Fresh air and fresh sheets: five winter English destinations for nature lovers who crave comfort

Fresh air and fresh sheets: five winter English destinations for nature lovers who crave comfort

By now, we’re all well-versed in the physical and mental benefits of being in nature. But that doesn’t mean we all want to become Bear Grylls in the quest for serenity. Luckily, there are plenty of opportunities to explore England’s natural beauty without having to forage for your own food or make a fire out of dry twigs and hope. Getting back to nature is perfect for the spontaneous (and impatient) traveller – there are no booking forms for park walks, no queues for beaches. And if you stay with Hilton, you can go where the wind takes you on your break, safe in the knowledge that you can refuel in a delicious restaurant, sleep in a cozy room and expect quality service no matter which Hilton hotel you choose. So, pack your hiking boots and thermals, and discover Britain at its wintery best, from seaside walks along the north-east coast to exploring historic market towns and walking trails in the heart of England …

1 Newcastle
The capital city of England’s industrious north-east may not seem like the obvious choice for getting out in nature this autumn, but it’s the perfect base for those wanting to embrace history, culture and the changing of the seasons across Northumberland. With Hadrian’s Wall passing through the city, following the banks of the River Tyne, the Roman boundary makes for the perfect walking route to the rolling hills of Northumberland national park. If you’re feeling brave, give cold water swimming a go at Sandhaven beach – it’s a 30-minute drive from Hilton Newcastle Gateshead. Or you could venture just over an hour north to the secluded 60ft Linhope Spout waterfall and plunge pool in Northumberland national park – a favourite of wild swimmers in the area. And as night falls in the park, enjoy some of England’s clearest starry skies. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

Three young adults walking the Northumberland, UK countryside.
Northumberland national park’s rugged beauty is easily explored from Hilton Newcastle Gateshead. Photograph: SolStock/Getty Images

Where to stay: Hilton Newcastle Gateshead
Overlooking the River Tyne, Hilton Newcastle Gateshead is less than a mile from the city’s Gateshead metro station and under 10 minutes from the A1 motorway, making it the ideal place to base yourself during a trip to this area. The hotel’s Windows on the Tyne restaurant offers first-class meals to refuel after a wintery walk, including kids’ options, and the indoor pool is perfect for those who don’t fancy giving wild swimming a go!

2 Stoke-on-Trent
Easily accessible by road and rail, Stoke-on-Trent is in a great location for a weekend getaway. The city is known for its pottery heritage and is full of world-class museums and visitor centres dedicated to the history of the decorative arts, but it’s also home to a number of beautiful parks and gardens, including the historic Trentham estate. Totalling more than 290 hectares (725 acres), the estate is home to the stunning and multi-award-winning Trentham Gardens, one of Britain’s most beautiful. For younger visitors, there’s a huge adventure playground and Trentham Monkey Forest, where you can walk among 140 free-roaming Barbary macaque monkeys. But if you want to take things at a slightly slower pace, enjoy a guided cruise on Trentham Lake to take in the changing of the seasons and the area’s diverse wildlife.

Where to stay: DoubleTree by Hilton Stoke-on-Trent
Perfectly located for those travelling by car, the DoubleTree by Hilton Stoke-on-Trent is positioned at the intersection of the A53 and A500, giving easy access to Stoke city centre and the surrounding greenery of Staffordshire. With excellent on-site dining available at Josiah’s Bar and Brasserie, it is an ideal place for an evening meal or for grabbing a Starbucks coffee before heading out on a day of exploring. The hotel’s on-site fitness centre and indoor pool are a great option for mornings when you want to take things at a slightly slower pace, and when you want to stay active when the weather is against you.

Where to stay: Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent
A five-minute taxi ride from Stoke-on-Trent train station, the Hilton Garden Inn Stoke-on-Trent is ideal for those arriving by rail. The hotel is a short walk from the city’s cultural quarter, home to many of its decorative-arts museums and visitor centres, and within 15 minutes by taxi of Trentham estate, making it the perfect place to stay to experience the best of Stoke’s attractions. After a day of exploring, you can treat yourself to dinner – there’s a little cluster of Italian restaurants to choose from within walking distance of the hotel.

