Dates for your Diary: The Best 2017 Events, Anniversaries & Activities in the UK

Summer walks

The United Kingdom is arguably the cultural and sporting capital of the world – after all, it is the birthplace of William Shakespeare, the Glastonbury Festival, and tennis!

Every year, thousands of festivals and sporting events all across the country celebrate this rich history, but 2017 offers a host of one-of-a-kind celebrations too. So rediscover your love of the arts and your passion for sports at these unforgettable events and activities, which showcase the very best of the UK’s past, present and future.

Jane Austen 200 – A life in Hampshire

2017 marks 200 years since Austen passed away, and there are plenty of events scheduled in 2017 to celebrate one of Britain’s most beloved writers. Since Austen spent most of her years in Hampshire that is where you will find the lion’s share of the celebrations. Winchester offers exhibitions, a unique walking trail; the Austen House and Museum will be open and offering exclusive events; there are open gardens in the village of Chawton and much more! http://janeausten200.co.uk/

Year of Legends – Snowdonia, Wales 

Snowdonia

Wales is celebrating a ‘Year of Legends’ in 2017, and perhaps the best time to visit is early spring when the new film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is releasedMuch of the film was captured in the Snowdonia National Park, whilst the region plays into the legend itself. It is rumoured that Arthur defeated the giant Rhitta atop Snowdon, whilst his sword Excalibur is said to have been thrown into the waters of Llyn Llydaw by Sir Bedivere upon the king’s death. https://www.visitsnowdonia.info/.

North Wales – Lonely Planet’s ‘Best in Travel’ 2017 

A well-deserved win for the gorgeous region of North Wales. Enjoy a host of unique activities, including the longest man-made waves,  the world’s fastest zip line and huge subterranean trampolines in the caverns beneath Blaenau Ffestiniog. It’s a bold reinvention and perfect for outdoor enthusiasts, so perfect for a 2017 break. http://www.lonelyplanet.com/best-in-travel/regions

Cavern Club, Liverpool – 60th anniversary – Liverpool

Once an unassuming live Jazz venue, this bar on Liverpool’s waterfront became a cultural mecca due to early skiffle performances by the Quarrymen in the late 1950s – eventually becoming The Beatles and performing under that name at the Cavern in 1961. Though closed and rebuilt in the interim, the Cavern is still a live music venue and a mainstay for Beatles fans visiting their hometown. https://www.cavernclub.org

Sherlock Holmes’ 125th Birthday – Various Locations 

Stonyhurst college

A Study in Scarlet the debut case of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1887. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous creation is commemorated with a statue opposite the author’s birthplace in Picardy Place Edinburgh. In the south you could visit Baker Street or Upper Wimpole Street in London – Holmes and Doyle’s respective dwellings. Bristol is where much of the recent BBC TV series was filmed, or there’s Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, where Doyle attended school in the company of a classmate known as Moriarty (we suspect they didn’t get along!). Incidentally, another visitor to the college was J.R.R. Tolkien, so it’s a one stop shop for classic literature.

Hull, City of Culture – 2017

A 365-day cultural celebration of Hull broadcast to the world. 2017 promises a host of unique events with Opera North transforming the Humber Bridge into a piece of music, the 2017 Turner Prize being hosted at the city’s Ferens art gallery (following a £4.5m revamp), world premieres, exclusive festivals and much more. https://www.hull2017.co.uk/

Donald Campbell’s Bluebird K7 – 50 Year Anniversary – Coniston, Lake District

Coniston

Campbell died in January 1967 while trying to break his own speed record on Coniston Water in the Lake District. Engineer Bill Smith is working to restore Campbell’s ‘Bluebird K7’ vehicle with the aim of bringing it back to the water. In the meantime, the Ruskin Museum is the perfect place to experience Campbell’s story and see the restored K7. http://www.ruskinmuseum.com.

