Best cities, towns and villages to visit this winter

Discover the best places in Britain for a winter break, including cosy pubs and hotels, festive activities and winter walks.

Broadway, Cotswolds in snow

Winter holidays are all the more rewarding with a cosy base – somewhere to warm up after a cold day exploring the British countryside.

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Here are some of our favourite cities, towns and villages to visit in the winter months, from Scottish Highlands towns and Dorset villages to Northern Ireland’s seaside settlements and Wales’ mountain towns.

Each winter holiday idea has its own selection of warm, comfortable pubs and pretty accommodations, as well as suggested locations for nearby walks and activities.

Best winter holiday destinations in England

Ironbridge, Shropshire

Ironbridge, Shropshire ©Alamy
Ironbridge reflects its winter lights in the River Severn/Credit: Alamy

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.


Shaftesbury, Dorset

Shaftesbury, Dorset ©Alamy
Shaftesbury was made famous by the 1973 Hovis advert/Credit: Alamy

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. The are lots of opportunities for walking in Dorset, and some 10 miles north of Shaftesbury are Stourhead’s spectacular winter gardens.


Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

Matlock Bath, Derbyshire ©Alamy
Matlock Bath envelope in winter frost and snow/Credit: Alamy

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).


Bowness-on-Windemere, Cumbria

Boat and lake in winter
Bowness-on-Windermere, Cumbria/Credit: Getty

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.


Broadway, Worcestershire

Broadway, Cotswolds ©Alamy
Broadway is a classic Cotswold village/Credit: Alamy

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.


Settle, Yorkshire

Settle, Yorkshire ©Alamy
Walk the streets of Settle this winter/Credit: Alamy

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. There are lots of option for walk in the area, including an 8.5-mile circular walk from Settle to Stainforth.


Best winter holiday destinations in Wales

Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd

Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd ©Alamy
Blaenau Ffestiniog blanketed in winter snow/Credit: Alamy

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.


Beddgelert, Gwynedd

River running through a forest
The Afon Glasyn flowing though the Pass of Aberglaslyn/Credit: Getty

The breathtaking village of Beddgelert is situated in the Snowdonia national park. Nestled in a valley dominated by mountains it sits at the convergence of two rivers, the Glaslyn and Colwyn. Attractive bridges cross the water and lead to many captivating walks in Snowdonia. If pure luxury is what you’re after to warm your sole on a snowy winter’s day, then the Sygun Fawr hotel is the place for you.


Best winter holiday destinations in Scotland

Stirling, Stirlingshire

Stirling, Stirlingshire ©Alamy
Stirling is surrounded by rivers and mountains/Credit: Alamy

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.


Lochinver, Highland

The village of Lochinver, on the shore beneath the west face of Quinag (808 metres), Scotland ©Alamy
The village of Lochinver, on the shore beneath the west face of Quinag (808 metres)/Credit: Alamy

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. 


Aviemore, Highland

The Strathspey steam train prepares for the nostalgic day ahead travelling from Aviemore to Broomhill ©Getty
The Strathspey steam train prepares for the nostalgic day, travelling from Aviemore to Broomhill in Highland/Credit: Getty

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.


Best winter holiday destinations in Northern Ireland

Newcastle, County Down

Silhouettes of people on a beach
Enjoy a winter walk on Murlough Beach with the Mourne Mountains as a backdrop/Credit: Getty

The coastal town of Newcastle in County Down offers a quiet escape on what is often a busy time of year for holidaying. To the norther of the town is Murlough National Nature Reserve, a wildlife-watchers’ dream, while behind it sits the mighty Mourne Mountains – a true winter playground after a night of snowfall.


Enniskillen, County Fermanagh

Snow-covered hills
The snow-covered winter hills of Fermanagh can be explored from the county town, Enniskillen/Credit: Getty

This historic market town, built on an island between Upper and Lower Lough Erne, is the ideal base for exploring Fermanagh in winter. It’s the county’s largest and most vibrant settlement, where pretty townhouses rub shoulders with traditional pubs and vivacious cafés. For beer, drop into traditional pub Blakes of the Hollow, then head downstairs for fine dining at Café Merlot.

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Words: Paul Richardson