England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Eeny meeny, miny, moe! Which place is the best to go… for snow! With Christmas fast approaching it’s been amazing to experience the 2016 holiday season in so many different cities and countries, how could I not write about it!
I will admit that when I first moved to London I had the same hope as all the other newbies, that maybe I’ll be lucky and have a white Christmas. I learnt quickly that this was a foolish dream, ignited by the one too many films I watched as a kid and snow would only fall in London as a freak act of nature. I quickly decided there were far more important things to focus on, like keeping warm in arctic temperatures. Ok, that’s an overstatement, but compared to Australian winters it was bloody cold!
This December I find myself again making my way across Great Britain and Ireland, stopping in a few familiar places and a few I’ve always wanted to venture to. The one thing I keep hearing from other travellers is “WHERE IS THE SNOW?!” Being the seasoned ex-pat that I am, I’ve joked with many locals about the misleading images you see on all the post cards and promotional images, such as snow falling on Big Ben, or over the streets of Edinburgh and unfortunately I have secret for you… Yes! Santa is real! Just kidding, but the images you see all covered with snow are quite commonly photoshopped. I can hear the outcries of false advertising from you all already.
This winter season I have especially remarked on just how mild it has been, as I definitely haven’t needed to rug up as much as years previous. I continued my unlucky streak for 3 years and have still never officially seen real snow, at Christmas time, or well ever, so I do feel your pain! The one day, and I literally mean ONE day it sprinkled a light dusting of snow overnight, I overslept for work and completely missed it all. Not going to lie, I was incredibly upset, but at least it wasn’t at Christmas (it was strangely in May). So, if your heart is set for a snow filled Christmas in the UK or Ireland, you’re in for a disappointment, it’s mainly just very wet, but hey, never say never!
To keep this post from being entirely a let down, let’s discuss a few of the places I can suggest you SHOULD still go, even if there won’t be any snow! These cities are a few of my favourites and if at any point you end up in any at Christmas time, I’m sure you will find yourself feeling more like a glittery elf than the cranky Grinch, because Christmas is still certainly, allllll around!
Of course I will be biased here and have to say that London is pretty magical at Christmas. From the date they turn on the lights in Oxford Circus and reveal the windows of Selfridges and Harrods, it is officially Christmas, no ifs or buts about it. It’s as if the spirit of the city instantly lifts. People become more light-hearted and actually brave the cold to sit in cute little pop-ups, drinking mulled wine and eating funnily enough, German themed food. Some of the must dos are Winter Wonderland, getting tickets to see the Nutcracker (best to buy these months in advance), ice-skating at Somerset House and feed reindeer carrots at Covent Garden. All of it seems like kiddy things to do, but trust me, the inner child in you will love all of this and have you singing Jingle Bells at the top of your lungs. Oh, that’s just me? My bad.
I have had the pleasure to spend many short weekends in Bath due to my lovely friend Frances living there with her family. They always look after me well and the time feels extra special because I get to experience it with a bestie, but that doesn’t mean you won’t love it to. I like to describe Bath as quintessentially British. The city has lovely traditional architecture, lots of greenery, fountains and of course cute family run Christmas Markets with plenty of sweet treats to choose from. If you don’t feel like you’re walking around in a film after just a few days there, you’re doing something wrong.
This city has absolutely stolen my heart. I felt completely at home the minute I stepped off the bus from Glasgow. There is always someone to watch perform on the Royal Mile, such as a crazy knife swallower, Scottish singer or silent statue and Sunday is the best day to explore. Although there is no snow on top of Arthur’s Seat in December, it was one of the muddiest and funniest hikes I’ve done with a few lads from my hostel. Be prepared and wear sturdy shoes!
The cafes are particularly cozy. No joke, I have never felt so overly heated in my life in once city and sitting with a hot chocolate in one hand whilst learning the history of the literature filled streets of Edinburgh was incredible. Like every other city they have a Christmas market with lots of rides to go on, but it’s just as nice sitting in a pub such as Stramash listening to fantastic local bands and having a drink.
If you’re after a craic time, then Dublin knows how to provide. You’ll start to think I just want you to spend all your time in pubs, but really this is what the UK and Ireland is all about. I have to encourage you to drink your whiskey in Ireland as it is the original birthplace of the liquor. The best place to get all your information is the Irish Whiskey Museum. It is superior to the Jameson Distillery as it isn’t brand orientated and it provides a guided tour (included in the cheap price of €12!) with a back history to the origination of whiskey in Ireland and then finishes off with a tasting of 4 different styles of whiskey. You’re winning in knowledge and drunk! Also, it’s a great place to buy people gifts for the alcoholics in your family.
I personally don’t really care for beer, but if you like Guinness then give the place a go, but the tour is self guided and you just get one beer at the end. You’ll also be about €20 poorer. I’ve now been in Dublin twice and when I have a bit more time I’ll be able to give you more in-depth information regarding the rest of the country, as I’m sure smaller towns will have more Christmas themed events.
I am proud to say I, along with my sisters, that I am a first generation Australian to my Northern Irish Father. Belfast has been a city plagued with trouble and violence for a number of decades, but I have left it till last as it quickly became my favourite place in the UK to visit. You want to know why? The people here are the kindest, friendliest and loveliest I have met out of any of the cities I suggested. It is common to think the Republic of Ireland or Scotland would have people be far kinder, but from my experience they have become indifferent to tourists, almost rude at times, but not the Northern Irish.
They welcome you with open arms and want you to see just how far their country has come as they try to rebuild the city of Belfast. There is so much history here and I’m sure you’d be surprised to learn that Belfast was a leader in many trades back in the 20th century. Linen, tea, ship building, whiskey and other products all made their start in Belfast. People used to flock to the city for jobs back in the day, before everything went belly up. Ireland may have split, but I really encourage you to see the North to see how far it has come.
I have never seen a city where almost every house has Christmas decorations lining their windows and gardens. Everyone wants to stop and talk to you in the street to find out more about where you are from and their customer service is impeccable. Like all the rest they have a Christmas market, but this is situated on the grounds of City Hall. The building is grand and has the gorgeous Christmas tree I attached in the image above. You are able to walk the building and sign up for a free guided tour if you’d like. Another suggestion is to get over to Belfast Titanic. It will help you discover more about the citizens of Belfast, the people that wanted to design and make the largest carrier ship in the world, as well as the scandal that followed, causing damage to the city reputation. One of my final suggestions is to get out to the Giant’s Causeway. A mystical place with wonderful gaelic tales of a Giant that used to live there thousands of years ago.
Now, if all of this doesn’t inspire you to make your way out to this part of the world, despite the lack of snow, I don’t know what will.
♥ Love from Leah