You are looking for the best Winter destinations in the UK & Ireland with recommendations, highlights and important travel tips? Here we go. In this article, travel bloggers from all over the world recommend the most amazing Winter and Christmas time Destinations in Ireland, England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with iconic world-famous sights, beautiful landscape and exciting things to do. Here you will find European Winter Destination classics like London or Edinburgh, but also beautiful city trip destinations off the beaten track like Galway, Chester or Comrie to inspire your next bucket list entries. JOURNICATION helps you to find your Winter holiday destination in Europe for 2021!
Winter Destinations UK & Ireland – The most amazing cities
All UK & Ireland Winter Destination Highlights at one glance
Here you find the Highlight Winter Destinations in UK & Ireland with the best things to do at a glance 📷
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This article covers Winter Destinations in UK & Ireland as well as the European Christmas Time Highlights marked in dark red on the map.
Winter Destinations in UK & Ireland – Recommendations by Travel Bloggers
London may not come to mind when you picture a winter or Christmas destination. However, the city is magical at this time of year and there is plenty to see and do. Families also love to spend Christmas in London with kids.
The best time to experience Christmas in London is in the evening. Even just a simple tour of the city can get you into the festive spirit. However, if you are looking for something out of this world, then head to Kew Gardens. It takes around an hour and a half to walk around the park and the light display is breathtaking.
During the day visit one of the many Christmas markets scattered around the city. Sip some mulled wine and wander around the stalls to pick up any last-minute gifts. When you need to rest, take the weight off by enjoying some of the festive food.
There are many places to stay in London. In fact, you may feel overwhelmed. The best places to stay are in Central London right in the heart of the city. This makes it easier to get to many of the many attractions or even see the city on foot.
If you are looking for a little bit of luxury, then Park Grand London Kensington fits the bill. Everything is right on your doorstep and the hotel is beautiful. If you are on a budget, smaller hotels like The Gresham are perfect. The facilities are basic, however, you can’t beat the location.
No matter where you decide to stay a visit to London at Christmas is sure to blow you away.
Explored by Karen from Travel Mad Mum
Winter Destinations UK & Ireland: Manchester, England
To spend winter vacation in a European city is everyone’s dream. The picturesque landscape of mountains and towns covered in snow exhibits beauty like no other. With Christmas celebrations in the mix, this beauty goes up another notch. Among all the other cities, Manchester is known for the best Christmas celebration. Tourists from all over the world have acknowledged this northern England city as their best Christmas destination.
Manchester during Christmas feels like a magical area on earth. This United Kingdom city dresses up like some carnival during this time. The town centres are brightly decorated with Christmas lights with several shops and stalls on the sides. The special Christmas markets are the main point of attraction that have been drawing tourists since the 90s.
There are many things to do in Manchester on a Christmas evening. The beginning of the festivities is marked by the Christmas Lights switch-on. This program attracts the city crowd and even brings out celebrity guests to do the honours. The unique Ice Village is built especially for the celebrations. It houses spectacular ice sculptures and a giant ice rink for people to have fun. Head to the Lightopia festival at Heaton Park to experience an out-of-the-world exhibition of multi-sensory lights and lanterns. Food and drinks play a significant part in this extravaganza.
Local businesses go all out with Christmas decor and special menus. Several temporary stalls also pop up on the side, offering different types of street delicacies. Bars operate for the entire night during this season. These markets also have many stores and boutiques selling season-appropriate goods and Christmas gifts options for your loved ones.
Explored by Ruma from TheHolidayStory
Peak District, England
The Peak District national park is a wonderful winter and Christmas destination. Recently voted the fourth best national park in Europe in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, it has everything you would expect from a world class national park from stunning scenery to extensive walking, hiking and cycling routes. But there is so much more to discover in the Peak District including quaint little towns and villages and some incredible places to eat and drink.
Highlights include the pretty market town of Bakewell, famous for its puddings. A Bakewell pudding (or tart as it’s known throughout the rest of the country) consists of a pastry case filled with raspberry or strawberry jam and rich almond sponge. I also love Castleton at Christmas time. It’s beautifully decorated and there are caves and caverns to explore.
