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The 50 Best winter walks

From the highest peaks to tree-lined lanes, Rhiannon Batten finds festive perambulations

This week’s panel:

Gary Shipp is co-founder of low-carbon walking website carfreewalks.org;

Juliette Dyke is founder of online outdoors magazine freshairfix.com;

Mike Dawson is editor of go4awalk.com;

Sarah Spencer is marketing manager for Cicerone Guides (cicerone.co.uk);

Tom Franklin is chief executive of the Ramblers Association (ramblers.org.uk)


1. Batemans

The East Sussex High Weald is a landscape of undulating fields, woodlands, open heaths and sunken route ways formerly used by Anglo Saxon drovers, says Juliette Dyke. "William Morris, Siegfried Sassoon, Henry James and Rudyard Kipling were inspired to settle here, and this walk takes you around the grounds of Kipling's home. Bring the children and they can follow in the footsteps of Puck, the magical fairy from Kipling's book."

Distance: 2.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/Batemans, nationaltrust.org.uk

2. Box Hill from Westhumble

"Taking its name from the ancient box woodland found on the steepest west-facing chalk slopes overlooking the river Mole, Box Hill is part owned and managed by the National Trust," explains Mike Dawson. Panoramic views across the North Downs from this Surrey high point gets busy in summer, "but it offers relatively quiet seclusion in the winter months".

Distance: 7 miles

Details: ind.pn/boxhill

3. Whitehill and Hannington

Watership Down is situated on a delightful chalk ridge, forming part of the North Hampshire Downs. "The area has enjoyed almost legendary status since the author Richard Adams chose it as the setting for his best-selling story, Watership Down," says Sarah Spencer. "This circular walk starting from Whitehill, near Kingsclere, gives great views of it."

Distance: 7 miles

Details: ind.pn/watershipdown

4. Great Missenden to Amersham

Ideal on a crisp day but muddy and sometimes waterlogged in bad weather, you might want to pack some wellies for this Buckinghamshire walk. Listed in the Time Out guide to country walks, it's well worth it for the views and a variety of terrain that covers woods, fields to ancient villages.

Distance: 10.1 miles

Details: ind.pn/greatmissenden

5. Richmond to Hampton Court

"Being my neck of the woods I may be slightly biased, but this stretch of the Thames Path in Surrey is home to some of the most scenic walking that Greater London has to offer," says Juliette. "Packed with history, culture and gorgeous scenery, you'll pass Petersham Meadows, with its famous grazing cows, historic Ham House, Eel Pie Island and Teddington Lock, where the tidal Thames ends, before continuing to Kingston Bridge and, finally, Hampton Court for a well deserved cream tea."

Distance: 7 miles

Details: ind.pn/hamptoncourt

6. Blenheim Palace parkland

A gentle but majestic winter ramble in and around one of England's stateliest homes, this Oxfordshire walk takes you through fields, Capability Brown-designed parkland and along estate drives as it skirts Churchill's birthplace. Warm up afterwards at the Cock Inn in Combe (thecockatcombe.co.uk). Though the grounds are open the palace itself is closed during January and part of February (blenheimpalace.com).

Distance: 7 miles

Details: ind.pn/palaceparkland

7. The Medway marshes

According to Gary Shipp, the ghost of Magwitch haunts this walk near Chatham in Kent. "These marshes are where Charles Dickens was inspired to write Great Expectations," he explains. "The mudflats are important feeding sites for birds in winter, including avocets, dunlins and wigeons, so bring your binoculars."

Distance: 15 miles

Details: ind.pn/medwaymarshes

8. Jack & Jill from Ditchling Beacon

For "a winter walk through history," Mike recommends "visiting this pair of distinctive windmills, sited in a commanding position overlooking the South Downs in East Sussex. Jill, the white mill, was moved here from Patcham in 1821 and is open to the public at weekends and bank holidays. Jack, the black mill, was erected in 1866 and is privately owned."

Distance: 5.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/ditchling

9. Across the South Downs

"Enjoy England's newest National Park with a walk between two of its many small stations, Bishopstone and Berwick in East Sussex," recommends Gary. "The route crosses the South Downs Way at Bostal Hill and there is a great pub in Alciston, the Rose Cottage Inn." (rosecottageinn.co.uk)

Distance: 6 miles

Details: ind.pn/southdowns



10. Steeperton Tor from Belstone

For a decent day walk in Devon when the days are short, Mike advises a visit to "Nine Maidens stone circle, which includes the remains of the outer wall of a Bronze Age burial chamber, before scampering amongst the tops of Belstone Tor and Oke Tor. On returning to Belstone enjoy a warming drink in this pretty village, first recorded in the Domesday Book."

Distance: 7.75 miles

Details: ind.pn/steeperton, english-heritage.org.uk

11. Bath to Bradford-on-Avon

Follow this gentle walk along the Kennet and Avon canal from end to start rather than the other way around, suggests Gary. You'll pass the impressive aqueducts at Dundas and Avoncliff along the way, and "finish in Bath city centre for the Christmas lights and a pint in one of the city's many fine pubs," advises Gary. "Try The Bell." (walcotstreet.com)

Distance: 7 miles

Details: ind.pn/canalside

12. Brown Willy

Looking out over "brooding Bodmin Moor and the spectacular north and south Cornish coastlines" Brown Willy is a "splendid hill," according to Sarah. If you're looking for company, it also features in an annual out-and-back race from Jamaica Inn on New Year's Day.

Distance: 4.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/brownwilly

13. Ringmore and Bigbury-on-Sea

"You'll get plenty of peace and quiet on this south Devon walk in winter," says Juliette. "Larger pleasure boats don't come up the Avon Estuary, leaving it relatively unspoilt and a haven for birds. The path meanders gently down to Bantham Sands, where you'll get a great view of craggy Burgh Island with its famous hotel. The island is completely surrounded by the sea at high tide but is accessible via a sea tractor." If you fancy a pint at the end of the walk, head across to Burgh Island's Pilchard Inn.

Distance: 4 miles

Details: ind.pn/ringmore

14. Tarka Line walks

"If the prospect of Dartmoor in winter seems a little too much, head further north to the gentler surrounds of northwest Devon," advises Gary. "The stations on the Tarka Line provide plenty of good walking options, including this route from Yeoford to Copplestone."

Distance: 4 miles

Details: ind.pn/tarkaline

15. Weymouth to Portland Bill

"Although the Isle of Portland is not officially on the South West Coast Path, the variety of this Dorset walk makes it well worth a detour," promises Juliette. "Explore the beach huts, the old limestone quarries, and enjoy the views across to Chesil beach and the Jurassic Coast. If the wind gets up, head for the lighthouse at Portland Bill (open daily except Saturdays, and then enjoy a comforting pint at the Pulpit Inn."

Distance: 6 miles

Details: ind.pn/portlandbill

16. St Ives

If winter walking means bracing, breezy beaches to you, then Tom Franklin recommends this "gentle stroll along the coast" from Carbis Bay to St Ives. "It provides wonderful coastal views and takes in beautiful sandy beaches and an historic and picturesque town." A walk during winter, he adds, "offers freedom from the summer crowds."

Distance: 3 miles

Details: www.southwestcoastpath.com

17. The Valley of Rocks

For Gary, "nothing beats a coastal walk in winter, and few stretches can match the Valley of Rocks on Devon's north coast". A spectacular section of the South West Coast Path, this walk starts and finish at Lynton.

Distance: 10 miles

Details: ind.pn/valleyofrocks

18. Imber village

"Public access to Imber, in the centre of Salisbury Plain, is only permitted by the Ministry of Defence on a few days each year," says Gary (foreverimber.org.uk). Make the most of the open period between Christmas and New Year this winter on a walk around "this curious Wiltshire village, deserted since 1943, when it was requisitioned by the MOD for army training".

Distance: 10 miles

Details: ind.pn/imbervillage



19. The Norfolk coast

Use the Coasthopper bus and you can reach a range of walks on Norfolk's fine coastline, says Gary. His favourite? "A visit to the seals at Blakeney Point."