3 Burton upon Trent
Dating back to the Roman era, Burton upon Trent is a market town filled with as much history as it has charm. Known for its canals and breweries, it’s an ideal place for fans of quality beers, with a plethora of attractions to visit – try the beers from Tower Brewery or take some away from the Burton Town Brewery. Its once bustling canal waterways are now more famous for leisure tours than industrial transport, with river cruises and canal boat hires popular year-round. If you’d rather stay on land, there’s plenty of green, open space to explore with the National Forest on your doorstep, the ideal place to take in an autumnal country walk. If you have little ones joining you, a stop at the National Forest Adventure Farm is a must, with a host of farm animals and more unusual residents – including alpacas and reindeer, as well as an indoor play zone. And for kids of all ages, Alton Towers theme park is less than 40 minutes by car.

Hilton at St George’s Park
Hilton at St George’s Park, Burton upon Trent, is ideally located for the National Forest – and all things football

Where to stay: Hilton at St George’s Park, Burton upon Trent
Located on the edge of the National Forest, Hilton at St George’s Park, Burton upon Trent is the perfect place to base yourself for a weekend of exploring all the surrounding nature that the area has to offer in autumn. It’s also perfect for football fans, as a part of St George’s Park – home of the FA and a coaching centre of excellence for all England’s national teams, where you can check out memorabilia or tire out the kids by booking a pitch for a kickabout. And if you wear yourself out from all the nature trails (or football fun) nearby, you can relax and unwind in the hotel’s Health Club and Spa, which offers a range of facials, massages, and body wrap and wellness packages, as well as a pool, sauna, and steam room.

4 Tewkesbury
This medieval market town is one of England’s most picturesque, nestled among the greenery of the Cotswolds. Start your visit by exploring the town’s history with a guided walk that details the history and heritage of its beautiful lanes, alleys and timbered buildings, before venturing outwards to Severn Ham. This beautiful wild meadow formed in the bend of the River Severn and is now home to much wildlife. It’s the perfect starting point for walking and cycling alongside the river. If you’d rather get out on the water, there are boat hire options for exploring the waterways, or for the more adventurous, take a guided fishing trip where you can try your hand at catching some of the bream, carp and pike the Severn is famous for.

Where to stay: Hilton Puckrup Hall, Tewkesbury
Nestled in more than 56 hectares (140 acres) of private grounds and surrounded by idyllic Gloucestershire countryside, Hilton Puckrup Hall, Tewkesbury is ideal for a relaxing rural escape. Positioned on the edge of the Cotswolds, the hotel is also perfect for golfers, with access to Puckrup Hall Golf Club, where you can spend an afternoon navigating the 18-hole course, or for those with limited experience, enjoy private lessons.

5 Cheltenham
Famed for its horse-racing festival and racecourse, Cheltenham is also home to some of the country’s finest examples of Regency-period architecture. Sometimes called the Garden Town of England, it’s home to no less than seven Green Flag parks and gardens. Each of them is perfect for autumnal strolls, from Montpellier Gardens, close to the town centre and an important part of Cheltenham’s Regency landscape, to Pittville park, one of the largest ornamental parks in England, where you’ll find the town’s magnificent Pittville Pump Room, the last and largest of the spa buildings to be built in Cheltenham.

Where to stay: DoubleTree by Hilton Cheltenham
This beautiful hotel, a former manor house, is the perfect mix of modern luxury and classic Georgian elegance. Located on the edge of Cheltenham, surrounded by sprawling countryside, the DoubleTree by Hilton Cheltenham is a stone’s throw from the tranquil Timbercombe Woods and Wistley Hill, perfect for an afternoon of walking. With a full-service spa offering a range of beauty treatments and massages, and an indoor pool and steam room, it’s the ideal place to relax and recharge after a day of exploring the Cotswolds.

Be spontaneous this winter and sort out your last-minute stay at a Hilton hotel

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