Whilst the weather here in the UK is all a bit doom and gloom at the moment, what better way to enjoy the remaining winter months than by embarking on a long-weekend staycation? Cosy, relaxing and totally romantic, there’s a plethora of hidden gems just waiting to be discovered. From the storybook-like villages within the Cotswolds, to the magical sites of Scotland’s Isle of Skye, discover our favourite selection of enchanting UK staycations with the HIP stamp of approval.
Perfect for: Romantic seekers
Possibly one of the most quintessentially British getaways in all of the United Kingdom, the Cotswolds covers almost 800 square miles of blissful scenery, countryside walks, chocolate box-styled villages lost in time, cosy country pubs and cottages that you could only imagine written in storybooks. This enchanting destination is the perfect place for romantic seekers looking for a magical backdrop to their love story. Running through five counties: Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, Warwickshire, Wiltshire, and Worcestershire, the Cotswolds is the country’s largest officially designated ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB). So you can imagine the abundance of quaint villages, wild lakes, ancient castles and endless trails you can explore!
Are you searching for a rose-covered cottage set within a sleepy rural village? Or are you beguiled by the stone splendour of majestic historic centres? Beyond its scenic country roads, the Cotswolds has something for everyone. The river-lined Bourton-on-the-Water, known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, and is famed for its honey-coloured stone architecture, fantastic tea rooms and home to around 4,000 residents. Castle Combe is often called the ‘prettiest village in England’, featured regularly as a film set, and is loaded with Roman history, stunning architecture and is home to St Andrew’s Church, which dates back to the 13th century and houses one of the oldest working clocks in the country. Stow-on-the-Wold is sat nearly 800 ft above sea level and is the highest of the Cotswold market towns. Featuring a myriad of boutiques, art galleries and cosy pubs, be sure to visit the iconic Tolkien Door at St Edward’s Church, before making your way to Broadway Tower to indulge in one of England’s most outstanding panoramas.
Whilst the list of places to visit and things to do in the Cotswolds can go on and on, opt for a comfy inn or private cottage as your accommodation, and enjoy the ample walks available on your doorstep. Perfect for couples, friends and dog lovers alike, finish off with a glass of red or two by the fire, or with a cuppa tea – the proper British style.
Perfect for: Enchanting landscapes
A place filled with sparkling streams, lush valleys, sprawling moorlands, rugged mountains and historic castles, the Isle of Skye is a place like no other. This mythical island in northwest Scotland is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful and magical places you can visit in the UK. Named ‘cloud island’ in Old Norse, the otherworldly scenery here takes center stage, alongside its wealth of history. Whilst the Isle of Skye is a fantastic destination to visit all year round, it's an absolute must-see during the winter months due to the rich purple and pink hues that fill the sky at sunrise.
Offering an abundance of hiking trails, we highly recommend making your way to the Old Man of Storr, one of the most photographed landscapes on the island. Discover a hidden treasure at Brother’s Point (Rubha nam Brathairean), a dramatic headland marking the easternmost point of Trotternish, and walk in the footsteps of dinosaurs. Explore the dark and ominous Armadale Castle, set on a 20,000 acre Highland estate, and uncover the history behind the Clan Donald – who ruled the western seaboards of Scotland for almost 400 years. Be amazed by the iconic Fairy Pools and indulge in the beautifully crystal clear waters – a place perfect for those brave enough to enjoy some wild swimming. These rock pools are shrouded in myth and legend, and are also home to a plethora of red deer, rabbits and sheep. Maybe you’ll even spot a highland cow! From its bewitching scenery to its captivating history, bring a sense of adventure to your staycation here in the Isle of Skye.
Perfect for: Exploring the medieval streets
A beautifully-preserved cathedral city with an extraordinary story to tell, York is the perfect location for a weekend break. Nestled in North Yorkshire, the city’s crumbling medieval walls, stretching over 3.4km, encompass a stunning riverside spot with over a thousand years of heritage. Thanks to its Gothic architecture, winding cobblestone streets, Georgian townhouses, Roman roots and Viking past, York is unlike any other English city.
Take to the city walls that stand 13ft above ground, and embark on a two-hour walk; where you can discover a plethora of fortified gateways, gun ports, medieval stonework and slopes filled with daffodils in the months of March and April. Retreat to the Shambles (rumour has it, the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley), and wander through winding cobbled streets, brimming with overhanging Tudor-style beamed houses – ghost hunters may want to uncover this area’s more cynical side… Make your way to York Minster, a towering medieval cathedral that’s the largest of its kind in Europe, and admire its detailed spires, stained glass windows, vaulted ceilings and epic architecture. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also climb up the 275 steps of the stone spiral staircase, where you can indulge in the magnificent panoramic views across this historic city. For a taste of more recent history, travellers can also visit the Cold War bunker, wander through the Rowntree Park under weeping willows (commemorating the 200 factory workers who died in WW1), and so much more. There’s plenty of things to discover here.
