10 Wondrous Winter Walks

Frosty landscapes, crisp fresh air, mystical light, and the promise of a crackling pub fire at the end. Winter walking in the British countryside has a beauty of its own.

As Autumn fades, the days dim and the temperature drops, it's tempting to stay wrapped up indoors and let hibernation commence. Home cooking, cosy pyjamas and boxsets beckon, and time spent outside in the cold and wet feels a lot less enticing. But at this time of year, it's vital to keep connected to the great outdoors, and what better way to do so than with a magical winter walk?

To the walker, beer, pubs and the countryside go hand in hand, providing the essential ingredients for a great day's ramble. Having stimulated a healthy appetite and a parched throat, the sight of a welcoming country pub will quicken the steps of even the weariest of walking legs. Indeed, few things in life are as pleasurable as running a finger along the red dotted line of a map until it arrives at those magical initials, PH.

In winter, the walker's route is through a beautiful bleak landscape, often with chilly winds inspiring warming thoughts of snug bars, cheery landlords, hearty plates of food and pints of ale supped by a crackling log fire. Isn't this what winter walking is all about?

Read on for ten of our favourite winter walking spots in Britain, where you'll also find a few of our cosiest inns nearby, to eat, drink or stay. Don your walking boots, wrap up warm and hit the trail.

1. Cornish Coast Path - Zennor

West Cornwall offers some of the world's most awe-inspiring coastline. One of the most beautiful short circular walks (4 miles) on the Penwith Peninsula starts from the Gurnard's Head pub and follows the magnificent coast path, with its fine sea views and steep climbs over rugged terrain, to the tiny village of Zennor, which shelters in a hollow between boulder-strewn moorland and the rugged coast. Spend time at Zennor, exploring the fascinating 12th-century church, the quaint Wayside Museum, filled with local artefacts, and enjoy a drink in the timeless Tinners Arms, where DH Lawrence drank when he lived nearby during the First World War, writing Women in Love. The return journey to the Gurnard's Head is a gentle ramble across wide pastures.

 

2. The Bath Skyline

Soaring over the majestic Georgian City of Bath, the Bath Skyline Walk brings together gorgeous city views with six miles of meadows, woodland and quiet valleys. Follow the 'skyline' signage along the way so you won't get lost on this circular stroll, and enjoy the magnificent vistas and hills rolling down into the city. Click here for more information.

 

3. West Yorkshire Dales

Walking is certainly the best way to see the Yorkshire Dales, a landscape of caverns and waterfalls, of limestone pavements and wooded valleys, sheep-cropped grass and stone-built villages clustering around ancient bridges or wide greens. Countless paths and tracks, once used by packhorses and sheep drovers, lead well away from roads into some of the finest scenery in the country. Stunning walks through the Yorkshire Dales National Park radiate from the door of the Black Bull, set at the foot of the splendid Howgill Fells - a walker's paradise, although surprisingly quiet, so you'll have the big skies and undulating hills all to yourself.

 

4. The Mottisfont Estate Walk, Hampshire

Not for the faint hearted, this six-mile route meanders through farmland and woods along the pretty River Test. It's a gorgeous spot to stroll during the winter months as the valley sparkles with frost and mist, and the light fades. Follow the stone markers with the bear crest on them, many with numbers that relate to the walking trail. Click here for more information.

 

5. Lancashire - The Forest of Bowland

The Forest of Bowland is the most breathtaking countryside in the north-west of England and this exhilarating circuit explores the area's little-known limestone scenery, following field paths and farm tracks through the Hodder Valley and negotiating two sets of ancient stepping stones across the river. High moorland, famous for its grouse shooting, rises to over 1,700ft around you, and gradual ascents afford great views over the valley to the wilder country beyond.

 

6. The North Norfolk Coast - Brancaster

Wildlife-rich saltmarsh, colourful boats, a Roman fort and a fascinating round-towered church make this breezy coast path walk between Brancaster and Burnham Deepdale an enjoyable winter outing. While you're on the coast path, take the time to stop, close your eyes and listen - to the hiss of wind in the long grass, the muted roar of distant waves, the plaintive call of the curlew and, at dusk, the eerie sound of thousands of geese flying in to roost on the marsh and fields.

 

7. The North Pennines - Romaldkirk

The North Pennines region, described as 'England's Last Wilderness', offers some of the most exhilarating walking in Britain - 772 square miles of spectacular ravines, green dales, forest and high moorland. Romaldkirk hunkers down in pretty Teesdale in the heart of this unique landscape and, along with neighbouring Weardale, these valleys are the obvious contenders for great walks. You'd have to make countless trips to Romaldkirk to cover every stunning mile of footpath - the choice is endless. The Pennine Way, now an amazing 50 years old, cuts across this magical landscape and passes close to Romaldkirk.

 

8. The New Forest

A vast network of woodland paths and tracks await you on the doorstep of the Gordleton Mill. One of the loveliest walks in the area connects Lymington to Beaulieu via a scenic stretch of the Solent Way, including a sheltered and beautiful section along the banks of the Beaulieu River from Buckler's Hard. Elsewhere, there are great mixed woods of oak and beech to explore, notably Bolderwood and the Rhinefield Walk, and vast acres of wild and beautiful heathland, untouched by, and independent of, man: a genuine survival of an ancient landscape. You can generally roam at will through this timeless and serene landscape.

 

9. The Cotswolds - Windrush Valley

You really are spoilt for choice in terms of where to walk in the idyllic Cotswolds countryside. If you just want an easy stroll from the front door of the Swan at Swinbrook, take a walk through the beautiful valley of the Windrush to the charming town of Burford, famous for its antique shops, or to the little medieval church of St Oswald, built on the site of a Roman villa. The air hangs heavy with history here and the river looks heavenly, winding its way through the attractive countryside. Elsewhere, there's also a good selection of long-distance trails, which can be adapted into manageable chunks, including the Heart of England Way, the Wychwood Way, the Oxfordshire Way and, slightly further afield, the magnificent Cotswolds Way.

 

10. The Wiltshire Downs

The Nadder Valley and the Wessex Downs west of Salisbury is a walker's paradise. From the Beckford Arms' doorstep, numerous walks link picturesque villages and fine scenery, including a glorious circuit through the Nadder Valley, across fields and through woodland and parkland, via Old Wardour Castle, to Donhead St Andrew, returning to Swallowcliffe along a lofty chalk ridge, affording far-reaching views south over Cranborne Chase and north towards Salisbury Plain. Cranborne Chase, a short drive south, is famous for its magnificent views, breezy high points and secluded valleys, and is perfect for exploring on foot, or you can explore the accessible trails and tracks on remote Salisbury Plain.

Last updated: 23.12.20