Visit one of the festive Christmas markets. One of the biggest and best in the region is held at Chatsworth House, which is also worth exploring. The artisan market at nearby Haddon Hall is also spectacular. Then cosy up in one of the numerous traditional country inns and pubs that are dotted around the region.
Explored by Molly from Lovely Local Indie
Winter is perfect time to visit Chester that is located just a stone’s throw away from beautiful Snowdonia National Park. Close distance to Liverpool or Manchester makes this is a great winter getaway from bigger city. If you want to explore one of the best-preserved walled cities in UK, you should definitely choose Chester.
This historical city offers so much to visitors. Black-and-white timbered houses, Chester Cathedral, Roman Amphitheatre or Chester Zoo are just few attractions worth to see. However, visiting this amazing city during winter time is even more special. The Chester Winter Watch Parade takes place every year in December. Spectacular performances including fire breathing are something that can’t be missed this winter.
I love to visit Chester in cold winter days. Exploring city on a foot is one of the best way to feel magic in this place. Beautiful Christmas decorations, unique shops, great range of restaurants make this place one of the best winter destinations in UK. You can have hot drink in one of the cafes by the river or take a cruise to see Ironbridge. There are definitely plenty of ideas to spend winter day in Chester.
If you book a hotel in this city you could explore even more in this area. Plenty of castles and charming small towns are less than 1 hour drive from Chester. It is amazing that such a vibrant city is so close to Wales – one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I am sure that visiting this region of UK will stay in your memories forever.
Explored by Paulina from UK Everyday
Located not far from London, Canterbury is a great destination that you should consider when planning your winter escape in the UK. With its many things to do and see, Canterbury is a lovely small city worth visiting. Famous for its cathedral and for being a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a winter in Canterbury is perfect if you want to plan a day trip from London.. Step inside the magnificent cathedral, visit St. Augustine’s Abbey, Westgate tower and walk along Westgate gardens and endeavour around the beautiful corner of the old town.
To warm you up, get in a traditional cafe, get a cup of coffee and indulge in some pastries. Burgate Coffee House is a little two-story shop close to the Canterbury Cathedral. This coffee house is ideal for a nice breakfast or just get a drink on the go. If you are in love with walks, the most suggestive in winter in Canterbury is the Dane John Gardens. This garden in winter hosts one of the most attractive ice rinks in Canterbury worth a visit.
Winter is synonymous with Christmas as well and what’s better than spending a day or two in Canterbury and admiring their beautiful decorations all around the city. The city hosts many events and becomes a proper fairytale town in just one hour by train from London.
Explored by Toti & Ale from Italian Trip Abroad
Winter Destinations UK & Ireland: Aberdeen, Scotland
Aberdeen is an underrated city in Scotland. Most tourists go to Edinburgh or Glasgow, but tend to overlook Aberdeen, which is much smaller. However, the Granite City is actually a stunning place and has a lot to see and do, especially during the cold holiday season.
Aberdeen has an annual Christmas market which runs from late November through Christmas. There are regular events with reindeer that you can feed and pet and of course delicious mulled wine and traditional treats. While the weather can be a bit unpredictable at times, Aberdeen actually gets a large amount of sun, even in the colder months even though it can be cold and windy. It’s the perfect excuse to take a winter hike along the beautiful coast to places like Stonehaven, Dunnottar Castle or Newburgh or explore Scotland’s famous historic castles.
There are also many whiskey distilleries that you must visit to truly appreciate Scotland. Many places offer tours and tastings, the starting point after a long day of sightseeing in the cold Scottish winters. When the weather is cold and you’re not up for outdoor activities head to Aberdeen’s museums like the Maritime Museum which has a lot of interesting exhibits on the oil and energy industry.
Explored by Victoria from Guide Your Travel
Edinburgh is one of the best medieval cities to visit in Europe and is great any time of the year but in winter, when the occasional snow covers everything, it has a magical charm about the place, especially in the Old Town area.
The Old Town area is the place you will want to visit, and stay in, and it’s surrounded by centuries-old medieval buildings and one of the best castles in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle. Walking up the Royal Mile towards the castle with all the history around and seeing the castle is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh.