Perfect for: Cobblestone strolls and thermal retreats
An all-year-round location, it comes to no surprise that Bath is one of England’s most well-known and well-loved city breaks. Originally established in 76BC, back when the Romans built temples around the hot springs, this magnificent spa town has been welcoming travellers for almost 2,000 years and oozes enchanting history! Perfectly nestled in the heart of the Somerset countryside and surrounded by the Avon River, just moments from the Cotswolds, Bath is possibly one of the most romantic staycations you can visit in the UK. Not to mention between the years of 1801 and 1806, writer Jane Austen called this place home, and reflected the passion and love she had for this city in two of her published Novels ‘Persuasion’ and ‘Northanger Abbey’.
This picture-perfect World Heritage City boasts 18th-century Georgian architecture, an endless array of dreamy wine bars and restaurants, a gorgeous bridge similar to the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, heaps of independent boutiques and so much more. Whilst visiting the Roman Baths are an absolute must, warm up the true Bath-style and bathe in mineral-rich waters at the Thermae Bath Spa – just like the Celts and Romans did over 2,000 years ago. From designed-focus apartments and charming boutiques, to luxury hotels and classic country houses, the abundance of places to stay here are endless – you’ll be sure to feel as if you’ve stepped into a Jane Austen novel wherever you stay.
Perfect for: Ultimate seclusion & stargazing
Searching for a place filled with snowy mountains and glistening lakes? Then look no further than the Brecon Beacons. Being one of Wales’ three national parks, this enchanting mountain region offers plenty of charming sights, dramatic colours and epic adventures to enjoy. From reaching new heights with mountain biking and rock climbing along cliffs, to extreme kayaking over jaw-dropping waterfalls, this is a place where you can embark on your own kind of adventure.
Uncover the fascinating history behind Llanthony Priory, a ruined monastery dating back to the 12th century. Have a picnic by Llangorse Lake (if the weather isn’t too bad), the largest lake in South Wales. Hop on a historic steam train from Pant to Torpantau, and experience the natural beauty of the area along the Brecon Mountain Railway. For all you Batman lovers out there, the Henrhyd Falls is one of South Wales’ highest waterfalls and was the location of the ‘Bat Cave’ in the movie The Dark Knight. Another stunning spot to visit for the trails and waterside views is the Talybont Reservoir, the largest stillwater reservoir in the central Brecon Beacons. Whilst the list of things to explore here are endless, this is the perfect place for a spot of stargazing. Being home to the Dark Sky Reserve, its exceptionally low light pollution levels allow for amazing night-time astral displays of meteor showers and constellations. Whether you’re coming for a day or making a weekend trip of it, be sure to stop off at some of their ancient coaching inns and cosy pubs, for a glass of Penderyn whiskey and a warm Welsh croeso.
Perfect for: A historical city break
This Scottish capital is a honeypot for those looking for a fairytale backdrop to their staycation. From towering spires and ancient castles, to lamplit narrow cobbled streets filled with neoclassical buildings, be swept away by everything this enchanting city has to offer this winter. With so much history dating back to 8500 BC, explore everything that makes Edinburgh so beautiful.
Hike up to Arthur’s Seat for spellbinding views across the city, and breathe in some fantastic, mystical Scottish fresh air at Holyrood Park’s highest point. Step back in time at Edinburgh Castle, which is perched in all its regal splendour atop Castle Hill, and indulge in its magnificently eerie history. Wander through the cobbled streets of Old Town and discover an abundance of quaint, hidden boutiques, cosy pubs and local cafes. Explore the waterside neighbourhood of Leith, and enjoy a drink or two at Teuchters Landing, a renowned pub at the docks that serve some of the capital’s best pints. Enjoy the amazing works of art at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and be inspired by its collection of European paintings that date back to the Renaissance era. Walk through the urban jungle of the Royal Botanic Garden, dating back to the 17th-century, and admire the thousands of plant varieties, lily ponds and its serene Chinese garden. Searching for something a little… spookier? Embark on a candlelit tour at night and venture into the haunted South Bridge Vaults, ominously known as Damnation Alley – one of the world’s most haunted locations.
Perfect for: Shakespeare lovers
Whilst we all know that Shakespeare wrote some of the world's greatest love stories, taking inspiration from this enchanting medieval market town, now is the time to create your own love story, right here. Stratford-upon-Avon is a Tudor town packed with history and charm. The birthplace of William Shakespeare, the famed writer’s presence can be felt in every corner, nook and cranny of this place. Set within the rural countryside of Warwickshire, on the banks of the River Avon, this romantic 16th-century town is one of our favourite places to visit in the UK. Not only for its dreamy atmosphere, but its picturesque backdrop makes it the perfect setting for a quiet weekend away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Take a slow one-mile stroll west of the town center where you will discover Anne Hathaway’s Cottage; an enchanting thatched roof country house that remains also the same as when Shakespeare called Anne his wife. If the weather is holding up, find a spot near one of the River Avon’s most romantic bridges, dating back to the 15th-century, and enjoy a picnic for two on its lush banks. Take a nostalgic wander around William’s home, and revel in the magnificence that still sits within this restored home – dating back hundreds of years. Make your way to the Holy Trinity Church, and revel in all of its splendour. Looking to discover a little more history on all things Tudor? Tudor World is the kind of museum that really does bring the 16th-century past back to life. Last but definitely not least, see where Shakespeare first put quill to paper, and where he wrote The Tempest, at Nash’s House.
"Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” - William Shakespeare
© 2020 HIP Media Group Limited All Rights Reserved.