1. Visit the UK’s only free-ranging reindeer herd in the Cairngorms
Do you need living proof that reindeer are not just for Christmas? Around 150 reindeer roam the Cairngorms in Scotland; throughout both summer and winter an experienced reindeer herder from the Glenmore centre leads visitors on a walk up the mountains to find them.
They’re a tame bunch, so you’ll be able to give them a stroke and take selfies as you please, providing your fingers don’t drop off in the cold. On that note, wrap up warmer than you think is possibly appropriate; Scotland doesn’t do winter in half measures.
2. Sing away the winter blues in Northumberland
Now, this isn’t the sort of winter break you’d want to invite your tone-deaf mate on. The Unthanks Singing Weekends are run by Mercury Prize-nominated musician sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank, who host visitors in the Northumberland countryside for a weekend of walking, singalongs and pub grub.
Their mantra is simple: “a down to earth, inclusive experience, designed to bring people together for the joy of group singing and good company”. Better start practicing in the shower, people.
3. Pretend you’re in Game of Thrones at the Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
This otherworldly avenue of inward-leaning, gnarled trees is one of the most stunning and photogenic spots in the whole of Northern Ireland. So photogenic, in fact, that it is used in Game of Thrones as the filming location for the Kingsroad.
You can visit the Dark Hedges all year, but there’s something quite magical about coming here during the winter, when the leafless branches may well be covered in a layer of snow.
4. Take a Mediterranean escape… in Wales
The technicoloured village of Portmeirion, in northwest Wales, is unlike anywhere else in the UK. In the 1920s, eccentric architect Clough Williams-Ellis dreamt of building an ideal village, and this fantastical Italianate settlement is the result.
On top of its peculiar hotch-potch of Mediterranean architecture and subtropical gardens, Portmeirion has been known to get unusually balmy weather during the winter – possibly due to the warm winds that blow down from nearby Snowdonia.
The place is chocker with visitors in the summer but pleasantly quieter in the winter, when you’ll have its piazzas and pastel-painted buildings near enough all to yourself.