The joys of a winter walk

Looking over Stickle Tarn with snow on the hills

Winter has a beauty all of its own. Brave the cold and you’ll be rewarded with landscapes transformed by low sunlight and dustings of frost. Through leafless trees, you’ll see new views and distant horizons. Wildlife is easier to spot in the stillness of a winter woodland and, after a long walk on a chilly day, there’s the promise of a cosy pub with a crackling fire.

We spoke to some of the experts at Cotswold Outdoor about their favourite winter walks and the essential kit that helps them keep warm.

Red squirrel spotting at Allan Bank and Grasmere, Cumbria

Rachel Kearns, Cotswold Outdoor’s Regional Marketing Representative for the Lake District

Rachel lives in the Lake District National Park and says she’s spoilt for choice when it comes to winter walks, but a chance to get close to wildlife makes Grasmere special.

“A trip to Grasmere and a visit to the Allan Bank House is one of our favourite family days out for a bit of red squirrel spotting. During the colder months they leave the tree canopies to forage for food. 

View of Mickleden and Great Langdale from Side Pike at Sticklebarn
View of Mickleden and Great Langdale from Side Pike at Sticklebarn

“The walk around Grasmere village and lake is a really good option in bad winter weather. You can seek refuge and you're not getting up too high or moving across dangerous terrain.

Rachel also thinks a visit to a welcoming pub makes a great ending to a day spent exploring.

“The National Trust own and run Sticklebarn pub in Langdale valley, one of my favourites. You can sit outside with a blanket provided by the pub and sup mulled wine by the fire pit.

And the bit of kit she’d most recommend for a hike in cold weather? Her trusty buff.

Rachel Kearns hiking in the Lake District
Rachel Kearns hiking in the Lake District

“A buff is such a versatile piece of kit and can make a big difference to your comfort levels in all types of weather. Mine gets used as a neck warmer, head band, emergency beanie and a mouth, nose and ear guard in cold winds.”

Snow-covered peaks at Kinder, Edale and the Dark Peak, Derbyshire

Kate Smith, Assistant Manager at the Nottingham Cotswold Outdoor store

“The moorland plant life in the Peak District changes colour dramatically in winter,” says Kate, “It completely transforms the atmosphere of the area.

The Peak District covered in snow
The Peak District covered in snow

“A favourite winter walk that brings back many happy memories is a circular route starting and finishing in Edale, via the Kinder Plateau and Jacob’s Ladder.

“I once walked the route on a sunny day with full snow cover. Icicles had formed along the brook, the wind had created beautiful patterns and I was lucky enough to spot several mountain hares blending with the landscape in their white winter coats."

Kate Smith hiking in the Peak District
Kate Smith hiking in the Peak District

Kate always brings an insulated jacket with her on a winter walk: "My old favourite is my Rab Plasma Hoodie, a synthetic-filled jacket that’s great on a damp day. If the weather’s clear then I’ll bring my Montane Featherlite Down Jacket. It’s really warm but it packs up so small.

“Once you reached the top, the views across the snow-covered plateau were amazing.” 

Atmospheric scenery at Slindon Estate, Surrey

Timothy Elstone, Assistant Manager and Local Marketing Representative at the Chichester Cotswold Outdoor store 

As well as an outdoor expert and walking enthusiast, Timothy is a Scout Leader who loves visiting Slindon Estate with his troop.

“As a rugged area with easy-going hills and clearly marked routes, walking here makes for a happy experience any time of the year, but in the colder weather it’s especially picturesque.

“There’s a beautiful folly which looks stunning in the hazy morning light. If you stand under its arch, you can gaze over frosty fields out to sea, and the sound of the crows nesting reminds me of atmospheric childhood novels. You’ll see wildlife like deer and owls too.”

Timothy Elstone out on a hike
Timothy Elstone out on a hike

His essential bit of kit is a portable camp stove to help stave off the cold from the inside out: “I always hike with my Zip Jetboil. Without fail, there’s always a need for coffee or hot chocolate.”

Inspiring the nation to explore 

As our official outdoor retail partner, Cotswold Outdoor is supporting us to look after coast and countryside. Don’t forget, National Trust supporters receive 15 per cent discount* at Cotswold Outdoor, in store and online.*

*This is not to be used in conjunction with any other offer or discount. Selected lines are exempt. This offer is redeemable on production of your National Trust membership card in store or email to receive a discount code to use online. Offer expires 31/12/17.

Where will your winter walk take you?
Allan Bank in Grasmere Cumbria

Great walks in Grasmere 

Follow in Rachel’s footsteps around the lake that inspired William Wordsworth with its natural beauty. Skim stones from Penny Rock beach across the icy water, and look out for red squirrels in the nearby woodland.

Frosty view across to Kinder Scout, High Peak,  Derbyshire
Walking trail

Kinder moorland walk 

Inspired by Kate’s hike in the Peak District? Wrap up warm and follow an old packhorse track across rugged, windswept moorland for sweeping vistas across the Vale of Edale.

Walkers admiring winter views
Walking trail

Slindon Estate walk 

Visit Timothy’s scenic spot by Nore Hill Folly on this gentle trail through ancient woodland. Take a breather and a sip from a hot flask as you look out over the coastal plain all the way to the sea.