Distance: 5 miles

Details: ind.pn/blakeney

20. Lantern Pike

from HayfieldMike recommends striding out along the Sett Valley Trail, a footpath connecting Hayfield and New Mills in Derbyshire, before climbing Lantern Pike. "There you'll be rewarded with fine views of Kinder Scout and The Dark Peak Area of the Peak District National Park," he says, "before thawing out in one of the many pubs of Hayfield."

Distance: 4.75 miles

Details: ind.pn/lanternpike

21. Ludham to How Hill

According to Juliette, this gentle riverside walk showcases all the prettiest aspects of the Norfolk Broads, from Grade II-listed windmills to the Buttle Marsh nature reserve - a site of international importance for conservation. "If the rain is lashing down, take shelter at Toad Hole cottage, a traditional home for marsh men and their families that's now preserved as a museum," she adds.

Distance: 6.25 miles

Details: ind.pn/ludham

22. Hope to Edale

"A lovely train journey from Sheffield or Manchester takes you to Hope Station in the heart of the Peak District," says Gary. "Cross over Lose Hill to finish at Edale, with the Old Nags Head a great place for a winter warmer."

Distance: 6 miles

Details: ind.pn/hopeedale

23. Long Mynd

"It is a pleasure to walk a path that has been developed with care and this is just such a route," says Tom. "The Shropshire Way is a clearly waymarked route that takes in Ironbridge Gorge, Wenlock Edge and charming towns like Ludlow, Bishop's Castle and Much Wenlock."

Distance: 9.25 miles

Details: ind.pn/longmynd

24. Cavedale and Winnats Pass

"The Peak District is brimming with walks for all seasons, from high peat plateaux and gritstone edges to delving dales," says Sarah. "Starting in Castleton, this route takes in the dramatic reef limestone features of Cavedale, Winnats Pass and Mam Tor."

Distance: 5.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/cavedale

25. Minsmere Nature Reserve

This walk from Eastbridge to Minsmere, in Suffolk, offers families and keen birdwatchers a great day out, says Mike. "Nature trails take you through a variety of habitats to excellent birdwatching hides. In autumn and winter, many wading birds and swans, ducks and geese visit. It's a twitcher's paradise."

Distance: 5.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/minsmerereserve

26. Worcesterhire Beacon

"Possibly England's finest short walk," says Sarah, "this route through the Malvern Hills boasts glorious views in every direction, notably the east, where Great Malvern seems under your feet."

Distance: 4.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/malvernhills



27. Yockenthwaite from Buckden

"Follow the north bank of the river Wharfe from Buckden to Yockenthwaite, a tiny hamlet in Langstrothdale," says Mike. "Along the way you will be rewarded with the finest view in the Yorkshire Dales – looking south along Wharfedale – under a blanket of crisp, white snow. Return along the Dales Way through Hubberholme before enjoying a warming cup of tea (or something stronger) in Buckden."

Distance: 7.25 miles

Details: ind.pn/buckden

28. Craster to Dunstanburgh Castle

"There's nothing quite like the sight of a crumbling castle defying the elements, to add a bit of drama to a coastal winter walk," says Juliette. "And just a mile north of the pretty fishing village of Craster in Northumberland, are the rocky ruins of 14th-century Dunstaburgh Castle. The walk takes you through dunes, grasslands, sea cliffs and rock pools, and you'll encounter plenty of birdlife, so be sure to bring your binoculars."

Distance: 4.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/dunstanburgh

29. Whernside

One of Yorkshire's big three hills, though it's right on the border with Cumbria, "and a winter challenge for fit walkers," the climb here is worth it for the views, according to Gary. "The Dales are at their best under a dusting of snow, and you finish at the dramatic Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle line."

Distance: 9 miles

Details: ind.pn/whernside

30. Holy Island

Described by Mike as "the jewel in Northumbria's crown," Holy Island's tranquility, spirituality and scenic beauty attract "a multitude of visitors to its shores every year," he says. "Busy in summer, it offers serenity in winter, and a massive influx of migratingbirds – almost 300 species have been recorded on the island and the adjacent reserve – and grey seals are frequent visitors to its rocky bays at high tide."

