Our Favourite UK Winter Walks
As winter approaches and the nights draw in, it can be tempting to hang up your waterproofs and put away your walking boots. But with frosty landscapes, the magic of low winter sunlight and the promise of a warming pub fire at the end of a walk, we think there are plenty of reasons to carry on getting out and about this winter.
From frozen lakes and snowy forests with snow crunching underfoot to bracing coastal walks with the waves crashing against the rocks, there are so many different landscapes to explore and sights to see across the UK, even in the depths of winter.
So if you’re ready to get wrapped up and head out, we’ve rounded up the perfect winter walks for you.
North East – Cragside, Northumberland
On the outskirts of Northumbria National Park, the village of Rothbury holds a Victorian treasure – the first house with hydroelectric and hydraulic power, which is now in the care of the National Trust.
The Arts and Craft mansion of Cragisde was once the home of Lord William and Lady Margaret Armstrong, who transformed it into one of the most modern houses of its day with luxuries including hot and cold running water, electric lighting and hydraulic powered luggage lifts.
An avid creator, Lord Armstrong’s innovative home was powered by two man-made lakes, which now provide the backdrop to Nelly’s Moss Lakes Walk, an easy one-and-a-half-mile route around both lakes. However, on a frosty morning, the two-mile Views of Cragside walk is well worth the extra effort as it provides Victorian Christmas card scenes of the magnificent house and its stunning grounds.
For those looking to stretch their legs even further, there are over 40 miles of footpath to explore, taking in the hills, woodlands and gardens. When you need to warm up, the house is well worth exploring, but if you're pressed for time, you can just pop to the on-site cafe.
North West – Forest of Bowland, Lancashire
A designated Area of Outstanding Beauty dubbed the Switzerland of England, the Forest of Bowland is the perfect place to lose yourself this winter. As well as being one of the largest and most important areas of ancient semi-natural woodland in Lancashire, it is also said to be the landscape that inspired J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy lands in The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.
There are miles of rolling hills, valleys and quaint villages to explore, so whether you’re looking for a relaxed walk post-Christmas indulgence or something more challenging, there is plenty to keep you busy. Plus, it’s a great place to get away from it all, as you can walk for miles without seeing another soul.
If you want to make a day of it, we recommend the seven-and-a-half mile Roeburndale Walk, which takes you through ancient woodlands and open access moorland and on a clear day offers views of Calf Top, Gragareth, Whernside and Ingleborough.
South West – St Ives to Zennor, Cornwall
There’s nothing quite like a bracing coastal wind to make you feel alive, and there’s no better place to experience it than St Ives. During the winter months, this must-visit Cornish destination is far less crowded but no less spectacular.
The walk from St Ives to Zennor is roughly six miles and can be completed in either direction. As it’s not a circular route, once you’ve reached your destination, you can either get the bus back or turn back on yourself and make it a longer 12-mile walk.
The path follows the ins and outs of the headlines and inlets, and with breathtaking views across the beaches, you quickly feel miles away from bustling St Ives.
Although a moderate walk, parts of the path are narrow with uneven terrain, so you need to take care with your footing.
Zennor is a romantic village steeped in folklore and home to the legendry Mermaid of Zennor. Once you’ve had your fill of finding out about the local legend and soaked up the impressive views, we recommend heading to the Tinners Arms. Built in 1271 to house masons working on the nearby church, it is now a cosy pub that is the perfect place to warm up after a wintry morning.
West Midlands – Kinver Edge, Staffordshire
Take a walk into the past and discover the Rock Houses at Kinver Edge. Although there are a range of routes to explore, the Rock House Trail is our favourite. The four-mile circular route takes two to three hours to complete, and although generally moderate, there are some steeper sections in the woods.
Along the route, there are different rock house complexes for you to explore. The first complex, known as Nanny’s Rock, is unrestored but is accessible. You can climb through the empty remains of windows and walk around the empty rooms. As you head away from Nanny’s Rock, the landscape opens out into heathland and to the left, you may see Vale’s House rock house, which is currently closed to the public.
On your return to your starting point, you can choose to visit the Holy Austin Rock Houses. Lived in until the 1960s, the National Trust has restored them to the cosy, comfortable dwellings they once were. You can even sit and have a cup of tea which has been converted to a cafe.
Although the rock houses are the real star of the show on this walk, there is plenty to absorb along the way, including woodland and heathland, longhorn cattle and a variety of wildlife.
Yorkshire – Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire
Another coastal walk to make our list is this four-mile circular route that takes in all the charm of Robin Hoods Bay, with incredible views out across the North Sea.
Located between Whitby and Scarborough, Robin Hoods Bay offers a unique seaside experience with quaint pantiled cottages and narrow courtyards tumbling down the steep slope towards the sea. The bay was once famous for smuggling, and it was claimed villagers linked their cellars to pass contraband up the steep slope unnoticed by the authorities.
For this walk, you’ll need to park at the top of the bay as there’s no visitor parking in the bay. From the car park, head towards the disused railway line, before joining the Cleveland Way and following the cliff tops for spectacular sea views. You finish where you started, and if you have time, we recommend heading down into the bay and experiencing the array of independent craft shops, pubs and cafes.
