Let’s face it: the colder seasons can be dreadful in London. It is rainy and grey, sometimes the sun doesn’t show itself for days. It’s easy to get into a funk when it’s chilly out, and summer still seems far away.
Every time I felt the winter blues coming, I knew what I had to do to beat it: Get out of town for a couple of days. No matter if you only have Saturday and Sunday, or if you can add another day and take a long weekend, there are so many places close enough to London that make even a one-night getaway worthwhile.
Read on for my top five winter weekend breaks from London:
Distance from London: One hour on the train
Why go? Brighton is perfect for a weekend of long walks on the beach combined with shopping in the eclectic little shops in Brighton’s Lanes, where you find quirky vintage shops and cute cafes that invite to linger with a book or the newspaper when it’s raining outside. The dining scene in Brighton is exceptional, and there are enough things to keep you busy for several weekends.
Don’t miss: If the weather allows for it, take the bus (12, 12A or 13 bus) to Seven Sisters Country Park and go for a hike along the stunning white cliffs. Stop in a cozy country pub for a Sunday Roast on the way back.
Where to stay? Brighton has plenty of unusual B&B’s and small boutique hotels to offer – among the best ones are the Artist Residence (Rooms start at £90 per night); Snooze B&B (rooms start at £75); and Pelirocco, Brighton’s famous Rock’n’Roll hotel (grab their lovebirds special deal for £99 which includes a bottle of champagne, chocolate truffles and breakfast in bed!
A Spa Break In The Midlands
Distance from London: 2.5 hours by car
Why go? The Belfry in the Midlands, just outside of Birmingham, is the perfect place to recharge your batteries. The hotel spa has undergone a £1 million a few years ago, making it a perfect destination for a spa weekend without breaking the bank and to spoil you with a quality spa experience. Two-night spa breaks at the gorgeous ivy-covered country house hotel in Sutton Coldfield start at only £134 per person per night – including a spa treatment, breakfast, a 3-course dinner and access to the pool area. No better way to spend a chilly winter weekend than by pampering yourself! And if the hubby isn’t much of a spa enthusiast, he’ll appreciate the 18-hole golf course.
Don’t miss: Head to the nearby Kingsbury Water Park with 15 lakes, plenty of walking trails and birds and wildlife.
Distance from London: About 2 hours by car
Why go? The Cotswolds are the quintessential English countryside getaway, with dozens of picture-perfect little villages with rustic stone houses dotted among the green hills. The villages are as traditional as Britain gets – you’ll think you’ve traveled back to the last century!
Don’t miss: One of the many scenic trails – the Telegraph lists the 10 best pub walks in the Cotswolds, and The Culture Trip shares the best hikes in the Cotswolds. Also stop in some of the Cotswolds villages and go for a stroll – Burford, Blockley, Chipping Norton and Bourton-on-the-Water are among the most delightful ones.
Where to stay? Rent a cottage – it doesn’t matter in which of the villages you’re staying, they’re all equally as charming. AirBnb has cottages for as little as £60 – a steal for a romantic countryside getaway!
Hastings & Rye
Distance from London: 90 mins on the train
Why go? Over the past few years, Hastings has made quite a name for itself as an art lover’s heaven and cultural hotspot. The city has become quite hip, with a thriving art scene, plenty of artisan shops and boutiques, as well as trendy restaurants. The pier has also undergone a major £14 million renovation, and helped turning the city into a busy seaside resort. Visiting off-season has the advantage that you don’t have to deal with crowds, but can still admire the natural beauty while shopping for art in the many galleries.
Don’t miss: Only a short 20-min train ride to the East brings you to the small town of Rye, which is famous for its cobbled streets lined with half-timbered houses which date back to Medieval times. The annual Rye Bay Scallop Week takes place in late February, so if you are a scallop fan, you should plan your getaway to coincide with this event. The town makes for a nice detour trip from Hastings to peek inside the many little shops and to explore the nearby dunes at Camber, Rye Bay and Romney Marsh on a nice winter walk.
Where to stay: Zanzibar Hotel, praised by Conde Nast Traveler, has rooms starting from £99; The Old Rectory is a gorgeous B&B in the historic center (from £110), and Hastings House is a stylish, contemporary seaside B&B (rooms from £80).
Distance from London: 2 hours and 17 mins on the fast train
Why go? York is one of the most beautiful and best-preserved medieval cities in the entire UK, and with Virgin’s comfortable high speed trains less than 2.5 hours away. No matter what time of year you’re visiting, it is always delightful to meander through the historic alleyways, take a walk on the 13-century city walls and marvel at The Shambles, a narrow street with half-timbered houses that is lined with independent shops and lively cafes. The true showstopper is of course the York Minster, one of the most remarkable Gothic churches in the entire country.Don’t miss: Betty’s Café Tea Rooms – sure, it’s touristy, but it is popular for a reason. This tea-and-cake shop is a York institution and afternoon tea or a quick stop for some tea and scones is a must!
Where to stay: The Churchill Hotel is a small upscale hotel housed in a luxurious Georgian mansion, and it is fabulous! Rooms start at around £85. Hotel Indigo is known for its uniquely styled bedrooms in a redbrick, industrial-chic building. Rooms from £75.