The National Trust cares for hundreds of walking trails in beautiful locations across the country, so here’s our roundup of the top winter walks in the UK.
Head to the coast for dramatic grey skies and thundering waves, blow away the cobwebs with clifftop walks and mountain climbs or follow inviting paths through frost-sprinkled parkland and historic gardens.
And if you need any last minute kit, the National Trust’s walking partner Cotswold Outdoor has been helping customers get outdoors for more than 40 years, offering expert advice and an unrivalled range of clothing and equipment for all sorts of adventures. Plus, National Trust supporters can get 15% off at Cotswold Outdoor, in-store and online.
Here are some of the top winter walks to give you a spring in your step during the cold winter months:
Top winter walks in the South East
Positioned on top of chalk cliffs and overlooking the River Thames, Cliveden’s magnificent gardens and woodlands offer breathtaking views that have been admired for centuries. The view from the South Terrace at Cliveden on a crisp winter’s morning is a memorable one, looking out over the beautiful six-acre parterre and across the Thames Valley. Trails also criss-cross through miles of woodland and down to the banks of the Thames.
Wheelchairs and All-terrain Trike and pushchairs are available to hire in advance
Explore the walled orchard of 30 apple trees and take a walk around the wilderness garden — a secluded area surrounded by a hornbeam hedge — enjoying the crunch of frosty leaves underfoot. As winter progresses, the topiary in the formal gardens comes into its own; its domes, pyramids and cones dusted with dew, frost and spiders’ webs.
A mobility scooter is available to hire in advance
This house and gallery, set among riverside gardens, is at its most beautiful with a sprinkling of frost. Walk through the winter gardens, filled with richly coloured dogwood, silvery ornamental bramble, and flowering shrubs. Look out for hellebores and mahonia, sweet-smelling winter honeysuckle, witch hazel, viburnum and daphne. Then follow the river walk along the crystal-clear waters of the river Test and out to meadows beyond the gardens, from where you can take in beautiful views of the house. If you want to walk further, try Mottisfont’s six mile estate walk taking in historic farmland and ancient woods.
Dogs on leads welcome in most of the gardens and the wider estate.
Five manual wheelchairs are available from the Welcome Centre on a first come first served basis.
Osterley Park and House is a beautifully preserved Georgian country estate just a short distance from central London. With its acres of parkland and idyllic farmland, the estate is still full of colour at this time of year, with the winter display in the Garden House a particular delight. In the Winter Garden look out for brightly coloured stems of dogwood and willow and scent from winter honeysuckle.
Dogs welcome in the park and designated area on the front lawn
Mountain Trike Wheelchair available to hire in advance
Volunteer run buggy service operates from the car park to the house and stables
The views back to the Old Castle from the Scotney estate are timeless and capture the setting that inspired the owners to build the mansion high up above. Follow the blue or red-topped posts on a stroll around the many acres of parkland, woodland and waterways to discover a stone bridge, beech avenue (NB beech avenue is on red route not blue route) and even Second World War bomb craters.
The hard paths in the garden lead down to the castle ruin, past flashes of colour from the red and orange whips of dogwood and snowy white patches of heather. Take in the majestic view back up to the house before heading up to the café for a warming drink.
Garden paths are mostly accessible for wheelchairs, mobility scooters and buggies with some steep slopes. A winter garden guide highlighting the stars of the season, and map of accessible route are available from visitor reception. Two manual wheelchairs are available to reserve in advance.
Dogs are welcome on short leads in the estate, garden, shop and outdoor seating area for the tea-room.
Closed 24, 25 and 26 Dec. Normal admission applies.
There are over 20 downloadable trails to enjoy on the Isle of Wight, taking in rolling downland, woods, and dramatic coastline. Follow in the footsteps of Alfred Lord Tennyson and stride out on an invigorating walk over Tennyson Down. Take in splendid views of the iconic Needles, and look out for peregrine falcons riding the breeze as they patrol the coastline, whilst migrant terns and ducks pass over the sea. At weekends in winter, you can nip into the Old Battery fort for takeaway hot drinks and warming treats such as pasties, soup and sandwiches.
