Best Boxing Day walks in the UK

After enjoying a day of Christmas indulgence, nothing beats heading outdoors for an invigorating winter walk. From wild winter walks in Scotland to a gentle family walks near London, here is our pick of the best Boxing Day walks across the British countryside.

Frosted trees and footpaths

After enjoying the festive indulgence of Christmas Day, Boxing Day is the perfect opportunity to pull on your boots, gloves and scarfs and head into the countryside with family and friends.

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To help you out, we’ve put together a list of walks, from short strolls around local nature reserves and country houses to more adventurous hill hikes, river walks and lakeside rambles – find the perfect day out for you with our guide to Boxing Day walks.

Even on a cold Boxing Day morning, there is life to be found in the British countryside, so keep an eye out for winter wildlife before returning home for a warming drink and Christmas dinner leftovers.

A family walk in the snows
Walk off your Christmas dinner with a family outing to Radley College in Oxfordshire/Credit: Getty

Best boxing day walks in Scotland

Steall Falls and the Nevis Gorge, Highland

Steall Falls, Nevis Gorge, Scotland
Steall Falls, Nevis Gorge, Scotland/Credit: Jake Graham

Tapering south from the Highland town of Fort William, gorgeous Glen Nevis is bound by several high, rugged mountains, including the huge bulk of Ben Nevis, which, at 1,344m (4,409ft) above sea level, is the highest point in the British Isles.

This low level walk through the Glen Nevis gorge is the perfect antidote to Christmas Day’s indulgence.

Glen Nevis walking route and map


Falls of Bruar, Perthshire

Waterfalls in winter
A view of the woodland around the falls of Bruar near Blair Atholl during winter/Credit: Getty

The natural miracle of hydrodynamics is best observed in winter weather conditions. Moors and mountains harness the fallen rain and snow, soak it up like a gargantuan sponge, then, by unseen energies, force it up though the surface of the ground in the form of bubbling streams.

The Bruar Water, just north of Blair Atholl, oozes from the soggy plateaux and moors of the great Atholl Deer Forest and flows gently down the empty miles of Glen Bruar before changing character completely.

As the ground falls away, the waters become increasingly agitated and turbulent, before crashing and thundering down a deep gorge through ice and snow – an especially festive sight on Boxing Day.

Bruar Falls walking route and map


Dunbar to North Berwick, East Lothian

Seaside town
End your Boxing Day walk at North Berwick, a seaside town in East Lothian/Credit: Getty

Witch trials, fierce battles and huge volcanic blasts; the town of North Berwick and its surrounding landscape has a long, fabled and fractious past. Yet in the 19th century, as the hum and smoulder of the industrial revolution largely bypassed the town, its character began to shift.

In 1850, the North Berwick Branch railway was built, connecting the seaside town with Edinburgh. Workers and retiring Lothians began to flock to the coast, set on replacing the toil of city life with ice cream, verdant golf courses and sandy shores.

Today, the town’s Victorian past remains embedded within its charming backstreets and broad, sweeping seafront, making is a festive place to begin a Boxing Day walk.

Dunbar to North Berwick, East Lothian


Glenfinnan, Highland

17km/10.5 miles | 6 hours | challenging

Glen Finnan - looking north
Glen Finnan – looking north/Credit: Jake Graham

Seek refuge from the cold inside one of Scotland’s most majestic churches, then venture into the Highlands past the wizards’ railway to a lonely mountain pass.

On Boxing Day, as light breaks from a cloudless night, the glen is particularly magical. Frost envelops everything: the pine trees, the mountain ridges, the church’s pitched roof. It dusts frozen puddles, crunches beneath feet and petrifies plants

Glenfinnan walking route and map


Elie to Cambo Sands, Fife

Tower on the coast
Lady’s Tower near the village Elie in Fife/Credit: Alamy

The Fife Coastal Path runs for 117 miles from Kincardine to Newburgh along Scotland’s eastern shores, taking in a host of scenic stops.

The Elie to Cambo Sands stretch of the path – particularly enjoyable on Boxing Day – boasts some of the best seaside scenery on the trail and allows walkers the chance to work off Christmas dinner, as well as see historical points of interest and some of Scotland’s most spectacular wildlife.

Taking approximately six hours to complete, the 16-mile section is well signposted but does include rough terrain at points, as well as parts that are impassable at high tide, so be sure to check the tide times ahead of your journey and wear good, sturdy footwear.

