Nare Head, Cornwall
For some of the warmest winter walking possible, strike out for the Roseland Peninsula, where a mild microclimate makes temperatures a smidgen higher than most of the rest of the UK, and even allows subtropical plants to bloom. With its dramatic cliffs, creeks, beaches and headlands, it’s also a brilliant spot for bracing coastal strolls. Try a six-mile loop of Nare Head, which passes a Cold War Bunker and Carne Beacon (one of Cornwall’s largest Bronze Age barrows). At the tip of the headland, listen out: it’s said the ghost of a 17th-century lawyer resides in Tregagle’s Hole, a sea cave deep below, and that his howling can still be heard.
Route details available from the South West Coast Path Association – https://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/walksdb/652/
Stay nearby at The Nare Hotel
Coombe Hill, Buckinghamshire
If possible, wait for a crisp and sunny winter’s day to make the hike up Coombe Hill. This is the highest point in the Chilterns and, when it’s clear, you can gaze over the Vale of Aylesbury all the way to the Cotswolds from here. A seven-mile circular walk, via the village of Ellesborough, not only includes the sure-to-warm-you-up hike to Coombe’s 260m summit but also frosty beech woods, an Iron Age hill fort, the remains of Cymbeline’s Castle (easier to make out through leafless trees), two pubs and views over Chequers, the Prime Minister’s rural retreat.
Route details available from the National Trust – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/chilterns-countryside/trails/coombe-hill-woodland-walk
Stay nearby at Hartwell House
© Visit Pembrokeshire
Even if skies are grey, the pretty harbour, colourful houses and year-round ice cream parlours of Tenby will brighten any winter day. Plus the coast here is spectacular. Blow away the cobwebs on a walk between Tenby and Saundersfoot (3.5 miles) – this stretch of little coves and sweeping sands is busy in summer, but blissfully quiet in the low season. Follow the rugged clifftops or, if the tide is out, it’s possible to walk along the beaches instead. The energetic could continue from Saundersfoot to Amroth (another 3.5 miles), following the coast path through abandoned old railway tunnels – handy for shelter if the weather turns.
Route details available from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority – https://www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/coast-path/planning-your-walk/skrinkle-haven-to-amroth/
Stay nearby at Grove of Narberth
At 914m, Skiddaw is England’s fourth-highest peak. But despite its size, it remains a manageable challenge year-round. With a car park part-way up (at Latrigg, altitude 300m), a wide, easily navigable path all the way to the top (about seven miles, there and back) and no steep cliffs or precipitous edges, it’s doable by most fit walkers in most weathers. Indeed, tackle it on a clear winter’s day, when the bulky mountain sits under a sprinkle of snow, and it is magical – Wainwright called Skiddaw’s summit ridge a ‘glorious promenade high in the sky’ – with astonishing views across the lakes and fells.
Route details available from the Lake District National Park – https://www.lakedistrict.gov.uk/visiting/things-to-do/walking/routes-and-maps/routes-and-maps2/map-10
Stay nearby at Armathwaite Hall
Hambleton Peninsula, Rutland
View of Rutland Water from Hambleton Hall
Tens of thousands of wildfowl flock to Rutland Water each winter – from whooper swans and pink-footed geese to wigeons, grebes and smews. This means that, even in the colder months, there’s always something to watch out for when walking here. A trail runs right around the raucous reservoir (23 miles); for a shorter taster, try the five-mile loop around the Hambleton Peninsula, which juts out into the water like an island. A well-surfaced stone track runs almost all the way round, via the charming village of Upper Hambleton, little bays and peaceful woodland (look for snowdrops), with brilliant birding en route.
Route details available from Walking Britain – https://www.walkingbritain.co.uk/walk-2323-description
Stay nearby at Hambleton Hall
Port Appin, Argyll
Short but very sweet indeed, it’s only a 1.5 mile walk (on good paths) around the head of the Appin peninsula, but the views are spectacular, stretching across Loch Linnhe right to the Isle of Mull, and up to the Morvern mountains. Keep an eye out, as seals and otters might be spied too. Keen walkers could take the ferry from Port Appin to the lush isle of Lismore for more walking. Certainly refuelling afterwards isn’t an issue – the seafood in this area is delicious, and local langoustine, lobster, mussels and oysters are all in season in the winter months.
Route details available from Walk Highlands – https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/argyll/portappin.shtml
Stay nearby at Airds Hotel & Restaurant
Written by Sarah Baxter