Top winter walks in the South West
Whatever the weather, there’s always something interesting to see on a walk through the gardens designed by Lawrence Johnston. Set in the rolling Cotswold hills, the magnificent estate is divided into a series of “outdoor rooms”, each with its own individual character. Take a stroll through the Old Garden and don’t miss the beautiful Italian Shelter near the bathing pool, a tranquil spot to shelter from wind and rain.
Assistance dogs only in the garden, but there are walks in the surrounding countryside
Wheelchair accessible route covers one third of the garden
Mobility scooters available to hire in advance
Buckland Abbey is steeped in more than 700 years of history, from the Cistercians who built the abbey and farmed the estate to the seafarers Grenville and Drake. There are walking trails to follow, showcasing the best of the estate’s winter colour — one picture-perfect spot is Beech Avenue, with beautiful gold and orange leaves overhead and underfoot, and views over the Tavy valley. Or crunch along the woodland path through towering oaks and beeches in Great North Wood. Look out for badgers, barn owls and deer.
Dogs on a lead welcome on estate walks and inside the Ox Yard café
Buggy service and tramper hire available
Overlooking Polzeath, a popular North Cornwall holiday destination, Pentire headland has been inhabited by humans since 4000BC but remains mostly undeveloped and a coastal escape for visitors. The remnants of Iron Age ramparts can be seen at the Rumps and the scars of lead and silver mining are etched over the headland. Accessible routes over the headland offer spectacular views of the coast and countryside.
Dogs welcome under control including Pentyr Café courtyard
Fully equipped Changing Places facility (access with a RADAR key)
Tramper (mobility scooter) available to use Thursday to Sunday, please hire in advance
Just seven miles from the centre of Bristol, Tyntesfield nestles in a tranquil landscape overlooking the Yeo valley. One of the last surviving Victorian estates in the country, the house is a masterpiece of Gothic revival style and its turrets, towers and family chapel take on a special aura in winter thanks to atmospheric mists and frost. The formal terraces in front of the house, the grand topiary-lined walks, the arboretum for rare trees and the intimate rose garden can all be enjoyed.
Dogs welcome except for in the Rose Garden and Kitchen Garden
There is a mobility shuttle running on the estate
Four miles of beautiful beaches line the sheltered waters of Studland Bay. Backed by heath and dune systems, the beaches stretch from the boundary of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site at Old Harry Rocks north to Shell Bay. A chain ferry provides a link to Poole and Bournemouth. Winter wildlife includes Sanderlings dashing along the water’s edge and comically following the waves up and down. Take a stroll down to Middle Beach where a small flock of Brent Geese are a common sight. There are a wide range of ground nesting birds in the dunes, so please keep your dogs under control. However, well behaved dogs are welcome during this period off leads.
Top winter walks in the Midlands
From the moment you enter Attingham’s gates, the views open across 200-year old parkland to the Shropshire hills and the impressive Regency mansion emerges against silhouettes of cedar trees. Cattle graze and fallow deer roam, historic trees cluster in woodland glades, and beautiful stretches of the Severn and Tern can be enjoyed. The many ponds are a haven for wildlife of all sorts, from ducks and swans to otters.
Trampers/Wheelchairs (subject to availability) can be hired
There is a mobility buggy running on the estate
From crisp, bright, frosty days to atmospheric, misty mornings, Belton is a delight in winter. On these quiet days, Belton deer are often very close to the house and make for great photo opportunities. At this time of year, one of the best views is from top of the slope to the Old Wood, which is best reached on the three-mile, three-hour Belton Park walk. Here you’ll find a bench where you can sit and gather your thoughts as you look across the park to the house.
There are often sheep grazing across the parkland, and the deer never leave, so always keep your dog on a short lead.
