Walking routes and pub pit-stops…
After all the indulgence of the festive season, there’s nothing better than a long country stroll followed by a hearty meal. Dust off the cobwebs, pull on your wellies and get out in the crisp, winter air for a good-old trample through the beautiful British countryside.
Britain is home to some amazing walks along canals and riversides, through countryside and villages, and even up mountains. The good thing about winter walks is the prospect of a roaring log fire and a pub lunch waiting for you at the end. Read on for a few of our favourite places for a brisk, beautiful walk, followed by great food when you’ve worked up an appetite.
The Chew Valley Circular Walk, South West
The Chew Valley Lake to Chew Magna circular walk includes riverside paths, views across the lake and points of historical interest, and is fairly easy going. Nice, easy paths mean it won’t be too much of a strain after all that festive eating,, travelling and partying and it’s a lovely stretch to take the family out on (there’s just a few stiles to scramble over). It’s just as lovely for a romantic walk, or even some time to yourself, as there’s more than enough to feast your eyes on, from lovely old churches to the gorgeous Chew Valley Lake. The walk starts at the lake and continues through the two pretty countryside villages of Chew Stoke and Chew Magna, before coming back round to the lake. There’s easy parking at Chew Valley Lake and it’s only a five-minute drive from Bristol.
Where to Eat
Lakeside: Woodford Lodge sits directly on the bank of Chew Valley Lake, and so is ideal place to stop and have a bite at the end of your winter ramble. There’s the added bonus of those lovely lakeside views, and the Sunday roasts here are simply scrummy.
Further afield: If you don’t mind a two-minute drive from Chew Magna, The Carpenter’s Arms in Stanton Wick is the quintessential country pub, complete with a roaring fire to cosy up by and views out over the Chew Valley. The very sight of this lovely pub, which used to be a row of miners’ cottages, will be enough to warm your cockles.
The Tissington Trail, Peak District
The Peak District is renowned as a walker’s paradise, and it’s certainly the place I love to roam about, Jane Austen novel in hand. The Roaches path is particularly reminiscent of Elizabeth Bennet’s free-spirited adventures in Derbyshire, with its impressive weather-worn rocks and stunning views out across the rugged countryside. The Tissington Trail is part of the National Cycle Network and is a 13-mile stretch from Ashbourne to Buxton, passing close to Dovedale, Tissington and Hartington. Once a railway line, the Tissington Trail is a good walk for all ages and abilities, as it’s nice and flat and the old signal box is now a visitor centre.
Where to Eat:
Nearer to Buxton: The Royal Oak sits just off the Tissington Trail at Buxton. Homemade, freshly cooked food, a cosy traditional interior and a warm welcome await chilly walkers – there’s good reason this pub has won ‘Traditional Pub of the Year’ numerous times. Just as the Tissington Trail is a winter walk that anyone can enjoy, this traditional gem offers plenty of vegetarian and gluten-free options so everyone can look forward to a tasty lunch or supper after traipsing through the Peak District.
Nearer to Ashborne: You don’t have to walk the whole 13 miles, as the Tissington Trail is really good for hopping on, walking as much as you fancy and then hopping off again. If you end up nearer Ashbourne, The Okeover in Mapleton is ¾ mile from the Tissington Trail. Once you’ve wandered through the quiet country lanes to find this historic pub, you can treat yourself to a meal in the smart Okeover View Restaurant, or just quench your thirst with a pint at the bar.
Aldermaston Walk, Berkshire
A lovely canalside walk in the Berkshire countryside, the Aldermaston Walk is a short amble that will calm you after the chaotic Christmas period. The gentle waterways of the Kennet River and the Kennet and Avon canal will soothe the soul as you meander along the riverbanks. The walk begins and ends at Aldermaston Wharf, where the Aldermaston lock is a particular point of interest. The 18th-Century Grade II listed lock is well known for its unusual scalloped walls.