Enid Blyton’s Famous Five – 75th Birthday – RHS Gardens nationwide May & August

Blyton’s intrepid adventurers will be celebrating 2017 in style with reprints of their classic adventures and activities taking place in the Royal Horticultural Society’s flagship gardens: Yorkshire, Essex, Greater Manchester, Devon and Surrey. Expect adventure trails, storytelling workshops and lashings of ginger beer, culminating in a big celebration on 11 August – Blyton’s 120th birthday! https://www.rhs.org.uk

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – 20th Anniversary of Publication – June

Potter train

Amazingly it was 20 years ago that Harry Potter was introduced to the world. In the years since we’ve had 8 films, about as many books and countless other ways to enjoy J.K. Rowling’s tales. Take a look at the cottages.com guide to Harry Potter filming locations in the UK, visit the incredibly popular Harry Potter attraction at the Warner Brothers Studio Tour In London or just pop past your local bookshop, curl up by the fire and lose yourself in the enchanting literary world of the boy wizard. https://www.wbstudiotour.co.uk

Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race – between Bishop’s Park and Furnivall Gardens – first Sunday in April

The rivalry between Oxford University and Cambridge University goes back hundreds of years, and each year it comes to a playful head at this famous boat race. Find a comfy spot on the banks of the River Thames, pack a traditional lunch of lemonade and cucumber sandwiches, and cheer on the rowers on their way past. http://theboatraces.org/

If boats aren’t really your thing, there is also the Oxford v Cambridge Goat Race, which is held concurrently in Spitalfields City Farm http://www.thegoatrace.org.

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival – Strathspey – end of April

The Speyside area in north-east Scotland has the highest concentration of malt whisky distilleries in the world, with more than 50 at last count. The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival brings whisky devotees together to sample the local produce and visit some stunning rural locations where you can watch the whisky-making process in person. https://www.spiritofspeyside.com/

Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations – Stratford-upon-Avon – 23rd April

Hathaway

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon in April 1564, and the picturesque town has been synonymous with the Bard ever since. Each year, processions and public events are held to mark Shakespeare’s birthday, while his plays are performed by local theatre troupes and the Royal Shakespeare Company. https://www.shakespearescelebrations.com/

The London Marathon – across London – end of April

As one of the world’s most popular marathons, entry is strictly by ballot only, but anyone can watch the brave runners making their way through the city of London. The 26-mile route takes in landmarks such as Big Ben, London Bridge and St Paul’s Cathedral, before finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. https://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/en-gb/

Hay Festival – Hay-on-Wye – late May

Britain’s biggest literary festival has a habit of attracting some really big names. Think Bill Clinton, David Frost and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Dozens of authors, poets and philosophers host talks in tiny venues, making it one of the most intellectual (and influential) festivals in the world. https://www.hayfestival.com/

Solstice at Stonehenge – 21st June – Stonehenge

No one knows what the stones of Stonehenge are meant to represent, or how they got there more than 5,000 years ago, but that doesn’t stop people from speculating. Many people believe that the stones have a deep spiritual significance, largely due to the position of the ‘rising stone’, which falls perfectly in line with the sun during the summer solstice. Hundreds of people gather here on 21st June to see this for themselves, and a four-day long Stonehenge Solstice Festival has even sprung up for super-fans. http://www.stonehengecampsite.co.uk/solstice_festival

Wimbledon, The Championships – South London – starts on the last Monday in June.

There is something quintessentially British about watching a tennis match in Wimbledon on a warm (ok, grey and drizzly) summer’s day while you sip a glass of Pimms and eat strawberries and cream. The world’s most famous tennis courts have played host to countless sporting legends over the years, while A-list celebrities and members of the royal family are frequently spotted watching from the Royal Box. If you aren’t lucky enough to get a VIP invite, you can apply for tickets through the Wimbledon ballot, or queue for returns a day in advance. http://www.wimbledon.com/index.html

Edinburgh Festival Fringe 70th Anniversary – Edinburgh – month of August

Edinburgh

Somehow a month isn’t long enough to experience all the culture that Edinburgh has to offer. This massive arts festival boasts some of the biggest and brightest names in comedy, theatre, literature and drama, all held against the backdrop of beautiful Edinburgh city. Don’t be afraid to venture off the beaten track – there are some hidden gems to be found away from the main venues. With the Edinburgh festivals celebrating their 70th anniversary, there’s going to be plenty to enjoy! https://tickets.edfringe.com/

