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The best winter activities in the UK

Winter doesn’t have to mean the end of your adventures – these UK activities are worth braving the cold for.

With the weather getting colder, it’s tempting to stay indoors. But as lockdown restrictions are loosened and meeting up with friends becomes possible again (in an outdoor setting, at least), we encourage you to grab your hat, woolly socks and go and enjoy some of the UK’s best winter activities.

Witness a starling murmuration in Sussex

Exuberant and quirky, Brighton is arguably the liveliest seaside resort in Britain. What many people don’t know, however, is that it’s also a hotspot for wildlife.

Built in 1823 like a suspension bridge, and primarily intended as an embarkation point for packet boats, the Chain Pier has become a roosting ground for starlings arriving from Scandinavia every winter.

© Anna Moores

Though in decline nationally, the numbers here are healthy in the extreme: the birds form a huge cloud that changes shape as they move around in a process known as ‘murmuration’, a phenomenon that used to centre on the derelict West Pier.

Walk beside mountain hares in the Inner Hebrides

Mountain hares can be found on the Hebridean islands of Mull, Skye and Ramsay. Less rangy than the more familiar brown hare species, and with shorter ears, catching sight of these unique mammals at play can be quite the experience.

Boxing Mountain Hare By Getty Images Shutterstock Winter Activities UK
© Getty Images, iStockphoto

Mountain hares on Mull, at least, originated from Irand, which makes them Irish hares – a subspecies that originally colonised Ireland during the last Ice Age.

Head towards northern and central Mull for the best chance of spotting them. Covering a large proportion of the landmass and a tiny proportion of inhabitants, this region is fantastic for wildlife, discovering unknown archaeological sites and generally exploring the wilderness.

Enjoy a wild wintry weekend in Mosedale

Although it might seem strange, winter is the perfect time for a walking weekend in the Lake District. As the temperature drops, the typically boggy terrain freezes and the ground firms, offering ideal conditions for hiking.

Best accessed from the small, remote hamlet of Swindale, Mosedale’s walking routes promise a feast for the senses. An area so neglected by all but the most hardy of fell-lovers, you could spend an entire weekend walking its peaks and hanging valleys without so much as passing another human being.

You may not see other people on your walk here, but you might well come across some of the native wildlife. Red deer are fairly common on the open hillsides, and molehills will betray the underground excavation of these nocturnal insectivores.

Stand below the northern lights in Dumfries

At the southern end of the Nith, just before river broadens to estuary, lies Dumfries, southwest Scotland’s main town. It’s a historic place with a wealth of interest, some fine buildings, riverside parks and several significant Burns attractions. 

A chance of experiencing the area’s most magical phenomenon, however, lies to the east. Across a varied terrain of mudflats and salt marshes, where ships from far-flung places once docked and enormous colonies of birds return each year, it is sometimes possible to see the northern lights. 

Affectionately dubbed the ‘merry dancers’ by locals, this enchanting display of ever changing lights and colours is a truly breathtaking experience for those lucky enough to catch it. 

See the salmon leap in the North York Moors

In the UK, salmon leaping season takes place roughly between September and December. As river levels rise with increased rain fall, salmon begin their remarkable journey upstream and the small Yorkshire village of Sleights is the perfect place to witness it.

Just a short bus ride from Ruswarp, Sleights is home to the River Esk. Trickling when it’s low or roaring at higher levels, a stroll along the Esk Valley Walk route offers the best chance of encountering the jumping river fish.

Single Minded Salmon Jumps Up River By Verity Johnson Shutterstock Winter Activities UK
© Verity Johnson, Shutterstock

In the most flooded conditions, the salmon here don’t bother with the fish staircase on the river’s weirs – instead they jump straight up the main wave. The nearby pub, not surprisingly, is called the Salmon Leap. 

Venture up Scotland’s Muckle (Mark Hill)

When you think of hills in Scotland, you tend to imagine the lowland humps that fringe larger hills close to the Highlands. But look a little closer to the water, and the border with England, and you can find some very agreeable mini-peaks that offer plenty of winter views for much less sweat. 

A case in point is Kippford’s viewpoint of the resonantly named Muckle (aka Mark Hill). From here you can peer south into the Lake District and even see the Isle of Man – all from its positively petite 120m summit. 

For those who’d rather avoid the hike altogether, the area around the Mote of Mark promises an equally delightful experience. In winter, ducks such as wigeon whistle around its tidal waters in groups. 

Colour you way around the globe

Last but definitely not least, check out our Traveller’s Colouring Book!

With travel restrictions preventing most of us from venturing too far afield, this book is the perfect way to satisfy your wanderlust from the comfort of your own home.

Put away the hat and gloves and curl up by the fire with 50 illustrations of people, buildings, wildlife and landscapes from amazing places around the world.

Drawn by Varvara Formina, each illustration is accompanied by an informative caption from one of our acclaimed travel guides.

After that, it’s up to you.

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Discover more inspiration for winter activities in the UK with our guides: