The 10 Best winter walks

Spectacular, scenic, wild: Stephen Goodwin picks the most breathtaking cold-weather hikes in Britain

Pentland Hills, near Edinburgh

Just the place to work off the Prince's Street Hogmanay excesses. Bare-headed, the Pentlands roll out beyond Edinburgh's southern suburbs. Robert Louis Stevenson called them his "hills of home". From the carpark and inn at Flotterstone on the A702 there's a fine 11-mile round, out along the tops, including the highest, Scald Law (579m) and back by the reservoirs along Logan Burn.

Map: Harvey Superwalker Pentland Hills

Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland-Cumbria

Emperor Hadrian bequeathed us an archaeological wonder and a great walk across the spine of northern England. This year saw the official opening of the Hadrian's Wall national trail, 84 miles from Solway to Tyne. But just a day on its Pennine heights gives a powerful flavour. Rome's wall marches along cliff tops, the stones of old watchtowers looking over miles of bog and forest to Scotland. Best is the six switchback miles east from Cawfield Crags to impressive Housesteads fort.

Map: Harvey Hadrian's Wall Path

Malvern Hills, Hereford and Worcester

A mountain range in miniature, the Malvern Hills rise from the lushness of the Severn Plain. Hike up from the genteel spa of Great Malvern to the highest point, the Worcestershire Beacon (425m). An undulating crest marches southwards to an Iron-Age hill fort. Edward Elgar drew inspiration from this landscape, the fields and villages of quintessential England at his feet.

Map: OS Explorer 190 Malvern Hills and Bredon Hill

Chequers and the Chilterns, Buckinghamshire

Even if you're not invited to Chequers this Christmas it's still possible to grab a little of Tony's country retreat. The Ridgeway national trail cuts across the prime ministerial estate on its rolling course between the village of Great Kimble and Wendover. Big Brother watches via security cameras. The best bit of this five-mile stretch, though, is the panorama from Coombe Hill (260m), highest point in the Chilterns.

Map: OS Explorer 181 Chiltern Hills North

Striding Edge, Lake District

Serrated rock ridge rising to Helvellyn (950m), the third highest summit in England. Under snow and ice this is a full-on mountaineering expedition, requiring ice-axe, crampons and competence. Otherwise it's a scramble for the sure-footed. Big drops to either side. A six-hour round from Glenridding village, descending via Swirral Edge. Not everybody's idea of a "walk" but too exhilarating to leave out; simply the best.

Map: OS OL5 The English Lakes, North Eastern area

Cape Cornwall and the South West Coast Path

Wild rocky fringe of Britain tipping into the Atlantic. Standing granite stones, chambered burial mounds and the engine houses of 18th-century tin mines perched on the cliffs. The South West Coast Path is the longest in the UK - 630 wind-whipped miles - but it's hard to beat the 15 or so twisting above the cliffs between Zennor and Cape Cornwall. And what a place for sunsets over the ocean.

Map: OS Explorer 102 Land's End, Penzance and St Ives

Rosedale, North York Moors

Deep-cut valley beneath heather moors punctuated by crumbling brick reminders of its ironing mining and smelting past. Superb circuit of the valley head on the bed of old mine railway. Moodily atmospheric. A full winter day's walk from Rosedale Abbey, especially with a detour to the isolated Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge.

Map: OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors, western area

Scottish Highlands

For a real winter walk there is an unforgettable traverse between Corrour Station - just a "halt" on the West Coast mainline - to Dalwhinnie on the East Coast line. Two days' hiking across a wild emptiness with a night in a haunted bothy - a former stalker's cottage - and an ascent of Ben Alder (1148m) if the weather's generous. Forty-two miles via Ben Alder "Cottage".

Maps: OS Landranger 41 Ben Nevis, & 42 Glen Garry & Loch Rannoch

Knole Park, Sevenoaks, Kent

Knole House, sprawling ancestral home of the Sackvilles, forms the many-chimneyed backdrop to this magnificent deer park on the edge of the Weald. A landscape of old trees and grassy heaths grazed by fallow deer. A full circuit takes a couple of hours, or stroll by the stone walls imagining the company of past residents - Elizabethan earls, or, more interestingly, Vita Sackville-West.

No map needed

South Downs, above Alfriston, East Sussex

Kipling's "whale-backed Downs" are open to the sky, with the sea in the distance. Take the South Downs Way from Alfriston, eastwards two miles to the top of Windover Hill (214m). Cut into the chalk is the Long Man of Wilmington. A loop through Friston Forest extends the walk to four hours.

Map: OS Explorer 123 South Downs Way - Newhaven to Eastbourne

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