Christmas is *not* cancelled. Sure, things will look a little different and some traditions may have to be put on pause for another year as we adjust to life after lockdown 2.0, but winter always has a way of throwing up unexpected moments of magic that the other seasons just cannot match -- and 2020 is no different.
Whether you want to soak up some festive feels in our wonderful capital or escape into the wilderness for an unexpected adventure, this island comes alive in the run-up to Christmas. From an epic outdoor winter wonderland to memorable cold-weather fun, the UK is bursting with forget-me-not things to do and, in that spirit, here is our guide to the best unexpected activities to make the last days of 2020 the ones to remember.
Just be sure to follow the latest coronavirus regulations and guidance while exploring this winter, and remember to stay safe and act responsibly.
Explore Your Local Wilderness
The build-up to Christmas Day is always marked with food, booze and board games, and that’s why you should break up the indoor fun by saying yes to the great outdoors. Throw an extra coat into your roll top and slide a thermos flask into the side pocket, and then explore those not-too-far-away spots: the sandy shores of Norfolk, the wild moors of Devon, the incredible wilderness found in the Peak District or the pinch-yourself scenes on the Isle of Skye. After all, there’s no better way to enjoy a long lunch with your nearest and dearest than to end it with an even longer walk.
See The Miracle On Kingdom Street
Don’t listen to the hearsay: Not all your festive favourites have been cancelled. There will still be pinch-yourself lights, there will still be seasonal music played from every street, there will be skating on sparsely populated ice rinks, and there will still be Pergola’s Miracle on Kingdom Street for you to meet safely outside… in an outdoor winter wonderland. Set in a grand Alpine hall and decorated with over 200 fir trees so that it feels like you’re clinking glasses in a forest glade, this place will be full of places to order a hot toddy and pop-ups serving Alps-inspired dishes.
Cornish Cold Water Boost
2020 is almost over, so go out with a bang by heading to Cornwall for a breath-shortening dip in the ice-cold sea... or don’t because the Cornish coast boasts an abundance of opportunities for you to pull on your thermal wetsuit and then dunk yourself in whatever water takes your fancy: tidal pools, rivers, quarries, anything. So grab your adventure bag, pack a towel, bookmark the wild swimming Cornwall website and get closer to nature by swimming in the UK’s wildest spots, while benefiting your mental health too, something this community raises money for using the #selfcareswim hashtag.
Chase Waterfalls in the Lake District
The Lake District may be better known for its epic lakes, but hiding in the wooded wilds of Cumbria are some of the most impressive waterfalls you could ever go searching for. Pass the cascading Aira Force as you summit Gowbarrow, climb the steep steps at Ravenglass to see Stanley Ghyll Force crash through this 60-foot gorge or head to Scale Fell near Crummock Water to see one of the tallest waterfalls in the UK, Scale Force, which drops 170-feet over the moss-covered rocks in this breath-stealing forest. Whichever trail piques your interest, lace up your walking boots, pull on your waterproofs and enjoy all the waterfalls you can this winter.
Winters at The National Trust
To escape the temptation of mince pies and the twinkle of tinsel, wrap up warm and explore the invigorating outdoors of your favourite National Trust spots. Be blown away by the Belton House light display, walk amongst the flickering flames and majestic sculptures at Gibside, experience the after-dark fantasy world at Polesden Lacy, rock your wellies for a winter’s walk at Wallington or get lost in the 30-acre woodland at Coleton Fishacre, where the wilderness falls away into the stunning coastal waves. Wherever you are able to visit, the National Trust is the ultimate winter’s day out.
The Dark Skies of Brecon Beacons
By day, the Brecon Beacons are a mind-melting place to explore high altitude plateaus of grass and heather, glacier-specked hollows, great mountain woodlands and valleys decorated with wild waterfalls. But by night, this dark sky reserve produces nightsky scenes as wondrous as anywhere. With almost no light pollution in the Elan Valley, the moment the darkness takes over, you’re free to stare up at the remarkably crystalline skies, the array of constellations and sometimes, just sometimes, catch a glimpse of the ever-elusive Northern Lights.
Dare To Explore Dalby Forest
Anytime you step through the trees and into a forest, you can guarantee you’re in for a visual hike. But for the ultimate wild day in the woods, your destination needs to be Dalby Forest. Not only is this patch of North Yorkshire surrounded by rolling hills, tranquil valleys and high moors, but there’s a winter adventure to suit everyone in your tribe. There’s mountain biking, Segway riding and ziplining for those end-of-year thrillseekers, and soul-stirring hiking trails for those just wanting a gentle stroll somewhere special. And, trust us, it’s even more special after a snow dump.
Head to Scotland’s Glenshee Ski Area
With 22 lifts, 36 runs and 40km of pisted snow, Glenshee is Scotland’s largest skiing area, stretching across four mountains, three valleys and over 2,000 acres of adrenaline-packed adventure. But while it may not compete with your favourite resorts on the continent, this place has enough allure to make a trip to southern Highlands of Scotland with your Adventure Bag an incredible substitute -- especially when the sun burns through the clouds after a heavy dousing of snow. From the views over Scotland’s stunning backcountry to the semi-challenging slopes, this is one of those ski areas worth exploring come winter.