Five magnificent winter walks in Britain, from the Brecons to the Broads

A brisk winter walk is the perfect way to shake off the blues of the cold, dark months – here are five superb spots to inspire you to get out there.

Many people dread the onset of winter, lamenting the long nights, bad weather and generally acting as if the beauty of natural Britain has been packed away until April. Yet winter offers outstanding experiences for those who get out and about – and our regular walking writer Fiona Reynolds has written previously about how ‘a day without walking feels empty and forlorn.

So get up, go out and enjoy the great – if chilly – outdoors. Here are some of the nation’s best winter walking locations to inspire you.


The Norfolk Broads

Fens - The beautiful ruins of the Brograve Windmill near Horsey

The beautiful ruins of the Brograve Windmill near Horsey

The Norfolk Broads aren’t just waterways – they also house an abundance of walking locations, and many of them are at their finest during the winter. Consisting of seven rivers and 63 broads across 117 square miles, the Norfolk Broads offers countless walking routes for all ages and abilities. Both the coast and the broads are incredibly busy during the summer months, making the peaceful nature of the winter even more enchanting. For nature lovers there is a great deal to discover, especially as many species of bird flock to the Broads from across Europe for the winter.

There’s everything from simple mile-long nature trails – such as the Hoveton Great Broad nature walk, which follows the natural twists and turns of the woodland that encircles a lake – through to multi-day hikes for those with an adventurous spirit and more time on their hands. Take the 61-mile journey Weaver’s Way from Cromer to Great Yarmouth, for example, which takes in culture and museums as well as the wildlife of the region.


Brecon Beacons

Mist lingers in the Usk Valley at dawn in autumn, Brecon Beacons National Park, Powys, Wales, United Kingdom, Europe

Mist lingers at dawn in the Brecon Beacons National Park

The Brecons are full of beautiful trails. One of the finest is the route up the highest mountain in southern Britain, Pen-Y-Fan, ideal for adventurous walkers of all ages. It may be close to 3,000 feet, but the views across South Wales and Somerset are well worth the effort to get there.

On paper it could seem a daunting task, but the mountain is just an hour from Cardiff and the simple circular route has clear footpaths which are suitable for children. In all, the four-mile round walk should take between three and five hours.

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Gorgeous views from Pen-Y-Fan.

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While the winter weather can add more challenge to the trail, that will quickly be forgotten when you reach the summit. The breathtaking views will make this one of the most memorable family walks you will ever have.


Wastwater

In the shadow of Scafell Pike, this breathtakingly vast lake (also pictured at the top of the page) is most commonly used as a starting point for those looking to climb. But Wastwater Valley in Cumbria is a beautiful location for a walk on its own, and is especially quiet during the winter months.

A number of walking routes are available but the most accessible is a short 2.5-mile route that will likely take less than two hours and is suitable for the whole family thanks to the quiet, level tracks. Better still, just a mile from the start/finish point is the village of Nether Wasdale, which has two pubs happy to accept dog walkers and families.


Richmond Park

Frosty Britain - Andy Thomas

Richmond Park in winter, captured by Country Life reader Andy Thomas

You don’t have to travel out of the city to find an incredible walk. Richmond Park, London’s largest Royal Park, has views of St Paul’s Cathedral and the City of London alongside roaming deer and a rich and varied natural landscape.

The best way to take it all in is to embark on the Tamsin Trail, a seven-mile track that loops around the park’s edge. There are some climbs and inclines, but not so much that it isn’t also used by cyclists. Deer are a common sight, and after walking for a few minutes in such a peaceful, scenic location, it’s easy to forget how close this woodland escape is to central London.

The route will take around 2-3 hours to complete, but there are a couple of cafes along the way (most notably Pembroke Lodge) and countless photo opportunities. Many people who walk the trail make a day of it.


New Forest

AONB

Bratley View, New Forest

With around 143 miles of tracks just for walkers and cyclists, the New Forest National Park has numerous trails and guided walks depending on what you want to see, with many of them looking their best in the winter.

The strangely spelt Wilverley Inclosure is a simple two-mile route that will take you through conifers and bracken, which look spectacular under a winter frost. You won’t be alone either, as deer are commonly seen making their way through this area.

Alternatively, one of the most popular walks in the New Forest is Whitefield Moor, which is split into two walks, the shorter ‘yellow’ and the longer ‘red’ route. Both lead you through the heaths and woodlands and along Ober Water. It’s a spectacular route at any time of the year, but with the added beauty of winter sunrises and sunsets beaming through the branches, the extra miles will be worth the reward.