Best winter walks for Christmas and beyond

Katharine Wootton

Senior news writer, Thursday, 15 December 2016

Walk off the mince pies with one of these beautiful winter rambles around the UK – including special Boxing Day and New Year's Day walking events

There’s plenty to be excited about at Christmas time, but sometimes we all need a break from the hustle and bustle to relax and unwind. It’s the perfect time to wrap up warm, throw on some wellies and get out on an invigorating winter walk. 

Blow away the December cobwebs while rambling along blustery coastal paths, or take a refreshing Boxing Day stroll through frosty countryside. From guided walks with National Trust rangers to self-led winter wildlife trails, there’s something to suit all tastes.

Self-guided trails

Bath Skyline, Somerset

This six mile route boasts magnificent views over the picturesque city of Bath, which looks even more spectacular on a frosty winter’s morning. Wander through history from an Iron Age hill fort to 18th-century follies and stroll through hidden valleys, woodlands and meadows, all rich in wildlife. Taking to the Skyline walk burns as much energy as playing 90 minutes of football, so it’s the perfect way to burn off some of those Christmas calories.

Borthwood Copse, Isle of Wight

At just over one mile long, this atmospheric walk takes you through woods that are home to an Isle of Wight special attraction: the red squirrel. Winter is a great time to spot them as they come down from the tree canopy to forage for food.

Who knows what lovely wildlife you might bump into on your way? ©National Trust Images Joe Cornish

Stowe, Buckinghamshire

After the busy rush of Christmas, Stowe is the perfect place for a quiet stroll between Boxing Day and New Year’s Day. With the trees bare of leaves, it’s easy to take in the sweep of the valleys and the structure of the temples and monuments nestled in the winter landscape. With secluded pathways leading to hidden waterfalls, and sweeping vistas drawing you onwards, you can easily pass an hour or two losing yourself in the estate.

Northern Commons, New Forest

The New Forest heathlands are just as beautiful in winter as they are in summer. Try this four mile walk on a crisp morning to see beautiful areas of wilderness and wood, frost-covered spider webs and hardy New Forest ponies. Home to the rare Dartford warbler, you might also spot over-wintering birds of prey such as hen harriers, peregrines and merlins.

Get the grandchildren wrapped up warm for a day out with all the family © National Trust Images John Millar

Ickworth, Suffolk

The south pleasure grounds perhaps have the most to offer for a great winter walk at Ickworth. Explore a mixture of open parkland and woodland glades, and take in the church, Walled Garden and obelisk monument. This is the perfect route for a traditional Boxing Day or New Year’s walk, and many visitors turn up in their Christmas jumpers. After your walk you can treat yourself to a warming drink in the restaurant.

Wimpole, Cambridgeshire

Christmas is a great time for a family walk, and this easy route to Wimpole Folly will suit legs both little and large. The gardens and farm will be festively decorated, with bells, baubles and wooden reindeer all adding to the Christmassy feel.

Blickling Estate, Norfolk

Nothing beats a crisp winter walk when you’re wrapped up warm against the chilly air and the leaves are crunching under your feet. The lake walk at Blickling is particularly atmospheric on a frosty winter’s morning, with woodlands and open fields to explore, not to mention breathtaking views over the estate. Afterwards you can head to the Muddy Boots café for a warming drink and a slice of cake.

There's more to Blickling than just its spectacular mansion © National Trust Images Chris Lacey

Clumber, Nottinghamshire

This six-mile route will lead you through woods and open fields to explore some of the quieter parts of the Clumber Park estate. You'll discover plenty of natural habitats along the way, which provide a haven for many species of wildlife including migratory birds. With stunning views from across the Serpentine Lake and over the Ornamental Bridge, this walk offers a great opportunity to capture that perfect wintery photo of the Clumber Park landscape. The Garden Tea House will be open from Boxing Day to New Year’s Day, so afterwards you can warm up with a traditional roast or delicious cream tea. 

Quarry Bank, Cheshire

If you need to walk off a few mince pies, then a crisp wintery stroll around the Quarry Bank estate is a great place to start. The Southern Woods trail follows the River Bollin as it twists and turns its way to the mill house, where the giant waterwheel used to power the machines before it was replaced by steam-power. Even in the depths of winter the woodlands are not short of life. Keep an eye out for festive holly and ivy, along with herons and dippers. You’re sure to catch sight of Robin Red Breast too.

Crummock Water, Cumbria

This walk is dominated by two spectacular views: the famous vista of the Buttermere fells seen over Crummock Water, and the dramatic rocky buttress of Grasmoor End looming over the northern end of the lake. Thanks to the support of their members, donors and volunteers, the National Trust team has recently installed a bench with a panorama naming all the summits in view, giving you the perfect opportunity to stop and enjoy the view during your crisp winter walk.

