While winter may limit a number of things you can enjoy around the U.K., the snow and cold offers an excuse to check out some of the more unusual indoor British activities and attractions.
While many use the winter months to catch some West End theatre or explore the many museums, why not use this time to be original and experience something new.
While winter may not offer the warmth and plentiful outdoor activities the warmer months provide, it does present the opportunity to go skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, and even check out the Cairngorm’s reindeer herd.
But what if you’re not exactly into rugging-up and heading outdoors to brave the cold, snow, and ice? While you could simply snuggle up on the couch and binge The Crown off Netflix, there are endless exciting indoor adventures to be had around the U.K.
Here are just some of the top quirky indoor attractions that will keep you energized and amused as the days grow shorter and spending time outdoors becomes less enticing.
7 Quirky Things to Do Indoors During Winter in the U.K.
Time Travel Back to the Tudor Period
If you’re a fan of the Tudors, you’ll definitely want to check out Tudor World in Stratford-upon-Avon which is roughly 2 hours northwest of London. This living and interactive museum is completely devoted to the House of Tudor and is set in an actual house that dates back to the Tudor period.
Known as the Shrieve’s House, the early 16th century building was once the home of William Shrieve who was one of Henry VIII’s archers.
The timber-framed building sits on the last remaining cobblestone street in the town on which characters including William Shakespeare once walked and is one of the oldest homes still standing here.
Visitors can immerse themselves in the interactive displays which bring to life the smells, sounds, and sights once experienced back in the Tudor period. Without spoiling too many surprises, you’ll learn about the plague, watch a witch trial, and can try your hand at quill writing as Shakespeare himself once mastered.
There are also night-time lantern light ghost tours through Tudor World since it is regarded as one of England’s most haunted buildings.
Bingo is one of the U.K.’s favourite pastimes. Unlike in the U.S. where bingo halls attract a predominantly older crowd, bingo venues in the U.K. are places where all ages gather for social interaction and a bit of fun.
A simple search of Google Maps for Bingo halls reveals well over 350 bingo clubs and halls scattered across the U.K. and many of those are set in lavish buildings that were once popular cinemas or theatres where in some cases legendary musicians once performed including The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
Enter a World of Illusions
Get ready to enter a world where impossible simply doesn’t exist at Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. Situated in Outlook Tower on the famous Royal Mile near the castle, Camera Obscura is Edinburgh’s oldest purpose-built attractions that has been puzzling and amusing visitors since the 19th century.
Offering up six floors of more than 100 interactive illusion exhibits, Camera Obscura is as educational as it is entertaining. You’ll be walking through a vortex tunnel, walking on water, making your way through mirror mazes, and seeing your body transformed with distortion mirrors.
You’ll also learn a bit about early photography, observing late 19th century 3D photo techniques and can take a virtual 3D tour of Edinburgh from the Victorian era to modern day.
There are giant kaleidoscopes, the world’s first fluorescent chaotic pendulum which you’ll just have to see to understand, and a rooftop with exceptional views over the city for when you need a bit of air to de-boggle your brain.
Image credit: Christian Michelides (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Cycle Like and Olympian
Located in the Stratford District of London’s East End, Lee Valley VeloPark on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park allows you to cycle inside the famous indoor velodrome track which was used by competing cyclists during the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London.
The first Olympic Park venue to be completed, the velodrome with its 6,000 seats continues to attract the world’s top cyclists who regularly compete in big events.
However, the best part is you don’t need to be an Olympian or even an athlete for that matter to ride the track, with kids’ sessions even offering activities for children as young as two years of age.
Everything can be rented from the Lee Valley VeloPark including a bike, helmet, and riding gloves so all you need to do is show up. Special beginner sessions will teach you the basics of fixed-wheel bike riding as you take to the 250m track in one of the world’s most beautiful indoor arenas. You can even add a timed flying lap to your experience.
