Winter walks in the South West are the perfect way to blow off the cobwebs of the festive season. At the heart of the region are some beautiful landscapes waiting to be explored in the crisp, fresh air. It is the perfect excuse to try out your wearable Christmas presents for the first time, whether that’s our cosy surf hoodies, soft scarves or feet-snuggling socks!
Check out our guide to some of the best locations for a festive walk this winter in the South West, along with recommendations on where to stop off for heart-warming, comfort winter food in the region’s favourite pubs and restaurants.
Dorset is home to one of the world’s largest collections of fossils, with many still being uncovered to this day! This is the perfect excuse to get out in the fresh air with the kids and take a stroll either along the beach or on the coastal paths above the many miles of coastline.
Portland Bill is a fantastic day out for all the family. The southern tip of the island provides superb views of the surrounding Dorset coastline, including Chesil Beach. It is also a perfect spot for avid bird watchers to sit and marvel in the acrobatic display of some of Britain’s most-loved species. What brings people back year after year is the glorious site of Portland lighthouse standing proudly on the shoreline, and in the crisp air of winter, is a picturesque backdrop for a winter walk.
Difficulty: Easy (3 miles)
Perfect for: Families, individuals, dog walkers
Tucked away on the outskirts of the Dorset Town of Bridport, West Bay is a hive of activity for everyone in the winter months. With plenty of pubs and restaurants serving wholesome food after a long, windswept walk on the pebbled, sanded beach, the village is a glorious gem waiting to be discovered. Sheer cliffs stand proudly in front of the shoreline for miles, giving you the opportunity to breathe in the salty sea air. On the other hand, take a walk towards the west where you can ascent to the coastal paths above, perfect for those wishing to stretch their legs and burn off the Christmas calories!
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Perfect for: Families of all ages, individuals, and dog walkers
Durdle Door & White Nothe
A magnificent sight for every visitor to Durdle Door is the landmark natural limestone arch, stretching out from the Jurassic Coast into the sea. Although all individuals are welcome to visit Durdle Door and the surrounding coastline for a pleasant walk, the Durdle Door & White Nothe circular is one for those who want to elevate their heart rate. Taking you through Stone Age landscapes with the chalk-faced cliffs below, this walk promises hilly aspects whilst providing glorious views of the Dorset coastline.
We chatted to Daria from the fantastic Limestone Hotel about the great walks in the local area and her recommendations for a delicious meal to try after your walk:
"There is surely no better way to reward yourself after a long walk, than with a delicious healthy dinner cooked to perfection with locally sourced produce! I recommend that walkers try our favourite scallops starter (served with the roe, the proper way!), followed by Lulworth Lobster Thermidor and French fries to mop up that sauce. To finish - scrumptious Dorset Apple cake served warm with thick clotted cream to refuel you for tomorrow's climb!"
Difficulty: Medium to Hard (7 miles)
Perfect for: Older adults and dog walkers
Somerset is a glorious county rich in medieval history and has a bountiful variety of winter walks to suit any individual. With rolling hills and luscious green fields to let your mind escape the hustle and bustle that the festive season brings, immerse yourself in nature and let your mind wander.
Glastonbury, famous for the world-renowned festival which sees thousands of people flock to the fields of Somerset, is also famous for its archaeological heritage. Managed by the National Trust, Glastonbury Tor is a great place to visit if you want to delve into its historical background, as well as enjoying the surrounding view. The stone tower of St Michael’s Church still stands after most of the building was destroyed in an earthquake in 1275 and can be seen from the M5 motorway northbound. You can walk from the base of the Tor, right to the top.
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Perfect for: Dogs are welcome under close supervision, families, and individuals.
Places to eat: Hundred Monkeys Cafe
Bath Skyline Walk
Bath is a beautiful city all year round, but particularly in the winter. After visiting the Christmas market and treating yourself to a warm hot chocolate or mulled wine, why not take the Bath Skyline Walk and take in the city from above? Here you will be able to see the delightful and awe-inspiring Georgian buildings in all their glory, whether by day or night. As well as the fantastic display of architecture, there are discovery trails for the kids to enjoy, and woodland and meadows for dogs to explore. But if you wish to burn off calories from the delicious food from the markets, the six-mile walk taking in views of Bath City and the Mendips, is a fantastic time to do so.
Difficulty: Easy to Hard depending on preference (6 miles)
Perfect for: Families of all ages, dog walkers and individuals.
Places to eat: Nearby city of Bath has a bountiful choice of restaurants and cafes, we recommend The Locksbrook Inn
Cheddar Gorge is a spectacular sight for everyone to experience. Known for its geographical uniqueness, as well as its conservational efforts, Cheddar Gorge is an all-round perfect location for a winter walk. The popular three-mile route encompasses awe-inspiring views, different terrains, and a skyline footpath – the perfect place to sit and have a picnic or enjoy a flask of hot tea. Afterwards, you can even visit the Cheddar Gorge museum – a great place to take the kids for extra wonderment.
Difficulty: Moderate (3 miles)
Perfect for: Families with older children and dog walkers
Places to eat: There is a Costa Coffee on site or the Riverside Inn & Restaurant in the nearby village.
Although home to Dartmoor National Park, one of the most popular for walkers heading to the county, there is so much more to discover in Devon during the winter. Whether it be a brisk seaside stroll with the children or an inland hike within the woodland, there is nothing better than discovering the delightful walks of Devon at this time of year.
