Boxing Day is an ideal time to head for the hills and enjoy the great outdoors. We have teamed up with the National Trust to bring you our five favourite winter walks
1. Borger Dalr Walk Borrowdale, Cumbria
Explore the origins of Borrowdale as you walk from Grange to Castle Crag. The renowned fell-walker and author Alfred Wainwright described the area as “the finest square mile in Lakeland” and it’s just as beautiful covered in a winter frost. You will stroll through the attractive village of Grange and the site of a medieval monastic farm belonging to Furness Abbey. Along the way you will come across the small summit of Peace How, which was bought for the nation in 1917 as a place where soldiers returning from the carnage of the front line could regain a sense of peace. You will notice volcanic rocks all along the route, sculpted by glaciers some 8,000 years ago. They are known as a ‘roche moutonnée’, or ‘rocks shaped like sheep’. Also look out for amazing colours in the rock walls of Dalt Quarry, where a new wetland habitat has developed since the quarry closed. If time permits, take the detour that leads to Millican Dalton’s cave. Millican was a self-titled ‘professor of adventure’. Between the two World Wars he spent the summers living in the caves. You can still see some wise words that he carved on the walls of the topmost cave. (If you wish to visit the caves, it’s advisable to refer to the OS map.)
2. Heritage Skyline Walk Bath, Somerset
This glorious route enables you to savour the magnificent views from above the picturesque World Heritage City of Bath. You will stroll through historic sites ranging from an Iron Age hill fort to a variety of 18th-century follies. The route takes you through peaceful hidden valleys, tranquil woodlands and patchworks of small meadows rich in wildlife all year round. The city of Bath comes to life during the festive period – so grab a mulled wine at the market after your hike, you’ve earned it. This walk also takes you through Richens Orchard and beautiful woodland. For walkers who like a challenge, take the short detour to Sham Castle. And, if you have the time, savour the tranquillity at the beautiful and intimate Prior Park Landscape Garden.
3. Mountain Peaks Walk Pen y Fan, Wales
This is a strenuous mountain walk on well-made footpaths to the summit of Pen y Fan and Corn Ddu in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Pen y Fan is the highest peak in South Wales and is sometimes referred to as Arthur’s Seat. Along the route, you’ll notice the different methods of footpath construction used on the Brecon Beacons, some dating back to Roman times. The walk provides spectacular views to the south, down the Neuadd Valley, to the reservoirs that are above the town of Merthyr Tydfil. The cairn on the summit was a Bronze Age burial chamber. When it was excavated in 1991 a bronze brooch and spearhead were found inside the chamber. The views from here are spectacular, when the weather permits. To the north, the town of Brecon can be seen and on a particularly good day the summit of Cadair Idris at the southern end of the Snowdonia National Park is just visible. Looking east you can just make out the Sugar Loaf in the far distance, and to the south-west the Bristol Channel at Porthcawl.
4. Woodland Walk Alderley Edge, Macclesfield, Cheshire
Enjoy the towering beeches with impressive roots on this attractive walk, which links the leafy, natural woodlands of Alderley Edge with Hare Hill’s rolling parkland and woodland. You will wander through the delightful walled garden at Hare Hill. Begin (or end) your walk with a picnic next to the National Trust car park, where you should also take a moment to discover more about the legend of Alderley Edge and its Bronze Age heritage. The path takes you through Daniel Hill Wood and Alder Wood and up to Hare Hill Gardens – a pretty area to rest for a moment or two. Look out for dragonflies skimming the lake and hares darting across the meadow. The gardens are well worth a visit whilst you are there. They are particularly beautiful in late spring and early summer when the rhododendrons are in full bloom. (The gardens are open from April until October, please check the website for specific opening days and times before you visit.) This walk is wonderful at any time of year, and a perfect winter stomp to blow the cobwebs away.
5. Ancient Tress Walk Dunham Massey, Altrincham
Discover one of the finest collections of veteran trees in England as you explore Dunham Massey Park, formerly the home of the last Earl of Stamford. Rich in wildlife, the park features a herd of over 150 fallow deer. Dunham Massey is also blessed with the UK’s largest winter garden. The seven-acre winter garden – not to be missed before or after your walk – has more than 700 plant species and 1,600 shrubs providing plenty of distraction from the cold. The walk will also take you past the pretty 16th-century watermill and the Langham Grove obelisk, which was constructed in 1714. There is a tradition that the obelisk marks the grave of a race-horse.