You might be tempted to leave the walking boots in the cupboard ‘til the new year, but these wintry strolls are perfect for blowing away the cobwebs
While vegging out on the sofa might feel like the only way to end a day of festivities, most of us know that the only antidote to too much turkey and bingeing on your favourite boxset is stretching your legs. That’s why 70 percent of British people rate a post-dinner stroll as the perfect Christmas activity and studies show that it’s good for your health, too. Taking a walk after dinner can help lower blood-sugar levels, improve digestion and put you in a good mood. To inspire you, we’ve rounded up the best winter walks across the country. Wellies at the ready!
Best for the whole family
There’s nothing quite like getting everyone together for a crisp winter walk; so wrap up, put on your gloves and scarf and head to Sheffield Park, just east of Haywards Heath in East Sussex. Choose whether you want to muddy your boots up by stomping across the woodland and park, or if you’d rather keep them clean by sticking to the path – whatever your preference, there’s a stroll to suit everyone. A one and a half mile circular walk takes you past Ringwood Toll natural playtrail (ideal for little ones with energy to spare), or you can explore even further by venturing down to the River Ouse. On New Year’s Day, there’s a guided hike around the lesser-known parts of the estate – perfect for those who need a bout of frosty air after the late-night celebrations. Further afield, Mount Stewart in County Down, Northern Ireland, has plenty to offer. Voted as one of the top 10 gardens in the world, Mount Stewart’s formal gardens are full of character, complete with stories and facts about the families who lived here.
Best for nature-lovers
For the budding bird watchers, wildlife is what makes a walk, so pull-on your winter woollies and take a stroll around the beautiful garden at Powis Castle in Welshpool this winter. This is the best time of year to appreciate the garden’s structure, so look out for the shaped hedges and intricately trained fruit trees sparkling under frost, or casting their long shadows in the low afternoon light. Nearer Nottinghamshire? Then head to the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Beeston. This easy four-mile walk around the glorious nature reserve showcases some of the best winter wildlife in the UK. The site was opened by Sir David Attenborough more than 40 years ago and remains a popular spot for nature-fanatics to stake out. Bring your binoculars and look out for birds such as goldeneyes and pochards.
Best for coastal lovers
Nothing quite beats a bracing coastal walk, so if you love the sea, then a stroll across Tŷ Coch, in Porthdinllaen, Wales, is a favourite for locals and holiday makers alike on Boxing Day. Enjoy a spot of salty sea air wind to revive you from the winter slump, then venture to the famous Tŷ Coch Inn, which many Welsh residents argue is the best pub in Wales. Warm-up with tasty refreshments and live entertainment, all while taking in the glorious views of the wild Irish Sea.
If you often head over to the Norfolk coast around this time of year, then don’t forget to take an amble around the seaside town of Sheringham. Striking coastal views are central to the design of Sheringham Park and, if you climb to the top of the gazebo tower perched on the top of Oak Wood hill, you can catch a panoramic view of the North Norfolk coastline.
Best for long hikes
Seasoned walker? This Chilterns walk at the Ashridge estate, Buckinghamshire is 14 miles long and a perfect leg-stretcher. Worth saving for a day with clear skies and crisp ground under foot, walkers will be treated to expansive views of the countryside from the top of Ivinghoe Beacon and, while the ancient trees may have dropped their leaves, you’re still in with a good chance to spot fallow deer. Taking your Christmas further afield?
In Jersey, the St Lawrence Parish Walk is an eight-mile hike that takes around three and half hours. The reward? A chance to discover the island’s most beautiful country lanes through the circular loop that boasts both the Hamptonne Museum and Jersey War Tunnels. Don’t forget to wrap up extra warm, as the wind can whip your cheeks at this time of year.
Best for short ambles
If you’re eager to get outside, but less enthused about missing out on the Queen’s speech, then a shorter stroll might suit you better. Erddig’s Big Wood trail is situated in Wrexham on the border of England and Wales. The short circular walk, full of kissing gates and towering oak trees, takes you around the orange waymarker route on the 1,200-acre estate. Follow the path that goes up to the bailey, where you cross an avenue of beech trees, before descending to the ditch of the 12th-century motte.
Closer to the south, with four way-marked walks to choose from, Basildon Park is a country house situated two miles south of Goring-on-Thames and Streatley in Berkshire, with half a mile, to three-mile walks to choose from. Explore the estate by traipsing through the woodland and frosty fields and take a glimpse through the bare trees to see the statuesque outline of the park’s mansion.
Best for dog walkers
Combining your Christmas stomp with a dog-friendly excursion is a winwin situation. Head to Langdale Valley, Cumbria and enjoy the winter countryside in all its frosty glory on this two-mile walk. It’s a great opportunity for the family to get out into the fells safely, while enjoying brilliant views. If you’re staying just outside of London, then head to Polesden Lacey, Surrey, to beat the winter blues. This mildly challenging, but hugely rewarding three and a half mile walk takes approximately two hours. Stop at each viewpoint and look for the inspirational quote or extract of poetry – each has been chosen to complement the surrounding landscape.