Traveling to Britain in winter has its own unique pleasure. Indulge in everything from refreshing walks to evening outings in local pubs that are filled with comfort and Christmas charm, from holiday traditions and crisp country air. From London to the Highlands, see the highlights of Britain in all their festivities. A winter tour of Britain.
London, South England
With the onset of winter, London turns into a cozy capital city. Lights twinkle as far as the eye can see, shops deck out with magical window displays, and pubs bustle with traditional decor and log fires.
Daytime activity – see the city’s festive lights
Winter in London is a must for those seeking a holiday filled with festive magic and romance. Stroll under a canopy of twinkling lights, marvel at the giant Christmas tree, and shop some of the best festive displays in town. Stop by the famous Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square, watch the lights of Carnaby Street and browse the wonderful window displays of department stores including Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, or Harrods. You can also go sightseeing in style on a Christmas Taxi Tour or wrap up warmly to enjoy the Christmas Lights London by Night Open-Top Bus Tour, an evening tour best of the capital’s festive destinations.
Winter tradition – explore London on ice!
Built-in 1881, the awe-inspiring Romanesque architecture of London’s Natural History Museum makes it one of the city’s best-known and most beautiful symbols. Packed with fascinating exhibitions throughout the year, something extra special pops up during the winter months, as the building becomes the stunning backdrop for one of the city’s most popular ice rinks. With twinkling fairy lights and a majestic Christmas tree at its center, the rink will make its final appearance in 2021 before the museum’s garden is transformed into an urban wildlife center. If you are looking for the perfect place for a romantic London date or family outing during the winter months, then this is the place for you.
Where to stay – sleep like royalty
Called one of London’s ‘best-kept secrets’, Hazlitt’s Hotel is every inch as regal, charming, and luxurious as its Georgian townhouse exterior implies. Situated in the heart of Soho, the hotel’s elegant décor is evidenced by chandeliers, tall windows, and antique furniture, while its honesty bar, library, and top-notch service make it the perfect base if you’re looking for a uniquely stylish stay in the Capital. Alternatively, put yourself in the center of the festivities with a stopover at the Covent Garden Hotel, ideally located for upcoming Christmas performances in London’s West End theaters, including Aladdin, The Nutcracker, and The Snowman.
Where to eat – dine like a queen
Want to relax and warm up in a traditional pub? Head for the head of the queen. A cozy haven in the middle of bustling King’s Cross, the pub comes with a wide-open fire, great ales, and a selection of seasonal beers, whiskeys, and even a special cheese board if you’re feeling peckish. . Alternatively, pop in for a warming brew at one of the pub’s sister sites, Mother Kelly, which has taprooms in Bethnal Green, Stratford, and Vauxhall. With a twist for Christmas, sample The Great Christmas Feast, a festive experience that transports visitors back to Victorian London and the home of Charles Dickens, where the feast is woven into a magical retelling of A Christmas Carol.
The Cotswolds, South England
Located only a three-hour drive from central London, the Cotswolds are a world away from the buzzing streets of the capital.
A winter tour of Britain
Daytime activity – discover chocolate-box beauty
For a taste of the picturesque cottage lifestyle of the Cotswolds, head to Chipping Campden. This quaint British town offers traditional sand-colored cottages, friendly, locally run shops, and a historic church, not to mention the option of charming tearooms – for hot pots of tea and a traditional teacake or two Ideal.
Winter tradition – experience Christmas at Blenheim Palace
Discover Christmas at Blenheim Palace. A World Heritage Site and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, the palace is an endlessly interesting historical home, with opulent rooms and magnificent gardens. Known for its annual Christmas celebrations, the castle will transform into a fantasy world straight out of The Nutcracker in 2021. In addition to magical lighting trails and a Christmas market, the castle rooms are set to be filled with hidden surprises, from the toymaker’s workshop to the Kingdom of Sweets. Alternatively, if you’re traveling with kids, you can board the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Steam Railway to take a ride with Santa while being surrounded by spectacular views of the area.
Where to stay – unwind in eco-friendly luxury
If you are looking for five-star luxury with eco-friendly amenities, then you need to look no further. Offering a stay in one of two historic honey-colored stone cottages, the Eco Chic Cottage epitomizes the charm of the Cotswolds. With massage service, afternoon tea upon request, and exceptional stargazing opportunities, you can relax in preparation for the festive season. Or you can sit comfortably amid the decorations and roaring fires of Lygon Arms, a luxurious former coaching inn in the heart of Broadway, just minutes from the Village Christmas Market. Looking for alternative accommodation? Learn more here.
