5 hidden gems for UK staycations this winter
Are you looking to get away this winter? You don’t have to go abroad to have a break and there are stunning hidden gems where you can go to beat the crowds.
While you might not be able to relax on the beach with some winter sun, the UK has a lot to offer during the colder months. From brisk walks on wintery days to cosying up in front of a fire in the evening, you can still recharge, relax and, explore a new destination. When you want to avoid the usual tourist hotspots, here are five hidden gems that could be perfect for your next trip.
1. Vale of Belvoir
The Vale of Belvoir is located at the point where Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, and Lincolnshire meet, so it’s accessible from many other locations. Vale of Belvoir means “beautiful view” in Norman-French, and you’ll see why it earned that name as soon as you arrive.
There are several pretty, traditional villages to stay in during your visit and all offer stunning walks to take in the winter days.
The most popular attraction is the historic Belvoir Castle. A castle was first built at this location in the 11th century and it’s been rebuilt at least three times since then. The surviving structure is from the early 19th century. The castle boasts beautiful lakes and gardens to walk through, even in winter, as well as an art and antique collection inside. The Engine Yard also offers dining and artisan shopping. The location means you can take city day trips to Lincoln, Nottingham, and Leicester to enjoy the attractions they offer.
2. Loch Awe, Scotland
Escape to the stunning Scottish Highlands with a trip to Loch Awe. The loch stretches for 25 glorious and unspoilt miles. The village of Lochawe is just a few miles away and is an ideal base to explore some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK. Walks from the village will take you past scenic rivers, waterfalls and moorland.
As well as taking the views, a visit to Kilchurn Castle, St Conan’s Kirk, or a hands-on birds of prey experience can make your trip memorable. Beneath the rugged mountain of Ben Cruachan is an unusual attraction – you can tour the power station buried a kilometre underground – hence why it’s dubbed the “Hollow Mountain”.
3. Dunster, Exmoor
Dunster village is known as Exmoor’s prettiest medieval village and it’s a great place to head for a short break. The cobbled high street is lined with charming shops and traditional tearooms where you can see Dunster Castle perched on a hill. The castle is now owned by the National Trust that boasts plenty of history and a tearoom in the mill house to enjoy.
For history buffs, it’s not just Dunster Castle that’s worth a visit. Bat’s Castles is an iron age hill fort that was discovered in the 1980s when schoolchildren came across some coins. Today, the spot offers stunning vistas across the county towards Wales. There are other historical buildings to walk to as well, including Conygar Tower, and a beach perfect for a bracing walk.
4. Beddgelert, Snowdonia
At the base of Snowdown, you’ll find the charming Welsh village of Beddgelert. The stone-built houses give it a picturesque look. The location makes it perfect for exploring Mount Snowden and the surrounding national park, which guarantees incredible views, from rocky slopes to mountain lakes. If you want to admire more of the Welsh countryside, booking a ticket on the Welsh Highland Railway can whisk you through it.
When you’ve had your fill of the view, you can head into the winding tunnels of the Sygun Copper Mine. The large colourful chambers are filled with stalactite and stalagmite. Nestled right in the heart of the village, you can also find a National Trust property. Ty Isaf is a Grade II-listed building that’s filled with character, which is now used as a shop selling local produce and crafts.
5. Bamburgh, Northumberland
The east coast has some of the most atmospheric beaches in Britain and Bamburgh certainly doesn’t disappoint. The coastal town is right in the heart of Northumberland and offers walking trails along the coastline. The top attraction here is Bamburgh Castle, which has guarded the coastline for over 1,400 years and it remains an impressive sight as you walk along the beach and the town centre.
You can also find a Royal National Lifeboat Institution museum dedicated to Grace Darling, who risked her life to save stranded survivors of a wrecked steamship in 1838. When the tide is low, you could also take a walk over to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. It’s linked to the mainland by a causeway that is cut off twice a day, so make sure you check the times carefully. On the island, you can explore a castle and priory, as well as cafes and pubs to relax in.