1. Lanlivery and Helman’s Tor, Cornwall
Lanlivery lies lost among its high-banked lanes to the west of Lostwithiel, a tiny hamlet sprinkled around the nucleus of St Brevita’s Church and the ancient Crown Inn. The pub – cosy and welcoming – dates back to Norman times. In fact it predates the church; the masons who built St Brevita’s with its tower of striped granite were put up there. As for Brevita: rather charmingly, absolutely nothing whatever is known about her – or him. There’s certainly a Saints Road or Saints Way that runs past the village, a former droving track (now a waymarked long-distance path) whose slanting course across the Cornish peninsula is dotted with ancient crosses, wells, standing stones and burial sites. It’s this path you follow between high hedges, a secret lane that smuggles you through the fields until you come out at the foot of Helman’s Tor. Up at the summit among the granite boulders you’ll find a logan or rocking stone – see if you can discover the subtle pressure needed to make it rock, while admiring the sensational views across the rolling Cornish farmlands.
Start: Crown Inn, Lanlivery, near Lostwithiel PL30 5BT (OS ref SX 079591)
Walk symbol: 4 miles, 2 hours, OS Explorer 107
Route: From Crown Inn, take Luxulyan road. At chapel, straight on (‘Lanivet’). In a quarter of a mile, right up green lane (‘Saints Way’) for 1 and a quarter miles to car park under Helman’s Tor. Climb Tor; return same way.
Lunch symbol: Crown Inn, Lanlivery (01208-8727071; www.wagtailinns.com).
Grade: 2/5 boots. Gentle ascent of tor. Green lane can be muddy!
Info: Lostwithiel TIC (01208-872207); www.visitcornwall.com
2. Stourhead and Alfred’s Tower, Wiltshire
Superb 18th-century Palladian grounds and park created by the Hoares – father Henry ‘The Good’, son Henry ‘The Magnificent’. Stroll a circuit of the lake and its temples, follies and grottoes, or step out up the valley to the wonderful Rapunzel-like Alfred’s Tower on the ridge above. Then cosy up to a cockle-warming casserole in the Spread Eagle Inn at the park gates, or plump for cake and cuppa in the tearooms.
Start: Stourhead car park, BA12 6QD (OS ref SX 778340) – signed from B3092 Zeals-Maiden Bradley road, off A303 at Mere
Walk symbol: 1 and a half miles round lake (1 hour) or 5 and a half miles Alfred’s Tower circuit (2-3 hours), OS Explorer 142 (grounds map available at Visitor Centre)
Route: From Visitor Centre. down path. Don’t cross bridge to gardens and house; turn left to Spread Eagle Inn and Lower Garden entrance (pay/show NT card). Anti-clockwise round lake. For Alfred’s Tower circuit: At Pantheon, don’t turn left across Iron Bridge; continue through trees to gate and gravel roadway. Right (‘Alfred’s Tower’); follow blue arrows up valley for 1 and a half miles. At top, left to Alfred’s Tower. From tower, retrace steps 100 yards; right into woods (yellow arrow/YA). In 300 yards YA points right, but keep ahead on main track. In 500 yards at crossroads, main track swings left (YA); but take downhill path. In 200 yards near foot of slope, left (YA) past shed; follow YA back to Pantheon; cross Iron Bridge; complete lake circuit.
Lunch symbol: Spread Eagle Inn (01747-840587; www.spreadeagleinn.com)
Grade: Lake 2/5 boots; Alfred’s Tower 3/5.
Stourhead (National Trust): 01747-841152; http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-stourhead
3. Chidham Peninsula, West Sussex
The Chidham peninsula hangs like a skate’s wing in the middle of Chichester Harbour’s vast flats of marsh and mud. At any time of year you’ll get a tang of green countryside and a salty smack of the sea here. In winter there’s the added thrill of big crowds of over-wintering seabirds.
From the friendly Old House At Home pub in Chidham village, grass paths lead to the eastern shore of the peninsula. There’s a fine view across water, mud flats and saltmarsh to the squat grey spire of Bosham church above a cluster of waterfront houses – every chocolate-box artist’s dream of delight. The sea wall path runs south around Cobnor Point with its wonderfully gnarly and contorted old oaks, and on up the edge of Nutbourne Marshes where wildfowl spend the winter in their tens of thousands. A new sea bank has been built inland here, against the day when the old one is washed away by the never-satisfied, ever-hungry sea.