Elie to Cambo Sands walking route and map


Glenmore Forest Park, Highland

5.1km/3.1 miles | 1.5 hours | easy

Loch Morlich in Glenmore Forest Park
och Morlich lies beside the starting point of this magnificent walk through the Cairngorm National Park/Credit: Getty

Nowhere else in Britain has the same scale of tundra-like plateaux and sub-Arctic habitats. Snow covers the numerous 1,000m summits for more than 100 days a year – so the chances are you’ll get a white Boxing Day.

Icy tentacles stretch across the lochs that bejewel the foot of the range. It’s here, cloaked in Scots pine trees, that one of the finest remnants of the ancient Caledonian Forest resides, home to golden eagles, red squirrels, pine martens, badgers and deer.

A beautiful six-mile walk through the Cairngorms National Park, perfect for wildlife spotting and amazing Highland views.

Glenmore Forest Park walking route and map


St Abb’s Head, Berwickshire

Coast landscape with cliffs and sea at St Abbs Head, Berwickshire
Coast landscape with cliffs and sea at St Abbs Head, Berwickshire ©Getty

Winter light can be great for photography, highlighting the contrast between St Abb’s Head’s red rock and the stormy North Sea.

Take your camera out for a Boxing Day walk on a four-mile route on the coastal cliffs, looking out for seabirds, dolphins and maybe even otters.

St Abb’s Head walking route and map


Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire

Castle on the coast
Dunnottar Castle offers a host of interest for all the family/Credit: Getty

Perched high on a rocky peninsula, with sheer cliffs rising up from the crashing North Sea on all its sides but one, Dunnottar is perhaps the most dramatically located castle in the entire British Isles.

A short but invigorating walk runs from Stonehaven to Dunnottar, navigating steep climbs and a great number of steps to the castle. Look out for cormorants, curlews and fulmars along the rocky shores. If you’re lucky, you may even catch the odd sighting of dolphins, seals and whales in the cold North Sea waters.

Dunnottar Castle walking route and map


Portobello, Edinburgh

Sea and sand
Portobello beach lies on the outskirts of Edinburgh/Credit: Getty

Having been a popular haunt for many centuries with seamen and smugglers, Portobello reinvented itself in the early 1800s as a fashionable spa town, after a number of mineral wells were discovered. This led to the town becoming the preferred location of Edinburgh’s wealthy middle classes, who spent their weekends and holidays here, taking advantage of the beautiful beach, relaxing spas and water baths.

Don hats and scarves to keep out what can be a biting but invigorating east coast wind for a festive walk along the promenade. This route then passes through the town, taking in some of Portobello’s beautiful buildings. Its history, allied with several great pubs, restaurants and cafés, makes Portobello the perfect setting for a coastal Boxing Day out.

Portobello walking route and map


Glen Affric, Highland

Scots Pine above Loch Affric provides the foreground to the great Peaks of Mam Sodhail and Carn Eige in the North West Highlands of Scotland.
Walk through the meadows and mountains of Glen Affric, Highland/Credit: Getty

Often hailed as the Highlands’ most beautiful glen, Glen Affric not only boasts shimmering lochs and rugged mountains, but it is also one of the largest remnants of the pine forest that used to cover much of Scotland.

For most visitors, even reaching the start of this walk will involve a fairly epic journey to a remote part of the country – it’s a Boxing Day walk for the adventurous. But it’s well worth the effort, as the surrounding scenery is nothing short of breathtaking.

Glen Affric walking route and map


Best Boxing Day walks in North and Central England

Steel Rigg and Sycamore Gap, Northumberland

Wall in winter countryside
Hadrian’s Wall, England/Credir: Getty

A 600m walk or drive north leads to Steel Rigg car park, a great starting point for walks along the edge of the Whin Sill.

To the east, a 2.5-mile route follows the most spectacular stretch of Hadrian’s Wall as far as Housesteads Roman Fort. This passes Sycamore Gap, and affords views across the glacial loughs of Crag, Greenlee, Broomlee and Grindon. Return to The Sill on footpaths to the north of the wall, or, between Easter and September, on the AD122 bus, named for the date of construction of Hadrian’s Wall. 

Hadrian’s Wall walking route and map


Castleton, Derbyshire

Castleton, Derbyshire
Castleton lights up at Christmas/Credit: Getty

The good folk of fortress-crowned Castleton, at the head of the Peak District’s Hope Valley, like to celebrate the Christmas period underground. And with an abundance of show caverns honeycombing the limestone in and around the village, there’s plenty of opportunity to do just that.

Enjoy Boxing Day in the Peak District with a winter wander from this festive village to mighty Winnats Pass.

