The best winter walks in Britain

The best winter walks in Britain
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Short and sweet

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

A leisurely route that will give you a work-out, thanks to its steep climb at the end. Experienced walkers will love reaching the summit, while a shorter trip to the halfway point (or lower) will still result in striking views across the Scottish capital and beyond. Start your route from the main entrance to the Scottish Parliament Building on Horse Wynd.

  • Any length of walk up to 2.7 miles to the summit and back

Close Sartfield,
Isle of Man

This Wildlife Trust reserve is perfect for a swift, one-mile circular walk through meadows and developing birch woodland. Keep an eye out for hen harriers, because it’s one of their densest and most accessible roosts in
Western Europe.

Wonderful woodlands

Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire
Just 10 minutes from the Visitor Centre grows one of Britain’s oldest trees – the Major Oak. This mighty specimen is thought to be around 800 years old and, according to local lore, was used as a hideout by Robin Hood’s men. Perfect for a wintry walk, there are various paths to take ranging from 45 minutes to two hours.
Grab a free leaflet from the visitors’ centre.

  • Various routes from Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre, call 01623 823202

Roydon Woods, New Forest
Shh… keep your voices down and you might see a deer in this specially conserved woodland within the New Forest National Park. It covers 950 acres and includes grassland and heaths that are grazed by New Forest ponies and cattle. There are various entrances, so come back again for a new feel to your walk. It’s worth noting that certain routes involve crossing a busy road.

  • 3 miles circular route from Setley Pond car park through woods, www.new-forest-tourist.co.uk

Spots for snowy days

Haytor, Dartmoor 

Dartmoor is gorgeous all year round, but it’s particularly special in winter. Try an easy day out with great views, taking in Haytor and its quarries, as well as Smallacombe Rocks and part of the Templer Way. 

  • 3.4 miles circular route from Dartmoor National Park Information Centre, visit
    www.dartmoor-npa.gov.uk/

Hawkshead, Cumbria 
A tarn is a mountain lake or pool and Tarn Hows is one of the country’s most beautiful – especially in winter when the water is frozen and the surrounding hills are snow-dusted. This circular walk takes you from the pretty village of Hawkshead and around the tarn, or you can enjoy a shorter 1 mile circular route around the tarn itself. The National Trust has a ‘tramper’ off-road mobility scooter which can be hired for free. For information on this, call 01539 441456 or visit www.nationaltrust.org.uk/tarn-hows

  • 5.3 miles, Hawkshead Centre to Tarn Hows

Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
This is a route for fitter walkers because it can be strenuous, but you’ll get to see a dramatic stretch of Hadrian’s Wall and snowy days mean stunning white stretches of moorland. Allow plenty of time to look around Housesteads Roman Fort, which also offers stunning panoramic views from the top of its walls.

  • 5.2 miles circular route  from National Trust visitor centre at Housesteads Fort

Book a trip

The Brimstone Hotel, Great Langdale, in the Lake District is a walker’s paradise, thanks to a Berghaus boot room full of outdoor gear and clothing that guests can borrow for free. They also have a series of specially designed walks, from under 3 miles up to 9.5 miles, including a themed gunpowder walk to learn about the area’s explosive history.

  • Rooms cost from £250 per night on a bed and breakfast basis including various extras. Call 01539 438055 or to save 20 per cent when booking a month in advance, visit
    www.brimstonehotel.co.uk

Seaside strolls

Rhossili, Swansea
Arguably one of the world’s most beautiful coastlines, this route shows off Rhossili to its best advantage. The final leg of the walk takes you along sand and surf, with the chance to spot migratory purple sandpipers and other rarities, such as great northern and red-throated divers, who flock to the beach
in winter.

  • 4.3 miles from Worm’s Head Hotel to Gower
    Power brewery

Isle of Skye
A leisurely there-and-back route for wonderful views across the Sound of Raasay’s spectacular cliffs, outlandish rock formations and local birdlife. Look out for ravens and white-tailed sea eagles and enjoy the crisp winter air.

  • 2.8 miles from a lay-by on the A855, north of Portree

Glorious views

Sugar Loaf, Monmouthshire 
At 596m the Sugar Loaf falls just short of being classed as a mountain, but boasts views worthy of the title. A relatively relaxed climb, worth it for the landscapes in all directions on a clear winter’s day.

  • 4.6 miles to summit and back from the National Trust car park

Devil’s Punch Bowl, Surrey 
There’s something for everyone on this route, which includes pine and deciduous woodlands, plus open heathland with grazing animals. The Punch Bowl itself is a large, naturally curved land formation, rather like an amphitheatre or – funnily enough – a bowl.

  • 4.5 miles circular route to Highcomb

Best of nature

Westhay Moor, Somerset
A murmuration of starlings is when an enormous flock all flying together, generally at dusk, create intricate patterns in the sky. Westhay Moor, overseen by the Somerset Wildlife Trust, attracts millions of starlings which roost there in winter. For the best chance to see them, call the hotline (07866 554142 ) to find out where they are currently roosting.

Grafham Water, Cambridgeshire
This pretty reservoir was created in 1965 to provide drinking water, but the combination of ancient woodlands, reedbeds and open water make it a hotspot for rare birds such as osprey and Slavonian grebes, as well as more common mallards and graylag geese. Winter is a great time to see diving ducks such as gawall and shovelers, too.

Potteric Carr Nature Reserve, Yorkshire
This fenland reserve lies within an area of low-lying land to the south-east of Doncaster. 158 species of bird have been recorded here, including reed, sedge warblers and kingfishers. Look out for little egrets, peregrines or signs of fox prints in the snow.

Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire 
Named after TV’s most famous natural historian, it’s no surprise that this reserve – comprised of flooded gravel pits – is packed with wildlife, and birds in particular. It’s an important site for winter wildfowl including shovelers, diving ducks and teal, as well as the occasional wigeon, sawbill or sea duck. There are two public hides to get a good view from, open every day except Christmas, from 9am-4pm.