A Guide To Great British Winter Walks
Winter is here, but as Alfred Wainwright famously quipped, ‘there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing’. Here at Hallmark Hotels we wholly agree with the sentiments, too. That’s why we’ve come up with a guide to Great British winter walks.
It’s cold, blustery and potentially damp out there, but nevertheless the U.K. is stunning this time of year, and nothing beats wrapping up warm and heading out to experience that beauty first hand. With this in mind we have put together the following guide to winter walks, taking in everything from what to wear to where and why to go, and what to pack. Call it a New Year’s gift, from us to you.
Health benefits of winter walks
Let’s start with the most important (and often overlooked) part of getting out whilst it’s fresh- your body. First up, daylight improves your mood, hence Seasonal Affective Disorder being prevalent amongst people who don’t get enough sun. Any exercise is great for cognitive function, too, so basically you can concentrate and think better after you have been outside. Keeping a brisk pace, or heading for the hills, will also raise your heart rate and work the circulatory system, both of which are beneficial.
To increase the health benefits of winter walks you can:
- Take longer strides
- Swing your arms
- Include gradients in your route
What to wear
Even when it’s sunny, between November and February the U.K. is rarely going to be anything close to warm. But when muscles are working you need the body to breathe, or risk getting sweaty and uncomfortable. Panic not, this doesn’t mean spending loads on expensive kit, but if you do want to splash out this is what we’d do:
Boots – £100
Walking trainers with great support for ankles are all well and good, but during winter Britain is rainy, so you want to make sure feet stay as dry as possible. This means something sturdier than a trainer- a boot.
The Keen Wanderer is a great choice, as recommended by T3 magazine in its roundup of the best hiking shoes and boots [http://www.t3.com/features/best-hiking-walking-boots-to-buy]. Although these are not the cheapest out there, they have fantastic waterproof membrane and are designed for comfort over style, which means they are going to last a very, very long time.
Good socks – £19
Why have cotton, when you can have thick knitwear keeping toes and feet warmer than a fiery hearth? Great socks mean not succumbing to freezing lower extremities when dusk sets in and you’re still a mile from the car. We recommend these beautiful Falke TK1 Trekking socks. Here’s why:
- Extremely thick sock with ‘breathing channels’, so feet won’t suffocate despite great protection from the cold.
- High-impact areas like toes and heels also have addition padding made from a polypropylene blend, so you’ll avoid blisters and abrasions.
- Merino wool for extra comfort and warmth
Trousers – £70
Let’s face facts, jeans aren’t going to cut it when there could be a downpour at any time. But nobody wants the cumbersome experience of separate water proofs and under trousers, either. Outdoors Magic just unveiled its 2016 Best Winter Walking Trousers list, and two pairs particularly stood out to us:
Sprayway All Day Rampant are ideal and won’t cost the Earth (£70). Fantastically breathable, and offering great weather protection, these are everything you could ask for.
We also love the G2 Mountain Pants from Mountain Gear, although they will cost you over £100 extra.
Coat – £100
A good winter walking coat can cost anything from £70 to £500, or possibly more, with different designs made for different types of walking. Fundamentally, though, you want something that’s lightweight but water and windproof, and well insulated- you can add more layers underneath if it’s really cold.
The Independent ranked this North Face jacket as Best Buy for women 2016.
Meanwhile, this Rohan number was top for men.
Hat, gloves and scarf – £70
There are countless hats, an inordinate number of pairs of gloves, and so many scarves out there it almost seems pointless to pick out specific items. Note the word almost:
We adore these Super Dry woolen gloves, which are so luxuriously lined you’ll never want to take them off:
For the ultimate in winter hat, check out what the uber-cool and ultra-warm Finnish brand, Elvine, has in stock:
When it comes to scarves, we can’t help but side with TK Maxx, where you’ll find a great selection of discounted, high-quality items- cashmere and merino are our personal favourites in terms of materials:
It’s no use looking the part if there’s little chance of acting it. Don’t forget the following items before heading out:
- Compass – Yes, you have GPS on your phone, but what about signal blackspots?
- Thermos flask – You’ll welcome a warm brew when it’s time for a quick stop
- Water bottles – Even when it’s freezing staying hydrated is vital.
- Ordnance Survey map – Because everyone needs to plot their route
- Snacks, and lunch – Look for slow-release energy bars with plenty of nuts to keep you going whilst on the move. As for lunch, whatever takes your fancy is fine, although we’d avoid anything too heavy or stodgy.
- Hip flask – Who doesn’t want a cheeky tot of single malt (or brandy) to keep warm?
What to carry
Backpack – £55
With all that to lug you’re going to need a great backpack that’s worth its weight in support. Here are a couple that caught our eye:
Berghaus Remote 25 Rucksack, which comes in at £55, and won The Independent’s Best Buy award last year. It boasts two large internal pockets, two smaller mesh storage areas, mesh pockets on either side and attachments for carrying poles.
Or, if you have more to spend, how about the Aquapac Wet and Dry for £75? This is truly stormproof, with taped seams ensuring water cannot seep through from the outside, and the main internal pocket is big enough to fit most laptops, just in case you need one.
Where to go
Here at Hallmark Hotels were are lucky enough to have a wide selection of properties taking in everything from English cities to the Scottish countryside. Using our locations as inspiration, we have come up with six exceptionally beautiful walking routes, all of which are ideal for the season of winter walks.
You can’t stay in Bournemouth without making the most of the region’s prized geological asset. The Jurassic Coast covers 90 miles in total, from Dorset to Devon, but we recommend exploring the area around Kimmeridge Bay, a designated Marine Nature Reserve, where you’ll find some of the best rockpooling in Europe and stones dating back 150million years (just mind your step).
This historic city is a fantastic walking route in itself, with the castle a definite must. More adventurous types should make the 35-minute drive north, though, to Hadrian’s Wall, where there are several fantastic itineraries, ranging from easy to experienced. Haltwhistle Burn to Cawfields is one of our favourites, spanning six miles, within striking distance of Carlisle, and starting from the official Centre of Britain. For inspiration check out National Trail’s website.
If there’s one thing Chester has in abundance, it’s great walks, and few are better than the so-called Baker Way. By following this you can head from the heart of the city centre out to Delamere Forest Park. It’s a long one, at 13miles, meaning you’ll need a full day and a taxi ride home at the end, unless you’re up for ambling back in the dark. Thankfully, the route itself is relatively easy, with very few hills.
Welcome to Ayrshire, where stunning scenery comes as standard. Here you’ll find the Irvine & Kilwinning New Town Trail, which includes photo opportunities at Seagate Castle, Burns’ Statue, Eglington Castle and Estate (including the majestic Belvedere Hill with its iconic folly- a jaw-dropper on a clear day), and Sourlie Nature Reserve. In total this will be 12miles, although you can tackle individual sections if that seems too much: Ayrshire Paths.
Head north from Leyland itself and beyond Preston to discover the famed Forest of Bowland. Starting from the quaint village of Whitewell, the Hall Hill to Browsholme Hall route takes you through spectacular Lancashire countryside, and doesn’t demand much; 3 to 6 miles amid some of the most treasured landscapes in the U.K. As if that weren’t enough, the acclaimed Inn At Whitewell is also in these parts, a traditional pub that has long been included in the Michelin Guide.
You can’t visit Stratford without taking in some of its Shakespearean sights, and Walking Britain has a fantastic route suggestion that lets you do exactly that. The River Avon from Stratford-Upon-Avon covers 3.8miles, starting from and ending at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, including part of the Monarch’s Way, which ranks amongst England’s finest paths. Full details here.