30th November, 2017
Our little island tends to get progressively colder from October, with the days growing shorter and the constant threat of snow. However, winter does bring forth some bonuses - the Christmas spirit begins to blossom just after Halloween, and throughout the country people come together. We've chosen some of our favourite winter treats and activities to share with those outside of the UK...
For the Foodies
Mince pies, an English tradition since the 13th century, are a season staple. These days, mince pies usually hit the shelves around September, although some will admit to hoarding them to be enjoyed all year round. Made of minced dried fruit and spice and covered with rich buttery pastry, these pies are usually served with thick brandy cream or custard, and are simply delicious. St. John’s Bakery on the South Bank regularly rank in Londoner’s Top Five for mince pies, with another indie baker, Covent Garden’s Bread Ahead, coming close behind. Bread Ahead offers the most traditional pies of all, made to the more savoury recipe that dates back centuries. Even out of season, we highly recommend them – the head baker, Justin Gellaty, made the sourdough for Will and Kate’s Wedding! Of course, no Christmas treat is complete without a glass of something warm. Mulled cider is particularly in vogue at the moment, and most Christmas markets will give you the chance to sample some interesting varieties. Of course, the classic choice is mulled wine – rich red wine brewed with seasonal spices – that really hits the spot. Hot Chocolate is also a good way to warm up after a hard day shopping or sledding. Own of our favourites is Rumsey's - the finest place for chocolate in the Chilterns - and there selection of drinks are to die for. There are some great flavoured versions out there (a personal favourite is Costa Coffee’s Black Forest Hot Chocolate – heaven), but making your own is easy. Add a shot of Baileys for a real taste of luxury.
For the Active
Just because the sun stays in, it doesn’t mean you have to! There are plenty of activities to keep you busy even through the winter months. Ice Skating in front of the Natural History Museum is an unforgettable experience – skating doesn't get more sophisticated than this. The rink is open from October to January, and must be booked online. The health benefits of the fresh winter air are usually overlooked in favour of warm hearths, but walking in the brisk British winter can be surprisingly invigorating, and a walk can always be adapted to end at a particularly nice pub as that extra reward. We suggest walking the Thames Path; a scenic jaunt along the river, giving you the chance to soak up history, culture and cuisine whatever the weather. Winter wildlife can also be quite spectacular; if you are in Scotland this season, keep your eyes out for red squirrels in the snow, seals on the shores and red deer in the highlands. Eagles are also known to swoop low in search of prey at this time of year. As snow is more of a guarantee in the Highlands, we recommend that those looking to do more intense snow sports, such as ice-climbing or dog-sledding, look to the north.
For the Festive
Christmas Markets are one of our favourite ways to get into the Christmas spirit – fairy lights and the smell of food in the air. While travelling the UK will take you to some superb markets – we suggest Manchester and Edinburgh in particular – and it’s also a good excuse for a weekend break in Amsterdam or Paris. The market in Amsterdam runs from November through to February and has everything from an ice rink to a circus. The Light Festival also brightens up this miniature village through December and January.
For the Not-so-Festive
If Christmas isn’t your thing, you can always get away, travel somewhere nice and warm and wait until it’s all over – see here for our suggestions.