Step across the stepping stones one, two, three... at Crummock Water ©National Trust Images Nick Dautlich

Boxing Day and New Year’s Day walking events

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal, Yorkshire| Boxing Day Pilgrimage, 26 December, 9.30am – 1pm

At Fountains Abbey the Boxing Day Pilgrimage will once again mark the day thirteen monks made their journey from Ripon to found the abbey in 1132. The pilgrimage begins following a service at Ripon Cathedral and then wends its way to Fountains Abbey, where the monks started a community from nothing. The pilgrimage ends with a carol service in the abbey cellarium.

Stourhead, Wiltshire| New Year’s Day walk, 11am – 1pm

Join Kim, Head Ranger and Alan, Garden & Estate Manager for a walk through the ancient woods and parkland. Discover how the National Trust team looks after this historic estate and finish with warming mulled wine and mince pies.

Price: Adult £10, child £5 (booking essential)

Bath Skyline, Somerset| New Year’s Ramble, 8 January, 10am - 2pm

Join one of the National Trust’s rangers for a brisk New Year walk around the Bath Skyline. This will be a fairly fast-paced walk to burn some of those Christmas calories, but you’ll still be able to enjoy a minor diversion to Prior Park for a sneaky hot chocolate. The route is six miles long with some hilly terrain, so make sure to wear suitable clothing for the weather and comfortable walking shoes.

Price: £10

Sheffield Park and Garden, East Sussex| New Year’s Day holly hike, 1 January, 10.30am – 12.30pm

Get the New Year off to a great start with this guided walk around Sheffield Park’s beautiful gardens and parkland. The walk will be led by Sheffield Park’s longest-serving gardener, who will reveal plenty of fascinating stories about the estate and its history.

Price: £6 (booking essential, normal admission applies)

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex| Boxing Day walk, 26 December, 9.30am – 11.30pm

After the excesses of Christmas Day, what better way to blow away the cobwebs than a brisk morning stroll around the grounds of Bodiam Castle, and on into the local village? On this guided walk you’ll also get an exclusive tour of the castle before it opens to visitors. Afterwards you can refuel in the Wharf Tea Room with a breakfast bap and hot drink.

Price: £15 (booking essential) 

A walk around Bodiam at this time of year is especially magical ©National Trust Images David Sellman

Basildon Park, Berkshire| Well-being Walks, 26 Dec & 1 Jan, 11am – 12noon with the option for another hour.

Boxing Day and New Year’s Day walks in the parkland are something of a tradition at Basildon Park. Enjoy a pink-nosed, cloudy-breathed stroll through the 400-acre landscape, with National Trust wildlife enthusiasts on hand to point out the highlights of the estate. Afterwards you can cosy up in the tea-room with mulled wine and mince pies - a wonderful way to see in the New Year.

Hinton Ampner, Hampshire| Guided walk, 26 December, 10.30am – 12.30pm & 1 January, 1pm – 3pm

With its far-reaching South Downs views, Hinton Ampner is a great place to shake off the post-Christmas ‘fuzz’. The ancient parkland and beech woodland are easy to navigate using downloadable trails, but if you don’t fancy going it alone you can join a guided Boxing Day or New Year’s Day walk. Hinton Ampner’s head gardener will lead you on a four-mile walk around the estate, with hot chocolate and shortbread provided to help you keep warm and cosy.

Price: £15 each (booking essential)

White Cliffs and South Foreland Lighthouse, Kent| New Year’s Day at South Foreland Lighthouse, 1 January, 11am-1pm

During winter South Foreland lighthouse is the first place in Britain to see the sunrise. To celebrate the New Year you can join a walk along the coast path from the White Cliffs to the lighthouse to catch the first rays of 2017. Your National Trust guides will give you some interesting stories on history, nature and the conservation work the charity does to care for these special places. Mrs Knotts tearoom will be open until 3pm, the perfect place to cosy up with a warm drink after a bracing winter walk along the coast.

Price: Free event (booking essential, admission applies)

Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire| Post-Christmas walk, 27 December, 10am – 12pm

Enjoy a scenic post-Christmas walk through Ashridge estate, with National Trust rangers on hand to tell you more about the estate and the work they do to care for it. Look out for the deer in their winter coats and birds foraging for food in the woodland. Afterwards, why not head to the café for a warm drink and a slice of cake?

Price: adult £5, child £3 (booking essential)

Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire|New Year’s Day Walk, 1 January, 11am - 2.30pm

Join the National Trust’s rangers on a four-mile refreshing walk around the grounds of Hardwick Hall. Discover the stories of the estate and learn more about the work the ranger team do to look after the historic parkland.

Price: Free event (donations welcome)

The Elizabethan country house, Hardwick Hall, is the perfect setting for a festive stroll ©National Trust Images Robert Morris

Mount Stewart, County Down| New Year’s Day Winter Walk, 1 January, 11am–1pm

Wrap up warm and enjoy a walk through the magical gardens at Mount Stewart. Led by one of the National Trust’s gardening experts, the tour will include unique stories and unusual facts about these stunning gardens during winter.

Price: Adult £10, Child £5 (booking essential, normal admission applies)

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