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Explore the charm of East Anglia in winter with our complete guide for the colder months of 2024. Discover the finest gardens of Essex to explore on a crisp morning, immerse yourself in history on the Norfolk coast or at Norwich Castle, connect with nature by seeking out wildlife in Suffolk, and experience hidden spots of Cambridge. All of these activities are within reach of one of our cosy pubs.

 E S S E X    C A M B R I D G E    N O R F O L K   S U F F O L K



Whether you're throwing on your winter woollens and looking for a quiet spot for a frosty morning stroll, or you're looking for a rainy afternoon activity, Essex has a host of events and open gardens this season.


Although we hope for sunny winter days, the weather sometimes plays havoc with our plans, so it’s good to have some indoor ideas for rainy days.

This February we’re proud to sponsor Art at the Park that aims to support Home-Start Essex, a family support charity. This contemporary art show held at Braxted Park will comprise of seventy local and national artists showing sculpture, prints, glass, and ceramics. The event is taking place between February 1st – 4th.

Another idea for the art-lover in you is Firstsite which is a modern visual arts organisation in Colchester. Their mission is to ‘empower people, no matter their background, to be creative together and lead happier and healthier lives’ which is why they host a variety of free exhibitions, courses and cinema all year round.


For those days when there’s a light frost and a pink sky, these gardens make a stunning backdrop for your morning walk.

Markshall Estate is one of Essex’ best kept secrets. Extending over 2,350 acres of countryside, it includes woodlands, an arboretum, lakes and a walled garden, amongst many other beautiful features!

Haven’t got quite as much time on your hands? Beth Chatto Gardens span a smaller area of just over 7 acres and comprise of five informal gardens. Designed on an overgrown wasteland, the different areas highlight the importance of the ‘right plant in the right place’. You can purchase tickets on the day or become a Friend of the Garden and go for a stroll anytime you like.


Grab your besties and adorn yourself in faux fur and feathered hats for an evening of Floodlit Racing at Chelmsford Racecourse. Thursday evenings are the biggest night of the week, with the first race starting at 5.30pm, so place your bets, hold onto your hats and enjoy an exhilarating evening before heading back to The Cricketers for dinner and a restful night’s sleep.

Just a short drive away, spend the following day exploring the historic market town of Saffron Walden. With independent, boutique shops, a castle and picturesque Bridge End Gardens, it makes for a relaxed day out throughout the year. It’s especially good for diving into a book shop out of any rain though!


A family adventure is rarely complete without water; Historically that may have been a trip to the beach or waterpark on a summer holiday, however this time there may be less sun and a few more layers!

As Ratty famously says to Mole in The Wind in The Willows, “There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” So, gather your brood and head to  Dedham Vale Boathouse to take a rowing boat out on the River Stour before retreating back to cosy up by the fire at The Crown, Stoke-By-Nayland.

If you’d rather be in the water, head to Essex's biggest inflatable wipe out obstacle course, Curve Watersports. This awesome adventure park on water includes slides, trampolines, giant bounce balls and much more! It is bookable per hour and they will supply you with a wetsuit.



Who says you can only go to the beach when the sun’s out? There’s so much more to Norfolk's coastline than sandcastle building, so make for a day trip even in the off-season.


The Deep History Coast Trail covers 36km of coastline along the clifftops of the North Norfolk coast, creating an interactive and clear route hugging the edge of the county. With eleven discovery points along the way, you can find out what the landscape looked like hundreds of thousands of years ago, while experiencing the stunning views out to sea and the current vegetation. You may also like to download the Deep History Coast app where there are tips and tricks for fossil hunting along the coast!

Maybe your legs are a little tired after covering as much of the trail as you can and it’s time to take a seat? Book one of the ever-popular seal trips from Morston Quay to Blakeney Point for a special excursion. There’s a chance you’ll spot thousands of seals if you go in the right season! 

When the weather is a little too blustery to venture out on Northern waters, head inside at Sealife Hunstanton for a fun family afternoon. Visit the seal hospital, ocean tunnel and penguin beach, and if you don’t mind stepping outside, they also have otters!


On select Sundays throughout January – March, Norwich Castle will be opening their doors an hour before their usual opening time for Quiet Hour. Particularly suitable for visitors looking for a calmer environment, it will include dimmed lights and reduction in video and audio where possible. Explore galleries from different time periods, whether you want to learn more about Boudica or the Egyptians, fine art, or the Royal Norfolk Regiment. 

