Get your skis on!
The Alps have long been the traditional destination for British winter sports enthusiasts. But in recent years, Scotland has become the go-to destination for many skiers and snowboarders. “Popular pistes” include the Nevis Mountain Range Resort, the Glenshee Ski Centre and the Lecht Ski Centre, all offering equipment hire and lessons – which makes them perfect for beginners.
Glencoe Mountain Resort also has great facilities, and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the British Isles. Aviemore is Scotland’s highest ski resort, which means it holds the snow well throughout the winter season. Plus, the surrounding Cairngorms offer endless opportunities for hiking and back-country exploring. So for families, it’s an exciting, high-adrenaline alternative for that half-term winter break.
Stars in your eyes
Winter is the ideal time to enjoy the night sky – because the early sunset means you don’t have to stay up past bedtime to see it in all its glory. So wrap up warm, step outside and look up. There are more than 4,000 stars visible to the naked eye. And if you can spot a large hazy patch in the night sky, then you’re staring at the Andromeda Galaxy – at two million light years away, it’s the most distant object visible to the human eye. If you have a pair of binoculars, try scanning the moon for its vast craters and meteor-scarred lunar uplands.
For city dwellers, light pollution dims the night sky, but you might still be able to track shiny satellites as they sweep across the night sky, and see meteors burning up as they enter the earth’s atmosphere (shooting stars). Or for dark-sky experience that will blow your mind, choose a crisp, clear night and head to the coast or countryside.
Watch the birdie
Many of the UK’s wild places (and some of our not-so-wild spots) become packed with migratory birds at this time of year as millions of geese, waders and ducks fly here to escape the extreme conditions in the Arctic. And the huge flocks that arrive on our shores from Iceland, Siberia and Scandinavia provide one of nature’s greatest spectacles. There are lots of places to see these winter visitors. The Wildlife Trusts manages over 2,000 protected sites, including estuaries, mudflats and wetlands where anyone can enjoy getting close to nature. And the RSPB has more than 100 reserves around the UK, from ancient woodlands to coastal marshes.
Many RSPB reserves offer guided walks led by expert ornithologists who’ll be only too happy to show you the different species in residence. So keep your eyes peeled and you’ll soon be able to spot a purple sandpiper from a bar-tailed godwit. As a Toyota customer, you can get 20% off Virgin Experience Days. So if you’d like to get out and about this winter, why not treat yourself to a survival course? Then you can learn how to build a shelter in the woods. Or if that sounds a little too strenuous, choose something rather more laid back. There are hundreds of experiences to choose from, so you’re sure to find one that ticks all your boxes.