Winter walks special
Grab your family, besties and dogs, and choose one of these gorgeous walks (with pubs nearby obvs) across 22 Muddy counties to stretch your legs over the Christmas hols.
There’s nothing like Christmas and spending it with your family, but by Boxing Day you may just have had enough of good cheer, Monopoly and probing parental questions about your private life.
So it’s Muddy to the rescue with 90 brilliant walks across 22 Muddy counties from Norfolk to Somerset, Cotswolds to Cornwall – all with pubs en route or nearby – so you can breathe deep, stretch your legs and, er, have a sneaky G&T at the end of your walk.
BEDFORDSHIRE BERKSHIRE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE CAMBRIDGESHIRE CORNWALL DEVON GLOUCESTERSHIRE HAMPSHIRE HERTFORDSHIRE ISLE OF WIGHT KENT LEICESTERSHIRE NORFOLK NORTHAMPTONSHIRE OXFORDSHIRE RUTLAND SUFFOLK SOMERSET SURREY SUSSEX WARWICKSHIRE WILTSHIRE
BASILDON PARK, LOWER BASILDON, WEST BERKSHIRE
Distance and difficulty: Easy to moderate – there are four walks ranging from 0.5 to 3 miles with a couple of hills and muddy patches. The two shorter routes are suitable for pushchairs, taking 20-40 minutes, while the stretchy 3-miler around the estate’s boundary takes approximately 2 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Families, loafers, half-hearted stretchy leggers.
Why we love it: Lovingly restored by Lord and Lady Iliffe, Basildon Park is an architectural TV and film star (spot its appearances in Pride & Prejudice, Downton Abbey, Dorian Gray and Marie Antoinette) where kids can safely run free range in its 400 acres. The walks showcase the estate’s beautiful location and breathtaking views. The Illuminated Winter Walks are particularly special.
Basildon Park is less than two miles from The Swan in Pangbourne – a stunning 17th century pub (with literary links galore) that does unpretentious but stylishly presented food and a fab Sunday roast. There’s a modest riverside terrace that’s about as close to the river as you can get without getting wet, with views to die for. Inside there’s a a large bar and restaurant with nooks and crannies to hunker down in front of a fire for pints and crisps. Dogs are welcome outside or in a special bow-wow snug.
The Swan, Shooters Hill, Pangbourne, Reading RG8 7DU. Tel: 0118 984 4494.
BRAY LAKE, BERKSHIRE
Distance and difficulty: Easy – a gentle 1.5 mile stroll around the edge of Bray Lake. One of the prettiest spots in Berkshire, the path hugs the edge of the tree-lined water, home to Bray Lake Watersports. During the wet months, wellies are a must as it can get a bit muddy. View walk here.
Good for: Families, particularly those with young children, reluctant walkers and anyone pretending to work up an appetite before lunch.
Why we love it: Location location location, baby. It might be minutes from the J8/9 of the M4, but it’s an oasis of calm and tranquility. Drink in the views – still waters, weeping willows and boaty types are attention grabbing. Oh, did I mention you’re in the gastro enclave of Bray? That’s right folks, your efforts will be rewarded in foodie heaven.
As if by magic, up pops Heston’s Hind’s Head just two miles from Bray Lake. It’s a historic pub, serving food that’s worthy of its Michelin star. Don’t be fooled into the thinking its all la-di-dah, you’ll be welcomed with open arms (but perhaps leave your muddy boots in the car). Upstairs is the elegantly eccentric Royal Lounge – perfect for a post-walk drinkies and a mouth-watering snack – Heston’s legendary Scotch egg is a must-try. Up for a couple of courses? Check out the set lunch menus: £25 for two courses, £29.50 for three (Mon-Fri), and £47 for the three-course Sunday lunch. Exceptionally good value when there’s a Michelin twinkler over the door.
The Hind’s Head, High St, Bray SL6 2AB. Tel: 01628 626151
COOKHAM AND COCK MARSH, BERKSHIRE
Distance and difficulty: Moderate four-mile circular strut – taking approximately two hours, this one’s not for the faint hearted. The route (in full here) takes in churches, the river, past Bronze Age burial mounds, along a wooden boardwalk and you’ll get cracking views of Cliveden. It can be wet and boggy at this time of year, and is steep in places, but it’s a corker.
Good for: Energetic stompers, dog walkers and nature-loving David Attenborough types.
Why we love it: It’s a pick and mix of beautiful Berkshire countryside, Cock Marsh is a biological Site of Special Scientific Interest and there’s not shortage of wildlife. The varied terrain along riverside paths, through lush meadows and over grassland slopes will reward you with panoramic views across the Thames Valley
From the Cookham Moor National Trust car park, you’re a four-minute stagger to The White Oak, which balances the art of being a welcoming local and foodie destination. Popping in for pint and snack? Take a pew. Settling in for a three-course thriller? The modern rustic Oak Room awaits with its stunning, seasonal menu. Plus there’s crowd-pleasing kids’ and set menus.