Start: Old House At Home PH, Chidham PO18 8SU (OS ref SV 786040)
Walk symbol: 5 miles, 2 hours, OS Explorer 120
Route: From pub, right along road. Just before church, right along grassy path (fingerpost), past Chidmere Pond to road. Right for 100 yards; right (fingerpost) through car park; left along hedge to shore (797034). Right (clockwise) round peninsula for 3 miles to pass Chidham Point (779042). In a quarter of a mile, right (781045) on footpath along field edges to road; right to Old House At Home.
Lunch symbol: Old House At Home PH, Chidham (01243-572477; www.theoldhouseathome.co.uk)
Grade: 1/5 boots. Flat seawall path.
4. Shoreham and Eynsford, Kent
A really delightful walk in north Kent’s wide Darent Valley. The rood screen and organ casing in Shoreham’s church boast fabulous carving. Just down the road, Water House (private) was a 19th-century haven for artists including William Blake and Samuel Palmer. The Darent Valley Path takes you north in lovely river scenery to pass Lullingstone Castle, a gorgeous Tudor country house, and Lullingstone Roman Villa – 30 rooms, several frescoes, and a magnificent mosaic floor. At the turn of the walk, Eynsford is a photogenic old village with a fine tumbledown Norman castle. From here you follow a quiet road up a secret valley, then climb over the ridge through the woods to return to Shoreham.
Start: Shoreham station, Shoreham, Kent TN14 7RT (OS ref TQ 526615)
Walk symbol: 8 miles, 3-4 hours, OS Explorers 147, 162
Route: Shoreham station – Shoreham church (523616) – Water House (521616) – Darent Valley Path (signed) north for 3 and a half miles via Lullingstone Castle (530644) and Lullingstone Roman Villa (530651) to Eynsford. Left along A225 to Eynsford Castle (542658); return through village. Just before railway bridge, left past Eynsford station; follow Upper Austin Lodge Road for 1½ miles. Before Upper Austin Lodge, fork right past golf clubhouse; footpath south-west through woods for 1 mile to cross A225 and railway (526618); dogleg left to Station Road – Shoreham station.
Lunch symbol: Olde George Inn, Shoreham (01959-522017); teashops and pubs in Eynsford
Grade: 2/5 boots. Field and woodland paths (muddy!).
Info: Lullingstone Castle and gardens (www.lullingstonecastle.co.uk) closed till April; Lullingstone Roman Villa and Eynsford Castle (EH; www.english-heritage.org.uk) open Wed-Sun till 31 Jan (closed 24-26 Dec, 1 Jan); open daily thereafter.
5. Regent’s Canal, Victoria Park and Thames Path
To get you going on this exploration of east London’s waterways and markets, a gentle blur of reggae among the earring and shawl stalls in the covered shed of Old Spitalfields Market. Next, Brick Lane’s street market – curry, chilli, salsa, roasting beef and goat; titfers and tomatoes, fish and fascinators, bread and chairs, sandwiches, socks and sun-specs in more colours than the good Lord ever made. A pause to commune with the animals in the city farm; then you follow Regent’s Canal’s towpath towards the Thames in company with tinies in pushchairs, runners, strollers and the dog walkers of wide green Victoria Park. Approaching the river, the colossi of Canary Wharf and the space-rocket nose of the Gherkin rise pale and ghostly. There’s the smack of tidal waves and a tang of the sea as you swap the stillness of the canal for the salty vigour of the Thames, to stroll upriver into the cosmopolitan heart of the city once again.
Start: Liverpool Street station (Central/Circle/Metropolitan/Hammersmith & City)
Walk symbol: 8 miles, 3-4 hours, OS Explorer 173, London A-Z pp 40-2, 54-6
Route: Liverpool Street Station –- Old Spitalfields Market – Brick Lane – Bethnal Green Road – City Farm – Haggerston Park. Regent’s Canal to Limehouse Basin. Thames Path to St Katharine Docks. North via Mansell Street and Commercial Road to Liverpool Street.
Lunch symbol: Beigel Bake, Brick Lane (0207-729-0616) – salt beef, cream cheese, fish: you name it, it’s here in a fresh-baked bagel
Grade: 1/5 boots.
