2. The restful restaurant, Glasgow
Ambient air balloon fittings at Glasgow's Brel / Image: Brel
Brel in Glasgow’s West End is quite possibly the cosiest, friendliest restaurant you’ll ever stuff your face in. Indoors, park yourself on a swish padded banquette under hot air balloon lights, then work your way through a ludicrous number of craft brews from around the world, accompanied by a juicy burger, on-trend fish tacos or a steaming bowl of Scottish mussels. Outside on the heated patio is where the real party happens, though. Scootch as near as possible to the fire pit where staff will furnish you with everything you need to make s’mores – gooey Graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate confections that will make you feel like a kid again.
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3. The spirited shop, Belfast
The cockle-warming interior of the Friend at Hand, Belfast
Is there anything more cockle-warming than a dram of the good stuff? We don't think any Belfaster would disagree – the city's so mad for whisky, they've set up a museum to honour the city's favourite fermented grain. The Friend at Hand charts Belfast's whisky-distilling history in its small display and sells over 200 varieties, including the biggest collection of Irish whiskies available anywhere. Gather your five best drinking buddies for a private tasting, or just pull up a stool at the mahogany bar and ask nicely for a nip of Jameson – the friendly shop-keeps will always oblige.
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4. The secret speakeasy, Liverpool
Secret sipping is the name of the game at Berry & Rye / Image: Colin Finn
What could be cosier than a surreptitious sup behind closed doors? Liverpool’s Berry & Rye is a tucked-away, old-school speakeasy – think dim lighting, cool jazz and easy-on-the-eye staff slinging classic, oh-so-potent cocktails. The menus are tucked naughtily into the pages of old novels, and even the entrance is hidden behind a nondescript black door – although if you keep your eyes peeled for the queue you shouldn’t find it too taxing to track down. Settle into one of their upholstered booths with an aromatic Old Fashioned and let the Prohibition vibes work their magic.
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5. The snuggly store, Edinburgh
Dick’s: like a warm hug in knitwear form / Photo: Dick's Edinburgh
Stepping through the door of Dick’s feels like walking into a warm hug. As well as tastefully chosen homewares, this shop in the genteel neighbourhood of Stockbridge has one of the best collections of menswear and womenswear in the country, focusing on fine Scottish knitwear from artisan makers. Try on a toasty cashmere and merino jumper by Harley of Peterhead, or an extra-comfy Fair Isle pullover by Jamieson’s of Shetland, and you’ll never want to take them off. Throw in a Begg & Co tartan scarf and you’ll get through even the coldest Scottish winter.
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6. The timeless village, Rye
Mermaid Street, in the timewarping East Sussex town of Rye / Image: Adobe Stock
For the ultimate antidote to all that is modern, stark and needlessly open-plan, plot a course to the adorably well-preserved town of Rye in East Sussex. Once upon a time Rye was a significant port town, until a storm in the late 1300s diverted the River Rother, eventually turning its seaward side into silted marshland. And while the French have stopped bombarding the place, it’s still marked by imposing defensive architecture, not least in the stubby Ypres Tower. Today, Rye’s ramshackle low-ceilinged pubs, winding cobbled lanes and wonky antique stores will transport you to a far simpler, and far prettier, time. Don’t pass up the chance for a pint in the historic and famed Mermaid Inn, an impossibly cosy pub, even if it is allegedly haunted…
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7. The tuneful boozer, Northern Ireland
The Crosskeys in Toome is stout in more ways than one / Image: Crosskeys Inn
Even in a land renowned worldwide for its cheerful hospitality and love of the craic, one little pub stands supreme. The Crosskeys – supposedly the oldest thatched pub in the whole of Ireland – is like a beautiful relic of yore. Its warren of agreeably lopsided rooms, open turf fireplace and peerless pour of Guinness are all givens. What really sets this place apart is its music scene. On any given night of the week expect to find a circle of traditional musos belting out the rhythms and melodies of their forefathers on stone floors worn smooth by countless generations of foot-tapping revellers.
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8. The intimate inn, Gloucestershire
Cosying up for some superlative Cotswolds chic at the Ebrington / Image: theebringtonarms.co.uk
There’s regular pub grub, and there’s the top-notch contemporary fare they dole out at The Ebrington Arms, an absurdly pretty honey-coloured rural inn in the Cotswolds. Gorge on high-end bar snacks in front of a Tolkien-esque open fireplace, or go all out with their multi-award-winning evening menu of hearty seasonal mains, including some truly hefty Sunday roasts. For the ultimate in cosy indulgence, retire upstairs to one of their chic bedrooms for a proper doze in one of four bespoke four-poster beds. A taste of the good life.
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9. The blessed bookshop, Inverness
Snuggly nights are better with a book – buy one, or hundreds, at Leakey’s in Inverness
Page-turning pilgrims, cast your peepers to the Scottish highlands and Leakey’s Bookshop in Inverness. This storied emporium is a literal temple to literature: a former place of worship now home to stacks upon stacks of second hand books (around 10,000 of them), prints, maps and, occasionally, local eggs. Once upon a time – well, from 1979 until 1993 – Leakey’s occupied two shops in Inverness, before consolidating its operations in this grand old Gaelic church, complete with original stained glass, a wrought-iron spiral staircase and a large, central wood burning stove. Toasty.
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