If you’re a bit of a military history buff and would like to learn even more about the Royal Norfolk Regiment, plus others, Muckleburgh Military Collection on the Norfolk coast is a hidden gem. From post-war aircraft to tank demonstrations, there’s plenty to see and do, and you can top-off your visit with a stroll down to the beach afterwards. It’s also just a short distance along the road from our new project, The Maltings, opening in the summer of 2024.


Deciduous woodland with chalky soil that never dries out in summer makes Walsingham Abbey the ideal spot to see snowdrops in winter and early spring. Closed until the 23rd January, the medieval priory ruins and grounds are welcome to dogs on leads and create a lovely backdrop for a morning stroll with a flask of steaming coffee in-hand!

With 700 acres to explore, Pensthorpe lake and woodland is on a larger scale if you’re hoping for more than a quick wander. With bird hides, various gardens, huge lakes, and plenty for the little’ns, its ideal for the whole family. Either pull on your woollens and stop off for a chilly picnic after your explorations or take a short drive into Wells-next-the-sea for a spot of lunch in one of The Globe’s nooks.


Boycott the January sales and big department stores this season and escape to the Norfolk coast for a shopping spree. We’re lucky to have The Globe and The Feathers sitting amongst streets of independent, small boutiques that sell a range of homewares, fashion, and gifting.

Pop by to The Feathers to pick up a Hidden Holt map that highlights some of our favourite indies; your pooch-friendly accessory shop, Woofers & Barkers, quirky Holt Bookshop, and pottery painting workshop, Doodle Pots, are amongst the selection.

Over in Wells-next-The-Sea, Staithe Street is awash with independents lining the road heading down to the harbour. Make it your daily commute from bed to beach!



You can't help but think of the university city when making plans for a trip to Cambridgeshire, but there's so much more to do than punting...


One of our favourite things to do on a cold winter’s day is hop on a bus into Cambridge – or cycle if you’re brave enough – and visit their array of museums. One of the more obscure museums is based in the Department of Geography. The Polar Museum tells the story of arctic expeditions, including Sir Ernest Shackleton’s, and comprises of an astounding amount of material. From remarkable stories to models and artefacts, there’s so much to see in this hidden spot.

Not-so unheard of is the Imperial War Museum, Duxford. A family-favourite, particularly in summer when they host many flying events, this museum is one of those that you can go to time-and-time-again and still find new relics. One of our highlights is the The American Air Museum that tells the story of people whose lives were shaped by American airpower over a century of war. 


How many times have you seen a photograph of people punting under Clare Bridge or standing outside King’s College? Well, why not see Cambridge in a slightly different light this winter…

Gather friends for a drink at The Rupert Brooke before taking a leisurely stroll through Grantchester meadows to the backs of the colleges. For a spooky and surreal experience of the city book a Cambridge University Ghost Tour led by university alumni. Discover the real reason behind the phrase ‘skeleton in the cupboard’, look out for horses floating around King’s Chapel, and learn about what happened to witches living in the city. This sixty minute tour could be a great gift for a friend’s birthday or an excuse to get-together in the new year!


If you would rather visit inside the colleges, one way to do it at a very affordable price of free is heading to a service of Evensong at King’s Chapel. Tickets for their ever-popular Carols From King’s on Christmas Eve will sell out at the drop of a hat, whereas, if you are happy to follow certain regulations, everyone is welcome to their usual services in the impressive chapel.


Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean that the weather has to be wet, but it may mean that you can experience water in other ways…

From bike rides through the woods to canoeing down the Great River Ouse, Houghton Mill is a lovely spot to take the family. Inside the 18th century mill you’ll find activities for children and also be able to buy flour milled there to take home and do a spot of afternoon baking. There is also a number of trails beside the water; One takes you near The Old Bridge, so pop by for a coffee break with us or spot of lunch.

If you’ve read our Cold Water Swimming Spots blog post, you’ll know we’re big fans of taking a morning dip, even when the sun isn’t shining. Do it safely at Jesus Green Lido this winter. They have dedicated times around classes for you to stop by and do a few breaststrokes before warming up with a flask of coffee afterwards.


There’s no denying that a lot of us would much rather escape to warmer climates this time of year, but there are also plenty of exciting things to do out of the cold in Cambridge.