Croft is best known for its impressive variety of ancient trees. Situated on the English-Welsh border, the park’s sweet chestnuts and 1,000-year-old Quarry Oak look particularly atmospheric at this time of year. Even once they’ve shed their fiery leaves, the stark outlines of the branches are breathtaking. There’s also the walled gardens, wild woodlands and even an Iron Age hillfort.
Shuttle service available
Carved out of the ancient forests of Sherwood, Clumber Park is a beautiful expanse of parkland, heath and woods covering more than 3,800 acres. Once the country estate of the Dukes of Newcastle, there are many glimpses of its grand past to explore. Walking routes around the magnificent lake are extra special in winter, especially on misty mornings when fog surrounds the Gothic chapel. Jays and Green Woodpeckers are often spotted searching for bugs on these scenic paths too. Afterwards, reward yourself with a warming meal in our Turning Yard café, with produce grown in the Walled Kitchen Garden.
Mobility scooters can be hired (subject to availability)
Longshore, Burbage and the Eastern Moors, Derbyshire
A countryside haven on Sheffield’s doorstep, the Peaks have a network of footpaths and bridleways. The Longshaw Estate is a gateway to the Peak District, home to ancient woods, parkland and heather moorland. Walking at Longshaw can be a stroll to the pond, an easy-to-follow waymarked walk or a serious hike. Follow waymarked walk with arrows from just outside the Longshaw Lodge or download a walk before you set off.
Keeping your dog on a lead in the Peak District ensures that wildlife, livestock and other visitors are safe. If you ever feel threatened in a situation with your dog with livestock close by, it is advised to release the lead, and reach safety separately.
On clear, crisp days a stroll around the pleasure grounds is great for admiring the views across the whole estate. For frosty trees, the purple sheen of silver birch and wild deer walking through the mist, you can’t beat a climb up to the Triumphal Arch and onto Satnall Hills. With the dieback of undergrowth, it’s easier to spot some of the mammals which normally use it for cover. In early evenings, it can be easier to spot foxes skulking between hedgerows while barn owls patrol the parkland looking for their prey. For those in search of early blooms, head to the arboretum for winter aconites, and Lichfield Plantation for snowdrops.
Mobility trampers are available to hire in advance
East of England
Blickling’s breathtaking Jacobean mansion and ancient yew hedges sit at the heart of a magnificent garden and historic park in the beautiful Bure meadows. The lake walk at Blickling is particularly atmospheric on a frosty winter’s morning, with the reflections and big open Norfolk skies providing plenty of opportunities for budding photographers. For budding birdwatchers barn owls are regularly seen hunting across the park and groups of tits and finches can be found marauding through the trees and undergrowth, scavenging for morsels of food. Or, try the multi-use trail, which goes around the perimeter of the park and is accessible for people with buggies and young children, as well as those using wheelchairs and mobility aids, and will take you through woodland and across farmland.
Dogs welcome under close control in park
Multi-use trail provides access for cyclists, walkers, runners and adapted wheelchair users to enjoy, whatever the weather
Flatford lies in the heart of the beautiful Dedham Vale along the Suffolk-Essex border. This charming hamlet was the inspiration for some of John Constable’s most famous pictures, for example, the Hay Wain or Boatbuilding near Flatford Mill among many others. Follow in Constable’s footsteps visiting Flatford, East Bergholt and Dedham. Wandering beside the River Stour or looking at Flatford Mill and Willy Lott’s House you can feel as if you are actually walking through one of his paintings. It’s even more magical if you’re visiting on a crisp and frosty morning.
Dogs are welcome, but they must be kept on a short lead at all times as there is livestock grazing. If you ever feel threatened in a situation with your dog with livestock close by, it is advised to release the lead, and reach safety separately.
Accessible countryside trail suitable for off road mobility vehicles.
