Wave Watching in Cornwall
Great for: Salty sea dogs.
Tell me more: The South West Coast Path is some 630 miles of seaside rambling from Minehead, Somerset, all the way round to Poole, Dorset; but if you want the best swells, the most violent seas and biggest crashes into the sea cliffs for your money, then it’s Land’s End you need to aim for. Atlantic swells race across the ocean to collide headlong into the fantastically named cliffs of Botallack Head, Greeb Point, The Mozens and Pendeen Watch. Just north of Land’s End sits Sennen Cove, a cliff-ringed sandy beach that is a regular haunt for big-wave surfers looking to ride the winter curlers in their thick, neoprene wetsuits.
How to do it: The most spectacular points on the South West Coast Path are on the 25-mile stretch between Land’s End and Zennor, which takes in Sennen Cove and Cape Cornwall. If the waves are gigantic, you might be treated to the islands of The Wra and The Enys taking the full force of the sea and being given a thorough salty wash. Head to the pretty village of Lower Boscaswell, where the old mining cottages huddle together to brave the winter weather, then set off either north east towards Zennor or south west towards Sennen Cove and Land’s End, both on the South West Coast Path.
Further info: The South West Coast Path has a superb website with plenty of ideas for short or long walks, including all Ordnance Survey coordinates: southwestcoastpath.com
Ordnance Survey map number: OS Explorer Map 102 – Land’s End, Penzance and St Ives covers the region.
Ordnance Survey grid references: Lower Boscaswell can be found at National Grid coordinates SW 378 347, Land’s End car park is at SW 346 250. A favourite spot in rough weather is the lookout station on Cape Cornwall next to the remains of St Helen’s Chapel: SW 349 318.
Return to your pagan roots in Pembrokeshire
Great for: Winter solstice seekers.
Tell me more: The wild coast of Pembrokeshire is the perfect setting for meditation, worshiping some ancient gods or at least entering the ‘Best sunset photo’ competition at the Druidstone Hotel in Broad Haven. ‘How would you describe us?’ pondered owner Jane Bell. ‘I suppose we’re a mix of everything really. We’re not strictly a pub: we’re a wild and woolly cliff-top hotel overlooking a gorgeous beach, and we’re geared to those who love the outdoors, walking along the cliffs, being blown sideways by the wind and putting their feet up with a drink in front of a real fire.’
How to do it: Head to the Druidstone Hotel and book into one of their rooms or cottages (including the eco, self-sufficient ‘Round House’), or simply pop by to sample some of their fantastic menu. ‘We’ve been in The Good Food Guide® continuously since 1974,’ says Jane. ‘My son, Angus, has turned into a brilliant chef and I’ve overindulged!’ Kids have their own special menu (with genuinely wholesome choices), while every Tuesday night there’s a feast laid on. Add in regular live gigs, art installations (and sales), 20 acres of private grounds, the hotel’s own beach (with horse rides available) and nearby Newgale surfing beach ‘with the best surf school you could imagine,’ says Jane, and it’s a brilliant place to head whether you’re into walking, bird watching, food or entertainment. ‘We’re perched right on top of the cliffs looking west at the sea,’ says Jane. ‘We do get the best sunsets in the world.’
Further info: Contact the Druidstone Hotel on 01437 781221 or druidstone.co.uk
Ordnance Survey map number: OS Landranger Map 157 – St David’s & Haverfordwest/Tyddewi a Hwlffordd covers the region.
Ordnance Survey grid references: The Druidstone Hotel can be found at National Grid coordinates SM 862 168.
Take a whisky walk on the Isle of Skye
Great for: Those wishing to lift their spirits.
Tell me more: The Isle of Skye is a spectacularly beautiful part of Scotland, home to the incredible Coullin Mountains, historic castles, a huge seal population and plenty of eagles. Add in the rock formations – such as the Old Man of Storr (a huge rock-pinnacle), miles of public bridleways and the Talisker® single malt distillery – and the makings of a perfect walk (with a whisky finish) are in place. Now reachable via the short Skye Bridge, getting to the island is simple.