Distance: 5 miles

Details: ind.pn/holyisland

31. Brougham Castle and Mayburgh Henge

"The area around Eamont Bridge, in Cumbria, is littered with historical sites, and this short walk visits no fewer than five of them: two prehistoric henges, a Roman fort, a 13th-century castle and an old fortified hall," says Sarah. "The going underfoot is generally easy as you follow waymarked paths, a pretty riverside trail and quiet country lanes."

Distance: 3.75 miles

Details: ind.pn/broughamcastle

32. Raydale

Recommended by Gary, this route explores a little visited corner of Yorkshire. "From Bainbridge, head up the Roman road on to Wether Fell before dropping down to Semer Water."

Distance: 9 miles

Details: ind.pn/raydale

33. Gordale Scar & Malham Cove

"Malham's geological formations are famous the world over and this classic tour links them all – a pretty waterfall, an awesome gorge, a lake amid the Yorkshire Dales' limestone country and the towering, stark cliff of a dry waterfall," sums up Sarah. "Water has occasionally made it along the valley to the latter, though such an event has not been recorded since around 1850."

Distance: 6.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/malham

34. Keswick to Walla Crag

Skimming the edge of Derwentwater, before heading up Walla Crag via one of the most famous viewpoints in the Lake District, Ashness Bridge, this is "a postcard perfect location all year round," according to Juliette. "The bridge is particularly pretty blanketed in snow with the summit of Skiddaw beyond."

Distance: 6.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/wallacrag

35. Castlefield

Wrap up warm for this urban walk through of one of Manchester's main conservation and heritage areas, advises Tom. "If you need a break from the chilly winter air, seek shelter en route in one of the oldest pubs in Manchester, the Grade-II listed Peveril of the Peak Pub, built about 1820. The canal basin – the the Bridgewater canal opened in 1765 and links to the river Medlock – offers plenty to see, including a magnificent view of three huge railway viaducts."

Distance: 3.1 miles

Details: ind.pn/castelfieldtour



36. River Garry

This short walk follows the forested banks of the river Garry between Pitlochry and Killiecrankie, in Perthshire. "It's beautiful when the trees are coated with snow," says Gary.

Distance: 4 miles

Details: ind.pn/rivergarry

37. Ben Vrackie

"Ben Vrackie dominates the skyline above Pitlochry in Perthshire," says Sarah. "Its fine paths lead you to the top of one of the best viewpoints in the region, and the Moulin Inn (moulininn.co.uk) offers a cosy, fireside seat when you get back down."

Distance: 6 miles

Details: ind.pn/benvrackie

38. The Lairig Leacach

Running between the Grey Corries and the Easains in the West Highlands, this high mountain pass is "as challenging as you will find in Scotland without the need for axes and crampons," says Gary. He advises splitting it over two days, with a night at either Leacach bothy (cold) or Corrour Station House youth hostel (cosy).

Distance: 14 miles

Details: ind.pn/lairigleacach

39. Loch Morar to Tarbet

Situated on the famous Road to the Isles, in the West Highlands, "this mysterious loch is not only Europe's deepest stretch of inland water but is also supposedly home to Nessie's less well-known cousin, Morag," says Juliette. "The walk follows the edge of the loch, then heads over to Tarbet, on Loch Nevis, from where you can catch the boat back to Mallaig. Swirled in mist on a winter's day, you can really believe that there is something in the water."

Distance: 8.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/lochmorar

40. Beinn Lora from Benderloch

Rising from the shores of Ardmucknish Bay, in Argyll, Beinn Lora is "a little hill with big views of the snow-capped Munros of Ben Nevis, the Aonachs, the Grey Corries, the Mamores and Glen Coe," says Mike. "The approach uses waymarked forestry paths and the final boggy pull up to the top is much easier when the ground is frozen solid."

