12 things to do before the end of winter

It’s winter, embrace it. Here are 12 reasons to wake up from your hibernation and make the most of the time before the frosts subside, the clocks go forward and you put your warmest layers to bed.

1. Try a new winter sport like curling
A glorious pursuit that we all get very excited about every four years when the Winter Olympics is on. It’s competitive, skillful and great fun if you wrap up warm—and Team GB is actually very good at it. There is only one curling rink in the country—and it’s in deepest, darkest Kent— but it’s well worth a visit.

2. Go and see Stoppard
Get through the doors early to see Tom Stoppard’s new play, The Hard Problem, billed as the theatrical event of the year. It is set in a brain-science institute and questions the problems of psychology and philosophy. It opened on 21 January at the new Dorfman Theatre.

3. Book an Easter Stag hunting excursion to Exmoor
The pull of the moor and the local passion for the deer are irresistible. You can go any time, but meets continue until April when other packs have stopped. Now is the time to get a date in the diary. www.devonandsomersetstaghounds.net

4. Get your gun serviced
All guns and rifles need to be looked after and should be serviced regularly—springs can work their way loose and firing pins become worn. Francis Lovel & Co recommends having your gun serviced at least every other year—or if you are shooting regularly then once a year.

5. Go fishing on a grand river
It may be early in the season, but there are still plenty of opportunities on the river. The Lower and Upper Floors beats on the Duke of Roxburghe’s estate at Floors Castle, Kelso, in the Scottish borders, is one of the grandest spots on the River Tweed. The Lower Floors has nine named pools plus a stone fishing hut with a log fire, while the Upper Floors has 17 named pools and a log burner.

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6. Go skiing in the Cairngorms
While Scotland is blanketed in snow and the Alps are painfully expensive, now is the time to ignore the snide remarks about skiing north of the border and make a spontaneous trip to the beautiful Cairngorms. www.cairngormmountain.com

7. Visit a winter garden
Spring comes early to the Trebah Garden Trust in Cornwall. By late February the daffodils are opening and the camellias and magnolias bursting into bloom. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, try the charming 37-room Nare Hotel, a luxury country house hotel by the sea on the Roseland Peninsula. Spring garden breaks are available from £315 per double room per night, including dinner, a full English breakfast, early morning tea, afternoon cream tea as well as tickets to three gardens of your choice.


8. Cook with rhubarb
Rhubarb, which comes into season at the end of the winter, really is the ultimate cold weather comfort food. For a different spin try roasting it—it will fill the kitchen with a sweet orange scent. There are lots of delicious recipes here:

9. Buy your Badminton tickets
Last year’s event caused quite a stir, with a cross-country day that provided thrills and spills aplenty. The box office for this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials is now open and it’s well worth booking your tickets early, especially if you are planning to stay away.

10. Spend Sunday in front of a real fire
Whether it’s in a trendy new eatery or an old man’s pub, there’s an open fire waiting for you somewhere this winter. There is no shortage of quaint, quirky and welcoming places in London to warm your cockles and enjoy a hearty lunch. Try the Holly Bush in Hampstead, the Prince George in Dalston or the Portobello Gold in Notting Hill.

11. Relive Rubens at the Royal Academy
‘Rubens and His Legacy’ opened on January 24 at the Royal Academy. It displays masterpieces by the ‘prince of painters’ alongside the work of his artistic heirs, including Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Constable and Picasso.

12. Treat yourself to a luxury hot chocolate
There is nothing quite like a hot chocolate to curl up with on the sofa. Today’s luxury brands are rich, thick and full-flavoured—very different to the ones on the shelves 20 years ago. Try the award-winning Hans Sloane Drinking Chocolates. From £4.49 a box