Castleton walking route and map


Blackhall Rocks, County Durham

Coast at sunrise
A low winter sun casts light across Blackhall Rocks Nature Reserve/Credit: Getty

The 1980s saw the closure of Blackhall Colliery and a clean-up of the beach, which has since become part of the Durham Coast National Nature Reserve (NNR).

Seaham, a few miles to the north, provided the setting for the start of Alien 3 (1992), and Redcar, a similar distance south, became a convincing stand-in for Dunkirk, in Atonement (2006).

Blackhall Rocks walking route and map


Lune Estuary, Lancashire

Tidal estuary
The River Lune winds through Cumbria and Lancashire/Credit: Getty

Catch this quiet corner of the Lancashire coast on a misty Boxing Day morning and it’s like a lost world. Creeks meander and loop through saltmarsh, wraith-like mists swirl across placid pools, invisible stock grazes the nearby reeds, halyards rustle against ghostly masts.

On quiet afternoons the area is equally enchanting, with pinks colouring the shoreline and glistening Morecambe Bay preparing for a sunset of riotous colours. The distant Lakeland mountains complete the painting.

Lune Estuary walking route and map


Wasdale Head Inn, Cumbria

Wasdale Inn in the English Lake District
Wordsworth, Coleridge and Dickens all stayed at the Wasdale Head/Credit: David Robinson

This venerable inn, hidden within the valleys and mountains of the Lake District, has housed some of Britain’s best novelists and poets – find out what inspired these great writers with a five-mile walk.

Wasdale Head wlaking route and map


Hawkshead and Latterbarrow, Cumbria

Hawkshead
Winter veil: the village of Hawkshead in the Lake District National Park wakes to a blanket of thin frost and low-lying mist/Credit: Simon Whaley

Wainwright described  a walk to the summit of Latterbarrow as one “needing little effort yet yielding much delight”.

Set off from the traditional village of Hawkshead – with its whitewashed cottages, cobbled courtyards and quaint alleyways – and experience a wonderful winter’s wander, full of festive spirit, to the crest of this small Lakeland hill.

Hawkshead walking route and map


Keld to Tan Hill Inn, North Yorkshire

Stonesdale Beck flows below Stonesdale Bridge on Stonesdale Moor in Upper Swaledale, part of Yorkshire Dales National Park
Stonesdale Beck flows below Stonesdale Bridge on Stonesdale Moor in Upper Swaledale, part of Yorkshire Dales National Park/Credit: Getty

On a lonely site high in the Yorkshire Dales stands a unique and historic place. With its exposed beams, stone-flagged floor and welcoming fire, the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest public house at 528m (1,732ft), is a place where walkers brush shoulders with inquisitive tourists.

This walk takes you to the head of Arkengarthdale on the edge of Swaledale, where winds rush across moorland, and where you can stop at a warm pub to refuel or rest your weary head.

Keld walking route and map


Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire, England
The tide ebbs at Robin Hood’s Bay in the North York Moors National Park to reveal a series of wave-cut platforms/Credit: joedanielprice

Tiny, pantiled cottages, honeycombed with narrow courtyards, tumble down a narrow gully to the sea. Front doors look over neighbours’ roofs and vertiginous stone steps link the different levels.

Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire is magical in the winter months. While you’re there, escape the bustle of the village with a walk along the coast.

Robin Hood’s Bay walking route and map


Tideswell, Derbyshire

St John the Baptist church in Tideswell
Worship has taken place on the site of St John the Baptist church in Tideswell since the 11th century/Credit: Alamy

The first snow of winter adds a frosty patina to Tideswell’s pinnacled 14th-century parish church of St John the Baptist, affectionately known as the ‘Cathedral of the Peak’.  

The church is renowned for its intricate wood carvings by local family the Hunstones, and the finest collection of medieval brasses in the Peak. 

Although St John’s may not have the dimensions of a cathedral, locals will tell you that if you measure the length of its outside walls it would reach a mile. It was built on the profit gained from wool and minerals, and our six-mile winter wander will take us deep into the scenery on which Tideswell’s wealth was won

Tideswell walking route and map


Best Boxing Day walks in Southern England

Goring-on-Thames to Pangbourne, Oxfordshire

River and woodland in winter
Goring-on-Thames is the meeting point of two national trails: the Ridgeway and the Thames Path/Credit: Alamy

The winter months are perfect for exploring Goring-on-Thames and the surrounding countryside.

Head south along the Thames Path from Goring to Pangbourne, returning on the train to a choice of cosy pubs, including The John Barleycorn, a dog-friendly inn with an open fire.

