Rural escape

Leave London behind and head into the countryside for bracing walks in frosty fields followed by pints of ale in old man pubs. There are 14 national parks in the UK, all with their fair share of the above.

The Brecon Beacons, New Forest and South Downs are nearest to London, but you’ll also find rural idylls in the home counties. If you’re on a budget, rent a cottage with friends and hunker down over a Tesco home delivery.


Also try: Head to the South Coast to get rid of the party cobwebs. West Wittering and Camber Sands are within easy reach of London.

Religious experience

If there’s one venue you can guarantee being open on Christmas Day, it’s a church.

London, with Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, may be a big hitter when it comes to religious buildings, but if you’re keen for a festive break there are some just as impressive elsewhere. Try Canterbury in Kent, home to the mothership of the Anglican church, or Salisbury in Wiltshire, with one of Britain’s finest medieval cathedrals. Further afield, Liverpool has the largest cathedral in the UK, and Durham one of the most imposing.


Also try: Opt out of Christmas on a Buddhist retreat at Rivendell in Sussex, from December 23-27 for £200.

Festive action

Christmas is a great excuse for being a couch (roast) potato, but if you want to work off all those mince pies there are plenty of options.

Despite the chilly temperatures, it’s become something of a tradition to take a Christmas dip in many places. Join the goose-pimpled crowds taking the plunge at Brighton, or head to Boscombe Pier where members of the Bournemouth Spartans Winter Sea Swimming Club attempt to swim in fancy dress. Other top swimming spots include Coney Beach at Porthcawl and Aldeburgh in Suffolk.


Also try: Head to Fistral Beach in Newquay, or Croyde Bay in Devon, to catch the massive waves that roll off the Atlantic each winter.

White Christmas

According to, Christmas Day in Britain looks likely to be cold with a showery northerly flow, so there’s a “reasonable probability of it being a white one somewhere in the UK”. That doesn’t exactly narrow it down, but the Scottish Highlands are a good bet for the white stuff, particularly at the area’s ski resorts. There are three ski centres in the Grampian mountain range – Cairngorm, Glenshee and The Lecht – as well as the Nevis range and Glencoe resorts in the west of Scotland near Ben Nevis. Check weather reports to avoid disappointment.


Also try: Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons in Wales, and the Lake District – there’s a permanent ski lift on Helvellyn.

Step back in time

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol is said to have revived people’s enthusiasm for the holiday, which is why a lot of the traditional elements of Christmas are associated with the Victorian era, and also why Dickens’ World in Chatham comes into its own in December. The indoor theme park, based on the author’s stories, becomes a winter wonderland, with the likes of Jack Frost and Ebenezer Scrooge wandering the cobbled streets and Victorian buildings.

Nearby ye olde Rochester was a big inspiration for Dickens, and there’s a Dickensian Christmas festival on the first weekend of December.


Also try: Bath, for a Christmas market among Georgian buildings à la Jane Austen.