Reading: London Adventure Walks for Families by Becky Jones and Clare Lewis ( Frances Lincoln)
6. Ingatestone and Mountnessing Hall, Essex
Here’s a beautiful ramble in easy country (but muddy!) out in mid-Essex, a much-overlooked walking county. Ingatestone Hall is a superb Elizabethan mansion with ranks of mullioned and latticed windows, acres of tiled roofs, crowstepped gables and castellated turrets. Cross the fields to Buttsbury church on its ridge; then head south through old field lanes and horse paddocks to the outskirts of Billericay. A stumpy spire beckons you west across the River Wid to where St Giles’s Church and handsome Mountnessing Hall with its tall chimneys stand companionably side by side. From here field paths lead north past Tilehurst, a Victorian mansion out of a Gothic fable, and on back to Ingatestone.
Start: Ingatestone station, Essex CM4 0BS (OS ref TQ 650992)
Walk symbol: 7 miles, 3 hours, OS Explorer 175
Route: From station, left on path; left to cross railway; Hall Lane to Ingatestone Hall. Field path (yellow arrows/YAs) to St Mary’s Church, Buttsbury (664986). Buttsbury road – footpath south for 1 and three quarter miles (YAs) via Little Farm and Buckwyns Farm to road on west edge of Billericay (661977). Left for 150 yards to right bend; ahead here on footpath for 1 mile to Mountnessing Hall and church. Field path north (YAs) for three quarters of a mile to road (648975) and Westlands Farm. Path via Kitchen Wood to Tilehurst; road to Ingatestone Hall and station.
Lunch symbol: Star Inn, Ingatestone (01277-353618)
Grade: 2/5 boots. Gentle farmland paths. Can be very muddy!
Info: Ingatestone Hall (01277-353010; www.ingatestonehall.com) open Easter-Sept; guided tours at other times by arrangement
Chelmsford TIC (01245 283400; www.visitessex.com)
7. Little Chalfont and the Chess Valley, Buckinghamshire
As soon as you get into the woods that lie north of Chalfont & Latimer tube station, you’re immersed in proper countryside. The Buckinghamshire landscape slopes to cross the winding River Chess and reach the charming small village of Latimer, where the heart and harness of Lord Chesham’s bold charger Villebois are buried in the village green. From here the Chess Valley Walk leads by the river. Out in the fields you pass the brick-built tomb of ‘Mr William Liberty of Chorleywood, Brickmaker, 1777’, and follow the beautiful River Chess up to Church End (Christmas-themed 14th-century church frescoes, and delightful Cock Inn). The main feature of the homeward walk is Chenies village with its vast church monuments and grand Tudor manor – the house is haunted by the ghost of King Henry VIII.
Start: Chalfont & Latimer tube station, Metropolitan line, HP7 9PR (OS ref SU 997975)
Walk symbol: 7 miles, 3 hours, OS Explorer 172
Route: From station follow Chess Valley Walk across River Chess to Latimer; then east for 2 miles along River Chess valley, passing William Liberty’s tomb (009987), Valley Farm (026090) and Sarratt Bottom. At 034984, opposite footbridge over Chess, left on footpath to Church End (Holy Cross Church; Cock Inn), Return to cross 2 footbridges; in 100 yards fork right (032984) – path via Mountwood Farm (024984) to Chenies. Bridleway west via Walk Wood, Stony Lane (005982) and West Wood to Chess Valley Walk (997981) and station.
Lunch symbol: Cock Inn, Church End (01923-282908; www.cockinn.net)
Grade: 2/5 boots. Field and woodland paths.
Info: Chenies Manor (01494-762888; www.cheniesmanorhouse.co.uk) open April-Oct.
High Wycombe TIC (01494-421892); www.visitbuckinghamshire.org
8. Goring to Pangbourne, Oxfordshire/Berkshire
This is one of the most appealing sections of the Thames Path, linking two classically attractive Thames-side pairs of towns by way of a lovely wooded path. Descending the hill from Goring’s railway station, you turn left along the river bank and are swallowed in a tunnel of trees. Here the Thames snakes through the Goring Gap, a cleavage between the thickly wooded Berkshire Downs and the more open and bare Chiltern Hills.
Soon you are out in wide grazing meadows, passing under the stained and weatherbeaten brick railway bridge that carries Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s Great Western Railway line across the river. Now the Thames Path enters woodland of beech, yew, alder and willow; soon it climbs to the rolling downs, before striking into a farm track and then the road down into Whitchurch-on-Thames. Cross the Thames into Pangbourne. Kenneth Grahame, author of The Wind In The Willows, lived in Pangbourne for the last eight years of his life, and is buried in the churchyard just up the street. It was at Pangbourne that the soaked and miserable heroes of Three Men In A Boat abandoned their craft and caught the train back to London.
