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Top 10 UK winter walks – chosen by travel and nature writers | Travel

Okehampton to Belstone, Devon

Length 10½ miles
Time 5 hours
Start/end Okehampton Camp/Belstone
Google Maps Start/Finish
Grade Moderate (tough in dangerous climate)
Refuel The Tors Inn, Belstone

Just a brief well beyond the army camp north of Okehampton, the previous nation street passes between two of west Devon’s most walkable excessive locations. Either could be attacked by itself as a two-to-three-hour stroll with a picnic, however for five-to-six-hour pre-lunch winter hike, I recommend doing each.

From Okehampton Camp, head in a barely south-westerly course to start the lengthy, sluggish hike as much as Dartmoor’s second-highest summit, Yes Tor. This truly feels extra distinguished than High Willhays, which is your subsequent goal and is, at 2,039 ft (621m), the very best level on Dartmoor – and thus the very best level within the land south of the Brecon Beacons.

I reside in South Devon and am extra used to the photogenic however fashionable tors on my aspect of the moor (Haytor, Hound Tor, and many others). The draw of the north of the county is that it feels extra expansive and the skies are someway greater – and walkers are unfold out, as an alternative of congregating on rocks to do selfies or parkour.


The Tors Inn

From High Willhays, head right down to the nation street and curve spherical in the direction of the stegosaurus-like granite outcrops of Higher Tor and Belstone Tor, with the speeding River Taw under you on the proper.

Scramble slowly across the tors for half an hour to get pleasure from views again over Okehampton, earlier than heading down previous the Nine Stones Circle to reach at The Tors Inn, a quiet and cosy little pub in Belstone that does a variety of pies (stilton and leek is delish!), pasties with chips, ploughman’s lunches, baguettes and a full roast on Sundays. It additionally has rooms from £40pp per evening.
• Chris Moss, author, based mostly in Totnes

Frogham to Fritham, Hampshire

New Forest Pony and foal on heathland Howen Bottom near Fritham New Forest National Park, Hampshire, England.

New Forest pony and foal on heathland close to Fritham. Photograph: Alamy

Length 11 miles return
Time 3½ to four hours, excluding time spent on the pub
Start/end Abbots Well Car Park, Abbots Well Road, Frogham, close to Fordingbridge, New Forest
Google Maps
Grade Moderate
Refuel Royal Oak, Fritham

Frogham to Fritham and again: even for those who overlook the pub, the music of the place names is alluring. The view in the beginning of the stroll stretches for miles over tough, darkish nation: undulating heath, patches of rusty bracken, wooded valleys; not a home in sight, nor any indicators to Fritham, however a footpath leads downhill and crosses a gorgeous stream. A inexperienced pasture lies past. In November, all the space was lined in pale, spider-sewn filaments, inches above the bottom, billowing and shimmering within the low solar.

The tramp forward is a leg-stretching, lung-expanding journey into the guts of the New Forest. The latter a part of the route that I take – there are a number of attainable – runs by means of a wild wooden, a moist tangle of hollies and oaks. You emerge into open heathland, invigorated by the prospect of beer. Dating from the 17th century, with three comfortable rooms, the Royal Oak is a correct walkers’ pub – good meals for a winter’s day, nothing too fancy. Try the ploughman’s, which on my final tasting got here with two huge slabs of a nutty native cheddar.

Oak tree near Fritham in the New Forest.

Oak tree close to Fritham within the New Forest. Photograph: Alamy

Now for the perfect bit. Half a mile earlier than the pub, on Fritham Plain, there’s a quiet pond surrounded by emerald-green sward. It’s not large, only a tough circle of shallow water round which a number of shaggy ponies and a few cattle often graze, however it’s a factor of surprise. No stream feeds it, and there appears no motive for its existence. It appears like a holy web site, a pond dropped from heaven. No different pond in England that I do know is as magical as this.
• Christopher Nicholson, creator of Among the Summer Snows (September Publishing)

Firle, East Sussex

Country houses near Firle Place, East Sussex

Photograph: Alamy

Length four miles
Time 2 hours
Start/end Firle village automotive park
Google Maps
Grade Easy
Refuel The Ram, Firle

So many walks on my a part of the Sussex Downs take within the excessive factors – Kingston Ridge, Mount Caburn, Ditchling Beacon – however in winter I wish to swap midsummer hikes among the many skylarks and paragliders for stumbles over ploughed fields, studded with flint and pheasants.

