Even if it’s freezing outside, you can still enjoy family fun in the UK or further afield.
Coast and cocktails
From the cosy confines of a lodge near Abermawr beach, guests warm up with hearty Welsh breakfasts and a woodland walk before taking the plunge on the Pembrokeshire coast. There’s surfing, coasteering and sea kayaking, depending on your cold water tolerance, and the option to explore St David’s or RSPB Ramsey Island. Board games and a log burner keep things toasty at the lodge.
Two nights £189 from 4 February (group bookings taken Dec-Jan), preseliventure.co.uk/events/adventure-weekends
The limestone escarpment at Wenlock Edge runs for around 15 miles between Ironbridge and Craven Arms and supports a diverse array of flora. A survey of endangered hazel dormice is under way as part of a project that started in 2015. Each autumn and winter, volunteers search for hazelnuts with teeth marks to establish the presence of these nocturnal, hard-to-find mammals.
Winter walkers and volunteers should register their interest with [email protected] . The newly opened Old Hall B&B at Cressage has doubles from £130 B&B, oldhallcressage.co.uk
A trio of voguish chefs is heading into the forest of the Glen Dye estate, south-west of Aberdeen. Over the next three weekends, the Americana-inspired woodland camp of cabins, Airstream trailer and cottages is hosting Whyte Rushen (who likes to top oysters with Monster Munch), Yotam Ottolenghi’s co-author Ixta Belfrage and food photographer Joe Woodhouse for foraging (trout from the river, perhaps), fire-pit cooking and demos, as well as hiking, stargazing and wild swimming.
From £45, glendyecabinsandcottages.com/winter-chef-residencies
The Scottish Highlands are home to the UK’s largest national park, a landscape of mountains, moorlands, rivers and forests, as well as red squirrels and raptors. An immersive, week-long mountaineering course will introduce visitors to much of this, while honing climbing skills under expert guidance. There are five days of hikes and climbs, with a rest day to soothe tired limbs (as well as sauna visits in the evenings).
One week from 16 January is £799pp including tuition and B&B, as well as transfers, no-boundaries.co.uk
Dumfries and Galloway
Galloway Forest Park is designated a gold-tier International Dark Sky Park for its exceptionally unpolluted skies; more than 7,000 stars and planets are visible to the naked eye. If you need guidance to explain what you are looking at, there are several ways to find it, including a downloadable map and guide (forestryandland.gov.scot). The cosy Selkirk Arms Hotel in Kirkudbright is organising a three day stargazing weekend in February to visit the town’s new Dark Space Planetarium. There will be an astronomy lecture, dinners, talks and night walks.
25 February, £289pp half board, selkirkarmshotel.co.uk/stargazing-break
Grey seal pups – with their snow-white fur and big, black eyes – are starting to appear at Blakeney Point on the north Norfolk coast, which is home to the country’s largest colony (£20, beansboattrips.co.uk). Whooper and Bewick swans are also arriving from Iceland and Siberia, settling in for the winter at Welney (www.org.uk/wetland-centres/welney), south of King’s Lynn, while pink-footed geese cluster at Snettisham (rspb.org.uk) and snow buntings can be seen on the beach at Titchwell (visitnorfolk.co.uk/inspire/norfolks-winter-wildlife safari.aspx).
The Gunton Arms near Cromer has elegant rooms, a lauded restaurant and views of red deer roaming around parkland outside. Doubles from £95, theguntonarms.co.uk
Soak up seaweed
Vitamin-rich seaweed said to benefit circulation and soften skin has been harvested on Ireland’s Atlantic coast for its health properties since the 12th century. There are still several no-frills bathhouses in counties Galway, Sligo, Clare and Mayo, where you can sink into a steaming, murky, porcelain tub filled with silky strands.
Voya’s elegant bathhouse in Strandhill, Co Sligo, elevates the tradition with spa treatments (€30, voyaseaweedbaths.com).
To see the source, Wild Irish Seaweeds in Co Clare will take you out to the shore to help with the harvest (€30, wildirishseaweeds.com).