Start: Goring & Streatley station, RG8 0EP (OS ref SU 603806)
Walk symbol: 5 miles, 2 hours, OS Explorer 171
Route: From Goring station, left and left again to River Thames; left on Thames Path to Whitchurch; cross river to Pangbourne station; return to Goring.
Lunch symbol: Ferryboat Inn, Whitchurch (0118-984-2161; www.theferryboat.eu)
Grade: 3/5 boots. Flat path by river; some ascents in woodland.
Info: Wallingford TIC (01491-826972); www.nationaltrail.co.uk/thamespath
9. Apperley, Deerhurst and the River Severn, Gloucestershire
A gorgeous half-day’s walk in classic River Severn country – rolling, green, gentle, bucolic. From the Severnside village of Apperley you follow field paths north to climb a ridge with wonderful views, before dipping down to the river at Lower Lode. Tewkesbury’s Abbey and half-timbered houses are just up the river-bank; but the walk heads south, with the wide Severn at your elbow. Make time to explore Odda’s Chapel and St Mary’s Church at Deerhurst with their rare and beautiful Saxon stonework and angel carvings, before heading back downriver to the Coal House Inn for ‘steak on a stone’ – a hungry walker’s delight.
Start: Coal House Inn, Gabb Lane, Apperley GL19 4DN (OS ref SO 855284)
Walk symbol: 6 and a half miles, 3 hours, OS Explorers 190, 179
Route: From Coal House Inn, up lane; in 50 yards, footpath (fingerpost) to road (862282). Left through Apperley; follow ‘Tewkesbury, Cheltenham’; left past village hall (867285; fingerpost). Footpath for 1 mile by Wrightfield Manor, passing Deerhurst Vicarage (872293), to cross road (873298; 3-way fingerpost). Cross stile (not gateway!); north for a third of a mile to pond (874303); north along ridge for 1 mile to River Severn at Lower Lode Lane (881317). Left along Severn Way for 1⅓ miles to Deerhurst; detour left to Odda’s Chapel (869299) and Church of St Mary (870300). Return to Severn Way; continue for 1⅓ miles to Coal House Inn
Lunch symbol: Coal House Inn, Apperley ((01452-780211)
Grade: 3/5 boots. Field and riverside paths. Can be muddy!
Info: Tewkesbury TIC (01684-855040);
10. Ysgyryd Fawr (‘The Skirrid’), Abergavenny, Gwent
Ysgyryd Fawr, the Holy Mountain, rises in a beautiful and striking whaleback above the neat farming landscape on the eastern edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. To see it is to want to climb it, whether you’re a hill-walker, country rambler or active youngster. The climb from car park to summit is just under a thousand feet, and once up there (a really superb spot for mince-pies and hot coffee) you are monarch of a huge view around the Welsh Border country. Traces of earthen ramparts show where Iron Age tribesmen fortified the hilltop, and a scatter of stones marks the site of St Michael’s Church, where the Catholic faithful attended the outlawed Mass during the 17th century.
Start: Car park on B4521, 2 and a half miles east of Abergavenny (OS ref SO 328164). NB – Please don’t leave valuables on show!
Walk symbol: 3 and a half miles round base, 2 and a half miles to summit and back (both 1 and a half – 2 hours), OS Explorer OL13
Route: From car park, follow pass across fields, up through Caer Wood, through gate (327172). Left to make clockwise circuit of base of hill; otherwise right. In 300 yards, either keep ahead for anti-clockwise circuit, or fork left. Steep climb, then levelling out for half a mile to reach summit (330182). Retrace steps; or continue, forking left or right to descend steep north slope to bottom; left or right to return to car park via round-base path.
Lunch symbol: Walnut Tree Restaurant, Llanddewi Skirrid (01873-852797; www.thewalnuttreeinn.com)
Grade: 3/5 boots round base; 5/5 to summit (steep). Wrap up warm!
Info: Abergavenny TIC (01873-857588); www.brecon-beacons.com
11. The Stiperstones, Long Mynd, Shropshire
It’s tough, but you’ve got to do it … tear yourself away from the warm welcome and fabulous home baking at the Bog Centre, and venture out up the stony path among the extraordinary quartzite outcrops of the Stiperstones. Cranberry Rock, Manstone Rock, the Devil’s Chair, Shepherd’s Rock – they poke up out of the beautifully restored heathland along their ridge like craggy spines on a stegosaurus back. Legends of warlocks and witches hang thickly round the Stiperstones. Lady Godiva rides naked there still. When the mist is down, the Devil himself sits brooding in his great rock Chair.
