Soaking in a hot tub under the stars, hiking coastal paths to blow away the cobwebs and sipping whisky by an open log fire – there are so many unforgettable experiences to enjoy on a UK winter escape.
UK holidays have had a bit of a renaissance recently, with many of us swapping our usual international breaks for trips a little closer to home. We think there’s nothing better than the freedom of the open road on a self-drive holiday, and these imaginative road trip itineraries can be tailored just for you. Heather McKinlay, from our UK travel partner McKinlay Kidd, shares her top six out-of-season road trips to take in winter or spring.
1. Go storm-watching and seek out the Northern Lights on Scotland’s Northern Isles
There are plenty of reasons to head to Orkney and the Shetland Islands out of season. Scotland’s furthest-flung island chains take on a whole new life in the winter months. Discover vast, open landscapes and thousands of years of history and take part in a little winter wildlife-spotting along the way. The weather might be wilder, but with towering cliffs, fragile sea stacks and crashing waves, storm-watching is actually an exhilarating holiday experience. And if the conditions are right, you may even be lucky enough to see the Northern Lights.
2. Wrap up warm for foodie tours
Fish and chips at any time of the year is a treat, and even more so in the seafood mecca of Whitby, where our Yorkshire & Lake District Explorer self-drive begins. Without the high-season crowds, you can easily wander through the narrow streets and take a tour of the famous ruined abbey, the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Gothic horror novel Dracula. This tour also includes a guided foodie tour of the elegant spa town of Harrogate and a visit to the Lake District. The bracing walks, scenic driving routes, lakeside lookouts and absence of summer holidaymakers combine to create the perfect off-season break.
3. Explore the heart of Scotland’s whisky country
There’s nothing better than a dram or two by an open fire to warm you up after a day exploring Speyside, Scotland’s whisky heartland. Simply breathing in the air up here will give you a flavour of the country’s national tipple maturing slowly in casks within the towering warehouses of the region’s many distilleries. Snug hotels have open fires and extensive whisky collections and there’s usually a knowledgeable member of staff on hand to regale you with local tales and engage in passionate debate about which local whisky is the finest, down to the specific bottling. And it’s not just about the whisky - the surrounding area is also the centre of Scotland’s castle trail, so there’s plenty more to see before cosying up with a dram or two at night.
4. Beat the crowds with a spring break in Devon and Cornwall
Visit the southern counties of Devon and Cornwall in the quieter spring months and see some of England’s prettiest landscapes. You’ll have wild moorlands and golden windswept beaches all to yourself, and the chance to see the flourishing spring scenery of Exmoor National Park during a private guided tour that’s tailored to your interests.
5. Soak under the stars at a five-star private island hotel
What better way to blow away the cobwebs than with a winter road trip touring some of Scotland’s finest accommodation hotspots? I still vividly remember the first time I visited the Isle of Eriska Hotel many years ago; we sipped champagne under the stars in the hot tub on our terrace on a cold February evening. Our Premier Scotland Road Trip combines luxurious hotels with some of mainland Scotland’s finest landscapes which are currently ablaze with autumn colours. And as we head into winter, the majestic peaks of Glencoe and the Cairngorms will be powdered with snow.
6. Go winter wildlife-watching in the Cairngorms
Put on some extra layers and enjoy a Scottish wildlife-watching break with a difference. Whether in full autumn splendour or under the cover of dazzling snow, the UK’s largest national park is always a great place to be. On our short Cairngorms break, we’ve included two experiences – a full-day private wildlife tour that’s specifically tailored to the season and an evening in a cosy hide – that are led by experts with unbeatable local knowledge. You may be lucky enough to spot mountain hares, red grouse, crested tits and red deer.
If you are inspired, take a look at our UK and Ireland holidays to view our handpicked collection of tailor-made tours, self-drive holidays and bespoke escapes designed by our UK travel partner, McKinlay Kidd. These itineraries are just a taster of what they can offer, so talk to us today for more information and inspiration.