Bog Snorkelling Championships – end of August – Llanwrtyd Wells

It started as a joke, but has now become one of Wales’ most popular sporting events – bog snorkelling. Each summer, contestants from all over the world line up to swim through the peat bogs of Waen Rhydd in Llanwrtyd Wells, while hundreds gather to watch from the safety of the banks, with a pint of ale at close range. http://www.green-events.co.uk/events.html?id=57

Eden Sessions – the Eden Project – Cornwall, all summer

Cornwall’s innovative Eden Project is worth a visit any time of the year, but it is particularly special during the Eden Sessions – a series of musical events which take place in the Biomes (domes and botanical gardens). Past performers include Elton John and Motorhead, and tickets are – understandably – in very high demand. http://www.edensessions.com/

Heritage Open Days – early September – across England

Many of England’s most historic buildings are not open to the public. Unless you visit on a Heritage Open Day. Each year, for a few days, 5000 castles, windmills, bunkers and other quirky homes open their doors to curious visitors, who can explore them free of charge. Plan well in advance so you get to see as many places as possible! https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/

Notting Hill Carnival – West London – second bank holiday in August

The Notting Hill Carnival started out as a tribute to West London’s Caribbean population, and it is still a joyous riot of music, dancing, singing and eating – complete with colourful sequined costumes! Saturday is the best day for families. http://thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com/

Cowes Week – Isle of Wight – start of August

The UK’s best-known regatta attracts sailors from around the world to the sleepy harbour town of Cowes on the Isle of Wight. More than 40 boat races take place over the course of the week, and the Solent is speckled with white sails as far as the eye can see. https://www.sunsail.co.uk/events/cowes-week

Scottish Highland Games – across Scotland – all summer

Highland Games

In the Highlands of Scotland, old traditions are proudly maintained, and the Highland Games is one of the best-loved traditions of all. Where else could you watch men in kilts take part in ancient sports such as the caber toss and the tug o’ war, while bagpipers play along in the background? Compete if you dare, but this is one event which is probably more fun for the spectators than the participants. http://www.shga.co.uk/events.php

Bonfire Night – Lewes – 5th November

Bonfire night is a peculiarly British tradition – commemorating Guy Fawkes’ failed plot to blow up the Houses of Parliament way back in the 16th century. Across the country, bonfires are lit and effigies of Fawkes are burned, but Lewes in Sussex takes things to a whole other level. Costumed locals march through the town holding burning torches and fiery symbols, before a giant bonfire is lit on the outskirts of town. http://www.lewesbonfirecelebrations.com/

Lord Mayor’s Show – across London – every November

The Lord Mayor’s Show is a great family day out, and the perfect introduction to London life. Cheer on the Lord Mayor’s flotilla on the Thames, follow the extravagant cross-London procession, then watch an epic fireworks display light up the sky after dark. https://lordmayorsshow.london/

Fantastic Harry Potter Filming Locations & Where to Find Them

From Philosopher’s Stones to Fantastic Beasts, the UK has a history of enchanting cinema-goers through J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter film series. And with the latest addition in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them adding a couple of stunning locations, there’s no better time to fall under the saga’s glorious spell.

Cunard building

The Cunard Building, Liverpool. The interior of Liverpool’s stunning Cunard Building stood in for Macy’s department store in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. One of Liverpool’s beautiful ‘Three Graces’, it stands between the Liver Building and the Port of Liverpool building on The Pier Head waterfront.

St. George's Hall Liverpool

St George’s Hall, Liverpool. Both the interior and exterior of the grand St George’s Hall on Lime Street were featured in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. The stunning Neoclassical columns and steps stood out in several scenes, including the thunderbird soaring past as it made its way through New York.

glenfinnan

Glenfinnan Viaduct AKA: The train line to Hogwarts. The stunning Glenfinnan Viaduct stands 100ft above the River Finnan, on top of 21 enormous arches, and carries trains from Glasgow Queen Street Station to Mallaig several times a day.

alnwick

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland AKA: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. It’s no surprise that this has become one of the most visited castles in England. Not only did it have a starring role as Hogwarts in two of the franchise’s films (Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), it also appeared in Downton Abbey.