The VeloPark’s velodrome also offers up their PowerFitness Studio where you can partake in SUF Cycling sessions as you’re transported to tracks like Le Tour de France and can work on various cycling skills, endurance, and fitness tests.
There are also para-cycling sessions out on the track which allow people with disabilities including vision-impairment the opportunity to ride the track with the help of a pilot that will ride with them on a tandem bike.
Go on a Tropical Jungle Safari
While it may be cold and miserable outside during winter, you can simply head to Leeds to trade the chill for a warm and humid tropical jungle oasis.
Consisting of a number of climate-controlled glass houses, Tropical World offers up the chance to walk among rare tropical plants and animals from regions like Australasia and the Amazon.
Tropical World is broken into different zones where you can explore various ponds, waterfalls, and habitats. A butterfly house contains dozens of free-roaming colourful tropical species, while other zones feature exotic birds, crocodiles, fruit bats, pythons, leaf-cutter ants, cotton-top tamarins, terrapins, and vibrant poison dart frogs.
There are also underwater exhibits where piranhas and catfish from South America swim, as well as stingrays, octopuses, and seahorses. While most of Tropical World may live up to its name, there is also a desert zone with playful meerkats and tortoises.
Already fed up with winter and it’s only early January? Why not try a bit of axe throwing to release some of the pent-up frustration.
That’s right, axes are no longer confined to the bush or countryside as a number of businesses are bringing urban axe throwing to many big cities across the U.K.
Indoor axe throwing is set up pretty much like darts where you aim at targets and often try to hit a bullseye, but throwing a 1.25-pound axe at a four-foot timber target is far better at relieving stress.
They have come up with a variety of different axe throwing games designed as both individual player games and team challenges.
While specifics may vary between locations, children as young as 10 are often allowed to play and sessions often last anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half. You’ll find venues scattered across the U.K in places like London, Manchester, Bristol, and Birmingham.
They venues often take in walk-ins on select days, otherwise you can also look at joining a league. You can also hire mobile axe throwing lanes to be delivered right to your door that are quick to set up and come with insurance which hopefully won’t be needed.
Get Spirited in Scotland
Nothing takes the edge off winter quite like alcohol and you’ll thankfully find some of the world’s best whisky and gin in Scotland.
Taking a gin or whisky distillery tour is a great way to introduce yourself to some of the U.K.’s finest spirits and immerse yourself in the production process. There are supposedly hundreds of Scottish gins made by roughly a hundred different brands including small craft distilleries around the country.
It is said that 70% of the U.K.’s gin is produced in Scotland and while you may not be allowed to tour all the distilleries, a number of them offer exceptional tours where you may even be able to create your very own blend.
While you may have heard of Scotland’s popular Hendrick’s Gin, there are also fresh young makers that are a bit harder to pronounce like Kirkjuvagr Orkney Gin which is also gaining attraction.
Of course, then there’s iconic Scottish whisky or Scotch. When you think of top Scottish Whisky, names like Macallan, Glenfiddich, and Laphroaig come to mind. Much like gin, there are countless whisky distilleries scattered across Scotland, roughly 130 at last count.
Each region produces their own unique flavours, with Speyside in Scotland’s northeast producing roughly half of all Scottish whisky with its seemingly endless amount of distilleries.
There are even distilleries like Isle of Islay’s Bruichladdich which is known for both its single malt Scotch whisky made solely with Scottish barley, as well as fine gin.
Both make use of old Victorian era equipment in their production. Its award-winning artisanal Botanist gin features nearly three dozen botanicals of which nearly two-thirds are local botanicals.
Tropical world looks amazing Meg. Right up my alley too as I sweat it out here in hot and sticky Panama. I always enjoy retreating to the tropics during cold weather spells at home. We even have crocs in the estuary behind the house like that handsome chap above.
We’re about to do the same thing and escape our Tasmanian winter for the tropics up north in Cairns :D Take care with those crocs!