UK winter walks: walk off Christmas excesses

If you've over-indulged at Christmas or just spent too long in front of the TV, it's time get out into the crisp, fresh air, writes Lucy Gillmore

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The Independent Travel

Root out your woolly hat and waterproofs. Whether you want to walk off pre- or post- Christmas excesses or just to fill your lungs with frosty air, winter is the time for wild walking, not slouching around indoors. And to get you revved up, the Ramblers' Festival of Winter Walks (ramblers.org.uk/winterwalks) provides a calendar of free, guided walks around the country (20 December to 4 January).

There are short ambles to longer, lung-busting hikes on offer, including a seven-mile walk on 21 December along the cliffs from Whitby in Yorkshire, a seven-mile Boxing Day tramp with the Swansea Ramblers along the Wales Coast Path and a 12-mile stroll through seven of London's parks on 28 December.

Alternatively, for the DIY version, you can download a walk from Ramblers Routes and set out on your own. The Cotswolds tourist board has also recently launched Weekend with Walks, a range of downloadable itineraries for walking breaks in the area's bucolic villages and market towns such as Chipping Campden, Cirencester, Burford and Bourton on the Water (bit.ly/WalkCotswolds). So put your best foot forward.

What a turkey

HF Holidays (0345 470 7558; hfholidays.co.uk) has a number of festive walking breaks based in country houses around the UK, with guided walks and plenty of festive fare to tuck into once you've worked up an appetite. A three-night stay at Thorns Hall in the Yorkshire Dales from 27 December costs £359, while three nights at Freshwater Bay House on the Isle of Wight is the same price, also from 27 December. Prices based on two sharing, including full-board accommodation.

Ramblers Countrywide Holidays (01707 386800; ramblerscountrywide.co.uk) has a four-night guided walking holiday tramping along the Cotswold Way, clambering up Leckhampton Hill and the Cotswold Escarpment with views across the River Severn to Wales, bedding down each night at the Cheltenham Chase Hotel, Brockworth. For 29 December it costs £599 per person, half-board.

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Highland cattle in the Cairngorms (Rupert Shanks)

The more the merrier

Large Outdoors (01653 740400; largeoutdoors.com) runs group walking holidays and has two new trips this season including a four-day New Year's break (31 December – 4 January) in the Lake District, staying in a YHA hostel near Keswick that was once a Georgian hunting lodge, complete with roaring fire. The cost of £229 per person covers full-board, including New Year's Eve dinner with wine and beer. There's also a weekend trip to the Brecon Beacons staying in an old converted farmhouse from £115 per person, 16-18 January.

Highland fling

Wilderness Scotland (01479 420020; wildernessscotland.com) has just introduced a new five-day, low level guided winter walking holiday exploring the UK's largest national park, the Cairngorms, trekking through gnarled Caledonian pine woods.

You'll explore Abernethy Forest, Loch Garten and Glen Feshie by day, holing up in front of a log fire with a dram each evening. The four-night break costs £695 per person, based on two sharing, including B&B accommodation, packed lunches, some evening meals and walking guide. The next available trip starts 25 February.

Far from the madding crowd

Winter is the perfect time to appreciate patches of Britain's coastline, which can be choked with tourists during the summer months. To explore the bleak beauty of rural Dorset, On Foot Holidays (01722 322 652; onfootholidays.co.uk) has a seven-night, self-guided walk meandering through the pretty villages of Thomas Hardy Country and winding up on the dramatic Jurassic Coast. It costs from £760 per person B&B including luggage transfer between hotels and detailed route notes.

In Devon, a stay at Bayview, a converted coastguard's cottage on the cliffs near Salcombe in Devon, means stepping out of the front door right onto the South West Coast Path. Sleeping eight (dogs welcome) a three-night short break through Toad Hall Cottages (0800 6101122; toadhallcottages.co.uk) costs from £493 in January.

Go down to the woods today

Ashdown Park Hotel and Country Club (01342 820988; ashdownpark.com) in Sussex has produced a special walking guide for guests to help them explore the surrounding countryside. The hotel is in Ashdown Forest, which inspired Winnie the Pooh author AA Milne, and along with longer walks (up to nine miles) taking in local sights such as Hever Castle, there's a two-mile children's Winnie the Pooh ramble – with a stop for pooh sticks, of course.

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