From the ridge you descend steeply to the Stiperstones Inn. It’s a stiff climb afterwards, and a stony lane home.
Start: The Bog Centre, Stiperstones, SY5 0NG (OS ref SO 355979)
Walk symbol: 5 miles, 2-3 hours, OS Explorer 216
Route: From Bog Centre, footpath/road to south end of Stiperstones ridge (362976). Follow Shropshire Way past Cranberry Rock (365981), Manstone Rock (367986) and Devil’s Chair (368991). From cairn just before Shepherd’s Rock (374000), bear left on steep descent between Perkins Beach and Green Hill to road in Stiperstones village (363004). Left past Stiperstones Inn for 400 yards; left across stile (361002; fingerpost, arrows); steep climb for half a mile (arrows), up past National Nature Reserve board to reach stony lane (36294). Follow it south, parallel to Stiperstones for ¾ mile. At Black Ditch opposite Cranberry Rock, through gate (361983); footpath down to road and Bog Centre.
Lunch symbol: The Bog Centre; or Stiperstones Inn, Stiperstones village (01743-791327; www.stiperstonesinn.co.uk)
Grade: 4/5 boots. Rough and stony around Stiperstones; steep descent to road; steep ascent to lane.
Info: Bog Centre (01743-792484; www.bogcentre.co.uk)
12. Thetford Forest, Suffolk/Norfolk border
Thetford Forest covers some 80 square miles of the sandy Breckland country along the Norfolk/Suffolk border; and as it’s largely composed of conifers, you might think it’s a gloomy old place for a winter walk. In fact low winter light lends mystery to the dark forest. Walking is sheltered and easy. Well-waymarked Yellow and Red Trails circle out from High Lodge and Thetford Warren Lodge respectively; combining the two gives you an excellent morning’s stroll. Children love clambering on the huge squirrel, spider, woodpecker and chum along the Giant Play Sculpture Trail (wheelchair and buggy friendly). Towards the end of winter there will be a night-time spectacular as the trees are transformed into the Electric Forest, with stunning light and sound effects.
Start: High Lodge Forest Centre, IP27 0AF – signed off B1107 Thetford-Brandon road (OS ref TL 809850)
Walk symbol: Red Route, 3 and a half miles; Yellow Route, 3 miles; Red/Yellow combined 7 miles; Giant Play Sculpture Trail (Easy Access), 1 mile. Map online (see below); OS Explorer 229
Lunch symbol: High Lodge café.
Grade: 1/5 boots. NB Parts of trails may be closed for forestry operations; diversions signposted.
Info: High Lodge Forest Centre (01842-815434; http://www.forestry.gov.uk/highlodge)
Electric Forest (www.theelectricforest.co.uk) – over February half-term 2011 (19 to 27 February), plus 3 to 6 March. Book your slot (5-9 pm) online or tel 01842-814012; £15.50 adult, £10 concessions, £41 family. 1 and a half mile self-guided walk by night; spectacular lights, effects; food and drink
13. Robin Hood and the Royal Forest, Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire
This Sherwood Forest walk follows the newly-opened ‘Robin Hood and the Royal Forest’ trail from the Visitor Centre near Edwinstowe. It passes two massive and venerable trees, the Major Oak and the Centre Tree – the philanthropic outlaw’s hideout and rendezvous, according to legend. From here the trail curves through the forest to reach King Edwin’s Cross, marking the spot where Edwin, King of Northumbria, was buried after his death in battle in 633AD. A track on the edge of the forest brings you to Edwinstowe and the Norman church of St Mary. Were Robin Hood and Maid Marian married here? Anyone with an ounce of romance thinks so.
Christmas-flavoured celebrities at Sherwood Forest Visitor Centre include St Nicholas, who will be manning his grotto till 19 December (11-4), and the Dukeries Singers who belt out their Christmas songs on 19th (2-3 pm).
Start: Sherwood Forest Country Park Visitor Centre car park, Edwinstowe, Notts NG21 9QA (OS ref SK 627676)
Walk symbol: 6 miles, 3 hours, OS Explorer 270
Route: From Visitor Centre follow Blue Trail to Major Oak 621679); on along Robin Hood Way to the Centre Tree (606676); ahead, keeping same direction, for three quarters of a mile; left (595672) along ride for a third of a mile; left (591667) past King Edwin’s Cross (594666) to meet A6075. Left along verge for 300 yards; left (north) for half a mile; right (607671) for nearly a mile towards Visitor Centre. Right (621676) on bridleway to Edwinstowe and St Mary’s Church. Return to Visitor Centre.