Gloucester cathedral

Gloucester Cathedral AKA: Inside Hogwarts. The ancient stonework and shadowy cloisters of Gloucester Cathedral are Hogwarts through and through. The cathedral itself is more than 1300 years old, and over the years it has hosted kings, queens, archbishops and, of course, wizards…

Glencoe

Glencoe, Scotland AKA: Hagrid’s ‘hood. Hagrid’s hut was a treasure trove of unusual items and rare animals. This is where he raised Fang, his enormous boarhound, and this is where Norbert (the Norwegian Ridgeback Dragon) hatched from his shell.

Freshwater West

Pembrokeshire Beach, Wales AKA: Shell Cottage. Freshwater West Beach is one of the prettiest beaches in Pembrokeshire. The sands are golden, the dunes are sprinkled with flowers, and the rough waters are suitably dramatic. This is where Bill Weasley and Fleur Delacour chose to live after their marriage, and Harry, Ron and Hermione were frequent visitors.

Goathland

Goathland Train Station, Yorkshire AKA: Hogsmeade Station. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway stop in Goathland is often described as a ‘celebrity station’, due to its role as Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films, and as Aidensfield in the long-running ITV show Heartbeat.

Kings Cross

King’s Cross Station, London AKA: The first stop on the Hogwarts Express. If you don’t mind queues you can pose for pictures and pretend you are on your way to Hogwarts – the perfect end to your tour of Harry Potter film locations in the UK.

The Best December Events in the UK, 2016

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  • Burning the Clocks Festival, Brighton. 21 December. The shortest day and the end of the year are celebrated with a huge lantern parade through Brighton’s streets, culminating in a huge bonfire on the beach!  http://www.samesky.co.uk/events/burning-the-clocks
  • Grassington Dickensian Festival, Yorkshire Dales. 3-11 December. One of our favourite ways to get in the Christmas spirit, this fantastic festival offers plenty of yuletide cheer on the gorgeous cobbled streets of Grassington with bands, buskers, Victorian street entertainers and Santa! http://grassingtondickensian.co.uk/
  • Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. 30 December – 1 January. A world-famous way to welcome in the New Year, alongside the party to see in 2017, there’s the Torchlight Procession winding through town on 30 December and the Loony Dook river dip for the hardy and hungover on New Year’s Day! https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/.
  • Christmas in Shakespeare’s England, Warwickshire. Various dates in December. Enjoy the RSC’s production of The Tempest (until 21 January), visit Stratford’s Christmas market and enjoy a guided walk of the Bard’s Stratford between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. http://shakespeares-england.co.uk/christmas-shakespeares-england.
  • Christmas at Puzzlewood, Forest of Dean. 3-25 December. Enjoy the other-worldly ambience of this magical location. Kids get to dress up as Red Riding Hood or the Woodcutter and take a woodland walk to meet a very special visitor! http://www.puzzlewood.net/index.php.
  • Enchanted Christmas, Westonbirt Arboretum, Gloucestershire.  Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening to 18 December. See the majestic trees of Westonbirt in a whole new light as the 1,000s of the are bathed in a fantastically festive glow. http://www.forestry.gov.uk/westonbirt-christmas.
  • Illumination Festival of Light, Irvine, North Ayrshire, Scotland 30 November-3 December. Starting on St Andrew’s Day with a firework display, enjoy a weekend of wonder on Irvine’s historic waterfront. Light displays, art, fireworks, workshops, whisky tastings and much more! http://illuminationfestival.co.uk/
  • The Alnwick Garden Christmas Grand Lantern Parade, Northumberland. 18 December. A magical live music, light and movement spectacular winding through the gorgeous gardens of Alnwick Castle. Enjoy Christmas trails, Xmas markets and more to get you into the festive spirit! https://alnwickgarden.com/.

Watch the Skies: How to Spot the Northern Lights in the UK & Ireland

Northumberland

Illuminating our dark skies to the perpetual wonder of mankind, the Aurora Borealis are usually associated with the freezing north. But, armed with the right information and a little bit of luck, the Northern Lights can be observed even over British horizons.

Follow our simple sky-gazing guide for your best chance to catch this natural phenomenon on your doorstep…

The Northern Lights…what are they?

