Bundle up in wool (naturally) and head out for a winter woodland walk. Here's five of our favourite places to explore... just don't forget to reward yourself afterwards with the perfect cup of tea.
1. Buttermere, Cumbria
Buttermere is a joy to visit at any time of year, but come autumn, the trees and hills put on a dazzling display that’s hard to beat. The walk around the lake takes two to three hours, depending on how often you stop to breathe in the views.
There are a few gentle slopes, but it’s a fairly easy walk. It’s certainly muddy though, so you’ll want to pack your waterproofs. As a reward, stop off at Syke Farm Tearoom. While it’s best known for its summer ice-creams (whipped up with milk from the farm’s own cows), it has plenty to offer in the colder seasons, from tea and cake to a full English breakfast.
2. Fingle Woods, Devon
History meets nature at this iron age hill fort. It dates back around 2,500 years – rather impressive when you consider the size of the ditches and embankments that were created with just hand tools and hard work. Not all of the wood’s history is quite so ancient – as you wander, keep an eye out for the ruins of Fingle Mill – a mere 400 years’ old. You may also spot remains of WWII charcoal kilns. But, of course, it’s probably the trees, river and wildlife you’re most interested in.
Gorgeous oak, ash, beech, horse chestnut and field maple leaves create a patterned tapestry throughout Fingle. The woods are currently being restored – conifers that were planted for timber are gradually being removed, giving native species a fighting chance.
3. Glen Affric, Scottish Highlands
At the heart of the Highlands National Nature Reserve, you’ll find Glen Affric – beautiful at any time of year, but a particular highlight in winter due to its 30 miles of ancient pinewoods. Whether you fancy an easy 20-minute wander or a challenging two-hour hike, Glen Affric won’t disappoint.
There are well-marked trails to explore, lochs to admire and mountains to climb. You also have a good chance of spotting plenty of wildlife, including ospreys, otters, pine martins and red deer. For one of the best views, try climbing the 3km path from Dog Falls car park. At the top, you’ll have a great vantagepoint across to the mountains of Tom a’ Chòinich and Toll Creagach.
4. Coed y Brenin Forest Park, Snowdonia
If you want to explore the great outdoors, without leaving your home comforts behind, Coed y Brenin Forest Park is a good choice. The dog-friendly café is open seven days a week; there’s a shop, visitors’ centre and play park; and you can even hire bikes.Younger members of the family are likely to enjoy the Animal Puzzle trail, while older ones will want to get stuck into the geocaching route. Coed y Brenin Forest Park is also ideal if you need a mobility scooter, as two of the trails are scooter-friendly, and if you book in advance you can hire an off-road mobility scooter from the centre.
5. Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim
With more than 1,000 hectares to explore, Glenariff is well-worth a weekend trip. During the summer, you can stay onsite in a motorhome, but at this time of year, you’re best to book into a local guest house.
Glenariff is a nature lover’s paradise – you have the chance of spotting red squirrels, Irish hares, hen harriers and other endangered species. There are several trails to discover. For the best view, take the short walk up to the viewpoint, where you can admire the glen’s colours and see right across to the sea.
You’ll also want to stroll along the 100-year-old boardwalk over the river gorge in the nature reserve. Keep going and you’ll soon pass a series of waterfalls – particularly magical on a frosty winter’s morning.