‘Tis the season to go on a ramble. Here, The Great Outdoors shares our top picks for the best Christmas walks happening near you this yule.
The Christmas festivities leave a lot of us hillwalkers longing for some respite in the outdoors. Luckily for us, it’s the one holiday during which going out for a walk with your loved ones is almost obligatory. But no doubt, as the resident rambler, there’ll be a lot of pressure on you come Christmas morning to pull out all the stops (read: maps) and plan a wonderful wintery walk for everyone to enjoy. Let The Great Outdoors take some of the pressure off with our themed picks of the best Christmas walks up and down the UK to keep you busy outside on the 12 days of festivities.
Also, we shine a light on two members of the outdoor community who are hosting Christmas Day hikes in the name of goodwill to all, hoping to ensure no one has to be lonely over the holidays.
Words: Francesca Donovan | Main image: Jay Mistry
1. Loch Morlich and the Cairngorms Reindeer, Cairngorms
2. Ben Hope, Highlands
3. Hungry Law, The Cheviots
4. Robin Hood’s Bay, North York Moors
5. Dove Crag, Lake District
6. Merryton Low, Peak District
7. Holy Island, Anglesey
8. Cheddar Gorge, Mendip Hills
9. Brandy Bay, Gower AONB
10. Holly Walk, Kew Gardens
11. Ivy Tor, Dartmoor
12. The Port Path, Northern Ireland
PLUS: Bonus Christmas Day group hikes
The best Christmas walks in the UK
Loch Morlich & the Cairngorm Reindeer
Start/finish: Loch Morlich Beach | Maps: OS Explorer OL57 – Cairn Gorm & Aviemore (1:25k scale) | Distance: 4 miles/6.5km | Ascent: 125ft/38m | Duration: 2 hours | Transport: Stagecoach North Scotland service 37 runs from Aviemore to Glenmore
Christmas is the season of indulgence, so why not take the family on a walk around Loch Morlich for stunning views towards Meall a’ Bhuachaille and Cairn Gorm – it’s one of the best Christmas walks for the family in Scotland, especially as this freshwater loch is located at Glenmore Forest Park, spitting distance from the beloved Cairngorm Reindeer herd. Please note, you must pre-book on the hike to greet these iconic Christmas creatures.
Ben Hope, Highlands
Start/finish: Ben Hope Trail car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL447 – Ben Hope, Ben Loyal & Kyle of Tongue (1:25k scale) | Distance: 4.7 miles/7.6km | Ascent: 2,875ft/876m | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Transport: None to start
What would the holidays be without a little hope? For those looking to escape to the mountains during the festive season head to Ben Hope, the northernmost Munro, boasting spectacular views to the Orkney Isles and over to Harris. It’s also considered one of the easier Munros, so is likely manageable for a group.
Start/finish: Byrness village | Maps: OS Explorer OL16 – The Cheviot Hills (1:25k scale) | Distance: 5.6 miles/9km | Ascent: 900ft/274m | Duration: 3 to 4 hours | Transport: None to start
What is hunger if not the defining feeling of the festive season? Head up to the border, amid the Cheviots, and visit one of the easier summits to reach in this relatively remote part of the world. Just remember to pack a lunch to keep the hunger at bay! Extra points for a trip to Blakehope Nick, Santa’s namesake, where you’ll find a wooden scenic viewpoint installation worked into the land.
Robin Hood’s Bay
Start/finish: Raven Hall Road car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL27 – North York Moors – Eastern area (1:25k scale) | Distance: 8.5 miles/13.7km | Ascent: 750ft/229m | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Transport: East Yorkshire bus service S115 runs from Scarborough to Ravenscar
For the year-round long-distance walkers, tread a beautiful coastal route to Robin Hood’s Bay to honour the avian icon of Christmas – with a dash of robbing from the rich and giving to the poor – from Ravenscar. Returning via the historic Cinder Track or retrace your steps along the winter sea. Festive fish and chips optional.
Dove Crag, Lake District
Start/finish: Brotherswater Inn bus stop | Maps: OS Landranger OL90 – Penrith & Keswick (Ambleside) (1:50k scale) | Distance: 6 miles/9.7km | Ascent: 2,125ft/648m | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Transport: The Stagecoach 508 service from Windermere stops at the Brotherswater Inn
For a punchy Lakeland walk with a perfectly-placed pub, look no further than Dove Crag – its avian namesake is a symbol of festive peace to mankind, after all. This route also includes the Priest’s Hole cave, a popular wild camping spot, should you want to shelter from the elements and extend the walk with an overnight stay in the fells.
Merryton Low, Peak District
Start/finish: Layby parking on Roaches Road | Maps: OS Explorer OL24 – The Peak District, White Peak (1:25k scale) | Distance: 8.5 miles/13.7km | Ascent: 1,425ft/434m | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Transport: None to start
Go for a long walk and be merry! This ramble takes in some of the finest rocky outcrops in the White Peak as well as a trig – Merryton Low (otherwise known as Blakemere) – to bag in your Santa sack. Take in the views south over the market town of Leek.