The Aurora Borealis (to give them their scientific name) are the striking streaks of light and colour sometimes seen in the night sky. Electrifying light shows they have long inspired pilgrimages to the northern tip of the planet. Depending on the conditions, the aurora can be seen as smudges, arcs and flashes of colour. They vary in intensity and in shade from blues and purples to greens, yellows and reds. Likened to a celestial lava lamp, this magical spectacle is actually the result of geomagnetic storms caused by the sun. Collisions of particles in the Earth’s atmosphere give off light, particularly towards the polar region, hence…the Northern Lights!

Stuff of myth and legend…

The Northern Lights hold a special importance in many countries and cultures. The ancient Greeks believed they were in fact the goddess Aurora racing across the sky heralding the new dawn; the indigenous people of Alaska saw the lights as the souls of animals they had hunted and the Vikings held that the spears of light led warriors to their final resting place in Valhalla.

So, apart from the North Pole, where’s the best place to spot them?

When conditions are right it is possible to see the Northern Lights all over the UK, even as far south as Kent and Cornwall although these sightings are pretty rare. Here are our top three, dark-sky spots to start searching…

Scotland

Northern Lights Scotland

Because of its northerly location, Scotland frequently offers the best opportunity for aurora gazing. The far north usually enjoys sightings every few months. Our largest National Park, the Cairngorms, encompasses a Dark Sky Discovery site on the Glenlivet Estate and is a superb place to start. Head to the remote area around the old college at Scalan. Here, at the foot of the Ladder Hills you’ll find fantastic views to the north, and to the aurora.

Visit in autumn to witness the red deer rut. You’ll also find woodlands ablaze with colour and trees laden with berries and alive with birdsong. Enjoy cold, crisp walks in the shadow of majestic, snowy peaks.

Northumberland

Northern Lights

The far north of England is also a top choice for a chance at an intense aurora experience. Awarded a Gold tier designation by the International Dark Sky Association in 2013, the skies above Northumberland Dark Sky Park are officially the best place for night sky gazing in England. And they’re the largest protected area of dark sky in Europe. The coast is particularly good for chasing the northern lights.

Visit in winter for almost guaranteed glittering night skies. A myriad of stars, planets and meteor showers can be contemplated with the naked eye, or with a little help at the Kielder Observatory. In early spring, visit the stunning snowdrop festival at Howick Hall, or wait for the annual return of the osprey to the tranquil expanse of Kielder Water.

Donegal, Republic of Ireland

Ireland

Occupying a wild spot in the north western reaches of Ireland is the unspoilt county of Donegal. As well as offering obvious beauty and solitude this coastal county’s location and lack of light pollution make it an ideal spot for sky searching. Malin Head is Ireland’s most northerly point and an excitingly wild place to start. On the same Inishowen peninsula, the village of Clonmany and the colourful coastal town of Moville offer the perfect combination of a decent vantage point with civilised benefits, such as a warm fire and a pint of Guinness.

A trip to Donegal should also include a walk along the wonderful Wild Atlantic Way, and you can begin your exploration of this dramatic, craggy coast from Moville. Stroll deserted sandy beaches and sample Donegal Bay oysters. The Irish coastline can also boast some of the best dolphin and whale watching opportunities in Europe. In springtime minke whales return to these waters, and basking sharks patrol close to shore. Autumn brings fin whales and huge pods of common dolphins.

When is the best time to scan the skies?

• It’s tricky to pinpoint exactly when the lights will make their ethereal appearance – it could be any time of year. In general though, we can expect more geomagnetic storms around the spring and autumn equinoxes. Longer, darker nights also make a sighting more likely, so plan a trip around February and March, or October and November.

• Have patience. The aurora don’t stick to a time pattern, but an educated guess would have you looking north between 10pm and 2am.

• You’ll need to get as far away from any light pollution as possible. The lights also require a clear night without any cloud cover and a view to the northern horizon.

• Fancy getting scientific? You can check online for upcoming periods of strong geomagnetic storm activity. The avid aurora hunter can even sign up to alerts from Aurorawatch or Astronomy Ireland who will let you know as soon as the perfect conditions are detected!

Good luck!

Making the Perfect Stay – Flexible Arrivals and Duration

flexible arrivals cdc

A cottages.com break offers pure freedom to the holidaymaker. Choose from over 19,000 properties in some of the world’s most beautiful and relaxing locations: from ancient castles for grand family gatherings to bijou retreats on the glittering Mediterranean coast.

