We’ve got turkey coming out of our ears, “Merry Xmas Everybody” on a never-ending loop, while the mere thought of another slice of Christmas cake brings to mind Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. You could freshen up with a traditional Boxing Day dip, but how inviting does that icy, wintry sea look? A much better idea is to walk alongside it, take a stroll around a winter garden or a hike up a hill. The late great Eric Newby described the smell of the English sea as so strong it was “like a biff on the nose”. In a season of over-indulgence, that sounds like the perfect tonic.
Trust us, it’ll do you good
While most (but not all) National Trust houses are shut at this time of year, their grounds are open. Good choices include Clumber Park (nationaltrust.org.uk/clumber-park), once part of Sherwood Forest and with a magnificent avenue of lime trees; Morden Hall park (nationaltrust.org.uk/morden-hall-park) in south London – an urban gem with a heronry and wetlands; and Mottisfont Abbey (nationaltrust.org.uk/mottisfont) in Hampshire, where the 60,000 bulbs of the winter gardens should add some colour.
Go for a ramble with friends…and strangers
The Ramblers (ramblers.org.uk/winterwalks) has just begun its festival of winter walks, with 800 hikes, strolls and ambles taking place across the UK until 5 January, all led by volunteers. Entering into the festive spirit, some walks will offer mulled wine, soup or pub halts. Enticing Boxing Day walks include a leisurely London-based stroll through Hampstead Garden Suburb and the Dollis Valley Green Walk, ending at High Barnet; a ramble in the Yorkshire Wolds; and a dog-friendly scamper in King's Lynn, finishing at a pop-up cafe.
Hogmanay? Take a hike instead
There’s standing room only in Edinburgh at this time of year, so head for the Pentland Hills (pentlandhills.org) just six miles south of the city and full of Christmas pudding-shaped hills, such as Scald Law. This slice of wilderness has more than 60 miles of signposted routes – try a wander around Castlelaw Hill Fort for views of an ancient landscape. You could work off the calories along a stretch of the Borders Way, which links the four great ruined abbeys of Jedburgh, Kelso, Melrose and Dryburgh (scotborders.gov.uk/bordersabbeysway).
Dreaming of a Wight Christmas
The Isle of Wight (bit.ly/WightWalks) has more than 500 miles of footpaths and is an easy day-trip from the South East thanks to ferries with Wightlink (wightlink.co.uk) and Red Funnel (redfunnel.co.uk), which are both running on Boxing Day. The crossing only takes 45 minutes to an hour. The island’s landscape is so special it has an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (wightaonb.org.uk). For a glorious Boxing Day hike, try the coastal path below the Military Road to Chale Bay, with superb sea views of the Needles.
If you really want to walk off your Christmas lunch, a good bet is the 630-mile South West Coast Path, reckoned by the Long Distance Walkers Association (ldwa.org.uk) to be the steepest path in the UK – along the entire route you climb 6.83 yards for every 100 yards. Helpfully, the South West Coast Path National Trail has drawn up a list of five bite-sized self-guided Boxing Day walks (bit.ly/5BoxDayWalks) – these include a hike through the lost village of Tyneham in Dorset and a stroll past the magical church of St Enodoc, by the Camel estuary, the resting place of Sir John Betjeman.
Christmas in Wales
If in Wales for the festive season, the 870-mile Wales Coast Path (walescoastpath.gov.uk) has a host of long and short walks to strike out on.
Overstay your welcome
Fancy getting snowed in at a great walkers’ pub? There's nowhere better to get marooned than the UK’s highest pub, the Tan Hill Inn (tanhillinn.co.uk) in North Yorkshire - if you can make it out an overnight stay comes with free entry to the Wensleydale Creamery, Beamish Museum and Black Sheep Brewery. Other welcoming bets include the Border Hotel (theborderhotel.com) in Kirk Yetholm at the end of the Pennine Way; Exmoor’s Crown Hotel in Exford (crownhotelexmoor.co.uk); and the Lion Inn (lionblakey.co.uk), Blakey Ridge, high up in the North York Moors. All have easy walks more or less from their front door – just pack an OS map.
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