Coming in from a cold walk around the Old Town into a Scottish pub and enjoying a highlands whisky and a hot traditional haggis meal is heartwarming. If you’re there over Christmas time there is the Edinburgh Christmas market to visit and if you are a fan of Harry Potter it is where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the novels and you can see places related to that. Butterbeer anyone? A local pub has it.
From Edinburgh, there are also great day trips to the Scottish Highlands you can do that are at their prettiest in winter with snow covering the hills.
Explored by Jonny from Guide to Castles
Winter Destinations UK & Ireland: Comrie, Scotland
Every year, on the 31 st of December, a small village in highland Scotland lights up. For months, selected locals have been planning and preparing for the spectacular event that takes place on
Hogmanay. The Flambeaux is an ancient tradition that takes place in the hamlet of Comrie. Is thought to date back to the Pagan times. The Pagan fire cleansing ritual is intended to rid the town of bad spirits and welcome the good spirits who bring good luck for the new year.
Around ten long poles, made of birch, are topped with rags and covered in tar. At the stroke of midnight the poles are lit. The flambeaux are marched through the village preceded by the local pipe
band and followed by the citizens of Comrie wearing fancy dress. After the route is complete, and the town cleansed, the poles are cast over the Dalginross Bridge and into the River Earn. Villagers and visitors then return to the outdoor ceilidh (Scottish dancing) which takes place in the village Square. For a cosy traditional room, try the Royal Hotel. The outdoor ceilidh is held here and the torches are lit right outside the hotel. It is a lovely boutique hotel that will serve a hearty highland breakfast! Later on New Year’s Day stop here to sample the traditional steak pie.
Some tips for a great night…
- Make sure to get there early as Comrie is a very small village and the celebration of Hogmanay is popular in Scotland.
- Wear warm, waterproof clothing as everything is outdoors and temperatures can be as low as -10C.
- Do try the local spirits but don’t drive if you’re planning to drink – Scottish drink driving laws are very strict.
Explored by Katy from The Balkans and Beyond
One of the best winter destinations in Europe is the charming city of Galway.
Settled comfortably on the coast of Ireland, Galway is often overlooked by travelers due to the chilly weather. This means that transportation and accommodation can often be found at a discount.
There are plenty of things to do in Galway throughout the year, however, the magic of Galway really comes alive in winter. The Galway Christmas Market starts at the end of November and runs through the holidays. It’s in the heart of the city at Eyre Square and has plenty of winter-themed activities for everyone. If you’re visiting in January, the New Inn Mummers Festival celebrates Irish Culture through song, dance, music, and storytelling. In February, the Éigse an Spidéil festival takes place in Spiddal, a nearby town, featuring sean-nós singing, art, and poetry.
Whether or not you visit for a festival, be sure to wander through the city. The cobblestone streets are walkable (but be sure to pack a wind-proof jacket in winter). Live music emanates from pubs on each corner, so if you’re too cold, just pick one to warm up in. Try not to miss the history of the city – Lynch’s Castle, Galway Cathedral, and the Spanish Arch. The Latin Quarter is home to plenty of restaurants and shops. On a nice day, walk the Long Walk – a row of colorful houses along the water with great views!
Even though it’s a bit chilly, Galway is an incredible winter destination in Europe.
Explored by Pam from Directionally Challenged Traveler
More amazing Winter & Christmas Destinations in Europe
In this article, Travel bloggers from all over the world revealed their insider tips for Winter & Christmas Time Destinations in Western Europe. You learned about highlights and amazing things to do during this beautiful season. This article is part of a series covering the most amazing Winter Destinations in Europe. Get inspired and expand your Europe travel bucket list with the tips and infos of the whole series:
- Winter Destinations in WESTERN EUROPE – Highlights
- Winter Destinations in EASTERN EUROPE – Highlights
- WARM WINTER Destinations in Europe – All Highlights
- Winter Destinations in NORTHERN EUROPE
If you’re looking for more top Winter Destinations in Western Europe, have a look at JOURNICATION’s city guides:
What is the destination you put on your bucket list now? Let us know in the comments!