Holy Island, Anglesey
Start/finish: Maes Parcio Is Ynys Lawd (car park) | Maps: OS Explorer OL262 – Anglesey West (1:25k scale) | Distance: 4 miles/6.4km | Ascent: 800ft/244m | Duration: 3 to 4 hours | Transport: Transport for Wales train services run to Holyhead from Bangor
Called Holy Island for its high concentration of religious sites, this beautiful coastal spot in North Wales is ripe for those who wish to spend a pensive moment outdoors over the holidays. This route takes in Holyhead Mountain, the island’s high point, as well as South Stack lighthouse and the Tŷ Mawr hut circles.
Cheddar Gorge, Mendip Hills
Start/finish: Cheddar Gorge & Caves car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL141 – Cheddar Gorge & Mendip Hills West (1:25k scale) | Distance: 3.5 miles/13.7km | Ascent: 850ft/260m | Duration: 2 to 3 hours | Transport: Various bus service run to Cheddar
If gorging yourself on cheese is your idea of a good Christmas, look no further than Cheddar Gorge on the edge of the Mendip Hills. An iconic photo spot, this is a great short walk for the family. Bring the Santa hats and say cheese at the top!
Brandy Cove, Gower AONB
Start/finish: Bracelet Bay car park | Maps: OS Explorer OL164 – Gower (1:25k scale) | Distance: 11.5 miles/18.5km | Ascent: 925ft/282m | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Transport: First Cymru bus service 3A runs from Swansea to Mumbles
Enjoy a coastal walk along the Gower Peninsula for some bracing sea air all the way from Mumbles on this there-and-back. Head further west to Seven Slades and Deep Slade… Singing ‘It’s Christmas’ at the top of your lungs is, of course, optional.
The Holly Walk, Kew Gardens
Start/finish: Kew Gardens tube station | Maps: OS Explorer OL161 – London South (1:25k scale) | Distance: 3 miles/4.8km | Ascent: 25ft/8m | Duration: 1 to 2 hours | Transport: Transport for London tube services to Kew Gardens tube station
For those in the capital, you don’t necessarily have to head out of London for some Christmas cheer in the outdoors. Kew Garden’s kilometre-long Holly Walk is home to one of Europe’s largest collections of holly plants, adorned with a variety of berries. Kew also hosts a number of Winter Walks for some nature therapy in the city with your loved ones during the holidays.
Ivy Tor, Dartmoor
Start/finish: Belstone village | Maps: OS Explorer OL28 – Dartmoor (1:25k scale) | Distance: 8.4 miles/13.7km | Ascent: 1,200ft/366m | Duration: 5 to 6 hours | Transport: Stagecoach South West service 6A to Okehampton from Exeter St Davids stops near Belstone
This walk from Belstone takes you through cleave and over tor for a truly Dartmoorian wander. After visiting Ivy Tor, you can simply head back into the village or follow the circular, even including the aptly-named Winter Hill on your route home, to make it one of the best Christmas walks for the adventurous.
The Port Path
Start/finish: Harbour Hill car park | Maps: OSNI Discoverer 07 – Londonderry (1:50k scale) | Distance: 8.9 miles/14.3km | Ascent: 250ft/76m | Duration: 4 to 5 hours | Transport: Translink Ulsterbus service 140b runs between Portstewart and Portrush
Raise a glass to some classic coastal walking in Northern Ireland. The Port Path is a stretch of scenic coastline between Portstewart and Portrush in County Derry, passing traditional ice houses, St Patrick’s Well – a source of holy water – and Portnahapple, a natural sea pool for a festive paddle.
Best Christmas walks: bonus Christmas Day group hikes
Latrigg from Keswick, Lake District with Jay Mistry
After the success of his Scafell Pike Christmas hike in 2021, Jay Mistry is organising another group hike in Lakeland, heading up Latrigg from Keswick along the old railway line. The group will meet at 10am on Christmas Day itself. It’s a family-friendly walk of four miles that should take a couple of hours, and dogs are welcome. Jay believes no one should have to be alone on Christmas Day and welcomes everyone along for some fresh air and conversation.
Various hikes in the Peak District with Damon Cole
Damon Cole is organising a marathon five hikes across The Peak – including circular routes to The Roaches, Bamford Edge, Winnats Pass, Mam Tor and Dovestones Reservoir – for those who’d like some company come Christmas Day. Tesco will be providing mince pies for the hundreds of hillwalkers expected to join and Damon has joined up with Go Outdoors and Blacks to do a fundraiser for Mind. All abilities are welcome and you can sign up by DMing Damon on Instagram or Facebook. He’s also organising a New Year’s Day hike up Kinder Scout for people who can’t make Christmas Day.
Have we missed one of the best Christmas walks near you? Let us know. The more the merrier!
For other route inspiration, check out our best family-friendly walks in the Peak District. Or, if you’re looking for something spicier this Christmas, why not try one of the best beginner scrambles?