arts, theatre and cultural events, medieval castles, and picturesque parks like Highfields Park that are perfect for winter strolls. Stay in the heart of the bustling Lace Market District (try Mercure Nottingham City Centre Hotel) where city must-sees like Nottingham Castle, The Haunted Museum and Oddities, and Old Market Square are just minutes away. While you’re in the area, consider a cooling bush walk through the iconic Sherwood Forest, where exquisite native oak and birch woodlands blend with wide open grasslands.
2. Sheffield, Yorkshire
Historically known as the ‘Steel City’ for its illustrious past as a steel-making powerhouse, Sheffield has more recently grown a sterling reputation as one of the U.K.'s top outdoor cities and cultural darlings. Situated at the foot of the Pennine Highlands, the city centre is surrounded by lush parks such as the Sheffield Botanical Gardens and Sheffield Winter Garden (sheltered from the winter drizzle!) and premier art museums including Millennium Gallery and Graves Gallery, with visual art that hails from across centuries and continents. You might love staying at The Psalter for its modern Victorian charm, and most of all, its convenience. Turns out that most popular attractions are no more than a 10-minute drive away.
3. Whitby, Yorkshire
Before going, it can be hard to imagine this orange-roofed seaside town as the dark inspiration behind Dracula, but take a stroll into town and you’ll quickly understand why. One of the most fascinating towns along the North Yorkshire Coast, Whitby’s sprawling gothic architecture is hauntingly beautiful—and even more so during the peaceful winter off-season. Rest your head at city centre hotels like Bagdale Hall Hotel and you’ll find local architectural darlings like Whitby Abbey and Whitby Brewery just across the Swing Bridge, with plenty of pubs around serving up a piping hot platter of fish and chips. Or trade the vampires for monsters with a chilling day trip to the Museum of Victorian Science, which is practically a visit to Dr Frankenstein’s laboratory.
4. Stratford-upon-Avon, West Midlands
Families will love this quaint medieval market town set in the sprawling Warwickshire countryside. Popularly known as the birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford-upon-Avon offers a range of enjoyable family-friendly activities from historical Shakespeare-themed tours to cosy tea workshops and baking classes. Most areas in the city offer easy access to road and rail transportation, with nostalgic cobbled lanes, romantic Tudor-style architecture, and serene waterfront trails like the ‘swan lake’ down by Stratford-upon-Avon Canal. For a seamless luxury boutique experience and a concierge that books iconic tours for you, put your family up at Burnside Hotel for a fuss-free staycation.
5. Chester, Cheshire
Travel back in time to the first century AD as you walk along the historic sandstone ruins of Chester. Located just an hour away from Liverpool, Chester is now a walkable town dotted with black-and-white timbered houses and ancient Roman monuments like the Roman Amphitheatre and the famed City Walls, which you can explore on foot or even on tour with an authentic Roman soldier. Stay in Chester Townhouse Hotel & Secret Garden to find yourself a stone’s throw away from popular attractions like Chester Cathedral, River Dee and Grosvenor Park, which are well-maintained even in the winter and are great stops to take breaks from shopping in the city.
6. York, Yorkshire
If you love history, art and culture, you’ll love the medieval paradise of York. Explore Britain’s largest stretch of Medieval stained glass at the iconic 800-year-old York Minster cathedral and marvel at medieval stonework and architecture along the twisting narrow lanes of The Shambles—perhaps the most well-preserved medieval street in the world (and the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in Harry Potter!) Art makers might covet a visit to the York Art Gallery where art workshops are held on the regular, and York’s impressive history in ceramics can be traced by a cosy indoor walk along The Wall Of Pots. Snap postcard-worthy shots of it all on a curated photo tour, before ending your day on the quieter side of town—The Mount—in the equally historic Hotel du Vin York.
7. Bath, Somerset
That first step into a hot thermal bath is a hundred times better in the winter chill, and that’s exactly why the UNESCO World Heritage spa town of Bath is a must-visit this season. If you can’t languish forever in the historic underground Roman Baths or the open-air Thermae Bath Spa, the next best thing is to stay less than 5 minutes away at The Z Hotel, where you’ll find all of Bath’s other renowned attractions within reach. Wander along the famous two-sided shopping and dining stretches over at the Pulteney Bridge, or discover the finest of preserved Georgian architecture along the perimeter of the Royal Crescent. If you’re a nut for Netflix, you’ll enjoy this tour of Bridgerton filming locations, too.
8. Oxford, Oxfordshire
Oxford, otherwise known as The ‘City of Dreaming Spires’, is famous for being an academic’s haven—and its world-famous colleges, historic libraries (check out The Bodleian, one of the oldest and biggest libraries across the country), and massive museums like the Ashmolean and the Museum of Natural History only scratch the gilded surface. Miles of picturesque waterways weave through the city, making for meditative winter walks along iconic spots like the Oxford Canal. Cold, damp days are also ideal for warm spiced beverages down at the Oxford Artisan Distillery, the first certified organic grain-to-glass distillery in the U.K. If you’re keen on staying along the outskirts of Cotswolds, consider The Holt Hotel as your base—it’s just 30 minutes away from the Oxford city centre.
9. Windermere, Cumbria
Stop by the lush gem of UNESCO World Heritage-gazetted Lake District—Windermere, a sprawling resort town surrounded by pristine peaks, rugged fells, and mirror-like lakes. With winter bringing forth the quietest times in the area, expect seclusion and tourist-free tranquility even at the most renowned natural sights including Lake Windermere and the ski-worthy Helvellyn (look for the Lake District Ski Club). Take the chance to do a full sightseeing tour of the district, where you’re more than likely to see Herdwick sheep graze in their thickest, fluffiest fleeces. For a countryside stay that keeps you close to the city centre, Hillthwaite is a fantastic hotel that travelers can’t stop raving about.
10. Weston-super-Mare, Somerset
Winter by the sea, anyone? Known for its annual summer sand festival, this kid-friendly beach paradise might not strike as an ideal winter staycation—but Weston-super-Mare is walkable and charming, exuding a meditative calm during the winter season. Weary city dwellers will love evening walks by the promenade, bringing you clear-sky sunsets at Weston-Super-Mare Beach and the unique sight of crystalline icicles hanging by the Grand Pier. Speciality museums like The Helicopter Museum and the Museum of Memories are great stops for the family. Kick off your stay at the Royal Hotel which offers proximity to the scenic causeway running from Madeira Cove to Knightstone Island—a hidden gem among locals.
Disclaimer: Check official government websites for COVID-19 restrictions and updates, and enquire with venue websites or social media about updated opening hours before going.
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