Pick a cold day to try these cascade-focused hillwalks, and you might just get to see one of the great phenomena of winter.

This piece was first published in the February 2018 issue of The Great Outdoors.

It takes a serious cold snap for Britain’s upland waterfalls to freeze solid – and this winter has been mild so far – but when they do, there are few sights more likely to take your breath away. Even if temperatures remain relatively balmy, most falls are at their most dramatic throughout the wetter months. Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer or a summer softy looking to expand your horizons, there’s a walk here that will add magic to your winter.

1. High Force, Low Force & Bleaback Force, Durham (image above)

  • Start/finish: Bowlees Nature Reserve (GR: NY908282)
  • Distance: 14km/9 miles
  • Ascent: 320m
  • Suggested time: 4–5 hours

Britain’s most famous waterfall rarely freezes completely, but in cold weather it’s hedged in by an impressive display of icicles. See neighbouring Low Force and Bleabeck Force as well with this loop from Bowlees Nature Reserve.

2. The Ring of Steall, Scotland

Image: Shutterstock

  • Start/finish: Lower Falls car park, Glen Nevis (GR: NN145683)
  • Distance: 15km/9.5 miles
  • Ascent: 1,820m
  • Suggested time: 10 hours

This scrambly traverse of four Munros is one of Scotland’s classic hillwalking days. It’s at its most beautiful in winter conditions, when icicles form around Steall Falls and the summit circuit transforms into a full-on mountaineering route that you’ll never forget.

3. Pistyll Rhaeadr & Cadair Berwyn, North Wales

  • Start/finish: Tan-y-pistyll (GR: SJ076293)
  • Distance: 10km/6 miles
  • Ascent: 620m
  • Suggested time: 4.5 hours

The lonely loveliness of the Berwyn Mountains is often passed over by walkers en-route to the loftier and cragier pleasures of nearby Snowdonia. Make the 73-metre Pistyll Rhaeadr waterfall your excuse for a visit – and enjoy a walk over the range’s highest peak, Cadair Berwyn, at the same time.

4. The Glyderau & Cwm Idwal, Snowdonia

  • Start/finish: Ogwen Cottage (GR: SH648603)
  • Distance: 11km/ 6.5 miles
  • Ascent: 955 metres
  • Suggested time: 5 hours

The falls that cascade down the steep cliffs of the Devil’s Kitchen often freeze in winter, making Cwm Idwal one of Britain’s top ice climbing destinations. Combine a gander at this stunning snowy scene with a round of Tryfan, Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr.

5. Scafell Pike via the Corridor Route, Lake District

Image: Shutterstock

  • Start/finish: Seathwaite (GR: NY235121)
  • Distance: 15km/ 9 miles
  • Ascent: 1,050m
  • Suggested time: 7–8 hours

This classic big circuit of Lakeland Fells – Broad Crag, Ill Crag, Great End and Scafell Pike – encompasses the impressive cascade of Taylor Gill Force, which is fringed with icicles on cold days. In full winter conditions, the gills that cross the route higher up will almost certainly be turned to ice shoots.

6. White Coomb via the Grey Mare’s Tail, Scottish Borders

  • Start/finish: Grey Mare’s Tail car park (GR: NT186144)
  • Distance: 11.5km/ 7 miles
  • Ascent: 750m
  • Suggested time: 5 hours

You’ll almost certainly see ice climbers tackling the 60-metre-high Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall when it freezes solid. Combine this spectacle with a scenic winter lo SK048869 op that ticks off White Coomb, the tallest of the Moffat hills.

7. Kinder Downfall, Peak District

Image © Joe Cornish / National Trust

  • Start/finish: Bowden Bridge (GR: SK048869)
  • Distance: 12km/ 7.5 miles
  • Ascent: 550m
  • Suggested time: 5 hours

Kinder Downfall famously blows back on itself in strong winter winds, but during seriously chilly weather it has been known to freeze completely. A traverse of boggy Kinder Plateau is far more enjoyable when the ground is frozen, making this a top winter day out.

8. Gordale Scar & Janet’s Foss, Yorkshire Dales

  • Start/finish: Malham (GR: SD900626)
  • Distance: 12km/ 7.5 miles
  • Ascent: 300m
  • Suggested time: 4 hours

This stunning circuit between Malham and Malham Tarn takes in two of the Yorkshire Dales’ classic waterfalls: Gordale Scar and the nearby Janet’s Foss. In seriously cold temperatures, Gordale Scar becomes a tower of icicles slicing through a spectacular limestone ravine.

9. Tarn Hows, Lake District

  • Start/finish: Tarn Hows car park (GR: SD326995)
  • Distance: 13km/8 miles
  • Ascent: 560m
  • Suggested time: 5 hours

This popular Lakeland beauty spot is crowded during the summer, but on chilly winter days you might be lucky enough to have the waterfalls to yourself. Bag two small but superior summits at the same time with a circuit of Holme Fell and Black Fell.

10. Fforest Fawr, Brecon Beacons

  • Start/finish: Cwm Porth car park (GR: SN928124)
  • Distance: 16km/10 miles
  • Ascent: 580m
  • Suggested time: 6 hours

See the Brecon Beacons’ most beautiful falls in all their wintery wonder with a figure-of- eight loop. An ascent of small but mighty Moel Penderyn is the greatest difficulty, making this a top walk for winter newbies.

Header image © Shutterstock