Alongside our thousands of holiday homes, we’ve also been working to improve the amount of choice in arrival dates and holiday duration too. Previously many 7 day stays would run from Friday and 5 days from Monday. But we wanted to offer more choice and flexibility, so now, alongside a wealth of choice in property size and location, we’ve added flexible duration and any start date to hundreds of holiday homes.

So if you fancy a quick break mid-week, a night’s stay at a lovely holiday cottage or just want that magical weekend away to last a little bit longer then you can make the perfect cottage break with cottages.com.

When combined with all of our other features: accessible properties, pet-friendly accommodation, open-fires, coastal views and much more, you can see how it’s never been easier to find your dream holiday home, choose how long you want to enjoy it for and when you want to go!

Make your perfect break now and take a look at our holiday cottages with flexible arrival dates and duration.

Wonderful Winter Walks – A Guide to the UK & Ireland’s Finest

winter walks

Rhossili Bay, South Wales

This ancient terrain is blessed with natural good looks and is also dotted with Iron Age and Norman monuments to explore in an area that has been treasured for centuries. A great way to take in this fabulous vista is to walk from Worms Head along the coast and then into a circular route around Rhossili Bay. This eight mile route provides some fantastic vantage points that on a clear day will allow you to glimpse the North Devon coast. The rugged countryside is bordered by a large beach at Rhossili Bay providing an opportunity to follow the tide line as part of your journey across some of the most delightful scenery in South Wales.

Loch Morar to Tarbet, Scotland

This part of Scotland is considered a paradise for walkers, with elevated views of some of the most stunning Scottish mountains including Ben Nevis and across the water towards the Hebrides. One of the most scenic and popular routes is the 5 mile route along the loch to Tarbet. With a snow capped backdrop against the still, mirror-like waters and on a crisp winter’s day, the views are simply breathtaking. The wild landscape provides a variety of habits to a fascinating array of wildlife. Look out for otters, roe deer and even sea eagles, which can be seen fishing for salmon!

Holywell Bay to Porthtowan, Cornwall

Holywell Beach

Whether it’s a crystalline blue winter’s day or a breezy afternoon, walkers (and surfers!) are drawn to one of the most enigmatic stretches of coast in the country. Holywell Bay with its famous Gull Rocks lies just to the south of Newquay on the north Cornwall coast. The walk following the coastal path south to Porthtowan passes delightful coves, expansive beaches and imposing cliffs and takes about 5 hours. The route will take you through Perranporth, St Agnes and the emblematic Wheal Coates, a former tin mine which looks down on this majestic coastline. This historic landmark has come to symbolise ‘Kernow’ and man’s essential link to land and sea. With a plethora of great pubs along the way, there is plenty of opportunity to ‘rest’ on this popular winter walk.

Slievenamon mountain walk, Republic of Ireland

This is a walk up the 721 metre mountain of Slievenamon. Although it is a mountain trek, Slievenamon is an easy mountain to climb and even suitable for beginners due to its wide and clearly marked path, which lasts up to the summit. The views from Slievenamon mountain are wonderful, allowing you to take in vistas of the other mountains nearby as well as the ancient burial cains, the highest of which was once believed to be the entrance to the Celtic hell. Slievenamon is itself a mountain steeped in folklore; its name is translatable as “Mountain of the Women”, which ultimately derives from the legend that the most beautiful women across the land once raced to the summit in order to become the bride of a warrior called Fionn mac Cumhail.

Winchcombe walks, the Cotswolds

The attractive gentle inclines of the Cotswolds offer an extensive variety of footpaths and bridleways across historic sites, rivers and past tempting old inns!  Winchcombe which lies at the heart of the Cotswolds is a great starting point for a variety of walks around some of the most beautiful and historic landscapes in the area.  Many options encompass parts of the Cotwolds Way and you can choose from leisurely two mile routes around Sudeley Castle to more challenging hikes from Winchombe to Hailes, taking in great views of the Malverns and the Vale of Evesham. With the early winter nights make sure you plan your journey allowing for plenty of daylight to complete your walk. What better way than to round off your winter hike than coming home to light your woodburner in your cosy Cotswolds cottage!

