They say walking is the best exercise and there's certainly no shortage of glorious walks in Britain to enjoy. Much loved as the song ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ is, if asked to put it into practice most of us would skip straight to the part about relaxing in front of the fire. Spending the chillier seasons huddled indoors means missing out on the wonderful scenery that can be found all over Britain, from glorious Yorkshire countryside walks to relaxing strolls and serious hikes in some of the best remote locations in the UK through enchanted frosty surroundings.
We've picked out a few routes that make for the perfect excursion at this time of year. These aren't strenuous or lengthy hikes, just the best walks to casually witness the winter wonderland all around us.
Derbyshire and the Peak District is a stunning place for countryside walks in Britain. A deep wooded valley with a babbling stream flowing through it, Padley Gorge has a magical atmosphere that's only enhanced by the touch of winter. The views across the landscape stretch even further when the trees have shed their leaves, and the walls of the valley make for comfortable shelter as you descend into it. The Burbage Brook that winds its way through the gorge sometimes freezes during the colder months too, adding to the frosty ambience and making this one of the best winter walks around.
For an excursion that will last you a couple of hours, start off from the Longshaw Estate and make your way down the gorge to Upper Padley. If you find yourself in the mood for a midway break, be sure to grab a mug of tea and a bacon buttie at the popular Grindleford Station Cafe before heading back up again.
Elan Valley, Powys
The Elan Valley Trail follows the path of an old railway past both gorgeous natural landscapes and striking dams and reservoirs. Despite being part of the rugged Cambrian Mountains, this isn't a difficult route, perfect for taking in the sights on a relaxing winter wonderland walk. Water levels in the reservoirs tend to be higher in the colder months, and if you're lucky you might witness the dramatic sight of overflowing water cascading from the top of the dams.
Elan Valley has also been officially recognised as an International Dark Sky Park, so if you're willing to stick around until after the sun sets you'll have an unrivalled view of the night sky with minimal light pollution.
Golden Cap, Dorset
The roar of the ocean and the bracing sea air can make for some memorable moments when enjoying a coastal winter walk in Dorset, and where better to experience this than from Golden Cap? The highest point along the south coast of Great Britain, the Golden Cap cliffs are a truly magnificent place to look out upon the frosty landscape for miles around, or simply gaze onto the choppy waters of the English Channel.
Starting out from the Langdon Hill car park, follow the signposted route to Golden Cap along a magnificent woodland path. The ascent to Golden Cap is a bit of a climb - take care if conditions are slippery – but once you reach the top, the views of the Jurassic Coast and the Channel really have to be seen to be believed.
Balmaha Millennium Forest Trail, Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond and its surroundings are a beautiful sight at any time of year, and with fewer tourists around in winter, you can more easily immerse yourself in the tranquil beauty of the setting as you gaze across the water to the snow-capped mountains beyond. More ambitious ramblers might attempt a climb of Ben Lomond, but for the more casual winter walk the Balmaha Millennium Forest Trail, lasting around 45 minutes, is ideal for a taste of Scotland's winter ambience.
The trail starts in the centre of the bustling village of Balmaha. From here you make your way along a crisp woodland path, eventually heading uphill to Craigie Fort, which affords stunning views of Loch Lomond and its environs. After this, follow the West Highland Walk down the other side of the fort, leading you to a return walk along the quiet shoreline of the loch.
The Elan Valley Trail starts in Cwmdauddwr, near Rhayader, and if you choose to walk the full 9 miles you'll end up at the Craig Goch Dam.
Appletreewick, Yorkshire Dales
There's something about small villages that make them an enchanting sight in British wintertime, and Appletreewick in the Yorkshire Dales is a perfect example. Set amidst the rolling hills, this picturesque village with its stone cottages looks like something from a Christmas card once the winter frost sets in.
If you're looking for a bracing winter walk over the Dales that ends up in this charming locale, there's a half hour path from Burnsall that offers some striking views across the moors (after a small uphill climb) before descending into Appletreewick's cosy streets. A longer route can be taken from Grassington if you're looking for something a little more challenging.
Tips for winter walking
The winter wonderland walks we've listed above should be suitable for all ages and abilities, with only the occasional uphill climb to worry about, but when going on a seasonal stroll it's still important to take precautions that you might not need to think about during the warmer months.
As ever, you should dress suitably for the walk, making sure you're clad in sensible footwear and warm clothing appropriate for the time of year. Checking weather forecasts before heading out is also recommended, as even the easiest trails could become treacherous in strong wind or heavy snow or rain.
It's also important to keep an eye on the clock, with the sun setting so early in the winter months that it's easy to get caught out. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete your walk at a casual pace so you can avoid having to stumble back in the darkness, and perhaps bring a torch (or at least keep your phone charged) just in case. Make the most of your winter wonderland walks in Britain and feel free to share your stunning photos and lovely stories with us on Facebook.