Where to Eat
Canalside: Alongside the Aldermaston Wharf, where pretty canal boats moor and the Aldermaston Walk begins, is a cute red-brick inn serving classic pub cuisine with stylish twist. The Butt Inn gets its name from the archery butts discovered in the field opposite the pub. Sunday roasts, lunchtime snacks and a full evening menu are all in attendance.
Further afield: If you’ve got the car, why not pootle down to one of the oldest pubs in England, The Pineapple? It’s packed with plenty of history and boasts a suitably characterful interior that befits an ancient thatched pub. You’ll feel as though you’ve stepped back in time as you sit beside a huge roaring fire with a pint of real ale and some tasty pub grub.
The Marshes of Medway, Kent
The Marshes of Medway walk runs along the marshes and mud flats along the Isle of Grain, exploring Halstow Marsh, St Mary’s Marsh and Egypt Bay. Winter is an especially atmospheric time to undertake this walk, especially considering its history. Egypt Bay was once rife with smugglers and it’s also believed that this is the area Dickens used as inspiration for many scenes in Great Expectations. Looking out across misty waters, you can easily imagine Magwitch escaping from the prison hulk and scampering across the marshes. The marshes are also an important habitat for local birdlife, so both history buffs and bird watchers will love this wintery walk.
Where to Eat
After such a mysterious walk, what could be better than settling into a pub that dates back to 1468? The Three Tuns in Lower Halstow, just across the estuary, is the perfect place. If you’re after an establishment oozing historical significance, this is it. With its exposed brick, twinkling lights and open fires, you could easily imagine Dickens’ characters being perfectly at home here.
The Thames Path (Richmond to Windsor), London
The full Thames Path runs a whopping 184 miles, following the length of the River Thames. That’s a bit much for a leisurely weekend stroll! The part of the Thames Path that runs from Richmond to Hampton Court is a lovely, far more manageable, half-an-hour walk. Much of it is beside the river and it’s an easy, flat stroll so is great for all ages and abilities. You’ll take in pretty views along the riverside; the path at times is flanked by grand houses and overhanging trees, and in parts becomes more rural, taking you through meadows and passing historical houses such as Ham House, Marble Hill House and the Star and Garter Home.
Where to Eat
Thameside: The Boater’s Inn is located right on the banks of the Thames and is located in Kingston, so towards the end of the walk before you get to Hampton Court. It offers exceptional food and a welcoming atmosphere, as well as spectacular views of the river. Best of all, if you’re traversing the path on a wintery Sunday afternoon, you might happen upon some live jazz at The Boater’s – now that really is the best way to wind down after a brisk winter walk.
City Dining: If Richmond is your destination and you’re heading back to the city, end your walk with a meal in The Prince’s Head. As locations go, it’s perfect for easing you back into the hustle and bustle. The Prince’s Head is tucked away from the main High Street, overlooking the green, and offers a little corner of Richmond in which to hunker down and perhaps tuck into a hearty steak and ale pie with lashings of gravy. Heaven.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, Scotland
For truly spectacular scenery, a walk in the vicinity of Loch Lomond in the Scottish Highlands is a hard one to beat. There are numerous walks around the various Lochs (including Lomond) and The Trossachs suitable for a wide range of capabilities. Many walkers opt for the shorter circular walks located along The West Highland Way, which commences on the outskirts of Glasgow and continues on a 95-mile trail through the Loch Lomond National Park and up towards Fort William. Opt for the Ben Lomond walk and you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of Loch Lomond from the summit. It’s one of the more difficult trails but it’s a good one to get the blood pumping and those chilly, stiff limbs warmed up.
Where to Eat:
Lochside: Such stunning countryside deserves a meal of the highest calibre and Martin Wishart at Loch Lomond is just the place. Located in Cameron House, this Michelin-starred restaurant offers the all the delights you would expect from such an accolade-heavy establishment. Martin’s exceptional cuisine is just the sort you would climb mountains for.