Lunch symbol: Visitor Centre
Grade: 2/5 boots. Forest tracks.
Info: Sherwood Forest Country Park Visitor Centre (01623-823202); www.sherwoodforest.org.uk
14. Beverley and Westwood, East Yorkshire
A cosy, friendly town, some truly astonishing medieval artwork, a wide green common and a (very) characterful pub with coal fires and great food – what more could you ask of a winter walk? Beverley Minster and St Mary’s Church between them boast some of the finest stone carvings in Britain – merry musicians, gurning demons, Green Men spewing foliage, forest monsters and improbable animals. Gaze and marvel your fill; then stroll through the town, every vista packed with nice old buildings. Walk across the racecourse and out over the wide open spaces of Westwood Common, carefully preserved from development by Beverley’s vigilant Pasture Masters. From the Black Mill high on its ridge there’s time for a lingering prospect over the town, before making for the warmth, good cheer and bright fires of the White Horse in Hengate – know to all as Nellie’s.
Start: Beverley station, HU17 0AS (OS ref TA 038396))
Walk symbol: 5 miles, 2-3 hours, OS Explorer 293
Route: Beverley Minster – Wednesday Market – Saturday Market – St Mary’s Church. Through North Bar – along North Bar Without – left down Norfolk Street onto Westwood Common (025401). Ahead across racecourse, then A1174 (019397). Ahead through Burton Bushes, to exit stile at far side (010392). Aim for Black Mill on hill (021390). From mill, aim for St Mary’s tower; through Newbegin Pits dell to footpath on far side (027395). Right past Westwood Hospital; left along Lovers Lane (027394 – kissing gate, lamp post) to St Mary’s Church and town centre.
Lunch symbol: White Horse, Hengate, Beverley (01482-861973; www.nellies.co.uk)
Grade: 2/5 boots. Town pavements, grass paths
Info: Beverley TIC (01482-391672; www.realyorkshire.co.uk)
15. Whitby and Hawsker, North Yorkshire
Whitby is a great winter town, full of museums, teashops and odd nooks and crannies. It’s also where Bram Stoker based Dracula, and the walk starts up the steps, through the clifftop churchyard and by the towering abbey ruins haunted by the toothy Transylvanian. Then a wonderful, wind-blown three miles along the cliffs where Victorian miners dug shards of fossilised monkey-puzzle trees. Polished and shaped by craftsmen, the fragments became shiny black jet, to be turned into ornaments that made many Whitby fortunes. Inland over the fields, and then a smooth stretch of the old Whitby & Scarborough Railway, a hop over the River Esk across mighty Larpool Viaduct, and a bun and cup of tea in Elizabeth Botham’s iconic and excellent teashop.
Start: Whitby harbour bridge (OS ref NZ 900111).
Walk symbol: 8 miles, 4 hours, OS Explorer OL27
Route: Church Street – 199 Steps – St Mary’s Church (902113) – Whitby Abbey – Cleveland Way coast path east for 3 miles. Near Gnipe Howe farm, cross stream (934091); in another third of a mile, right (936086; arrow, ‘Hawsker’ fingerpost) to Gnipe Howe (934085). Farm drive for two thirds of a mile – right on Scarborough-Whitby Railway Path for 2 and a half miles. Cross Larpool Viaduct (896097); in 250 yards, right (arrow; Esk Valley Walk ‘leaping fish’ fingerpost) – cross A171 (898102). Right for 100 yards; left (fingerpost), descending to west quayside – ahead along River Esk to bridge.
Lunch symbol: Windmill Inn, Stainsacre (01947-602671, closed Tues and Thurs lunchtime; Elizabeth Botham’s Teashop, 35-9 Skinner Street, Whitby (01947-602823; www.botham.co.uk)
Grade: 3/5 boots. Coast and field paths (muddy round Gnipe Howe Farm); cycleway
Info: Whitby TIC, Langborne Road (01723-383637); www.yorkshire.com
16. Keld and Tan Hill, North Yorkshire
A long morning’s or afternoon’s walk in a very beautiful location, this moorland hike is an absolute peach, especially if the sun’s out and it’s a crisp winter day. You start from Keld Lodge Hotel, a great conversion job on the old youth hostel, and walk through the pretty stone-built village of Keld before crossing the River Swale by some fine waterfalls. The well-marked Pennine Way National leads you north across open, rolling moorland, with the Tan Hill Inn beckoning– a classic walker’s inn, very lively and warm. The return walk is down a ribbon-like moorland road; then you retrace your steps along a mile of the Pennine Way before taking the footpath down lovely Stonesdale to the rushing waterfall of Currack Force on the outskirts of Keld.