Goring-on-Thames to Pangbourne walking route and map


Holkham Beach, Norfolk

snow on beach
A stormy winter morning at Holkham Bay, Norfolk, England/Credit: Getty

It is said that in Norfolk you can tell how far you are from the coast by the roundness of the flint on the outside of the buildings – the rounder the flint, the closer you are to the sea.

The interaction between sea and land is strong along the North Norfolk coast, where mudflats and salt marshes sit alongside miles of beaches. One such beach is Holkham, which, on a frosty Boxing Day morning, is especially beautiful.

Holkham walking route and map


Dunster, Somerset

Dunster Castle, Somerset
High on a hill in north-east Exmoor, medieval Dunster Castle glows above lantern-lit houses of the village/Credit: Alamy

Dunster in winter is a delight. The exhaust beat of the West Somerset Railway steam train rings out as it departs the local station and begins its climb into the Quantock Hills.

And wisps of smoke curl up from the chimneys of the medieval village, a sure sign that fires are blazing in inglenook fireplaces, ready to welcome hikers back from a crisp winter’s ramble.

Dunster walking route and map


Pentire Head, North Cornwall

Pentire Head, Cornwall
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them,” wrote poet Laurence Binyon as he sat on the cliffs at Pentire Point in 1914/Credit: Getty

This 3.5-mile circular walk around a Cornish headland has everything you need for the perfect Boxing Day walk – dramatic geology, a wealth of wildlife and a secluded cove with a hidden secret.

Pentire Head walking route and map


Clare, Pentlow and Cavendish – Suffolk/Essex

St Mary the Virgin church in Cavendish
Like many East Anglian buildings, the exterior of St Mary the Virgin church in Cavendish is dressed with flint/Credit: Alamy

Winter can be a magical time for exploring the peaceful river valleys and charming rural churches of Suffolk, and there is much to be said for soaking up the atmosphere of this genteel corner of East Anglia out of high season.

Days get off to a sluggish start, with the countryside swaddled in a lingering shroud of mist, soon shrugged off and replaced by crisp air and milky sunshine, ideal conditions for a Boxing Day walk.

Clare, Pentlow and Cavendish walking route and map


Best Boxing Day walks in Wales

Llyn y Fan Fach, Camarthenshire

Llyn y Fan Fach, Powys
Look out for kestrels above reservoir/Credit: Getty

Perhaps the hardest part about this day out is finding the car park; pass the small community of Llanddeusant and you know you’re close.

Parking up in the small, gravel car park, you’ll already be aware of the solitude of this part of the Brecon Beacons, even on Boxing Day – it’s the quiet understudy to the neighbouring central peaks of Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn, yet certainly no less spectacular.

A four-mile walk in the west of the Brecon Beacons National Park along a bustling river, a lonely llyn and a wild mountain ridge.

Llyn y Fan Fach walking route and map


Blorenge, Monmouthshire

Blorenge, Brecon Beacons
Keeper’s Pond on the flanks of Blorenge in the Brecon Beacons/Credit: Getty

Step out of your car at Keeper’s Pond and look out over the Black Mountains. The instantly recognisable flat top of Sugar Loaf mountain rises above Abergavenny and, on a clear winter’s day, you can pick out the Brecon Beacons’ highest peaks, Pen y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn to the west.

The surrounding landscape bears scars from the industrial activity the area is famous for; coal mining has left black furrows in the hillside, evidence of limestone and ironstone quarries litter the landscape and bell pits pockmark the ground behind the car park.

Blorenge walking route and map


Mawddach Estuary, Gwynedd

Barmouth
Barmouth Bridge over Mawddach Estuary/Credit: Getty

Surrounded by mountains, the Mawddach Estuary must be one of the most beautiful in Europe.

Wooden ships were built in its creeks before the arrival of the Great Western Railway, which connected with the Cambrian Coast at Morfa Mawddach. After operating for 100 years the line closed in the 1960s. Nowadays the former railway track between Morfa Mawddach and Dolgellau is used for walking and cycling and it provides a delightful walk on a crisp winter day.

Mawddach Estuary walking route and map


Llyn Tegid, Gwynedd

Bala Lake (Llyn Tegid) near the small town of Bala in Gwynedd in Wales in the United Kingdom.
Llyn Tegid, known as Lake Bala in English, sit in the east of Snowdonia National Park/Credit: Getty

Glaciers come to mind when you see its cool gleam from the mountain ranges surrounding it; the Arenigs, the Berwyns and the Arans.

Known in English as Lake Bala, Llyn Tegid is the largest natural lake in Wales – explore its banks and surrounding forests in the east of Snowdonia National Park with this 8.5-mile hike.

