There is something cleansing about walking, for me the direct connection with the exquisite beauty of nature purges the soul of the stressful side effects of modern living. Looking miles down the coastline from a high vantage point, watching the waves crashing on rocks below and perhaps punctuating the journey with a delicious lunch and a fine ale, suddenly all seems very well with the world. In Britain we are blessed with some of the finest scenery in Western Europe, and with hundreds of miles of pristine coastline, beautiful rolling hills and challenging mountain routes there is plenty of choice for the most hardened and timid walker alike. Here are our top 5 favourite British winter walks…
5. Land’s End to Cape Cornwall
Devoid of the summer hordes, Cornwall in winter is transformed and the raw beauty of its coastline is epitomised in the spectacular stretch of the coastal path from Land’s End to Cape Cornwall. Starting at Land’s End on a clear day you will be able to catch a glimpse of the Scilly Isles on the horizon as you make your way along the cliffs to the exquisite Sennen Cove. A haven for marine birds, you will find a fantastic vantage point over looking Sennen from the old coastguards look out. Owned by the national trust from here you have a great view of the cliffs towards Land’s End, and then to your north the coastline stretches out majestically around the bay towards Cape Cornwall. Dropping down into Sennen Cove you may want to take in lunch at the traditional Old Success Inn or perhaps at the timber clad Beach restaurant with its stunning Atlantic vista. Refreshed and invigorated by the sea breeze, doubtless you will be mesmerised by the Cornish rollers en route to your destination at Cape Cornwall.
Distance: 5 miles
4. Bala to Llyn Tegid
There is something really special about a crisp clear sapphire winter’s day in North Wales. With a light frost in the air and a view across Lake Bala and wooded hillsides towards Snowdonia, there are few better backdrops for a bracing winter walk. Starting in the sleepy village of Bala, you will head south to the eastern flank of the lake to get the best elevated view of the lake to the mountains beyond. The route runs parallel to the Bala Lake Railway, gently inclining and then arching to Encil y Coed. Looking out across the still waters of the lake, perhaps with a thin veil of mist hanging across the water, you will be able to see towards Dolgelleau. Heading back north you will make your way do through fields and woodlands back towards the warmth of the village and why not round off the day with a delicious roast lamb dinner.
Distance: 5 miles
3. Edinburgh New Town Walk
During winter the British countryside is picturesque and exudes character but we should forget that the nation’s cities offer an equally fascinating backdrop for a winter walk and one of the best examples is Edinburgh. With the added appeal of maybe sampling a dram or two along the way a city walk in Edinburgh is one of the best ways to take in the elegant beauty of one of world’s finest cities. In the shadow of Arthur’s seat the Georgian New Town contrasts with gothic echoes to shape a majestic skyline. The classic route begins in the centre of town in Princes Street, winding northwards through George Street, Queen Street and on towards the Stockbridge and the Botanical gardens. This meandering route takes you past some of the city’s finest shopping and most desirable residencies. Returning back on yourself and then heading towards the playhouse you will turn back for home with the city’s stunning castle overlooking the route.
Distance: 3 miles
2. Hawes via Sedbusk
In the winter months the Yorkshire Dales take on an enigmatic character conjuring thoughts of the Bronte’s and James Herriot, an exquisitely uncompromising landscape that, unsurprisingly, attracts walkers all year round. The Wensleydale market town of Hawes, lying on the route of the Pennine Way, is one of the premier walking centres in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Initially heading west from Hawes you will turn north towards ‘Bluebell Hill’ crossing fields and frozen becks passing Apperset in the heart of the Dales. Rolling countryside and moorland lead you to Hardraw Force, England’s largest single drop waterfall (or in harsh winters England’s largest icicle!). Here you can take the opportunity to warm up in front of a roaring fire in the nearby historic 13th century Green Dragon pub. Heading west to the village of Sedbusk you will be greeted with a sweeping view of the Wensleydale valley across fellside pastures and winding rivers. Destinations end back in Hawes lies a short 1.5 mile transit to the south.
Distance: 5 miles
1. Grasmere via Alcock Tarn
The Lake District is picture perfect in winter and with a light dusting of snow or a heavy frost it turns into a wonderland. William Wordsworth was a keen walker and took much of his inspiration from the spectacular scenery surrounding his beloved Grasmere. Like Bala, Grasmere sits at the head of a stunning lake with mountains beyond. Starting to the north of the village, past the Swan Hotel, you will head into the rocky fells towards the mountain lake, care is required as it can get quite steep but the path is well maintained and lies just a mile and a half from the village. The views are spectacular and reach across the fells towards Grasmere below and the southern Lakes beyond. The route back to Grasmere is delightful, heading south from Alcock Tarn and then onto Wordsworth’s home at Rydal (Rydal Mount). The route back to Grasmere takes you past the timeless Rydal Water and continuing on to the village and your original starting point.
Distance: 7 miles
By Gareth McKillop