Start: Keld Lodge Hotel, Keld, N. Yorks DL11 6LL (OS ref NY 110839)
Walk symbol: 9 miles, 4 hours, OS Explorer OL30
Route: Right along road; left into Keld. Right (893012; ‘footpath to Muker’). In 300 yards, left downhill (‘Pennine Way/PW’). Cross River Swale footbridge; follow PW for 4 miles to Tan Hill Inn (897067). Left along road for 100 yards; left on moor road for 1 and three quarter miles. Just before Stonesdale Bridge, left on bridleway for 200 yards (884043); right on PW for 1 mile. Just beyond Frith Lodge drive, right on footpath (890030), south for three quarters of a mile to meet bridleway near Currack Force on Stonesdale Beck (888016). Left to PW and Keld.
Lunch symbol: Keld Lodge Hotel (01748-886259; www.keldlodge.com); Tan Hill Inn (01833-628246; www.tanhillinn.co.uk)
Grade: 3/5 boots. No steep ascents, but rough moorland paths. Hillwalking gear, boots.
Info: Richmond TIC (01748-828742); www.yorkshire.com
17. Askham and Heughscar Hill, Cumbria
Alfred Wainwright wrote his walking guidebook Outlying Fells Of Lakeland (Frances Lincoln) for ‘old age pensioners and others who can no longer climb high fells’. That makes his Heughscar Hill walk perfect for those with a bellyful of Christmas grub. A farm lane winds west from Askham village on the eastern edge of the Lake District, bringing you gently up to the ‘heights’ of Heughscar. This modest green ridge of limestone pavement gives stunning views west over Ullswater to the Helvellyn range, and east to the upthrust of Cross Fell on the Pennine spine. The old Roman Road of High Street carries you to The Cockpit, an ancient circle of knee-high stones on a wide moor. From here green paths and farm tracks return you to Askham.
Start: Queen’s Head Inn, Askham CA10 2PF (OS ref NY 514237)
Walk symbol: 5 and a half miles, 2-3 hours, OS Explorer OL5
Route: Follow wide tree-lined street uphill. West out of village past Town Head Farm (508236). Over cattle grid; ignore tarred road branching left; keep ahead with wall on right for three quarters of a mile, passing barn (502232). At Rigginleys Top (498230), through gate; aim for corner of wood half a mile ahead. Along wood edge. At far corner (489229), aim a little right on path past boundary stone (488230) to Heughscar Hill summit (tiny cairn, 488232). On for a third of a mile to Heugh Scar crags (486237). Descend left; left along broad track of High Street. In two thirds of a mile descend to pass cairn (483227); on to stone circle (482222 – ‘The Cockpit’ on map). Aim for wood edge uphill on left (491229); return to Askham.
Lunch symbol: Queen’s Head, Askham (01931-712225; www.queensheadaskham.com)
Grade: 3/5 boots. Farm tracks, moorland paths.
Info: Penrith TIC (01768-867466); www.golakes.co.uk
18. Gilsland and Birdoswald Fort, Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland
This fascinating ramble is one of the Hadrian’s Wall Linked Walks – short, circular, family-friendly walks that take in a glimpse of the Wall and some of its countryside. Start from Gilsland, following Hadrian’s Wall Path beside the monument. At Willowford Farm there’s a fine section of Wall. In the 1,600 years since the Romans left Britain, these handy stones have built houses, barn and walls all along the line of the Wall. Willowford Farm is full of them. One barn wall incorporates a stone with an inscription, the lettering all but faded: ‘The Fifth Cohort of the Century of Gellius Philippus (built this)’.
Beyond the farm, the river and its steep bank offered the Romans a natural defence. Here are the massive abutments of Hadrian’s great bridge across the river. Before a footbridge was built here in the 1960s, children walking to school in Gilsland would cross the river by aerial ropeway – what a thrill that must have been.
