Winter can be dreary in the United Kingdom—days of low overcast, damp cold, and relentless drizzle—but the season also showcases landscapes and landmarks of stunning beauty. The highlands of Northern Ireland, Wales, England, and Scotland are never so dazzling and haunting as when snowbound; winter brings out the true wildness in such places, such a scarce and valuable sensation in the modern UK. Even the heart of a big city can reveal a new, magical side during the season—particularly when you don a pair of ice skates.
Here are five stellar spots for relishing the UK winter in all its robust glory:
Some of the roughest and loftiest country in the United Kingdom lies within this northern reach of Wales, named for 3,557-foot Snowdon (“snow hill”), highest peak in the British Isles outside of Scotland. This is also a particularly popular area for outdoor recreation. Draped in the white stuff, the rugged landscape is certainly a winter wonderland, one that also suggests more ancient deep freezes: Beautiful examples of glacial topography, including Snowdon’s summit horn, abound, relics of Pleistocene ice masses. Winter mountaineering and hill-walking in Snowdonia National Park and the surrounds are a possibility, but be prepared for the often tempestuous—and sometimes dangerous—weather of these highlands.
The Sperrin Mountains
These extensive highlands in Northern Ireland—the highest peaks of which exceed 2,000 feet—offer splendid scenery year-round, but in winter create particularly stirring vistas. Whether you’re taking a scenic drive or tramping through the hills, the Sperrins won’t disappoint—especially when speckled with snow.
The Lake District’s scenery is no secret, of course: This is one of Great Britain’s most famous and breathtaking landscapes. Home to England’s highest mountains—chief among them is 3,206-foot Scafell Pike—the Lake District offers marvelous winter panoramas. You can ramble beneath the impressive crags, or—for the experienced—head to the high country with crampons and ice axe for true winter mountaineering. Either way, you’ll bask in stunning surroundings.
The Grampians and Cairngorms
The most substantial mountains in the British Isles, the Grampians and Cairngorms of Scotland’s Central and Eastern Highlands encompass numerous ranges of rugged, barren domes, ridges, and windswept plateaus. Set so high and so far north, these highlands shoulder impressive winter coats, evoking scenery more reminiscent of Arctic wildernesses than not. Here are Great Britain’s highest peaks: Ben Nevin (4,409 feet), 4,049-foot Aonach Beag, 4,006-foot Aonach Mor, and other wild summits. Admire the snowy scenery from afar, or venture directly into it—but know how to deal with ferocious weather, dangerous sheer ice and rock, avalanches, and other hazards. Excellent skiing can also be had here.
London’s Skating Rinks
Snow-streaked massifs are awe-inspiring, no doubt, but all of the UK’s winter wonderlands aren’t confined to wild highlands. London’s outdoor skating rinks offer unforgettable and romantic portals through which to experience the glittering winter urban scenery. You’ve got plenty to choose from, not least the famous rink at Somerset House. Twirling over the glaze of the central courtyard, you’ll have one of the world’s most elegant backdrops for an ice rink: the imposing and ornate façade of this 18th-century architectural landmark.
Post contributed by Kari Holton, on behalf of Deals.org.uk