This round route from the village automotive park begins on pretty bland open parkland in the direction of Firle Place, however quickly delivers you into the perfect textures of Sussex: a gorgeous flint and brick cottage by a chalky lane has the bridleway operating by means of its backyard, inviting a quick thrill of fake possession.

The Ram Inn, Firle, East Sussex

The Ram Inn

As you stroll throughout the fields in the direction of Charleston, as soon as home to painters Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, startle the crows by saying poems aloud, as Virginia Woolf did every time she walked this technique to her sister’s. Then, on the farmhouse, relaxation some time and examine its journey from smash to internationally famend literary venue, earlier than pushing on in the direction of Maynard Keynes’ Tilton House, questioning at what number of miles he and the remainder of the Bloomsbury set did round artwork and amorous pursuits.

The walled street which drops again into the village takes you previous Firle Estate’s fantastically preserved blacksmith, carpenter and paint retailers, including to the stroll’s light, last-century sensation.

Candle-lined home windows and three fires await at The Ram. It will get busy even on a winter weekday, so e book a desk within the comfortable and cool down with seasonal treats reminiscent of celeriac soup adopted by pan-seared Sussex pheasant breast (mains from £12).
• Tanya Shadrick, writer-in-residence at Pells Pools, Lewes and editor of Watermarks: Writing by Lido Lovers & Wild Swimmers (Frogmore Press)

Oxford Canal

Oxford Canal in the winter

Photograph: Getty Images

Length 6½ miles
Time three hours
Start/end Oxford railway station
Google Maps
Grade Easy
Refuel The Plough, Wolvercote

There and again once more generally is a boring technique to stroll, however alongside the Oxford Canal there isn’t a danger of that, as historical past, pure and in any other case, is in every single place.

Arriving on the station, ignore the primary indicators taking you to the canal and stroll into city, till you come to the bridge over the canal and the beginning of the towpath in your left.

Residential narrowboats accompany the early phases of the stroll, and shortly you might be into Philip Pullman Gyptian territory. Jericho was once industrialised, and I can keep in mind Lucy’s ironworks casting wild lights at evening. Now it’s housing. At this level you can take a detour out to your left, onto Port Meadow – an incredible, shallow ice-rink if it freezes.

The Plough, Wolvercote

The Plough, Wolvercote

This 78 mile-long canal was an important coal hyperlink between the east Midlands and London, however now it’s a fantastic line for wildlife, and us, to comply with. On a couple of event I’ve discovered otter spraint beneath the fantastically humpbacked bridge at Wolvercote.

I are inclined to intention for Duke’s Cut, the place associates used to reside on their narrowboat, simply past the elevated ring-road. The otters make good use of this linescape, bypassing the danger of the street.

Returning to the station, cease at The Plough in Wolvercote, simply over the bridge (watch out to not tread within the otter poo). A plate of “mucky chilli chips” – chips lined in vegetable chilli and topped with cheese (£9.95) – will hold you heat as you head home.
• Hugh Warwick is the creator of Linescapes, a take a look at the ecological penalties of the strains we have drawn throughout our landscapes (Square Peg)

Bure Valley Circle, Norfolk

A view of the upper reaches of the River Bure in winter at Lamas

Photograph: Alamy

Length 5 miles
Time 2½ hours
Start/end Horstead
Google Maps
Grade Easy
Refuel The Recruiting Sergeant

The Bure Valley is magical. It straddles rural Norfolk, from Melton Constable by means of the Broads to Breydon Water. Big skies, freshwater grazing marsh, woodland, fen, church buildings, a narrow-gauge steam railway and odd village names – it lacks nothing.