Beyond lies Birdoswald fort with its fine gateways, its drill hall and its pair of stone-paved granaries big enough to feed a garrison of up to a thousand men. Here you leave Hadrian’s wall and descend through hazel and oak wood to cross Harrow’s Beck, before a stretch of country road back into Gilsland.
Start: Samson Inn, Gilsland, Northumberland CA8 7DR (OS ref NY 636663)
Walk symbol: 3 and a half miles, 2 hours, OS Explorer OL43
Route: Gilsland – Hadrian’s Wall Path to Birdoswald Fort – lane towards Breckney Bed Bridge. Path (616665) – cross Harrow’s Beck to road (622669) at The Hill – right to Gilsland.
Lunch symbol: Samson Inn, Gilsland (01697-747220)
Grade: 2/5 boots. Good paths.
19. Old Military Road, Creetown to Gatehouse-of-Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway
Following the chaotic troop movements of the ’45 Jacobite Rebellion, the Old Military Road from Creetown to Gatehouse-of-Fleet was built in 1763 to allow soldiers an easy march through to Stranraer, port of embarkation for Ireland. You get a flavour of its military straightness and purpose as you follow it out of Creetown, a narrow tarmac ribbon running through woods and past a fine old stone circle, climbing over wild moors, to shed its surface and run as a stony green lane down to the poignant ruin of Anwoth Old Kirk with its tombs and inscriptions. Climb to the heights of the lumpy Boreland Hills (wonderful views), before descending into neat and charming Gatehouse of Fleet.
Start: Creetown clock tower, High Street/St John Street DG8 7JF (OS ref NX 476589)
Walk symbol: 9 miles, 4 hours, OS Explorers 311, 312
Route: Uphill up High Street (‘Gem Rock Museum’). In 150 yards, right (‘Glenquicken Farm’). Follow road for 5 miles, crossing Billy Diamond’s Bridge (508585) and stone circle beyond (far side of field on right; 509582) then past Cambret and Stronach Hills. Where road bend sharp right (548582) keep ahead (‘Lorry restriction’ sign) across Glen Bridge. 300 yards past Lauchentyre cottage, ahead over crossroads (561574); on for 3 miles to Anwoth. Up right side of Old Kirk (582562; ‘public path Gatehouse’); yellow arrows/YAs to gate into wood (584562). Steeply up; leave wood; left (YA). At next YA post bear left; follow YAs through hollows of Boreland Hills; down to Gatehouse-of-Fleet.
Return to Creetown: bus service 431 or 500/X75
Lunch symbol: Ship Inn, Gatehouse of Fleet (01557-814217; www.theshipinngatehouse.co.uk)
Grade: 2/5 boots. Easy all the way.
Info: Gatehouse TIC, Mill on the Fleet (01557-814212); www.visitdumfriesandgalloway.co.uk
20. Castle Archdale, Co Fermanagh
During the Second World War, Lower Lough Erne’s huge sheet of water was perfectly placed (once a secret deal over airspace had been struck with the Republic) for Sunderland and Catalina flying boats, based on the wooded peninsula of Castle Archdale, to hunt U-boats out in the Atlantic. Follow the waymarked World War II heritage trail as it loops round the headland, past fuel and ammunition stores as overgrown and ancient-looking as Stone Age huts, down to the marina with its big white beacon and memorial stone to wartime crash victims, and out along the ‘Burma Road’, a jungly path cut through the forest to reach the isolated explosives dumps. The lake views are superb, too.
Start: Castle Archdale Visitor Centre, near Lisnarick, BT94 1PP
Walk symbol: 2 and a half miles, 1-2 hours, OS of NI Discoverer 17; downloadable maps/instructions at www.walkni.com
Route: (World War 2 Heritage Trail marked with numbered posts): From Courtyard Centre car park, sharp left past ‘No Entry’ sign on path through trees. Follow ‘Woodland Walk’ signs to roadway. Left for 30 yards; right to marina. Left to beacon; left along shore path; bear right at yellow marker, continue on cycle track. At another yellow marker, right to shore path. Follow it through Skunk Hole car park. Follow ‘Butterfly Garden’ past pond, butterfly garden and deer enclosure. Dogleg right and left to gate at drive (don’t go through!). Left along path; right to castle gardens.
Grade: 1/5 boots. Surfaced paths
Info: Castle Archdale Visitor Centre (028-6862-1588;
www.ni-environment.gov.uk/places_to_visit…/parks/archdale.htm) – winter opening Sundays, 12-4