It’s no secret that the lush landscapes of the UK can make for some beautiful and inspiring walks through nature. One needs to look no further than the many famous classical authors who wandered the Lake District! But what some of you may not know, however, is that various walking trails within the UK are just as gorgeous – if not more so – in the middle of winter.
Snow and ice can transform a landscape into a masterpiece of a different kind, and hikers around the globe are missing out if they don’t try for different seasons. Hiking can be a wonderful adventure no matter the time of year. Come with us as we explore some winter wonderlands across the UK.
Top Destinations for Winter Walks
The first, and hardest, stage in any hiking trip is choosing where your journey will take place. From Wales to Scotland, the UK has many places to offer. You will want to keep your health and fitness in mind; some trails have a rougher terrain or more hills than others. Knowing what you can handle (or what you can train for) can help narrow down the options.
Oftentimes, you can find lists for the ‘Best Walks’ and ‘Most Beautiful Landscapes,’ but any list is subject to the bias of the authors. The fact of the matter is that Scotland, England, Wales, and every mile in between have several areas that are just breathtaking. We’ve gathered some of the more popular destinations with a sprinkle of the lesser-known. In this beautiful digital age, you can always reach out to UK travel sites and residents on public pages to discuss other hidden treasures.
Lulworth Range, Dorset
An active firing range and an abandoned village, this journey needs to be timed out properly. The coastline is managed by the Ministry of Defence as part of the AFV Gunnery school, but it opens to the public for certain hours. The ranges were established in 1917, and Tyneham Village was abandoned in 1943.
Brecon Beacons, Wales
A National Park in Wales, this destination offers breathtaking views, wide-open spaces, and plenty of activities alongside the walking trails. If you want hiking to be part, but not all, of your experience, this could be perfect for you.
Loch Lomond, Scotland
Many of us have heard this name from the beautiful song, but have you considered visiting Britain’s largest stretch of inland water? The mountains surrounding the Loch look stunning any time of year, but they gain a certain mysticism in the winter.
Loch Muick Nature Reserves, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Relatively level terrain and an abundance of wildlife such as grouse and red deer make the Loch Muick Nature Reserves a superb destination for hikers of all experience levels. Add in a dash of icy frosting, and you have an adventure waiting to happen.
Cotswold Way, Gloucestershire
For the experienced hiker looking for a long-form adventure, Cotswold Way offers 100 miles of historical sites and picturesque views. If you don’t have time for the full experience, you can also enjoy smaller, circular trails such as the Winchcombe Walk.
Bronte Walk, Haworth, Yorkshire Dales
The Lake District isn’t the only UK hiking destination of literary rapport. Fans of the Bronte Sisters can enjoy the views around the village of Hawthorne; even non-literary hikers will enjoy the brisk trek to the waterfalls.
Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Park, Edinburgh
Rocky and steep, this trek isn’t for the faint of heart. But who wouldn’t want to explore an extinct volcano? Generally covered in lush vegetation, winter offers a breath of fresh magic to the ascent.
Skiddaw, the Lake District
Skiddaw may seem one of the plainer mountains in the District, but it’s hardly any less impressive. Easy-to-follow trails from previous visitors make this path gentle while remaining breathtaking.
Elidir Trail, Wales
Known as the entrance to a fairy kingdom and part of the Waterfall District, Elidir Trail offers magic all its own. Venture here during the winter months for an all-new manner of magic as feather-like ice travels across boulders while rushing water soothes your soul.
How to Prepare for Your Winter Walk
Preparation is key to having a successful, safe and comfortable walk throughout the UK in the winter. The first step you should take is to get an accurate forecast of what you can expect from Mother Nature on the day or days you plan to hike.
Next, think about comfortable, proper shoes, thermally insulated socks, and layered clothing. Having the right clothing will keep you warm, comfortable, safe from frostbite or hypothermia and able to move freely and easily across sometimes difficult terrain.
Other Items to Consider:
- Navigational Items
- Sun Protection
- First Aid Supplies
- Fire Starters
- Extra Food
- Plenty of Water
- Emergency Items
- Repair Kits
Let’s take a closer look at these items. Navigation can be anything from a compass to a GPS device. Even in the winter, the sun can be damaging, so sunscreen in a small tube is important. Layers help you adjust to meet the weather and your own exertion. Flashlights help in the dark, lighters or matches can keep you warm. Emergency items include anything from tents or garbage backs to thermal blankets. Whatever you pack, find a light version; remember that you have to carry everything.
A Basic Guide to Hiking Safety
Hiking can be an arduous task, no matter the weather or the trail. It’s always best to be prepared and have a safety plan. First and foremost, give your itinerary to someone not accompanying you. This doesn’t mean planning your trip to the minute; it means giving them a time to ‘start worrying’ if you haven’t contacted anyone. You can carry an emergency satellite device, but it’s one more thing to purchase and carry.
Essential safety tips for hikes are as follows:
- Always stick to well-documented trails and paths
- Always inform at least one other party of your trek, where you’ll be going, and for how long.
- Don’t go alone. 2-4 people is an ideal hiking group.
- Watch your footing, especially in icy areas
- Dress appropriately and in layers
- Inspect any gear for wear and tear
- Make camp before dark; hike during the day
In the event that you are worried about getting lost, five simple items can salvage almost any situation: a CD-ROM, a Plastic Poncho, a Whistle, a Glow Stick, and a Bright Bandana. The bandana adds to your visibility, the glow stick provides hours of light with no batteries, the plastic poncho protects you, and the remaining CD and Whistle can draw attention. The whistle uses shrill noise, while the CD can reflect light.
Always remember: leave no trace. Minimum impact practices are essential for preserving these beautiful winter views so that others may continue to enjoy them for years to come.
Looking to go to the UK? Check out the best ways to travel the UK in 2020.