Expert opinion | 5th January 2022
Where to take a walk on the wild side this winter
Keen to walk off your Christmas excesses?
To mark Walk Your Dog Month, we’ve got some suitably seasonal jaunts, whether it’s a stroll around the UK’s largest public park or hikes through ancient oak forests.
© Grove of Narberth
Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh
© Visit Scotland
Yes, Princes Street Garden is a park, not a walking route, but it’s a park filled with fantastic walking trails. We recommend strolling east to west, via the Scott Monument – which is the second largest monument to a writer after Havana’s José Martí monument – and the recently restored Ross Fountain. Need to rest weary feet for a moment or two? There are plenty of benches, many of which offer spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle. Take the trail which weaves along the top of the park and you’ll pass the Royal Scots Greys Monument and the memorial to Wojtek the Polish soldier bear (a bear enlisted as a soldier by the Polish II Corps in the 1940s).
Wrabness Woods, Essex
© Visit Essex
A walking trail which starts from Wrabness – a pretty hamlet between Manningtree and Harwich – this short but sweet two-mile route takes in A House for Essex (an ornate, tile-clad property designed by artist Grayson Perry) before meandering towards the banks of the Stour Estuary and heading towards Wrabness Woods. The latter is an Essex Wildlife Trust nature reserve, so don’t forget your binoculars. During the winter months, the species you’re most likely to spot include overwintering wildfowl and waders, and it’s highly likely you’ll see barn owls and short-eared owls soaring overheard, hunting for prey hiding amongst the reserve’s wildflowers.
Stay nearby at Talbooth House & Spa
Roundhay Park, Leeds
© Thomas Tornegard Photography
Leeds’ Roundhay Park covers 700 acres of sprawling parkland and has a huge network of paths – most of which are accessible to wheelchairs – which weaves around spectacular year-round floral displays, lakes, streams and a landscaped canal. When we’re lucky enough to enjoy some snowfall, the hillier sections are popular with sledgers. Our favourite walks include the one which encircles Waterloo Lake (get lucky and you’ll spot a heron or two) and the family-friendly adventure trails, which require younger visitors to solve clues and complete tasks along a dedicated route before completing their mission.
Stay nearby at Middlethorpe Hall & Spa
National Botanic Garden of Wales, Carmarthenshire
Whilst dogs are only allowed in on designated Doggy Days, walkers are spoiled for choice at the National Botanic Garden of Wales, which has a large selection of walking trails, most of which are easily accessible. During the colder months, we recommend the Snowdrop Walk – a mile-long route which meanders through vast expanses of the delicate white flowers. The route stretches from the Lower Broadwalk (known as the “spine” of the garden and home to one of the longest herbaceous borders in the UK) to the Springwoods area, via the garden’s lake. When the mercury plummets, consider the Great Glasshouse Ecology Trail which takes in the hothouses.
Stay nearby at Grove of Narberth
Offa’s Dyke Trail, England/Wales
The beauty of the Offa’s Dyke trail is the way it can be broken up into smaller sections – hardly surprising, given its total length comes in at 177 miles. The route, which passes through eight counties, connects Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow on the banks of the Severn estuary to the coastal town of Prestatyn on the shores of the Irish sea. One of our favourite sections is the 12-mile segment which links the village of Bodfari and the town of Prestatyn in North Wales’ Clwydian Range. You’ll enjoy fantastic views of Snowdonia and the North Wales coast, and the walk finishes at Prestatyn beach, where you can celebrate your completion of Offa’s Dyke’s northernmost section with a quick paddle.
Stay nearby at Bodysgallen Hall Hotel & Spa
Bronte’s Way, West Yorkshire
© VisitBritain / Tomo Brejc
This long-distance path starts near Oakwell Hall, which doubled as Fieldhead in Charlotte Bronte’s novel Shirley, and finishes in Gawthorpe Hall (now a National Trust property), near Burnley. The 43-mile route is dotted with landmarks connected with the Bronte sisters, whether it’s Ponden Hall (the inspiration for Thrushcross Grange in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights) or the house in Thornton where Charlotte, Emily Jane and Anne Bronte were born. We suggest walking from Thornton Bell Chapel to Haworth Church (where most of the Bronte family are interred). You’ll enjoy stunning views over West Yorkshire and will also pass through the Bronte Birthplace in Thornton. This is where Charlotte, Emily Jane and Anne were born.
Stay nearby at Northcote
RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas Nature Reserve, Carmarthenshire
Another shorter walk, this circular Welsh walking route covers just two miles, although there are plenty of opportunities for stop-offs. It weaves around the RSPB Gwenffrwd-Dinas Nature Reserve, which you’ll find in a beautiful chunk of rural Carmarthenshire. Don’t forget your hiking boots, because half of the route covers rough terrain, although the remainder is easily accessible, and includes a raised boardwalk section. Our favourite stretch is the bit which passes by the upper section of the River Tywi, where you’ll find ancient oak woodlands. Keen an eye out for the birdlife, which includes peregrine falcons, kites and buzzards. The nearby villages of Rhandirmwyn and Cilycwm are great options for an energy-restoring cuppa.
Article written by Tamara Hinson