Crisp air, biting frost and cosy layers. Lockdown or not, rain or shine, winter is an evocative season and we’ve never had a better reason to want to get outside in the open air and forget all about the latest round of Covid restrictions.
It’s also a fantastic season to get outside. Some of the best outdoor experiences can be had while there are cool temperatures, far fewer crowds and beautiful low winter sunshine. There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that time spent outside works wonders for our mental health.
With that in mind, here are some winter walks to give you some cold weather inspiration.
The Cotswolds Way
This extensive walking route takes you through some of the most picturesque sections of Gloucestershire and on into Somerset, starting in Chipping Camden and stretching all the way to Bath. From Cleeve Hill with its spectacular views over Cheltenham to Broadway Tower – the folly beloved by artist William Morris, there are plenty of sites to stop and admire along the way. The impossibly pretty Painswick is situated on one of the most popular stretches of the trail, with streets stuffed full of so much chocolate box charm that they’re more akin to a film set than reality.
The Jurassic Coast
Dorset’s Jurassic Coast is a honeypot in the summer but blissfully crowd-free come winter. The usual beauty spots are popular for a reason – an afternoon spent feasting your eyes on the turquoise waters at Durdle Door will do much to banish those winter blues. But for a less well known hike, try the walk from Swire Head down to Kimmeridge Bay past the romantically windswept folly Clavell Tower perched on the headland. Search for fossils on the beach and then wander up to the village to treat yourself to lunch at the aptly named Clavell’s restaurant.
Gurnard’s Head, Cornwall
With the wind whipping through the cracks in this part of the Cornish coast, walking around Gurnard’s Head in the winter feels like stepping out onto a large ledge at the end of the world. You can go ‘out and back’ from the Tinners Arms, a perfectly formed 13th century village pub, or take the area in as part of a longer coastal route on the South West Coast Path. Either way, be sure to wrap up warm, cover your ears from the wind and stop for a pint (when we’re allowed) at the Tinners Arms.
Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor
This area takes on a world of its own during the winter months, and in our option is best explored in the down seasons. Dartmoor has a special low light that adopts a mystical nature in winter, and what better place to explore during the cold seasons than Wistman’s Wood, a maze-like tangle of trunks and branches that needs to be seen to be believed. Our recommendation would be to start in the Two Bridges car park and plot a circular walk from here using an OS map or a local guidebook – that way you can take in some of the area’s most impressive tors and the wood in one afternoon.
The Fairfield Horseshoe, Lake District
This option in the Lake District is a popular route and one of the area’s classic walks, with many of the best views to be had in the area. It can however be a testing route, so only choose this if you’re willing to be challenged slightly! It can be unforgiving and as is often the case with mountainous areas, the conditions at the bottom rarely tell the whole story of what the weather’s like at the top. Persevere however, and choose a sunny day, and you’ll be rewarded by crisp, clear winter Lake District air.
Wherryman’s Way, Norfolk
The whole of the Wherryman’s Way runs from Norfolk to Great Yarmouth, mostly along the banks of the River Yare, and is probably best walked over a number of days. If you have a spare afternoon however there are a variety of circular, longer or shorter walks that take you through a variety of landscapes in what is Britain’s largest protected wetland. Even during the winter, it’s a great spot for identifying a wide variety of wildlife.
Ben Lomond, Scotland
Ben Lomond is one of the most walked and most popular Munros in Scotland. It’s busy all year round with walkers, but during the winter, this area comes into its own. Winter light glistens over Loch Lomond and the area is often dusted with snow – a popular route in good weather is to go up the main tourist trail and down the harder, more dramatic Ptarmigan Ridge route. Or, of course, you could do it the other way around, but beware of bad weather and things taking a turn, as they often do in this part of the world. It’s easy and popular, but not one to be underestimated during the winter months.
Craster to Low Newton, Northumberland
There are few places as evocative during this time of the year than Northumberland. This walk from the famous kipper smoking town of Craster, with its unique harbour, takes you along the coast past Dunstanburgh Castle and the wide sweeping beach at Embleton Sands. And best of all, you’re likely to have the place to yourself. Magic.