No matter what time of year, the UK is a great place to visit. There are thousands of years of history and culture, sweeping countryside, interesting towns and cities, and – let’s face it – no end of weird and wonderful feasts and festivals.
But there’s a magic about winter – and particularly November – that can be hard to describe.
But we’ll try:
Starting with Guy Fawkes Night, and building towards the Christmas run down, November is the month when the nights begin to draw in, people hunker down in cosy pubs, and the outdoorsy types enjoy hikes and cycles without breaking much of a sweat.
Sure, the weather gets cooler, and there may be more than a little rain (be sure to pack an umbrella and a good waterproof). But there’s something majestic about the low, piercing November light that picks out the hedgerows and highlights the sweeping hills. Even more beautiful given a blanket of frost or, if you’re lucky, snow.
An added bonus: It’s vastly cheaper visiting the UK during the winter. Flights are less expensive, as is accommodation and many attractions.
So if you’re coming over to our way of thinking (we at Active England are big fans of the UK in the winter), then here are ten of our favourite places to enjoy the UK weather in November.
1. The Cotswolds
Whatever the weather, the Cotswolds is the chocolate box picture postcard of the UK all year round. At just a stone’s throw from London (1.5 hours on the train from London Paddington), it also makes for a good base from which to branch out to visit Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon, the historical cities of Bath and Oxford (which we’ll discuss later), Blenheim Palace and even into Wales and the Black Mountains.
As for the Cotswolds itself, November is a lovely time to visit. The bustling summer crowds are a distant memory, and the Christmas lights will be starting to emerge in the rural towns. Pubs will be offering mulled wine and cider, and a good pub restaurant will offer menus based on local seasonal produce – root vegetables, mushrooms, blackberries and apples.
If you’re lucky enough to be greeted with snow during your trip, the views you’ll get will be unspeakably good. Tiny ancient towns, thatched cottages, rolling countryside and cobblestone lanes are always a charm, but on a snowy or frosty morning are a sight to behold.
Top villages to visit: Bibury, Painswick, Castle Combe, Winchcombe and Chipping Campden. If you want to really lean into the winter experience, book a husky ride with Arctic Quest in Tewkesbury. You get to do dog sledging, pulling behind a team of huskies, followed by a warming hot chocolate around the campfire. For a whole catalogue of things to do in the Cotswolds, whatever the weather, check out our guide.
2. The Beaches of Cornwall
Believe it or not, the UK’s southern-most beaches are a delight during the winter. Cornwall itself is a delight during November – mainly because the crowds have dispersed and its supreme natural beauty can be enjoyed for what it is.
And there’s something about the Cornish scenery that befits November weather. If you’re lucky, you’ll experience a storm whipping up the oceans against the vast craggy shoreline.
Cornwall has a range of stunning beaches, whether you’re looking for stretches of sand as far as the eye can see (in which case head straight to Perranporth), or tiny hidden coves in which to poke about in the rock pools or take a dip in the cool water (Mullion Cove is great for this).
Just make sure you’re dressed for the occasion. Come prepared for coldwater swimming, bring layers, waterproofs, and changes of clothes, and be warned that beaches are not lifeguarded during the winter months.
November is a magical time to be in Edinburgh. With the leftovers of Fall still detectable in the city’s flora, there’s more than a hint of the cold and the cosy, particularly on November 5th when Bonfire Night is celebrated. Get ready for firework displays, toffee apples and mugs of hot chocolate – if you’re lucky with a “wee dram” of something stronger added to boot.
And if you’re there for St Andrew’s Day, when Scots commemorate and celebrate their beloved patron saint – then all the better. Parties abound, and literary and spoken word events mark the traditions of the Gaelic culture.
Other November events include Whiskey and Cheese Tasting, and the Castle of Light when Edinburgh Castle is lit up with visuals and light installations.
Towards the end of the month, the city starts to come to life with Christmas festivities.
The Dome on George Street is bedecked in Christmas decor, pantomimes start packing out the theatres, and the Christmas Markets start to open up.
The historic city of Bath Spa exudes elegance, especially over the winter. Late November is a great time to visit when the Christmas Market comes to town with 170 chalets burgeoning with sweet treats and special gifts.
Bath also hosts “Bath Mozartfest” in November. This 9-day affair honours one of Europe’s favourite composers and showcases his and his contemporaries’ work performed by top-class musicians in 16 concerts.
Bath’s perennial attractions, most significantly, its Roman Baths, are a treat at Christmas, not least because they offer a warming haven. The 2,000-year-old spa established in 75 BC, invites you to wander around the natural springs and spa. There’s also the option of enjoying a candlelit three-course meal at the Pump Room Restaurant later in the evening.
If you fancy getting out of the city, Longleat Park is on the outskirts of Bath. Ostensibly a stately home, it’s set in its very own safari park. From the beginning of November, it holds its annual Festival of Light which involves Chinese lantern displays, outdoor exhibits, and all sorts of fun and frivolity.
5. The Lake District
The Lake District is the North of England’s most phenomenally beautiful area. With 16 lakes and several fells (the name given to the Lake’s mountains), valleys and moors. There are boundless options for lakeside walks, fell scrambles and looking for hidden gems at whatever time of year.
But in November, the Lake District offers something that little bit extra. The Christmas markets start popping up in Ambleside, Windermere and Cockermouth. Meanwhile, Ulverston comes to life with its annual immersive Dickensian experience of A Christmas Carol. The market town metamorphs into a Dickensian market, with street performances and local residents donning period costumes. It’s a real treat to experience first-hand!
It’s dramatic. It’s moody. The moors embody all manner of fairytales, myths and legends that lend themselves perfectly to the UK November weather.
When you add a touch of frost or a sprinkling of snow, you’ll be glad you were here to see the most amazing winter wonderland you could possibly imagine. Add a few roaming ponies and cattle and you have yourself a true serving of magical charm.
Dartmoor is in Devon, in the South West of the UK. It offers tors, heaths, rugged landscapes, and valleys and activities that span from long bracing walks to rafting and climbing. There’s even the option to sled (or sledge) if the weather permits.
As one of the UK’s oldest towns, Oxford has a lot to offer. It’s beset by tourists over the summer months, but November is quiet enough for you to enjoy its majesty unencumbered by bustling crowds.
A university town, its architecture is striking with some stunning medieval buildings. Just a short walk around the city will bring you to all sorts of Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera and Christ Church Cathedral. Touristy options include all manner of walking tours, including Tolkien or Harry Potter-specific tours.
If you want to get out of the city, take a trip out west to the historical site and birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace.
A day in Oxford can be perfectly rounded off with a concert at the iconic Sheldonian Theatre after a bite to eat at the five-star Old Parsonage Hotel.
Ok so, full disclosure: UK weather doesn’t have the greatest reputation. The rain, the wind, the drizzle, the…. Mizzle? (the mix of mist and drizzle). November gets it all. But if you’re like us at Active England HQ, we love ALL weather types.
And November offers so much more than any hot summer day when you’re forced to compete with crowds to enjoy your experience. The roads are quieter, the tickets are cheaper, and the general pace is more relaxed. And with Christmas around the corner, the markets and festivals make for an enriching time wherever you wind up in the UK.
These are our November options – there are many more – but if you want to find out more about joining us for an organised walking, cycling or even swimming tour during November, then please get in touch.