Best Winter Walks for Boxing Day
Fast track to Boxing Day. Turkey, consumed. Champagne, guzzled. Yule log, devoured. A Boxing Day walk is just the ticket to renew your energy and vigour during the festive break. Not only is walking good exercise, it’s good for mindfulness, boosts your mood, lowers blood pressure and improves circulation.
You can burn around 75 calories simply from walking at two miles an hour for half an hour. And whether yule be overdoing it on Christmas Day or not, a frosty winter’s walk through beautiful scenic countryside is always a good way to pass a few hours.
This National Trust walking trail is set within beautiful Harrogate, North Yorkshire, and takes you around the boundary of this World Heritage Site, with its fantastic views of the 18th century Fountains Abbey. The Cistercian abbey ruins are the most complete in the country. Founded in 1132, Fountains Abbey was home to monks for 400 years until Henry VIII demanded the dissolution of monasteries. Also, the estate is home to a medieval deer park, Victorian mill and the Georgian Studley Royal Water Garden, with elegant ponds and cascades. Not to be missed if you’re walking with Tudor enthusiasts.
If you fancy a historically significant Boxing Day you cannot miss visiting one of the Roman Empire’s most northerly outposts. Take this National Trail route to admire views of the Hadrianic Roman military bath house, a great spot along Hadrian’s Wall that overlooks the North Tyne River. The views along the wall are stunning and inspired George R.R. Martin to write his phenomenally successfully Game of Thrones novels. After visiting Chesters Walled Garden, you can walk up a quiet lane to Lincoln Hill and continue the trail onwards to pretty Humshaugh village. Great for families with small children.
Ambleside walks are amongst the most popular in the Lake District and attract countless visitors throughout the winter months. The terrain is characterised by steep pitched paths, summit rocks, narrow lanes and open fell. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb to the summit of Wansfell Pike to appreciate the outstanding views of Lake Windermere below. There really is no other view quite like it. Return via the old Roman road that connects Troutbeck, a truly traditional Lakeland village, with Waterhead, and take in the Southern Fells in all their glory.
If you’re looking to take in acres of frost-nipped snowdrops and fallow deer this Boxing Day, the Georgian Dunham Massey Estate is not far from Manchester and really fits the bill. With a medieval deer park and 300 acres of parkland to explore, it’s also a terrific place for dogs. While the house served as a respite sanctuary for First World War soldiers, the garden played a highly recuperative, restorative role, too. The seven acre winter garden was elegantly designed by Roy Lancaster OBE and is home to more than 1,600 winter shrubs.
Fountains Abbey, Harrogate
With its 7th century royal cemeteries Sutton Hoo is England’s Valley of the Kings. The Anglo-Saxon ship burial found in Mound One is the richest burial ever discovered in northern Europe, making this a must-see, must-do walk for those with a passion for Anglo-Saxon history. Here, you can explore the atmospheric burial mounds, visit the spot where the 1,400 year old ghost ship burial site was discovered and take in the extensive views over the River Deben. The estate itself is stunning and a misty, wintry morning is most fitting for a site with such historical, archaeological significance. Only an hour long, this is a good trail for a quick venture into the past.
For a Boxing Day walk of quintessential, British countryside head straight to the picturesque, historical Fen Ditton. One of the more modest walks on this list, Fen Ditton is a small village on the north-eastern edge of Cambridge and lies on the east bank of the River Cam. Take a detour to the old Medieval Fair Grounds of Stourbridge Common and the attractive meadows of Midsummer Common. Before you finish up, stop off at The Plough pub, which has the best riverside seating you could ask for.
Essex’s second largest area of common land after Epping Forest enjoys a smorgasbord of different natural surroundings – think open heathland, coppice woodland, wetland, wooded glades and a grand variety of wildlife in between. Choose one of three inter-linking, waymarked trails to help you navigate through the scenery. Country inns are dotted about the surrounding area for the obligatory ‘warm down’ afterwards.
Fen Ditton, Cambridge
Not far from leafy Richmond-upon-Thames lies Ham House. Built in 1610, this beautifully preserved house is a rare glimpse into 17th century living and the politics of the English Civil War. At one point, it was declared one of the grandest Stuart houses in England. The National Trust has since restored the gardens to Robert Smythson’s original 1610 plans, with plants that would have been available at the time, recreating a truly 17th century horticultural atmosphere. The house is open for special guided tours this Christmas from 26 December until the 2 January, including a ‘Secret Christmas’ event showing visitors what it was like when Oliver Cromwell banned Christmas in the 1650s.
If you’re looking for a Boxing Day walk to make you feel like you’re living in a period drama, you’ll find it within the rolling Buckinghamshire hills in the Stowe Estate. Check out The Elysian Fields, Temple of Ancient Virtue and Eleven Acre Lakes, where paths will take you down hidden, unknown routes all designed to charm your socks off.
A major restoration project by The National Trust since the early 1990s has meant that the Temple of Concord and Victory portico have been returned to their beautiful, former glory, after a period of crumbling dilapidation. The estate is also peppered with secret monuments and lost temples. In 2015, the gardens of Stowe received the same restorative attention and boast rolling grass meadows and elegant belts of trees, intermingled with tranquil ponds and lakes.
William the Conqueror once walked amongst the roaming landscape of Hampshire’s New Forest 1,000 years ago – reason enough, if you’re in the area, to stir you from slumber come Boxing Day morning. Wild ponies and deer are not an uncommon sight and highland cattle graze nearby. Whitefield Moor is a vast open heath land, popular with visitors looking to see the wildlife up close for themselves. The Ober water trail takes you through ancient woodland and meanders through the Ober Valley, on a trail of compacted grassy ground, paths and gentle slopes. Great for dog walks and catching the morning mist.
Palladian Bridge at Stowe Gardens, Buckinghamshire
For breath-taking vistas of an historic Roman city like Bath, this skyline walk really triumphs. Walking this popular National Trust trail, you can enjoy the same views that helped Jane Austen write Northanger Abbey. The trail takes a substantial four hours to complete, but is, by all standards, a walk through history, with its Iron Age hill fort and 18th Century follies. According to the National Trust, the walk burns as much as playing 90 minutes of football, but is well worth it for the staggering view of the city and Mendips from Bathwick fields.
In the heart of Devon lies the spectacularly rugged Redwater & Challacombe Valley. There are a host of good reasons to visit Dartmoor on a winter’s day: the air is clearer, the visibility is better and the views are breath-taking. The river banks are bursting at this time of year and there’s plenty to see by way of granite tors, bogs, woodland and, of course, Dartmoor ponies. To satisfy the archaeologists amongst you, Dartmoor is the largest site of prehistoric remains in Europe, partly due to the nature of the granite underfoot. Other spectacular things to spot include a medieval settlement, ruined tin mines, miners’ gullies and viewpoints, such as Hookner Tors and Birch.
Bath skyline walk vista
It’s important to relax over the festive period, but if you do find yourself wanting to get out on to the moors, amble through the stunning gardens of a manor house, or jog through the frosty woodland with your Proviz gear – make sure you tweet us @ProvizSports to let us know what you’re up to. In the meantime, pick your route, get your layers on, fill your thermos and enjoy yourself.
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