Early December is statistically the quietest time in the holiday calendar. And you know what that means? Fewer tourists, cheaper travel and accommodation, and empty beaches. Obviously, there’s a significant caveat here: don’t expect great weather. But this is the UK – you’re never guaranteed any kind of weather here. That’s why us Brits are so renowned for talking about it so much!
And British weather included, we love winter breaks in the UK. Here’s why…
Gone are the frazzling summer days scrambling for a decent spot on the beach, wondering where to plonk your windbreaker and wishing you had more space to fling the Frisbee without the risk of denting one of your fellow sunbathers. Although you should definitely leave your bikini behind (and probably the windbreaker too, if you want it in tact for next summer), there are fewer more satisfying feelings than having the beach all to yourself.
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to beaches on this island. For a spot of ultimate (or just amateur) Frisbee, the miles of firm sand and challenging dunes from Aberdovey up to Tywyn will provide more than enough space to play when you venture from your cottage in mid Wales. If you prefer to watch the wild winter weather crash inland, you’d better get behind the sea wall in Torquay. Given this part of the world has earned the moniker of the English Riviera, there’s little beach to speak of here, even in the summer months. But at this time of year it’s all crashing waves and blustery walks along the promenade – that’s about as English as it gets in winter!
Peace and quiet to refuel before Christmas
Everyone else is so het up about year end targets and ordering their Christmas turkeys that they reckon they’re too busy to take a holiday. More fool them. If you’ve been hankering for your very own rural retreat, away from it all, now’s the time to plan that midweek break. Crunch your way up the driveway of your holiday cottage through the last of the fallen leaves and enter your winter haven. Respite from work and the pre-Christmas retail sales. Light the fire, brew a cuppa and kick off your boots.
In case you packed in haste and forgot your book, you’re bound to find one on the bookshelf to tickle your interest. Curl up under a blanket. Congratulations. You’ve just bagged yourself an envious couple of duvet days.
Christmas shopping on your terms
The Christmas light switch-ons have happened, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have passed. Each December Saturday on our high streets is busier than the last. Crowds (plus kids, if they’ve grabbed on to your leg in the fray) don’t make for happy shopping.
Spare some of your winter timeout to complete your Christmas shopping in the relative serenity of a midweek high street or Christmas market trip. Even better, combine a tourist attraction with your shopping spree and head to one of the Christmas shopping events hosted at stately homes around the country. If you’ve retreated to Oxfordshire or the Cotswolds for your short break, Blenheim Palace has its late night shopping event on 1 December 2015. While the National Trust’s Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury has its Christmas pop-up shop running until 23 December.
You might just find that the Oxfordshire market town you’ve temporarily adopted as home has an abundance of local producers and independent shops whose crafts and wares will make the perfect, unique and perhaps personalised gifts.
If you’re escaping for a short break with pre-school kids, you’re bound to have a rainy day to fill with activities. Why not make biscuits to decorate the Christmas tree with, or if edible decorations are likely to leave your tree bare by Christmas Day, opt for salt dough instead. You’ll find dozens of inspirational crafty ideas on the Imagination Tree.
Out and about there are plenty of winter workshops to ply new skills while creating something for home. Think of it as a winter activity holiday, if that helps! Prince Charles’ country seat of Highgrove in Tetbury runs willow weaving workshops if you can drag yourself out from your Gloucestershire bolthole. While those opting for an East Anglia cottage can try their hand at Christmas wreath making at Somerleyton Hall in Suffolk – it’s their Christmas Fayre 12-13 December – or let the kids make their own at Sheringham Park in Norfolk, 5-6 December.
Hearty English lunches (or suppers)
This is categorically not the time of year to start a diet. Every day foods suddenly appear in shiny tins that make nice presents or just look good on the coffee table (no-one will ever know it’s empty). Boxes of biscuits loom larger than ever before. The sprouts are practically rolling out of their boxes in the greengrocers. Where ‘ere one looks, there be food.
Before the Christmas parties and lunches take over our restaurants and venues, book a table at your holiday home’s local eaterie for some hearty local grub. Ask your booking agent for their recommendations. And if everywhere’s already swapped the ketchup for the cranberry sauce, head to the local butcher. They’re bound to have a joint of something locally reared for you to cook up in the cottage and will doubtless have suggestions of how to prepare it too. Enjoy your slice of local life and your local fayre.
So it’s time to cash in on travel’s bargain basement period. We’ll be by the log fire, with a good book and a wee dram if you need us!