How to do it: Start at the Forestry Commission car park at the Fairy Pools on the edge of the Glen Brittle Forest (coordinates NG 423 263) and follow the stream to these enchanting, natural pools that display a spectrum of blues, greens and autumnal colours. If it’s warm enough to swim (or you have a wetsuit), there’s a natural stone arch underwater to shoot through. From there, head south-east towards the dramatic Cuillin Hills and loop past the dramatic cliffs of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh to get a taste of what beauty these unspoilt crags hold. The loop should take around three hours, and nearby Carbost (around 8 km back on the road you’ve come in on) is home to the world-famous Talisker whisky. The visitor centre will be happy to show you around their copper tuns and let you have a wee dram when you’re ready to warm up again.
Further info: There are plenty of further suggested walks on Skye to be found at: walkhighlands.co.uk
Ordnance Survey map number: OS Explorer Map 411 – Skye – Cuillin Hills covers the region.
Ordnance Survey grid references: The Fairy Pools can be found at National Grid coordinates NG 424 258, The Old Man of Storr: NG 495 540 and the Talisker Distillery: NG 376 318.
Elterwater, Lake District, Cumbria
The perfect: Base camp for expeditions into the glorious Lake District.
Tell me more: Every expedition needs a base camp, and none are more comfortably equipped than the Britannia Inn in the peaceful Cumbrian village of Elterwater. This 16th century pub-hotel has cask ales, fine wines, locally sourced food and an open fire (with rocking chair) for the perfect post-walk relaxation. Settle in with a copy of Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads and read what the poet had to say about your immediate surroundings, especially nearby Elter Water and Grasmere.
Expeditions: From the Britannia you are within reach of two of the best Lake District challenges: a hike up to the summit of Scafell Pike (England’s highest peak at 978 metres (3,209 feet)) and a scramble up Helvellyn, the third highest peak in the land (at 950 metres (3,117 feet)). Helvellyn is also home to two knife-edge arête walks – Striding Edge and Swirral Edge. You’ll need ice axes and crampons to attempt them during winter, though there is a bridleway across the Helvellyn massif if you don’t fancy the arête walk. For those looking for a more relaxing expedition, a loop around Grasmere is a day’s worth of beautiful hiking and perfectly within range of the Britannia.
Further info: The Britannia has its own website at www.britinn.net while for more information about scaling the peaks (or a more simplified walk in the region), including interactive Ordnance Survey maps, click on english-lake-district.info . There is a daily weather watch, which is essential for anyone planning high-altitude scales during winter – lakedistrict.gov.uk/weatherline .
Ordnance Survey map number: OS Explorer Map OL5, OL6 and OL7 – The English Lake District cover the regions.
Ordnance Survey grid references: The Britannia Inn can be found at National Grid coordinates NY 326 047. Scafell Pike is at NY 215 072, Helvellyn is at NY 342 151 and Grasmere is at NY 338 063.
Explore Hurt Wood the Nordic way
Great for: A leisurely stroll before a large lunch.
Tell me more: Peaslake is a picture-perfect English village with a beautiful green, quaint houses and the Hurtwood Inn Hotel – a fantastic restaurant-pub which dominates the square. From here, head south on the aptly named Walking Bottom towards the Hurt Wood Forestry Commission car park, from which networks of bridleways branch off in all directions. It was in this wood that Ridley Scott filmed the opening battle scenes for the film Gladiator. Head uphill past the Duke of Kent School and you’ll eventually reach the summit of Holmbury Hill, from which an incredible view of the South Downs is waiting (as well as the remains of an ancient fort to explore). Head back to Peaslake to sample some of the Inn’s fabulous, locally sourced menu in front of their open fire.
How to do it: This is relatively easy walking, and well signed with Forestry Commission waymarkers to guide you; but if you do fancy joining a group, there’s a regular Nordic walking society (it’s walking but with collapsible ski poles to help exercise the upper body too) who take trips to Peaslake and neighbouring Hurt Wood.
Ordnance Survey map number: OS Landranger Map 187 – Dorking & Reigate covers the region.
Ordnance Survey grid references: The Hurtwood Inn Hotel can be found at National Grid coordinates TQ 085 447, the Forestry Commission car park for Hurt Wood is at TQ 081 438 and the peak of Holmbury Hill can be found at TQ 104 429.