We love December, with its crisp mornings, low afternoon sunshine and excuses to sip hot chocolate amidst beautiful scenery! So get your woollies on, get outdoors and get going on some of the loveliest winter walks the UK has to offer!
1. Hadrianís Wall, Northern England
Work on Hadrianís Wall - now a UNESCO World Heritage Site - began nearly 2,000 years ago, with modifications added until the early 5th century. Running virtually from the east coast to the west, the Wall was intended as a barrier to separate the civilised Romans from the ĎBarbariansí in the north and, although itís commonly thought to mark the divide between England and Scotland, in fact Northumberland lies largely north of it. Ambitious walkers can tackle the entire Hadrianís Wall Path, an 84-mile National Trail, whilst others might prefer to focus their efforts along the breathtaking central section, from Sewingshields to Walltown. Linear walks along the remains of the Wall are easy to follow, whilst a host of circular routes are available to add variety to a dayís adventure.
Start from: Sewingshields, 1km north-east of Housesteads Roman fort, grid ref. NY799700
Photo: Andrew Walmsley
2. Kilmar Tor, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
Kilmar Tor is on Bodmin Moor, made famous by Jamaica Inn, Daphne du Maurierís novel of smugglers and pirates. Kilmar Tor marks the birthplace of the Jamaica Inn landlord and his two brothers, one of whom died in a nearby bog. To the north of the tor is Twelve Menís Moor, whilst thereís a trig point to bag on the summit. Geocachers love the long granite ridge, whilst circular walks to the peak and back are perfect for a bracing weekend ramble.
Start from: Road layby, grid ref. SW258759
Photo: Sue Kittow
3. Garwnant, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
Thereís so much more to Merthyr than meets the eye, and this forestry winter wonderland is fast becoming one of the areaís hiking hotspotsÖ which is bad news for those who liked it being a hidden secret! Garwnant is part of the Fforest Fawr Geopark, one of eight geoparks in the UK and which rolls out over the stunning Brecon Beacons all the way from Merthyr to Carmarthenshire. A number of trails start near the visitor centre, one being the two-mile Wern Walk, on which tired walkers can stop for a break on the Giantís Chair!
Start from: Garwnant Visitor Centre, OS ref. SO003131
Photo: Rebecca Lees
4. Fritham, New Forest, Hampshire
This eight-miler through woodland, wetland and heathland is perfect in the deep mid-winter, particularly for nature lovers on the lookout for signs of wildlife. Although badgers rarely emerge from their setts before dusk, their nocturnal trails are most prominent in winter as vegetation dies back and reveals telltales signs for the eager-eyed. Hen harriers can be spotted in the New Forest throughout the colder months, whilst mandarin ducks can often be seen at Eyeworth Pond, the cinnamon, orange, black and white plumage of the males making a striking sight on the water. Largely along visible paths but a little off the beaten track in sections, this strenuous walk is sure to get the blood flowing and handily passes the High Corner Inn halfway around - perfect for a warming beverage or two!
Start from: Eyeworth Pond, grid ref. SU228146
Photo: Andrew Walmsley
5. Coniston, Lake District National Park, Cumbria
If thereís one thing we love more than a nice brisk walk, itís a nice brisk walk with cakes at the end! This stunning walk alongside Coniston Water enjoys wonderful views of the ĎOld Maní and ends up at the Bluebird Cafe - does life get much better?! At five miles long and the third largest of the Lakes, Coniston was once an essential fish source for medieval monks. In the 19th century, the philosopher John Ruskin bought Brantwood House, overlooking its shores, whilst Arthur Ransome based Swallows and Amazons on the lake too. Perhaps most famously, land and water speed record holder Donald Campbell died on the water in 1967 whilst successfully attempting to achieve a speed of more than 300mph in Bluebird. The cafe, named in honour of Donaldís jet-powered boat, serves up a delicious selection of tiffin, cupcakes, sticky ginger loaf and apricot brownies - and a great view back across your route, of course!
Start from: Bluebird Cafe, Coniston, grid ref. SD308970
Photo: Catherine Savidge