Sheringham to Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

Cley Next the Sea

This eight and a half mile walk is for people who like to feel as if they have entered the wilderness. It starts along rugged sandy cliffs, which then merge into wild shingle beach and salt marshes, where you can expect to spot some interesting birds. Further along the trail there are also cley marshes, softly undulating hills and great views of Cley’s windmill and Blakeney’s Church tower. The walk comes to an ideal end at the village Cley-next-the-Sea, where you can enjoy a well-earned cup of tea and slice of cake.

Allen Banks woodland walk, Northumberland

Northumberland is often overlooked as a tourist destination but the options for walkers are impressive. One lesser known but beautiful walk is the Allen Banks woodland walk, which snakes along the River Allen’s valley. This is a three mile, moderate walk. The River Allen is one of the south Tyne’s tributaries. This is a trail with diverse scenery as it also entails trekking through Northumberland’s woodland, which hosts a range of fungi, flora and fauna. This is a great walk for birdwatchers- look out for the dippers and grey wagtails. On summer evenings you can sometimes even spot bats diving for insects on the surface of the river!

Tintagel Church to Trebarwith Strand, Cornwall

Treknow

This three mile, easy-to-moderate walk takes you through one of the quieter areas of Cornwall. It may not be on the radar of most visitors to Cornwall but this is a truly beautiful trail. It starts off at a picturesque church on Glebe Cliff and then takes you along a coastal path, which offers jaw-dropping views of dramatic cliffs and coastal slate quarries as well as sandy beaches. The beach at Trebarwith Strand is also a great place to take a break for lunch or even go surfing. You can then follow a quarryman’s trail into the town of Treknow and round off your day by visiting the local castle.

The Grey Mare’s Tail and Loch Skeen, Scotland

This isolated area of Scotland, east of Ayr and south east of Glasgow, is one of the country’s hidden secrets. At less than three miles, this walk can be completed in two and a half hours. The Grey Mare’s Tail is one of Scotland’s most impressive waterfalls, cascading 60 metres in the Moffat hills. The view even inspired poet Sir Walter Scott to write verse about it. This walk allows you to not only drink in the vistas of the spectacular waterfall but also take in wonderful views of Loch Skeen and the rugged hills that surround the lake. There is some interesting wildlife to experience on this trail too, such as peregrine falcons.

Tonfanau to Tywyn, Wales

Tywyn is not an obvious choice when it comes to walking in Wales but it offers some fascinating routes. This particular one, which is eight miles and takes between three and five hours to complete, follows the Dysynni river and there are some colourful landmarks from the start. Tonfanau has an interesting history as it used to be an army camp and also took in Ugandan refugees during the 1970s. There are some spectacular views once you start this trek- for example at Craig-yr-aderyn (Bird’s Rock) and at the Broadwater lagoon. The wildlife to look out for includes oystercatchers, wallards, wigeons, skylarks, buzzards and red kites. The end of this walk leads you to Tywyn, where you are highly recommended to stop at Halo Foods Factory for its famous honey ice cream!

Curbar Gap circular, the Peak District

Curbar Gap

The central location of the Peak District National Park makes it eminently accessible and perfect for a walking short break. To get a real sense of wilderness and the essential raw beauty of the Peaks, the Eastern Moors is offers varied range of vistas to immerse yourself during a winter moorland walk. The circular route from Curbar Gap, through Froggat, White Edges and then back to Curbar Gap, takes in some of the most strikingly rugged parts of the Peak District. Expansive moorland home to timid red deer offers vantage points across Derwent Valley and on to the heartland of the Peak District.

Ballyconnell walk, Republic of Ireland

Ballyconnell, in County Cavan, is famed for its fishing and golf activities. Less well known is the fact that it is also a starting point for some of the most beautiful walks in the Republic of Ireland, which are dotted with archaeological sites. This includes the site where the Killycluggin stone was found, an artefact which dates back to the Iron Age. Although the real stone is now in the National Museum, there is a replica on site. One walk option is to start from the town’s bridge and then trek along the Woodford River and Annagh Lough Woods, which is home to ash, beech and oak trees as well as a wildlife reserve.