Voya baths are offered at the Twelve Hotel in Galway, which has doubles from €150, thetwelvehotel.ie
In addition to numerous motorways, Estonia has seven official ice roads, accessible only in January and February when conditions allow for safe passage across the Baltic Sea. Primarily linking the mainland and western islands, the roads vary in length – the longest ice road, Hiiumaa extends for 25km – transporting thousands of cars each year. As part of a winter city break exploring the capital, Tallinn, visitors can experience a drive on one of the ice roads to visit the city of Haapsalu, Keila-Joa waterfall and the Noarootsi peninsula, with its wooden churches and Swedish cultural legacy.
Regent Holidays offers a three-night break from £525pp with flights, B&B, transfers, a full day of ice driving and city pass. Lake ice skating, cross-country skiing and ice fishing are also possible, regent-holidays.co.uk
Ride the night train
The Nordland line traverses more than 450 miles from Trondheim to Bodo, as far north as you can travel by train in Norway, and crosses the Arctic Circle. The journey sets off from the magnificent fjords and wooden houses of Trondheim, then passes forests and the Saltfjellet mountains on its 10-hour overnight journey to the Arctic coast. In winter, passengers also have a chance of witnessing the Northern Lights.
Tickets cost from Nkr199 (£18), sj.no
You will often have the snow-covered alpine landscapes to yourself in northern Albania’s Valbona National Park, close to the country’s borders with Montenegro and Kosovo. A small-group snowshoeing trip showcases the park’s quiet splendours, hiking in glacial valleys for two to five hours per day past waterfalls and coniferous forests, and staying in small, cosy guesthouses. There is also a visit to over the border to riverside Prizren in Kosovo – with its mosques churches – and a night in Radomire, at the foot of Korab, Albania’s highest peak.
Eight days from €520pp excluding flights, responsibletravel.com
Frozen lake sleepover
Lake Inari is the largest lake in Finland’s Sápmi cultural region, and when it freezes over in winter it is possible to walk, skate or snowmobile to its numerous islands. A thrilling way to experience the Lapland landscape is by sleeping in an Esko’s Cabin – a heated pod on skis with a bed and toilet, which can be transported across the ice by snowmobile. Sauna visits, ice fishing, husky sledging and sleigh rides can also be organised.
From £331 per night for two, canopyandstars.co.uk
Ice climbing and tobogganing
The frozen waterfalls in and around the glitzy Swiss resort of Verbier form a picturesque playground for climbers in winter. Mountain guides direct you to the best cascades in Val de Bagnes, armed with ice picks, ropes and crampons and offering tuition for novices or guidance to aide experienced climbers. Those with energy left to expend can have a go at the 7km-long La Tzoumaz toboggan run from the Savoleyres gondola summit station, which drops 711m via its thrilling hairpin bends.
Ice climbing from SFr180pp (£150), verbier4vallees.ch
Moonbikes and yetis
The French Alps will be swarming with skiers once again this winter, but there is plenty more to enjoy besides skiing and boarding. New for this winter in Val d’Isère are moonbikes: electric snow bikes that transport passengers along snowy trails and through the forest towards the hamlet of Le Laisinant. Children will love the new Mountain Yeti course, which teaches them to respect nature via snowshoeing in the Boisses forest, igloo-building and having a go at trapper activities, rounded off with marshmallow toasting.
Moonbiking €70pp for one hour, mountain yeti from €55pp, evolution2.com
Sleep in a wooden skyscraper
Skelleftea in Swedish Lapland is known for its mining industry, but also for a 20-storey timber building which opened last month. Within it is the Sara Cultural Centre, which will host exhibitions and concerts, while across the full span of the building is the Wood Hotel, crowned with a rooftop spa.
Activities nearby include snowshoeing with huskies (Skr1,000/£85, openlappland.com) and skiing in Vitbergsbacken (visitskelleftea.se).
Doubles from Skr1,500 (£130) B&B, elite.se
Most visitors to the Arctic Circle in Scandinavia focus on one country, but it is possible to hop from Norway across to Finland on a short trip that packs in plenty of adventure. Starting in the Norwegian coastal city of Tromso, it kicks off with husky sledging in search of the Northern Lights, then moves to Kilpisjarvi in Finland where a glass-roofed cabin provides spectacular accommodation.
A day trip on fat bikes takes guests to the border of Norway, Finland and Sweden before heading to another glass-roofed lodge at Rovaniemi and a reindeer encounter with Sami herders.
Five nights from £1,795pp excluding flights, offthemap.travel/stars-of-scandinavia/
(Article source: Inews)