Park in Horstead, discover the mill pool, then monitor the Bure as much as Buxton with Lamas and again, altering river banks with the trail. The valley is light and the pasture lush, even in winter. Dogwood, sweetcorn brushes and freshly turned soil are wealthy contrasts to the flashing greys of the river itself. Mayton Bridge, constructed because the Long Parliament was known as in 1640, and the Tudor glory of Hautbois Hall are favorite waymarks.

The Recruiting Sergeant, Horstead, Norfolk

In summer season, you may drop your luggage and discover a spot to enter the river and swim. In winter the barn owls, marsh harriers and brown hares break the peace, as do the much less glamorous however extra dependable cattle, sheep and swans that roam the valley.

The method to Buxton is superb. The river bends, holds an island in its stream and the white mill towers above the race that gave the village its goal and drove the nice water wheel. Turn again right here and return to Horstead, and the Recruiting Sergeant, whitewashed, pantiled and beamed. There’s pork from Swannington and longshore cod from Yarmouth method. And native gins for the actually chilly days (when another person is driving). They have a deli over the street and rooms, do you have to select by no means to depart.
• Chris Gribble, CEO, Writers’ Centre Norwich

Longshaw Estate to Fox House, Peak District

White Edge, Upper Dove Valley.

Photograph: Alamy

Length 6 miles
Time 2 hours
Start/end Longshaw Estate Car Park
Google Maps
Grade Easy
Refuel Fox House

This stroll takes in among the Peak District’s light however atmospheric japanese gritstone edges, traversing White Edge to Curbar Gap and returning alongside Curbar and Froggatt. There are good tracks and it’s onerous to get misplaced, even in dangerous climate.

The start line is a brief journey from Sheffield, and a bus stops straight exterior the Fox House pub. The route crosses a part of the Longshaw Estate then climbs up White Edge. I’ve been coming to this a part of Derbyshire to run and rock climb ever since I used to be little.

As you stroll above Curbar, you’ll hear the sound of clinking karabiners and climbers calling to one another under. This moorland stroll feels surprisingly different. Early within the mornings, or at nightfall, it’s common to glimpse pink deer within the distance, close to the trig level alongside White Edge. You additionally move a few of Derbyshire’s intriguing Companion Stones, inscribed with poetry – a contemporary tribute to the Guide Stoops, which used to assist travellers navigate moorland a whole bunch of years in the past.

Afterwards, refuel at Fox House, a gastropub the place first rate wine, actual ale and a roaring fireplace await. If you favor your pubs extra conventional, The Grouse (which you move en route) is close by and would make an ideal pit cease – the beer backyard has glorious views.
• Helen Mort is a poet and editor. She edited One for the Road: An Anthology of Pubs and Poetry with Stuart Maconie (Smith/Doorstop)

Pass of Aberglaslyn and Cwm Bychan from Beddgelert, Snowdonia

Ramblers group walking to Llyn Cwm Bychan in Rhinog mountains of Snowdonia National Park

Photograph: Alamy

Length 4½ miles
Time three hours
Start/end Beddgelert
Google Maps
Grade Moderate
Refuel Tanronnen Inn

At first look, with its stone-and-slate appeal, Beddgelert could possibly be Wales’s reply to the chocolate field cosiness of the Lake District. But a brief stroll from the village takes you into Aberglaslyn Pass, the place the exhilarating “fisherman’s path” meanders ft above the rocky rapids of the Afon Glaslyn; and in Cwm Bychan the hard-bitten industrial previous of the realm is starkly seen. Few walks pack as a lot of Snowdonia’s geological, ecological and cultural flavour into one manageable mouthful.

