Winter holidays are all the more rewarding with a cosy base – somewhere to warm up after a cold day exploring the outdoors.
Here are some of our favourite cities, towns and villages to visit in the colder months, each with its own selection of warm, comfortable pubs and pretty accommodations, and each within striking distance of the UK’s coolest landscapes.
The Iron Bridge, spanning the River Severn just south of Telford, appears frozen in time when covered in snow and ice. The town is a tribute to our industrial heritage. Visit the Ironbridge Gorge Museums for a lesson in local history, and a chance to escape from the cold.
At 215 metres above sea level, this is one of the highest towns in England. Snow on the steep cobbles of Gold Hill increases the dramatic effect of the street, still remembered for 1973’s romantic Hovis advert. Some 10 miles north, explore Stourhead’s winter gardens.
Matlock Bath, Derbyshire
Things begin to feel distinctly alpine when the snow comes to Matlock Bath on the southern edge of the Peak District. Winter walking routes lead up the nearby hills: High Tor, Masson Hill and the Heights of Abraham. The High Tor Hotel offers beds and a restaurant (Tues–Sat).
Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd
In winter, the rugged mountains surrounding this Snowdonia town become buried in snow. Walk around nearby Tanygrisiau Reservoir beside dramatic hilly terrain. Accommodation and dining are available at The Oakley Arms Hotel.
From this small town in the south-west corner of the Yorkshire Dales follow the icy waters of the River Ribble northwards for about two miles to the glorious waterfall of Stainforth Force. Ye Olde Naked Man Café is a firm favourite for a daytime snack.
Picture-postcard Stirling, built on the banks of the River Forth in central Scotland, is particularly magical in winter. The castle watches over the city, while the snow-covered summits of Stuc a’Chroin and Ben Vorlich dominate the landscape beyond. There are plenty of places to stay, including Willy Wallace Hostel and The Stirling Highland Hotel.
The rugged setting of this picturesque west-coast village 30 miles north of Ullapool contributes to its icy conditions. The mountain peak of Suilven provides the perfect snowy backdrop to the village. Hike up it, or simply marvel at it, then head to the harbourside, where Peet’s Restaurant serves locally produced food with bonus views across the loch.
Excitement abounds when looking out from the Highland town of Aviemore to the mighty Cairngorms mountains, beloved by snowboarders, skiers and winter climbers. It’s the visceral reaction to the size and rawness of these granite giants that makes this landscape such a compelling place for all nature lovers. Bustling Aviemore, with its choice of hip or traditional bars, a good Italian restaurant and swish, hotel-run wooden cabins, is the ideal base for a wintry foray around the northern fringes of the park and its most beautiful lochs.
Fuel up on coffee and cake in the town of Bowness-on-Windermere then make for the Cumbrian hills. There’s plenty to explore within a few minutes of the town, including a moderate-level walk to the Kennel Wood oak, and a mini mountain climb from Hawkshead – another ice town – to the summit of Latrigg.
The picturesque village of Broadway, with its warm, honey-hued cottages, is the perfect base for a wintry stroll. Take time to meander along the high street past pubs, cafés, tea rooms and shops – offering art and antiques, country clothing and gifts – then head into the Cotswold hills.
Words: Paul Richardson