It might not be the most obvious of festive traditions, but a Christmas or Boxing Day walk is certainly worthy of a prime spot on your Yuletide agenda.
Crisp fresh air and a change of scene might be the perfect antidote to any simmering seasonal stress – not to mention the welcome relief of getting out for some exercise if you’ve been semi-permanently attached to the sofa and Quality Street tub for the last 48 hours.
Just a gentle stroll around local lanes, countryside or parks is great. But if you fancy making an afternoon – or a day – of it, the UK boasts uncountable fantastic walks which can be enjoyed all year round, providing you’re sensible, wrap up warm with suitable footwear and do your research first.
Check weather conditions (especially if you’re walking near water) and bear in mind it gets dark early.
Here, Eleanor Bullimore, engagement manager at the Ramblers charity, suggests three of the Ramblers’ favourite winter walks, along with three suggestions of our own.
“Rhossili is up there with some of the world’s most beautiful coastal locations. This route is designed for the views, taking you to the most breathtaking vantage points,” says Eleanor.
“With the final leg of the walk taking you along sand and surf, in winter there’s the chance to spot flocks of migratory purple sandpipers, great northern diver and red-throated divers.”
The Ramblers’ route starts at the car park behind Worm’s Head Hotel in Rhossili village and covers 4.3 miles (which should take around two hours at leisurely pace).
Of course, it’d take more than a day to tackle the entire 84-mile stretch of this famous trail, but there’s nothing to say you can’t enjoy a section of it on Boxing Day.
The eight-mile Housesteads and Vindolanda Forts loop is a history-rich delight, taking in the UK’s most well-preserved Roman fort, or check out Sycamore Gap for a glimpse of the tree that featured in the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves. Surrounded by wild, sweeping moorland, you’ll easily feel you’re in a land of make-believe.
It’s 2.7 miles from the main entrance to the Scottish Parliament Building on Horse Wynd to Arthur’s Seat; a leisurely hike but it’s a hilly route, and bear in mind it gets quite steep.
“Arthur’s Seat is a dramatic dollop of Scottish wilderness rising unexpectedly from the heart of Edinburgh. There may be a steep climb to the top, but on a clear winter’s day you’ll be spoilt with dramatic views over the entire Scottish capital and beyond,” says Eleanor.
Open all year round except Christmas Day, you have more than 2,000 acres to explore here.
There’s High Park woods – home to the greatest collection of ancient oak trees in Europe, the imposing Column of Victory, the lake – a magical family afternoon out. Dogs on leads welcome too!
“The Long Mynd is very distinctive, rising to an open plateau, cut by steep sided valleys,” says Eleanor.
“This walk climbs up Carding Mill valley and descends into the less frequented but equally beautiful Small Batch.
“Winter is the perfect time to take a walk on Long Mynd, when the landscape is opened up and you can see for miles.”
Keen to burn off that double helping of turkey and all the trimmings? Follow all of the Ramblers’ route, starting at Church Stretton market square, and you’ll cover around 8.2 miles.
You’re spoilt for choice with Wales’ beautiful Brecon Beacons – but if you’re after a moderate, family-friendly walk (weather and conditions permitting), the 2.5-mile round-trip from the Waterfalls Centre, Pontneddfechan, to Sgwd Gwladys (Lady Falls), is a relatively little hike with big rewards: the prize for your efforts, the six metre-plunging waterfall, is said to be one of the most atmospheric in the region.