Stock up in Beddgelert (and pay the compulsory go to to the grave of Gelert, the ill-fated loyal hound who provides the village its title and fame) then head south to Aberglaslyn Pass. The path by means of the slim gorge is fantastic, winding round boulders and buttresses, however requires due care – a mistimed journey within the flawed place might ship you (or an exuberant little one) headlong into the river.

Tanronnen Inn.

Tanronnen Inn. Photograph: Alamy

At Pont Aberglaslyn, savour the odd thought that earlier than the development of the Porthmadog Cob (sea wall) in 1810, some 5 miles away, the tide would have lapped in opposition to this bridge. In Cwm Bychan, lush woodland provides technique to an atmospheric upland valley the place the derelict pylons attest to a bygone age – they used to move copper ore. From Bwlch-y-Sygyn, for those who have time and power, prolong the stroll to incorporate an eye-opening go to to the Sygun Copper Mine. Back in Beddgelert, head for the nice Tanronnen Inn for good Robinsons beer.
• Carey Davies, hill strolling improvement officer for the British Mountaineering Council

Whitby to Staithes, North Yorkshire

Rough sea in Winter Sunshine Sandsend near Whitby North Yorkshire

Photograph: Alamy

Length 10 miles
Time 5 hours
Start/end Whalebone arch, Whitby/Cod & Lobster, Staithes
Google Maps Start/Finish
Grade Moderate
Refuel Cod & Lobster

Winter intensifies every part. During these chilly months, the solar, peeping over the horizon for a number of brief hours, provides a distinction and vividness to the panorama. The greens appear greener and the blues bluer.

I gravitate to the coast for a lot of my winter strolling. The drama that performs out is exhilarating, and the more severe the climate the extra highly effective the narrative. Along this 10-mile stretch of North Yorkshire coast, the North Sea demonstrates its fearsome energy in opposition to the large cliffs. The birdlife and animals have to work tougher, too. Little auks have been seen sheltering from the white-capped swell, whereas extra frequent winter birds, together with the red-throated diver and the nice crested grebe, bob on the waves. Occasionally, a harbour porpoise could be seen too.

The stroll begins in Whitby, by the well-known whalebone arch, and heads north alongside the Cleveland Way, one of many 15 National Trails of England and Wales. It’s a delicate begin to the day alongside the promenade above Sandsend seaside, however the views again throughout Whitby and its Abbey are each bit as evocative as Bram Stoker captured in Dracula.

The Cod and Lobster pub.

The Cod and Lobster pub. Photograph: Alamy

The cliff-top path quickly beneficial properties peak above the battered rocks far under. As it turns west round Kettleness, the pleasingly ramshackle, red-roofed cottages of Runswick Bay come into focus. Climbing up once more, the trail turns into extra uncovered. In the sharp wind off the North Sea – or worse, biting rain – you would possibly attempt to fake it’s invigorating, however your thoughts might nicely have wandered to ideas of the pub.

This route saves the perfect views for final. Boulby Cliffs, the very best on England’s east coast, dominate the scene additional north, however this stroll ends on the fishing port of Staithes. The Cod & Lobster could be seen from up on the cliff, standing defiantly in opposition to the harbour. It’s a brief jog down for a well-earned pint or two (though when the swell is excessive and a storm is in, it’s suggested to make use of the rear door in case you get a bit moist).

It’s an effortlessly pleasant pub – discover the astonishing images from a 1953 storm that tore the entrance of the inn. Today, it’s convivial and cosy, with a beer listing worthy of point out in Camra’s Good Beer Guide; a spot to settle into, order from the seafood-laden menu and watch the wind clatter the boats within the harbour by means of the home windows.
• Daniel Neilson, creator of Wild Pub Walks, printed by Camra Books

Angle Tarn from Langdale, Lake District

Langdale

Photograph: REX

Length 6 miles
Time three hours
Start/end The Old Dungeon Ghyll
Google Maps
Grade Easy/Moderate
Refuel The Old Dungeon Ghyll

Drawing you away from the chocolate-box retailers and crowds of Ambleside, the B5343 floats into the quiet, huge valley of Langdale. Wild piked, jewelled with hidden swimming pools at its heights, this a part of the Lake District offers an accessible however uncrowded retreat. Here, I’ve ghosted the lyrical, dirtbag recollections of 60s nature author and mountain information Gwen Moffat, who spent seasons sleeping tough, thawing out within the pub and exploring the distant fells that also maintain their silence – no telephone sign, no 4G.