An Italianate Palace in the heart of Suffolk with over 1800 acres of beautiful parkland, woodland, Italianate Gardens and an all-weather trail to enjoy, Ickworth is the perfect place to get back to nature. The Monument Walk makes a great winter walk. The circular route weaves through the historic estate and offers breath-taking views across the landscape. Explore a mixture of open parkland and woodland glades, and take in the church and obelisk monument. While the river walk has firm footing and is suitable for those using wheelchairs and mobility aids, as well as for buggies and young children.
Dogs welcome on short leads (except for Italianate Garden)
Mobility scooters and wheelchairs are available for loan
Yorkshire and North East
Rocky crags, tumbling waterfalls, lakes and towering North American conifers create stunning winter scenery at Cragside. The gardens and grounds of this Arts and Crafts house offer 1,000 acres and 14 waymarked routes to explore. From the Formal Garden the views are magnificent when the sun is low.
Wheelchairs are available to hire in advance
The ruins of Fountains Abbey are truly something to behold, especially on a frosty winter’s day. Walk down the path from the visitor centre, and come face to face with some of the oldest abbey ruins in the country. From the abbey follow the gentle banks of the River Skell down to the 18th-century Water Garden, which has been channelled into canals, cascades and tranquil moon ponds. From here riverside paths lead to the deer park, home to Red, Fallow and Sika deer and ancient trees; limes, oaks, and sweet chestnuts.
Dogs welcome on short leads
Wheelchairs and mobility scooters will be available to hire in advance
Limited mini bus service
Gibside is one of a few surviving 18th-century designed landscapes and was fashioned with two things in mind: spectacular views and ‘wow’ moments. Here, you can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life within 600 acres of gardens, woodland and countryside – perfect for wildlife spotting. Highlights include a Neo-classical chapel, restored stable block and grand ruin. In winter you may not see signs of Gibside’s protected species such as bats and great crested newts, as they’re all tucked up for winter, but you’ll have a great chance of seeing roe deer, red kites, winter birds and maybe even an otter or a fox.
Accessible tramper hire is available in advance
Hooped in red and white and standing proud on the coastline midway between the Tyne and the Wear, Souter Lighthouse is reached by car in less than half an hour from Newcastle, and less than 15 minutes from Sunderland. Once the site of a busy mining community, these cliffs are now home instead to the solitary lighthouse and a whole host of seabirds, like fulmar and cormorant. Walk north and discover The Leas with its wildflower meadows or head South to the Whitburn Coastal Park which is criss-crossed with paths and coastal trails.
Top winter walks in the North West
The gardens at this Georgian estate near Manchester are bursting with colour well into winter. Walk through the parkland’s tree-covered avenues, smell the familiar “burnt sugar” scent of candyfloss coming from the katsura trees along the canal and listen out for the resident herd of fallow deer among the rustling of the leaves underfoot. The Stables restaurant serves a variety of warming foods, from soup to luxury pumpkin
Dogs welcome in the parkland (from 9.30am) and gardens (after 12pm)
PMVs and wheelchairs are available to hire in advance
The early Industrial Revolution changed our world forever. At Quarry Bank you can discover a complete industrial community and experience the very different worlds of owner and worker, who lived and worked here side by side. On the estate there are acres of woodland to explore. Follow the meandering path of the river Bollin, and cross the folly bridges. Keep a lookout for flashes of electric blue as the kingfishers whizz by. If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to catch a rare glimpse of an otter as they slip into the water.
Please keep dogs on a lead where advised, particularly through Styal village and if entering the garden.
Shuttle buggy service available
Barely 8 miles from the Liver Building, Speke Hall is a rare Tudor timber-framed manor house in an unusual setting on the banks of the River Mersey. The Hall is surrounded by restored gardens and protected by a collar of woodland. Take the estate walk and you’ll enjoy fine views of the Wirral, North Wales and even Liverpool’s city centre skyline. Or head down to the Coastal Reserve for great views of wading birds and a walk up the Bund to see unique glimpses of the Hall through the trees before spring arrives.