An activity that we have been meaning to try for a while is rock climbing. To feel like you’re climbing the highest heights, but in the safety of Clip n Climb Cambridge, means that anyone from the age of four is welcome, so it’s perfect for all the family. Featuring over 25 climbing obstacles, suitable for all abilities and confidence levels, it’s a great rainy day activity.

Looking for a spot of entertainment after work? Head straight from the office to Cambridge Corn Exchange for a line up of music, comedy and the arts. This season they are hosting everything from world-class ballet to Bombary Bicycle Club.

If you’re heading out on a Wednesday, end the evening with mid-week dinner at The Carpenters Arms and tuck into two courses from their main menu and a cocktail for £30 every Wednesday from 6pm.



Often recognised for its idyllic villages on the coast and colourful chocolate-box cottages, Suffolk’s a charming spot all-year round. We even have an Off-Season Guide if you’d like to find out more that you can do this season.


Leiston Abbey is on-route to The Westleton Crown and an ideal spot to stretch your legs, take your four-legged friend for a quick walk and immerse yourself in the greatness. These 14th century remains of an abbey are one of Suffolk’s most impressive monastic sites, and for free, a must-visit if you’re interested in the history of the area.

If you’re looking for a longer pit-stop, not far from the Suffolk coast is also the Suffolk Owl Sanctuary. Perfect for families, you can meet over 80 owls and birds of prey in their discovery area or see them fly over the exercise ground daily. As well as birds, if you’re lucky you might spot some friendly animals in their Meerkat Kastle and Hedgehog Hotel.

I bet you never expected Europe’s Largest Polar Bear Reserve to be next to the A14? Well, it is and it’s pretty excellent. The reserve at Jimmy’s Farm was specifically designed to reflect the habitat of the Arctic Tundra commonly found in North Canada and houses their recently rescued polar bear, Ewa, amongst other arctic animals.


Jump up, Jump up and get down!  Let your hair down after a busy December and go wild jumping around on the wall-to-wall trampolines at Jump In adventure park in Ipswich. Whether you’re staying for an hour or three, you’ll be burning calories and having a lot of fun in the process, so be sure to pop over to The Crown in Stoke-by-Nayland to refuel afterwards. They’re even open until 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, which is an ideal way to tire out the kids before bedtime!

If you’re brave enough to venture outside and throw on your waterproofs, Suffolk Leisure Park is the place to be. There may not be après or mountainous views, but if you’re a budding skier or wanting to improve your skills, they have an array of classes and opportunities for you to go skiing and snowboarding. On the other hand, if (like me) you’re a bit wobbly on your legs, you can’t go wrong with ‘tubing’ – essentially going down the slope in a giant donut!

Take a journey into West Suffolk and visit The Weeping Willow, Barrow, with its newly built lodges. Just a few miles from Bury St Edmunds, they’re the ideal home-from-home if you’d like an evening of music, comedy or classes at The Apex. This January they have performances from the likes of Money For Nothing (Dire Straights tribute show), Fat Cat Comedy Club, Chicago Blues Brothers, and American Four Tops.


As mentioned, Suffolk is a quaint county with plenty of idyllic spots for a walk or mooch in antique shops and second hand bookshops. Clare, located on the Upper Stour Valley, is abundant with cute indies and picturesque streets, but also home to Clare Country Park and castle remains. We’d recommend taking your dog’s lead and wrapping up warm for a winter stroll here.

Another destination which you’ve likely heard of - having been featured in Harry Potter - is Lavenham. Considered to be one of Britain’s best preserved medieval villages, the timber framed buildings and old shop frontages are a popular choice for budding photographers and posting on your Insta-feeds. Not only would we suggest visiting their collection of boutiques, the Guildhall is also a wonderful museum waiting to be toured!

Finally, one of the jewels of Suffolk is on the coast, Southwold. This unkept secret just never grows old! Whether you’re going to spend a day on the beach in the summer months or visiting on a grey day, it still brings so much joy. This time of year, collect your pennies and head to the amusements in the arcade on the pier – and don’t miss the famous clock! Afterwards, visit some of the boutiques before venturing to The Ship for a classic, Beer Battered Fish and Chips.


To add some warmth to those chilly winter months, we have three Winter Offers for you to enjoy from January to March 2024. Whether you're looking for a lazy long weekend,  planning an extended stay to unwind, or on the hunt for a great deal, our winter offers provide the perfect escape to enjoy with family and friends.

Click HERE to find out more and make a booking.


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