7 of the most beautiful winter walks in England
Don't let the colder weather stop you from enjoying fantastic winter walks
1. Scotney Castle, Kent - Best for festive magic
There’s enchantment in the air as Christmas approaches. And where better to immerse yourself in the magic than at a ruined 14th-century castle ringed by a sparkling moat? The medieval monument at Scotney is picture-perfect in any season. But in winter, the ivy-clad tower and ruins reflected in the icy water are particularly pretty. And there’s a host of other seasonal treats to enjoy while walking around the 315-hectare estate. Mix and match three colour-coded trails of 1.5 or 2 miles each for an easy but varied stroll. Pink and purple heather blossoms around the old ice house, bringing colour to the landscape. And winter-blooming plants such as camellia and sweet-smelling Christmas box surround the Victorian mansion. Inside, throughout December you’ll find the house decorated in the style of Christmas from past centuries. Aromas drifting from the tea room will tempt you in for hot chocolate, mince pies and perhaps even mulled wine.
2. Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire - Best for mistletoe and holly
There can be few more seasonal settlements than Tenbury Wells. This town on the three-way border between Worcestershire, Shropshire and Herefordshire is famed for the surrounding orchards in which mistletoe grows profusely. Even today, it’s renowned for the mistletoe and holly auctions held here for over a century and a half. More importantly for walkers, the Teme Valley and nearby hills are a delight in winter. Follow a circular hike of just under 7 miles, following the river west through orchards, returning over Oldwood Common for sweeping views. Tenbury boasts cafés, restaurants and black-and-white timbered 17th-century pubs such as Pembroke House and the Fountain.
3. Winterton and Horsey, Norfolk - Best for plump white seal pups
Late each autumn, many hundreds of pregnant grey seals haul themselves onto the beaches of east Norfolk. And between November and January, they give birth to their adorable pups on the sands of Winterton-on-Sea and Horsey Gap. This is a wonderful time to stroll the 4 miles between the two along the England Coast Path. The skies are vast, the dunes rolling and seductive, and the beaches speckled white with plump white baby seals. Each suckles fat-rich milk from its mother, tripling in weight over the three weeks after birth. The main seal colony at Horsey Gap is cordoned off during winter to protect the pups. Admire the youngsters from dedicated viewing areas, then extend your walk inland to the hamlet of Horsey. Here you’ll find the lovely thatched All Saints Church, with its round Saxon tower. Call in at the Nelson Head pub for a pint of locally brewed Woodforde’s Wherry ale. Or continue to the historic Horsey Windpump and Horsey Mere, which welcomes migratory waterbirds in winter.
4. Lyme Park, Cheshire - Best for deer and delightful views
A magnificent house dating from the Elizabethan era is the focal point of this sprawling estate. And you shouldn’t miss the grand mansion, with its stately rooms and superb collections of art and historic artefacts. But it’s surrounded by over 560 hectares of parkland to explore on foot, spanning formal gardens, ancient woodland and moors. For a dramatic winter walk, complete a 2-mile loop to the sandstone tower known as the Lantern. Climbing through the east of the park, you’ll enjoy far-ranging views across to the Peak District. And you’ll likely encounter the red deer that have roamed these hillsides since the Middle Ages. As at many other National Trust properties, the house is decorated for Christmas, providing a festive treat for children.
5. Bude to Duckpool, Cornwall - Best for wild waves and coastal grandeur
Swells surge across the north Atlantic, breaking on the north coast of Cornwall in great white eruptions of spume. In winter, the weather is wildest and the drama so more powerful. The rollercoaster stretch of the South West Coast Path between Bude and the Devon border is among the most challenging. But with its looming black cliffs and distant sea views, it also offers wonderfully exhilarating hiking for a midwinter day. Head north from Crooklets Beach to climb and descend steeply for 3 miles or so to Duckpool Cove. From here, you can simply return the same way for a different perspective. Or take a break from the roaring surf and turn inland through serene Coombe Valley. Stroll between the oaks before winding south to rejoin the coast at Sandy Mouth or Northcott Mouth beach.
6. Haweswater, Cumbria - Best for solitude among the fells
Haweswater is among the Lake District’s least-visited spots, perhaps because it’s an artificial reservoir. But the glorious landscapes surrounding this limpid expanse between Penrith and Windermere are far from artificial. And in winter, when some loftier routes are more challenging, this is a great area from which to admire the fells. From the carpark at Mardale Head, a full circuit around the lake covers about 10 miles. Navigation is easy, with mostly good paths following the shoreline. Look out for the tufty ears of red squirrels scampering through ancient woodland, and waterfalls striping the hillsides. Walking anticlockwise, refuel at the Haweswater Hotel towards the end of your jaunt, enjoying its spectacular views across the lake. Keen to explore still further? Venture steeply up past babbling cascades to gorgeous Small Water Tarn, an alluring venue for a winter picnic.
7. Lacock, Wiltshire - Best for spectacular snowdrops
From the turn of the year, delicate white bells begin pushing up through the cold, hard earth. Individual snowdrops are fragile beauties, but when they carpet the ground in white blankets, they’re truly breathtaking. One wonderful spot to admire clouds of snowdrops is the ancient village of Lacock, near Chippenham. Unsurprisingly, this lovely and little-changed settlement is often used as a location for film and television shoots. Its historic houses, streets and abbey have appeared in everything from Pride and Prejudice to Downton Abbey and Harry Potter movies. It’s a particularly bewitching setting for a walk in winter, when time seems to stand still and it’s always Christmas. In just over a mile you can complete a circuit of the four main streets. This route crosses the old packhorse bridge and visits the medieval tithe barn and 14th-century St Cyriac’s Church. Delve into the grounds of Lacock Abbey in January and February to amble among swathes of snowdrops. With several pubs and a National Trust tearoom and toilets, it’s a fine place for an easy, family friendly stroll.
We’ve got ideas for hundreds of wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
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