Llyn Tegid walking route and map


Marloes Peninsula, Pembrokeshire

Rainbow above Wooltack Point on the Deer Park in Pembrokeshire, Wales, UK
Rainbow above Wooltack Point on the Deer Park in Pembrokeshire/Credit: Drew Buckley
Alamy

One of the finest stretches on the Pembrokeshire coastline, the Marloes Peninsula takes in a long sandy beach, dramatic rock formations and towering clifftops.

Charismatic choughs whirl through the air, kestrels hover and, out at sea, grey seals and porpoises play.

Marloes Peninsula walking route and map


Waterfall Country, Powys

Rocks in front of the Sgwd yr Eira waterfall, Brecon Beacons, Wales
Sgwd yr Eira and the rest of the waterfalls are at their most impressive after heavy rain/Credit: Getty

“I cannot call to mind a single valley that… comprises so much beautiful and picturesque scenery and so many interesting and special features.” With these words, Victorian naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace was describing neither the Amazon nor the Far East that he explored on his intrepid travels, but somewhere much closer to home: the Vale of Neath on the southern slopes of the Brecon Beacons.

Spilling water, mossy riverbeds and tree-shrouded caverns – Waterfall Country is a ramblers dream.

Waterfall Country walking route and map


Mwnt, Ceredigion

Mint church, Wales
Mwnt church, Wales ©Alamy

Sometimes, between onslaughts of wind, you can hear the snort of an Atlantic grey seal in the turbulent waters below Foel-y-Mwnt, the prominent conical hill  that rises above low-lying pasture and cliffs of clasts and boulder clay. Often, you see bottlenose dolphins. Kestrels hang poised in the air, and choughs kite-sail over the summit. 

Sheltering from brutal south-westerlies beneath the hill is Eglwys y Grog, the Church of the Holy Cross. You can walk there from Aberporth, branching off the Wales Coast Path to follow finch-flocked hedges across the fields where thrushes, fieldfares and redwings hustle for hips and hawthorn berries, before dipping into the valley at Mwnt.

Mwnt walking route and map


Best Boxing Day walks in Northern Ireland

Slieve Bearnagh, County Down

Wall running through mountains
The Mourne Wall, built 100 years ago, partly as a job-creation task to employ local craftsmen, runs through the mountains/Credit: Getty

The Mountains of Mourne loom large behind the resort town of Newcastle. The beaches and dunes here are superb for walking, but Newcastle’s jewel in the crown sits inland; a fulfilling circuit of two of the Mournes’ most notable summits, Slieve Bearnagh (739m) and Slieve Meelmore (682m). It’s a tough walk but, whether permitting, makes for a great Boxing Day adventure.

Slieve Bearnagh walking route and map


Glenariff Nature Reserve, County Antrim

Glenariff Nature Reserve Northern Ireland
Boardwalks lead through the reserve form one waterfall to the next/Credit: Getty

The Rivers Glenariff and Inver have cut right through this spectacular steep-sided gorge – the Queen of the Glens.

These rivers can be lively and dramatic as they tumble over boulders and a series of three impressive waterfalls. But then they become suddenly calm and tranquil, flowing lazily through oak and beech woodland, sunlight streaming through the branches.

This short circular gorge walk, abound with tumbling rivers and waterfalls, navigates through a lush reserve in Northern Ireland’s County Antrim.

Glenariff walking route and map


Rocky Mountain, County Down

Sun on mountain in winter
Hiking on winding trail in the valley between Slieve Donard and Rocky Mountain in Mourne Mountains/Credit: Getty

When Clive Staples Lewis was a young boy growing up in Belfast at the start of the 20th century, the sight of the Mourne Mountains on the southern horizon was enough to transport him to imaginary worlds.

Those mountains later became his inspiration for the fantasy world of Narnia, and it’s alleged that some of the Narnian locations were also based on scenery around the village of Rostrevor – just a few miles down the valley from this walk.


Slieve Binnian, County Down

Sunny winter day in the mountains
Looking north-east from Slieve Binnian in the Mourne Mountains/Credit: Jake Graham

Winter is the most evocative season to scale Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains, because winter is when this landscape was created. The entire range owes its form to the scouring movements of vast ice sheets, which only began to melt some 13,000 years ago. 

Yet not all the peaks were covered by ice; the very highest summits protruded above the frozen wasteland. Slieve Binnian was one such landmark, and the massive, frost-shattered tors that erupt from its tip were once nunataks, lonely towers of rock that withstood the elements above the icy expanse.

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Slieve Binnian walking route and map