Where to eat – savor local ale and haute cuisine
Just a stone’s throw from the eco-chic cottage is a charming local pub, the Shilton Rose & Crown, where you can enjoy high-end pub food while sipping local wine by a roaring open fire. With exposed beams, candlelit tables, and stones bathed in golden lamplight, this pub offers a cozy slice of quintessential British country life. Alternatively, embrace the Instagrammable ambiance of Luxe Café Bar in Cirencester, an independent coffee shop with its flowery interior serving up a delightful array of sweet treats and warming brews.
Bath, South-West England
A city of cathedrals, world-renowned architecture, and Jane Austen characters, Bath is an unmissable stop on the ultimate winter tour of Britain. Located to the southwest, less than a two-hour drive from Chipping Campden, this is a place steeped in history, culture, and charm.
A winter tour of Britain
Daytime activity – admire the royally good architecture
Discover the Royal Crescent, one of Britain’s most recognizable pieces of Georgian architecture. The backdrop of several Jane Austen adaptations, this sweeping stone crescent comprises thirty grand terraced houses and is a must-see if you’re a lover of history and period dramas. The exterior also doubles as Featherington’s home in the hit Netflix show Bridgerton. Curious to learn more about Georgian life and culture? Visit the Museum of Georgian Life on No. 1 Royal Crescent, and step back in time to experience life in Britain’s upper-class 18th-century society.
Winter tradition – wander an illuminated Christmas trail
The American Museum and Gardens of Bath are set to brighten up this Christmas with an array of dazzling displays. Explore The Enchanted Garden of Light, located two miles from the center of Bath, and discover an hour-long trail of lights covering the main property as well as its woodland and gardens. Add to the festive experience by sampling one of the many threats to savor the smells and tastes of the Christmas season.
Where to stay – unwind at a spa
Known for the healing properties of its waters, Bath has been a renowned spa town since Roman times, and received a second UNESCO World Heritage List in 2021 as one of Europe’s 11 Great Spa Cities, So Where to Stay Where’s a better place for a bath spa than a hotel? With a wonderful five-star accommodation with elegant decor and a choice of fine dining venues, you can enjoy the spa, pool, or a special festive afternoon tea for an extra special seasonal experience. Another hotel victim?
Where to dine – get cozy at The Mill
The welcoming The Mill is located in Bathampton, just a mile from the center of Bath along the canal. A great location for a taste of rural comfort within a cultural center, this canalside pub offers hot food, wine, and ale with beautiful river views. Alternatively, head to Oak Restaurant in the center of Bath to sample its ever-changing menu of sustainably sourced vegetarian and vegan delights, with many of the ingredients coming fresh from the restaurant’s own allotment.
Fort William, Scottish Highlands
If you’re looking for epic Scottish scenery and sipping on local whiskey, Fort William offers endless charm and stunning views, not to mention some of the best ‘water of life in the country!
A winter tour of Britain
Daytime activity – soak up Scottish vistas
If you want to see some famous Scottish scenery, spend the day at Lochaber Geopark near Fort William. With lakes, endless skies, and abundant waterfalls, it’s a great starting point for a rewarding hike or driving adventure of the area. Alternatively, climb the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola to visit the north face of Aonach Moor. As Britain’s only mountain gondola, it offers a unique perspective on the striking surrounding landscape, including Ben Nevis, as well as access to several ski runs and winter hiking routes.
Winter tradition – taste the art of whisky
Love Scottish Whiskey? Enjoy a guided tour around one of the oldest distilleries in the country. Located just a few minutes drive from Fort William, Ben Nevis Distillery has produced its unique spirit for nearly 200 years. Explore the production rooms and sample a strange dram of whiskey made from the dew of Ben Nevis, while gaining a unique insight into the world of Scottish whiskey.
Where to stay – sleep in a former church
Looking for a Historic Hotel? Head to the Limetree Hotel, a former church building dating back to the mid-1800s. Now a family-run hotel, serving food in an award-winning restaurant in a warm welcoming atmosphere, Limetri is a unique base from which to explore the surrounding city and countryside. Or relax in the luxurious surroundings of the Inverlochy Castle Hotel, a 19th-century castle set amid some of the region’s most striking scenery. Want to discover all the options? Explore other hotels in VisitScotland.
Where to dine – savor hearty Scottish scran
Located on Fort William High Street, Ben Nevis Bar serves good ale and hearty dishes including wild venison burgers, loach larder traditional sausage, and mash, or classic fish and chips. And with regular live open music sessions including traditional Scottish music and a terrace, this is the perfect place to dance off the winter chill in the true Scottish style.