Budget UK winter adventure breaks by train

The phrase ‘winter adventure break’ could mean so many things. You might be a keen skier off to fly the slopes, or a sun-seeker eager to sip cocktails by the pool. Or if, like me, your budget isn’t currently very stretchy, you might be considering a cheap winter holiday in the UK. Hopefully, whichever you choose, it will be warmer than the autumn beach sleep that was one of my more recent adventures by train.

I would have been much cosier if I had packed the right sleeping bag!

Affordable winter adventures

‘Affordable’ is another of those words with an elastic meaning. After all, one girl’s bargain could be another man’s luxury. And of course, train tickets are notoriously expensive. So I’ve put together this set of budget winter adventures in the UK with that in mind. Starting with the cheapest (per person), here are my suggestions for adventurous winter breaks you can do by train and might be able to afford this winter.

Winter adventure breaks within walking distance of a train station.

P.S. If cash is an issue at the moment, my planning your own adventure by train page has some tips to help you reduce the cost of your train tickets.

1. Winter wild camp on beautiful Dartmoor

When I was still training youngsters for the notorious Ten Tors Challenge, my wild camping nights were mostly winter ones. Nowadays I allow myself the luxury of summer wild camping as well but I still enjoy a shivery night, and every year one of my Christmas parties starts at a local pub and ends in a muddy tent.

Type of accommodation: Wild camping (tent or bivvy bag)

Cosiness factor: Don’t get your hopes up!

Price per night: Free but spending does help support local economies.

The adventure: Avoiding hypothermia will be your main achievement but you might also want to climb High Willhays, Devon’s highest summit.

Adventure skills: Map and compass navigation and the ability to keep yourself warm outdoors.

Train station: Okehampton Station

Need to know: There are plenty of wild camping options on North Dartmoor. You need to check two things before you plan. First choose a camp spot in a Dartmoor National Park wild camping area. Then check the MOD live firing times for Dartmoor (Okehampton Range).

Bad weather: Book yourself a comfy night at YHA Okehampton right next to the station.

2. Walk the city walls from YHA York

If you’ve never experienced the welcome and downright sensible approach of a Hostelling Scotland or YHA hostel, make 2023 your year to do so. Always in fascinating locations, always friendly and always exactly what you need, our Youth Hostels make the outdoors accessible to so many people. They deserve and need our support.

Type of accommodation: YHA York. Private, en-suite and shared bunk or double rooms. Self-catering or catered (check out this kids eat free offer!)

Cosiness factor: I haven’t stayed at a chilly YHA yet!

Price per night: From £15 per night for a bunk in a shared room.

The adventure: Walk in a history-filled circle atop York’s fabulous City Walls Trail (2 hrs without stops).

Train station: York

Need to know: Dogs (apart from assistance dogs) aren’t allowed on the York City Walls walk. The Walls are only open in daylight hours and are closed if the winter weather makes them too slippery.

Bad weather: You’ve arrived by train so why not immerse yourself in train history at the National Railway Museum (free but donations help). After that you could brave the Vikings at the fantastic Jorvik Viking Centre.

3. Take a river walk from Travelodge Ludlow

Flickr, Andrew Gustar

Staying in a Travelodge might not sound like an adventure but Travelodge  Ludlow’s location really does give it plenty to offer. It’s a 30-minute walk from the train station if you go direct but you’ll be tempted onto a longer route via Ludlow Castle and Ludlow’s many excellent independent shops.

Type of accommodation: Well it’s Travelodge isn’t it. Expect a comfy bed, en-suite facilities and somewhere to make that all-important cuppa.

Cosiness factor: Definitely cosy. If it isn’t, ask politely for another room.

Price per night: From £35 for two people sharing (£17.50 each).

The adventure: There’s plenty to see and do in Ludlow itself. Arrive on market day for a great atmosphere, wander down to Ludlow Castle to meet the de Lacy family and finish off with a bracing winter river swim above the weir. If you fancy a walk, follow the Shropshire Way east towards Iron Age Caynam Camp where you’ll get some lovely views back towards Ludlow and over Herefordshire.

Train station: Ludlow

Need to know: If you’ve arrived in winter, you’ve missed the Ludlow Food Festival but the butchers that supply it’s famous sausage trail are there all year. So are the sausages!

Bad weather: Take a brewery tour or just drink beer at the Ludlow Brewing Company. Enjoy a bit of (amazing value) interactive history at Ludlow Museum.

4. Bunkhouse with friends in the Peak District

Booking a whole bunkhouse to share with friends can be a great way to spread the cost of a winter getaway. And where better to enjoy outdoor stomps and indoor fun than beautiful Edale? For a budget stay (if you’re sharing) check out Nab View Bunkhouse at Ollerbrook Farm.

Type of accommodation: Shared bunk rooms with catering facilities, table and sofa. Great views to Kinder Scout. Giggling guaranteed.

Cosiness factor: This one doesn’t have an open fire but it is heated. Bring your own sleeping bag and slippers.

Price per night: £800 for a two-night weekend (£23 per night each if all 18 beds are filled).

The adventure: Take the lane then the footpath from the station to your accommodation. In the morning follow the Pennine Way to tackle Jacob’s Ladder then on to view the gravity-defying waters of Kinder Downfall.

Train station: Edale

Need to know: Jacob’s Ladder is steep and the route up to Kinder Downfall may take longer than you think. Make sure you check when sunset will be and leave plenty of time to get back to the bunkhouse before dark.

Bad weather: Pack some games for group bunkhouse fun and wander up the valley for lunch at the famous Old Nag’s Head pub.

Five top winter adventure-by-train tips (if you’re on a budget)

  1. Subscribe to the YHA newsletter to get early notice of deals like their current Winter Deals.
  2. You need layers for winter adventuring (and waiting at train stations). Scout your local charity shops for second-hand base layers and fleeces.
  3. Packing a flask can save pounds on expensive cups of coffee.
  4. Once you know your plans, buy an advance rail ticket or give ticket splitting a try. Both can save you money on train tickets.
  5. If you’re trying out camping for the first time or want to keep your carbon emissions down, how about renting a tent (and camping equipment) from Tentshare?

Winter train adventures for everyone

There’s no doubt about it, although stepping outside is still free, the travel and accommodation that helps us enjoy the outdoors is getting more expensive. Hopefully the ideas above have got you thinking about your own winter adventure possibilities. There are hostels, budget hotels and bunkhouses all over the UK. Why not find out where they are, pick a train line, then have an explore on OS Maps to see what adventures those locations might offer.

What better way to spend a rainy December day?

Walking or cycling routes from train stations

Experiences not things. How to give the gift of adventure this Christmas.


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