Visit in early December, and you might be lucky enough to the bay in full Victorian splendour for their annual Victorian Christmas weekend.
East Midlands – Wollaton Hall, Nottingham
If you’re after a family-friendly walk this winter, then we recommend heading to Wollaton Hall just on the outskirts of Nottingham. With over 500 acres of gardens and parkland and two cafes, it's easy to spend the entire day here.
There are numerous family trails and play areas, so it's a great place for little ones to burn off excess energy. Plus, for the bigger kids, there's an onsite orienteering course.
Although a delightful place to visit at any time of year, it comes into its own through winter. The lake takes on a magical quality on frosty mornings, and the house shines in its Elizabeth Grandeur as the early morning mists rise. Plus, from the end of November to the beginning of January, Wollaton Hall runs an enchanting light and music trail as part of its Christmas festivities.
East – Lackford Lakes Nature Reserve, Suffolk
Lackford Lakes is a must-visit destination for anyone serious about twitching, with Shoveler, Lapwing, Goosander, Bittern and Goldeneye all descending on this reserve during the winter months.
There are various routes available, taking from one to two hours but don’t be surprised if you end up spending longer as there are many hides where you can while away the hours seeing what you can spot. It’s one of the reasons we recommend packing a flask and some snacks.
Just 10 minutes from Bury St Edmunds, the reserve is easy to access and open all year round. The paths can become muddy and waterlogged during the winter months, so waterproof footwear is a must.
On crisp, clear mornings, you can soak up the frosty, frozen landscapes, while an afternoon visit brings the bright orange and pink hues of an early winter sunset.
South – Marlpit Hill, Kent
A gentle stroll through this Kentish landscape in winter will leave you wanting more. This walk starts and ends at the family-friendly Swan Pub in Edenbridge, takes around two hours to complete, and while moderate includes several stiles.
The route takes you past Broxham Manor and Moat, famous for having been burnt down twice before finally being rebuilt in the 18th Century to the right as the original location was believed to be unlucky.
Edenbridge itself was once an important crossroads on route to the Forest of Weald, so has a wealth of history. There’s also numerous shops and places to eat to keep you occupied once you’ve completed the walk.
Budding photographers should pack their cameras as the route is home to a range of wildlife, including robins, deer and winter wildfowl, while the low golden light makes for spectacular pictures of the frost-covered pastures and crystalised waterways surrounding Marlpit Hill.
Wales – Castell Coch And Fforest Fawr
For real winter magic, there's no better place to visit than this mystical castle and forest walk. The fairytale castle with towering turrets and charming conical roofs rises from the ancient beech woods of Forest Fawr and is frequently used for TV programmes, including Sherlock and Merlin.
This location is well worth an early morning start, so you can catch the sun slowly rising and the mists clearing to reveal the magnificent castle. It offers range of circular walks, including a sculpture trail based on a giant living in the woods. Whichever trail you take through the forest, you're walking in an area steeped in history, keep an eye out for mounds and hollows, which are the remains of ancient iron-making workings and spoil tips.
If you have time, we recommend warming up with a visit inside the castle to enjoy its lavish furnishings and fairytale allure. You also get commanding views over the Taff Gorge.
Northern Ireland – Slieve Binnian, County Down
One of the more challenging routes on our list, this six-mile walk takes around four-and-a-half miles to complete but rewards you with incredible views.
Located in the magical Mourne Mountains, it will come as no surprise to anyone visiting that this is the landscape that inspired much of C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia. The mountain range formed around 13,000 years ago when vast ice sheets began to melt and has a pre-historic feel.
The route is challenging, with the 600m ascent demanding some hillwalking experience and the right equipment, including walking poles for extra support on the toughest sections of the climb. However, on clear days once you reach the summit, you are rewarded with views across the County Down coastline.
You should keep a lookout for wildlife on your walk with Irish Hare, Falcons and Snow Bunting present during the winter months.
Once you’ve accomplished this adventurous route, head into Annalong where you’ll find a few pubs in which to thaw out.
Scotland – Loch Morlich, Highlands
The Highlands are ripe for winter adventures, and nowhere in Britain has the same scale tundra-like plateau and sub-arctic habitats. As such, it is one of the only places in the UK where you can enjoy snow sports in the mountains, as well as a range of walks from challenging mountainous routes to gentler strolls around the lochs.
As the winter conditions in the Highlands can be challenging for the most experienced walkers, we’ve chosen to stick to a gentler route around the beautiful Loch Morlich. In winter, the Loch takes on a magical quality, as the lake freezes and the surrounding snow-capped mountains provide a stunning backdrop. It’s one of the best ways to experience the beauty of the mountains without having to climb them.
At just over three miles long, the walk only takes around an hour and a half to complete, making it ideal for an early morning walk or an after-lunch stroll. For the most part, the route is wide and smooth, but in wintry conditions, you need to watch out for patches of ice.
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