Distance: 3.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/beinnlora

41. The Cobbler

The distinctive, jagged peaks of The Cobbler (Ben Arthur) have been a popular destination for walkers and climbers for over a century, says Sarah. "Explore more of the Argyll Forest Park from the Ardgarten visitor centre, or head over for a picnic on the bonny banks of Loch Lomond," she advises.

Distance: 5.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/benarthur

42. Dumyat from Bridge of Allan

"Although relatively small the characteristic shape of Dumyat forms an important part of the distinctive scenery of the Stirling area, and is often visited in combination with nearby Abbey Craig," says Mike. "Topped by a distinctive beacon and multicoloured trig point, this makes a fine winter walk. When the air is clear and crisp you can expect stunning panoramic views of Stirling and beyond."

Distance: 7.25 miles

Details: ind.pn/dumyathill



43. Waterfalls and ridges

Described by Sarah as "moderately strenuous" your efforts on this walk from Blaen-y-glyn, in the central Brecon Beacons, will be rewarded "by waterfalls, fine views and spectacular glacial features. From the ridge of Craig y Fan Ddu, the Mumbles Lighthouse can be seen on a clear day to the southwest, the sea sometimes glowing deep red in a setting sun."

Distance: 9 miles

Details: ind.pn/waterfallsridges

44. Aberglaslyn Pass

"Enjoy a trip on the restored Welsh Highland Railway to Beddgelert, in Snowdonia National Park, then pick up the Fisherman's Path through the Pass of Aberglaslyn," advises Gary. "Head back via Cwm Bychan for superb views of Snowdon's southern face."

Distance: 5 miles

Details: ind.pn/aberglaslyn

45. Slieve Donard

The highest peak in Northern Ireland, Slieve Donard is named after Domangard, a fifth-century Christian saint who built a prayer cell on the mountain's summit. "Great views, a host of high summits and the unmistakable Mourne Wall make these mountains a tremendous walking region," says Sarah.

Distance: 5.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/slievedonard

46. Whitesands Bay to St David's Head

"With over 180 miles of stunning coastline on offer, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path spoils you for choice," says Juliette. "This walk around the rugged cliffs of St David's Head is perfect for a crisp, sunny winter's day and, as this part of the county is also one of the sunniest in Wales, you might not to have to wait too long for a weather window. A route packed with historical interest, if it's not too windy, then a detour to the summit of Carn Llidi will reward you with amazing views."

Distance: 3-4 miles

Details: ind.pn/stdavidshead

47. Llyn Crafnant

A good option for those who don't want to scale the heights of Snowdonia's higher reaches, this low-level walk starts in Capel Curig and "heads away from the peaks to the beautiful Llyn Crafnant. Use the Snowdon Sherpa bus to return from Llanrwst to Capel Curig," says Gary.

Distance: 7 miles

Details: ind.pn/crafnant

48. Portrush to Bushmills

Wait for a sunny day for this one if you want to see Northern Ireland's Causeway Coast at its most spectacular. Leave the crowds at the Giant's Causeway behind and head west, to Portrush, a small seaside resort. From here the route winds east to Bushmills, famously the home of one of the world's oldest licensed distilleries, via quiet coves, ruined castles and, if you're lucky, glimpses of brilliant aquamarine water.

Distance: 6.6 miles

Details: ind.pn/portrush

49. Hay-on-Wye

"This beautiful Powys walk follows the river Wye, then rises on the hills near Llowes, with panoramic views of the Wye Valley," sums up Tom. "It continues through farmland and emerges in the historic village of Clyro before finishing back at Hay Bridge. If you're happy to take on the numerous stiles along the way, this makes for a hearty winter's ramble."

Distance: 6 miles

Details: ind.pn/powys

50. Arthog to Cregennan Lakes

"Swollen with winter rain, Snowdonia's Arthog Falls are known for their bear-like roar," explains Juliette. "They're well worth the steep climb from the village. Push on up the hill and across the fields, taking in the stunning views of the Mawddach estuary, until you reach Cregannan Lakes, in the shadow of Cadair Idris. In the depths of winter, you might just be lucky enough to have the whole landscape to yourself."

Distance: 4.5 miles

Details: ind.pn/cregennan


Next week: Fitness essentials