Winter is coming, but just because there’s a nip in the air doesn’t mean you should hibernate under a duvet. Get out and explore the great outdoors in my favourite winter spots, from a Cornish fishing village to lost forests and the Scottish highlands, and then cosy up in a stone bothy, a cute cottage or even a tent on the moors.
Cosy winter escapes UK
1. EXPLORE A FISHING VILLAGE IN CORNWALL
Picture-perfect Boscastle epitomizes the cosy Cornish fishing village. Higgledy-piggledy cottages, cafes and art galleries crowd together in a valley where three join the sea in an aquamarine waters of Boscastle harbour. This stretch of the Cornish coast is full of magic and folklore – in the village you’ll find the fascinating Museum of Witchcraft and Magic, stuffed with creepy curios including a mummified monkey and spooky straw voodoo dolls.explore nearby Rocky Valley and hunt out the ancient labryinths carved into its walls, or walk up from the village to a lookout tower for views across to mystical Tintagel, where King Arthur is said to have lived. Keep it cheap and cheerful by staying at the Boscastle YHA, which has got to be one of the prettiest in the country.
Get outdoors: Go for the a chilly surf at Port Isaac with Wavehunters.
2. COSY UP IN A COTTAGE IN NORTH WALES
Wild North Wales makes the perfect base for an adventurous escape. The summit of Snowdon is still an easy climb in winter, or walk or kayak along the wild and unspoilt Anglesey coastline (check out Greentraveller’s guide to the peninsula). Sykes Cottages are the perfect cosy boltholes to warm up in after a day out in the cold – I love this gorgeous coach house from the selection of Sykes Cottages cottages in North Wales, complete with log burner and resident ducks.
Get outdoors: Hike the Clwydian Range or the Offa’s Dyke pathway straight from the cottage.
3. GO BOTHYING IN SCOTLAND
The hills and glens of the Scottish highlands are at their most beautiful in winter, but they are also rather chilly for camping. Enter the noble bothy. These havens for hikers range from rather smart cabins to teeny stone huts, but all of them offer shelter from the elements to walkers, usually with a sleeping platform and a hearth inside to warm cold feet by. You’ll see them dotted amongst the lochs and peaks of the highlands – plan your walk using this handy map and follow the code of conduct when using them.
Get outdoors: Feeling epic? You can walk across the breadth of Scotland and stay in different bothies along the way.
4. KIP IN A YURT IN DORSET
A stay at Crafty Camping is a bit like stepping into fairyland. Lost in the Dorset woods you’ll find a treehouse, a cluster of yurts, belltents and tipis and a wood-fired hot tub. In winter this forest becomes a snowy Narnia and the bell tents are kept wonderfully cosy with log burners and electric blankets. The perfect escape from real life.
Get outdoors: try one of Crafty Camping’s woodworking courses.
5. WILD CAMP ON DARTMOOR
Fairweather camper? Test your mettle by sleeping out under a blanket of stars in the colder months – you might be a convert. Wild camping is a world apart from traditional campsides, and if you pitch on Dartmoor in the winter months you’ll feel like you have the whole of the frosted moors to yourself (along with some curious ponies). Wild camping isn’t legal in most of England but Dartmoor has different legislation and you’re free to set up camp if you follow the rules: only lightweight camping equipment should be used, choose your spot sensibly and don’t pitch your tent on farmland, on moorland enclosed by walls, on flood plains or on archaeological sites and pitch at least 100 metres from the road (check out this map for where you can and can’t pitch and my camping packing checklist). Campfires aren’t permitted – instead, take a small stove, get into an all-season sleeping bag, cook up some hot chocolate with marshmallows and sit out by your tent and enjoy the incredible landscape and total peace.
Get outdoors: there are plenty of stables where you can go for a hack on the moor’s sturdy native ponies.