Britain in late Jan/early Feb??

My daughter is planning a big 'world trip' starting late January 2014 and ending late March before she starts a new job. She wants me to join her for about 3 weeks in Britain at the beginning of her trip. This means we will be hitting England/Scotland etc at the end of their winter. I'd really prefer to visit later in the spring, but it doesn't work for her schedule. ANY suggestions/comments of weather, pros/cons of different places at that time of the year, etc. would be appreciated. If anyone has traveled in Britain at that time, what was the 'good, bad and ugly' of the trip? Any rave reviews of a trip at this time of the year? I don't want to come back an really feel it was a waste of time/money because of the season we went. thanks!!

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3509 posts

It sounds like the weather you are likely to have for most of the trip will not be conducive to any outdoor activities, so even a walk around Cambridge wouldn't be very pleasant. And of course, you will have little daylight. As an example, on January 25, sunrise/sunset London 7.49 - 4.38
Edinburgh 8.20 - 4.31 If I were starting a trip then, I'd head for cities and plan for lots of indoor activities, hoping for some decent days to enjoy the rest. . . with 3 weeks: London, Paris, Belgium, Netherlands, emphasis on museums, churches, and in London the theatre.

Posted by Alan
Brighton, UK
632 posts

Christine I hate to be the bearer of bad news but late January / early February is pretty much the middle of our winter! On top of that, with the change in global weather, we are in a run of very bad winters. This year there was snow in mid March across a lot of the country. Unless you are very lucky you can expect it to be very cold and wet, and worse as you go further north. Having said that we all, or at least most of us, survive it and as long as you wrap up warm you could still have a good time. It's just that I'd be planning for most of my time to be spend indoors! Alan

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

Completely agree with Alan. And the hours of daylight are quite short.
I'm sure someone will be along who loves it, but just being candid- not me!

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
780 posts

Statistically, the last week in Jan is on average the coldest week of the year in England. Mind you if it were to be mild, it would probably be wet that time of the year. However, you have said the timing is non negotiable. What might help is some info about what you are interested in doing.

Posted by Christine
Nanaimo, BC
21 posts

Maybe a bit more info would help! If the weather was right we would want to see gardens, nature, zoos, etc We are not really 'city people' tho a bit of time seeing the touristy-musts would be fine. Where I live in Canada we have mild/wet winters with occasional snow and where she lives she had much more snow/cold. We do still get out and 'do things' regardless of weather.Definitely would like to visit small towns/villages, historic places, etc. wonder how much is closed at that time of year? thanks - I think this 'helpline' is going to be a great resource!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

If the weather was right we would want to see gardens, nature, zoos, etc As explained above, the "if the weather was right" question is the question, and as explained above it is unlikely. Nevertheless, except for those - including me - who head for the south of France or Spain at that time, we do all manage to muddle through. Expect the unexpected in January and February. Usually days are either cold and clear - for at least a couple of hours - or warm (minus 5 to plus 5 degrees celsius) but recently we have had records broken each winter for several years. Either highest snowfall, or lowest temperatures, or heaviest rain, or lowest rainfall. Expect the unexpected. London is the same latitude as James Bay in Quebec; Edinburgh is the same latitude as Fort McMurray, Alberta. Gardens - no chance in mid winter, perhaps the Greenhouses at Kew Gardens.
Nature - you can certainly walk. I do. Be prepared for mud, snow, ice, and biting wind. Zoos - The Regents Park Zoo in London is world renowned and open most days. Many of the creatures are inside or have access to inside. An exceptional zoo.

Posted by Nancy
Costa Mesa, CA, USA
149 posts

Hello Christine! Yup, been there in December, January and February. Weather was cold and wet - but that was what I was expecting and planning for, so it really didn't impact my trips significantly. In fact the only time it really interrupted my plans was in Edinburgh at Hogmanay - due to weather, all the concert venues had to be shut - but it worked out well in the end. Personally, I think you can have a fabulous time AS long as you are prepared for the weather - which means packing appropriate clothing (layers and waterproof shoes, boots) and choosing activities that aren't weather dependent. As to packing, I found that some silk long underwear, jeans and some low boots combined with a turtleneck, sweater, and an insulated raincoat, scarf and gloves worked great.
You didn't mention where exactly you are planning to go, but London has a tremendous amount to see and do that is not weather dependent - Edinburgh not as much but definitely enough to fill 3/4 days. Bath and York would also be good choices - lovely architecture, historical sites, etc. As to hours, they are generally shorter than in summer but I've not found any sights that was closed during winter. Truth be told, I prefer traveling in late fall and even winter - crowds are much lighter and I find I enjoy what I am seeing much more because of it.

Posted by Troxstar
Eugene, OR
13 posts

Hello Christine, I went to England about 10 years ago with my wife and 6 month old daughter in early February. It was cold at West Kennett Longbarrow, colder at Stonehenge. The Roman baths in Bath - cold...I was very tempted to jump in! We decided to just vist the Avebury carpark, not Avebury...it was too cold. It was also one of the best times of my life. A tour bus group cleared out of the Salisbury Cathedral in the middle of our guided tour. I chummed up with the tour guide, had dinner with him and his wife (got a chunk of old cathedral that was replaced), spent my birthday in a bellringing group (never did that before), and didn't once feel like I got screwed on my vacation. Except maybe at Avebury, I've since been there. They have a very nice carpark. If there is a lesson in there, it could be that England in the off-season can be cold fun.

Posted by Steve
Big Eagle, KY, USA
70 posts

Be prepared to spend the lionshare of your time indoors. I've been in late December and did a fair amount of hiking in the cold wind. Having said that, you have an opportunity to plan around the weather and still have an enjoyable trip.

Posted by Claudia
Land of La
2011 posts

Not sure how or why it would be a waste of time and money if you were spending 3 weeks with your child before she starts a new job. You will face Winter weather which could include snow. Day light hours will be short. That said, plenty to see and do. You just won't be picnicking amongst wild flowers in sunshine or waterskiing. Comfortable train travel will get you where you want to go. Theatre will be fabulous, galleries and museums open, pubs plentiful, shopping available.
Fewer crowds. Get an apartment to stay in. Enjoy the time together. Such moments are to be cherished.