Otter Valley Wildlife Walk
The Otter Valley Wildlife Walk is abundant with flora and fauna throughout the year, particularly in autumn and winter when the leaves lay browned on the paths. As it is managed as a nature reserve, wildlife thrives here and it is the perfect place for children of all ages to explore. The circular walk is located just off the gorgeous coast of Budleigh Salterton, where you will also be able to find a handful of local shops and cafes to stop into on your visit.
Difficulty: Easy (2.7 miles)
Perfect for: Families of all ages, dog walkers and individuals.
On the very outskirts of Dartmoor National Park lies Fingle Bridge, a charismatic woodland walk, perfect for the winter with twists, turns and river hugging trails. One for keen walkers and rambling enthusiasts, it is a great walk to pick up your heart rate and breathe in the scent of woodland in winter. From the highest point of the walk looking over the tree canopy that lies before you, to the lower parts of the walk which take in the mystical, meandering waters of the Dart Valley where Salmon jump from tier to tier, there is so much to take in. The best bit? Stepping into the friendly Fingle Bridge Inn for a cup of tea or a pint of the hard stuff after a glorious day of walking!
Difficulty: Easy to hard (depending on preference) 7 miles
Perfect for: Walkers and older adults
Places to eat: Fingle Bridge Inn
North Devon is home to some of the most picturesque locations in the UK, and it’s no wonder because the popular Braunton Burrows walk is at the core of the UNESCO-designated North Devon Biosphere Reserve. You will also catch a glimpse of one of only three medieval strip-farming fields in England! Passing through one of the UK’s largest sand dune systems, the variety of terrains covered on this spectacular walk makes the time enjoyable and a little more surprising at each corner you turn, but don’t forget to pack your wellies or hardy walking boots!
Difficulty: Hard (6.1 miles)
Perfect for: Walkers, older adults, well-behaved dogs (livestock roaming in some areas)
Places to eat: Beachside Grill
The Exe Estuary provides the most diverse landscape, for any age and ability to enjoy. Whether you fancy a little stroll from the magnificent Darts Farm, or would like to stretch to further afield from Exminster to Topsham or from Topsham to Lympstone, or even Exmouth, there is so much to see along the way. The flat and easy-to-walk-on pathways are great for families with little ones and older adults who struggle with inclines. What’s more, the wildlife along the Exe Estuary is some of the best in the region with re-developments for bird watching now in place just before Starcross.
Difficulty: Easy, moderate, hard (depending on distance achieved)
Perfect for: Families of all ages and keen walkers and wildlife watchers.
From the top to the bottom, Cornwall is a glorious county waiting to be explored with literally hundreds of miles of designated coast path to traverse. Although surfing is synonymous with the lifestyle of Cornwall, walking is the second-favourite pastime amongst locals and visitors. Supplying some of the most picturesque landscapes in the UK, Cornwall is a delightful place to visit.
Three Sides of the Lizard
A beautiful walk in the winter which will allow you to take in both coastal and field landscapes. The Three Sides of the Lizard takes its name from the Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, and the walk itself covers the three sides of it. Along the way, children can take in the sight of the lifeboat station and lighthouse that stands proudly before the shoreline. For the fans of TV series Poldark, various scenes were filmed here and at Lizard Point – the most southerly point of the UK!
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (3.9 miles)
Perfect for: Families, dog walkers and keen walkers
Places to eat: Coast Coffee Bar & Bistro
St Ives to Carbis Bay
One of the easiest walks in our guide, St Ives to Carbis Bay offers the perfect ‘strolling’ landscape, brilliant for an easy after-lunch walk or an evening stroll. History lines the walk itself, as prehistoric field systems, a Celtic saint’s medieval chapel, and shipwrecks are waiting to be discovered in the short 1.2 miles of coastal path. St Ives is a popular holiday destination for people all over the UK in the summer months, but when it gets to winter, it is a haven for quiet and peaceful times on foot taking in the magnificent scenery.
We caught up with the team at the Carbis Bay Hotel about their thoughts on why the hotel’s location is perfect for walkers: "Carbis Bay Hotel, Spa & Estate is the ideal pit stop for a walk on the Coast Path. We are located directly on the route, above our Blue Flag beach, and offer a range of dining options for a light lunch - from our conservatory with panoramic sea views, to our Beach Club on the sands of Carbis Bay beach offering Mediterranean style dining.
Our award-winning C Bay Spa offers a 'coastal foot reviver' for tired feet - enjoy a soak in the relaxing coastal environment, before sinking into the comfy sofas in our relaxation room with panoramic sea views."
Difficulty: Easy (1.2 miles)
Perfect for: Families with young children and dog walkers
Whitsand Bay Circular Walk
We think the Whitsand Bay Circular Walk is the most exhilarating walk in the guide, but for those wanting to head to the Cornish coast to complete this walk, it is always advised that you take care as it also borders an MoD practice range. When the range is not in use there is an optional shortcut, so always look out for the red flags when you reach Tregantle Fort from the Freathy parking area.
When you have passed this point, the world is certainly your oyster. Experience breath-taking views along ancient pathways and medieval lanes, equating to a glorious 6.5-mile walk. If you are looking for a walk in the winter air to blow away the heady feeling left by the Christmas celebrations, then this is the best place to go. A natural reservoir filled and brimming with wildlife will awaken your senses, as you take in the beauty of the area.
Difficulty: Hard (6.5 miles)
Perfect for: Older adults, keen walkers, and dog walkers
Image credits: Christine Matthews, Nigel Mykura, Tony Grist, David Kelly, Matthew Robey, Barry Lewis, IDS.photos, Carbis Bay Hotel, Derek Harper, InspiredImages, David Gibbeson Photography, Devon Photography by David Gibbeson