Best Boxing Day walks in the UK
From wild winter rambles in Scotland to a gentle family strolls near London, here is our pick of the best Boxing Day walks across the British countryside.
After enjoying the festive indulgence of Christmas Day, Boxing Day is the perfect opportunity to pull on your boots, gloves and scarf and head into the countryside with family and friends for a blast of wild, winter air.
Even on a cold Boxing Day morning, there is life to be found in the British countryside, so keep an eyes open for winter wildlife before returning home for a warming drink and Christmas dinner leftovers.
Best Boxing Day walks in Scotland
Steall Falls and the Nevis Gorge, Highland
2 miles/3.2km | 1.5 hours | moderate
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.
Falls of Bruar, Perthshire
1.2 miles/2km | 1 hour | moderate
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.
Dunbar to North Berwick, East Lothian
13.5 miles/21.7km | 8 hours | moderate–challenging
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.
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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.
17km/10.5 miles | 6 hours | challenging
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.
Elie to Cambo Sands, Fife
15.3 miles / 24km | 6–7 hours | moderate–challenging
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.
Glenmore Forest Park, Highland
5.1km/3.1 miles | 1.5 hours | easy
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.
St Abb's Head, Berwickshire
5.4km/3.4 miles | 2 hours | moderate
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.
Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire
8km/5 miles | 3 hours | moderate
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.
2.7 miles/4.3km | 1.5 hours | easy
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.
Glen Affric, Highland
11 miles/17.7km | 6–7 hours | challenging
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.
Best Boxing Day walks in North and Central England
Steel Rigg and Sycamore Gap, Northumberland
2.5 miles/4.1km | 1.5 hours | moderate
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.
7.4km/4.6 miles | 3 hours | moderate
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.
Blackhall Rocks, County Durham
3 miles/4.8km | 2 hours | easy
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).
Lune Estuary, Lancashire
7.1 miles/11.5km | 4 hours | moderate
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.
Wasdale Head Inn, Cumbria
4.9 miles/7.9km | 3 hours | moderate
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.
Hawkshead and Latterbarrow, Cumbria
3.1 miles/5km | 2 hours | moderate
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.
Keld to Tan Hill Inn, North Yorkshire
9.6 miles/15.5km | 6 hours | moderate–challenging
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.
Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire
2.7 miles/4.3km | 2 hours | easy-moderate
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.
Best Boxing Day walks in Southern England
Goring-on-Thames to Pangbourne, Oxfordshire
4.5 miles/7.2km | 2.5 hours | easy-moderate
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.
Holkham Beach, Norfolk
4.8 miles | 3 hours | easy/moderate
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.
4 miles/6.4km | 2.5 hours | easy–moderate
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.
Clare, Pentlow and Cavendish – Suffolk/Essex
6.9 miles/11.1km | 4 hours hours | moderate
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.
Best Boxing Day walks in Wales
Llyn y Fan Fach, Carmarthenshire
3.8 miles | 2.5 hours | moderate
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.
10.6km/6.6 miles | 3.5 hours | moderate
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.
Mawddach Estuary, Gwynedd
9.5 miles/15.3km | 5-6 hours | moderate–challenging
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.
Llyn Tegid, Gwynedd
8.9 miles/14.3km | 5-6 hours | challenging
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.
Marloes Peninsula, Pembrokeshire
5 miles/8km | 3 hours | moderate
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.
Waterfall Country, Powys
Distance: 3.5 miles | Duration: 2 hours | Difficulty: moderate
"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.
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.
Best Boxing Day walks in Northern Ireland
Slieve Bearnagh, County Down
7 miles/11.2km | 4 hours | moderate
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.
Glenariff Nature Reserve, County Antrim
1.5 miles/2.4km | 1 hour | easy
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.
Slieve Binnian, County Down
6 miles/9.6km | 4.5 hours | challenging
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.