Begin the stroll on the Old Dungeon Ghyll: go behind the pub to seek out the paved path that results in the circlet of crests on the finish of the valley. Look for climbers roosting within the cracks on Raven Crag as you head onto the Cumbria Way. Follow the river, looking for plunge alternatives.

The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel.

The Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. Photograph: Alamy

At the bridge, flip left and head up the trail that climbs beside, and sometimes into, Stake Gill. Skip across the rolling mounds of moss behind Black Crag and look into uninhabited Langstrath bowl. Store that house for subsequent time, flip left and hint the ridge behind Buck and Rossett Pike to reach at Angle Tarn. If feeling courageous (and also you’re not alone) strip, swim, hope the mist will come down and enclose you in a dangling place right here.

Warm up by darting down the descent at Hanging Knotts. Return to the Cumbria Way and race in the direction of the pub, maintain imaginary pints in each fingers and cost the final kissing gate earlier than the nice and cozy embrace of the wood hikers’ bar. Nestle between clanking packs and climbing chat, order plates of steak and ale pie or Cumberland sausage awash with scorching gravy. Ask Leo, the younger National Trust path builder who’s lived within the pub since delivery, to clarify the gaudy portray of Black Jack, chief of the irreverent climbers’ membership the Bradford Lads. Get tipsy, stumble out, sleep within the National Trust campsite half a mile away, and wake once more into silence.
• Claire Carter, author, inventive director for Kendal Mountain Festival engagement officer for the Outdoor Industries Association

Loch Trool, Dumfries & Galloway

Winter sunset at Glen Trool to Loch Trool

Photograph: Alamy

Length 5½ miles
Time three hours
Start/end Caldons automotive park on the western fringe of Loch Trool
Google Maps
Grade Moderate
Refuel House O’Hill

Post-walk pub choice isn’t an agonising determination within the Galloway forest park… there is just one to select from. Thankfully the House O’Hill inn in Bargrennan is first-rate. Quality over amount is the park’s type, and the identical could possibly be mentioned for this stroll round Loch Trool, which crams bucket-loads of historical past, wildlife and panorama right into a modest mileage.

Even probably the most navigationally challenged hiker would battle to get misplaced on this stroll. From the small automotive park, cross the bridge to choose up the inexperienced waymarks of the Loch Trool loop route and, nicely, that’s about it. Stick to the great path, holding the water to your left, and you may’t go flawed as you circle the serene loch anti-clockwise. This is, maybe, the best surroundings in all of south-west Scotland. Look out for darting pink squirrels and elusive pine martens – and even hear for the traditional roar of battle.

Here, 700 years in the past, Robert the Bruce and a band of 300 Scots defeated a 1,500-strong English military, hurling boulders at their enemy and pitching them into the water.

Bruce’s Stone, Loch Trool in Galloway Forest Park, Scotland.

Bruce’s Stone, Loch Trool. Photograph: Alamy

Continue to circumnavigate the loch, visiting Bruce’s Stone memorial cairn and the sessile oak woodlands, earlier than looping again to the automotive park. It is however a 10-minute drive to the House O’Hill. Affectionately referred to as “The Hoose”, this hotel-restaurant-pub has been given a up to date makeover and serves domestically sourced game and shellfish, whereas pulling pints for hikers and mountain bikers. And when you’ve had your fill of venison and actual ale, step exterior to search for – so few individuals reside right here, the inky black sky just isn’t polluted and it’s probably the greatest locations within the UK to stargaze.
• James Forrest, who climbed all 446 mountains in England and Wales in six months this 12 months, the quickest ever time


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