Dogs welcome on short leads in the woodland and on signed estate walks
Top winter walks in Northern Ireland
Strolling through this 820-acre walled demesne takes you along trails that wind their way through atmospheric woodland, parkland and gardens, offering impressive views over Strangford Lough and the surrounding countryside. The quirky 18th-century house, designed as a combination of two completely different styles: gothic on one facade and Palladian on the other and farmyard that doubled up as Game of Thrones’ Winterfell add to the charm of the grounds.
Dogs welcome on short leads
On a bright sunny winter’s day there’s nothing more invigorating than a climb up Divis and the Black Mountain. There’s so much to see, both in terms of man-made sites and natural ones: Belfast’s famous dockland where the Titanic was built, buzzards and kestrels hovering over the open fields.
Dogs welcome on short leads
Wheelchair-accessible kissing gates to mountain
This 18th-century house and gardens are surrounded by thick woodland, with Benaughlin mountain rising in the background. Miles of walking paths and cycling trails wind through the forest to reveal industrial heritage features such as a water-powered sawmill and a blacksmith’s forge.
Mobility scooter available to hire in advance
Carved from the County Down landscape, Rowallane has grown from 19th century beginnings and remains a place where you can leave the outside world behind and immerse yourself in nature’s beauty. A mix of formal and informal spaces with many unusual vistas and unique plants from across the world. Take a stroll among winter flowering viburnums, mahonia and the fragrant flowers of witch hazel. Also look out for sarcococca; otherwise aptly known as the Christmas Box, with its strong scent.
Top winter walks in Wales
At Chirk Castle there are 480 acres of meadow, grassland and beautiful woodland, full of ancient trees that look particularly stunning against a wintry landscape. On a crisp clear day, on the Old Golf Walk you can see the Forest of Bowland 70 miles to the north, and the Peak District 65 miles to the east.
Dogs welcome on the estate
Visitor shuttlebus and wheelchairs available to hire in advance
For over 300 years visitors have been welcomed to explore the parkland at Erddig. The Yorke family did not want to hide their beautiful estate away, understanding the value of nature to the health and wellbeing of their local community. The Erddig Clywedog riverside walk is a short circular walk taking you through the parkland to the historic village of Felin Puleston. The route includes the unusual Cup and Saucer waterfall. Designed by landscape gardener William Emes it works by gathering water in a shallow circular stone basin with a cylindrical waterfall at its centre, the water falls through this cascade and then emerges from a tunnel several yards downstream.
Dogs welcome on lead in parkland and in designated off-lead zone available near Felin Puleston.
This is one of the best times of year to enjoy the unspoilt view from Plas Newydd across the Menai Strait to Snowdonia. There are 150 acres of gardens, woods and parkland — the Australasian arboretum is particularly lovely, where the dark canopy of beeches contrasts with eucalyptus. At Plas Newydd, dogs are free to visit almost all of the gardens and grounds, including the areas outside the 300-year-old mansion, Rhododendron Garden and Camellia Dell. The only locations off limits to canine companions are the house itself and the Terraced Garden, where the precise planting demands that it is kept a paw free zone. Four-legged friends are also welcome in the Old Dairy Cafe. Dogs welcome on short leads (excluding Terraced Garden).
On request buggy service.
Stackpole is both a listed designed landscape and an internationally important nature reserve. Footpaths stretch down from the former grand estate Stackpole Court, across dramatic cliffs to some of the most beautiful coastline in the world, including Broad Haven South, Barafundle Bay and Stackpole Quay. The famous Bosherston Lakes were created 200 years ago to provide a backdrop to Stackpole Court, in winter they welcome wildfowl – with the likes of goosander (look out for the females with their vibrant ginger heads) and the speckled grey gadwall making an appearance.
Dogs welcome under close control
Beach wheelchair and tramper available to borrow for use around the estate (book in advance).
If you enjoyed our roundup of Top winter walks for easy post Christmas exercise, you’ll find more walking routes and days out on our Outdoor Leisure channel.Tags: National Trust, Winter walks Last modified: December 29, 2021