White Oak Cookham, The Pound, Cookham, Maidenhead SL6 9QE
LONG WALK, WINDSOR, BERKSHIRE
Distance and difficulty: Easy – follow in the footsteps of Kings and Queens. This is a dead straight 2-3 hour leisurely stroll down the tree-lined drive and back again. What it lacks in map-reading (no complaints here) it makes up for in regal splendour. It’s a 5-mile round trip (you can dip out anytime) from from Windsor Castle’s Cambridge Gate up to the Copper Horse and back again. No bikes, no cars (unless you’re the crown-wearing VIP) just you, Windsor Great Park and lots of deer. View walk here.
Good for: History nerds, royal stalkers, half-hearted leg stretchers and families with energy to burn.
Why we love it: Rich in royal history, it’s got the wow factor in spades. The world’s largest occupied castle as a backdrop, stonking parkland and the impressive statue of mad King George III on horseback (actually made of brass, just saying). Make it to the the Copper Horse and you can see the curtains twitch from Windsor Castle to Buckingham Palace.
Once you have taken in enough fresh air and scenery, head to Bel And The Dragon on Thames Street. Situated in the shadow of the castle, this historic pub has three cosy rooms with beams and an open fire, serving real ales, a good choice of wines and tasty food suitable for all the family. It’s a pub that ticks the boxes for kids and grown ups – comforting classics with a twist and modern rustic decor.
Bel & The Dragon, Thames Street, 1 Datchet Road, Windsor Berkshire SL4 1QB. Tel: 01753 866056.
STANFORD DINGLEY, WEST BERKSHIRE
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – this is a 4-mile stomp through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (but there are a couple of cheeky short cuts if the call of a roaring pub fire is strong). That said, the full loop is a two-hour belter with some steep sections, a couple of hills and some muddy, uneven ground. A colourful walk to see the seasons change that’s particularly lovely in spring and autumn. View walk here.
Good for: Enthusiastic striders, hardy dog-walkers and shameless cheaters.
Why we love it: Stanford Dingley and its surrounding meadows and woodland are what escaping to the countryside is all about. An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you can celebrate the seasons and always find a cracking pub to warm your cockles. There’s even half a chance you’ll bump into a dog-walking Cambridge or Middleton. Fancy.
A proper local in the heart of the community the The Old Boot welcomes walkers, kids, dogs and, er, horses. You’ll find a couple of roaring fires, sleeping dogs and an enormous garden if the walking hasn’t completely knackered any kids and animals. Whether you’re grabbing a pint and a packet of pork scratchings or tucking into the the comforting pub grub (portion sizes will test you), you’ll love the cosy, country pub vibe.
The Old Boot, Stanford Dingley, Reading RG7 6LT. Tel: 0118 974 5191
PORT MEADOW, OXFORD
Distance and difficulty: 3.5 miles (one way), 7 miles (circular). Moderate.
Good for: Pretty much everyone as it’s totally flat, though clearly pretty long. There is a pub half way through the first leg of this walk if you can’t make it all the way to Wolvercote for the main pub choice!
Why we love it: Port Meadow is still Oxford’s biggest secret (and arguably biggest asset), an enormous stretch of free grazing land accessed just 10 minutes from the centre of the city. Port Meadow goes back as far as the Doomsday Book, and takes in the River Isis, free grazing cows and horses, Godstow lock, the remains of Godstow Abbey and some mightily lovely views of Oxford’s dreaming spires.
Jacob’s Inn is your prize if you walk the three miles to Wolvercote. One of the first pubs in the area to really nail cool, quirky styling, it’s a pleasing mix of classic stone country pub and hipster hangout – in the summer the deckchairs and the table football come out, there are pigs on site (field to fork doesn’t quite cover it here), fresh eggs for sale and doggy treats for four-legged friends. The Perch pub is your stop off half way across the meadow if stamina fails you or hunger stops you in your tracks.
HENLEY TO SHIPLAKE
Distance and difficulty: Easy and flat, 2.5 – 5m (45 mins to 1.5 hours). View walk here.
Good for: Those wanting a short stroll to the pub (great for littlies).
Why we love it: This walk is very civilised! No squidgy slippery grass and mud, a gorgeous riverside meander in Henley before reaching a lock (great fun for littlies), and then a gentle, quiet wander into the well-heeled village of Shiplake. Best of all, if you decide you don’t want to walk back where you came from, take the train from Shiplake back to Henley in 10 minutes.
The Baskerville Arms is your destination in Shiplake. The pub has just changed hands, and the food has simplified from super-flash gastropub fare of before – fish n chips, burgers, lamb shanks and Sunday roasts are the order of the day. There’s a beer garden if you’re feeling brave (or the kids need some free ranging). If you’re starting at Shiplake and want to eat in Henley, head to the Bull on Bell Street, a stylish pub/restaurant/bar that’s super-family-friendly 10 minute walk from the river.
Distance and difficulty: 5miles, easy. View walk here.
Good for: All age groups – the fact that is goes through two villages with excellent pubs means that there are options for tired little legs.
Why we love it: The Windrush Valley in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds is stunning and Asthall and Swinbrook are two of the loveliest villages. Asthall’s gorgeous 12th century church is well worth your time, you’re also 10 minutes from Burford for shopping.
This circular walk starts and ends at The Maytime Inn – relaxed, unpretentious, family-friendly and tastefully decorated. Expect lovely log fires on chilly days and make use of the huge outdoor area for summer. Dog-friendly too, with snacks, water and a very pro-dog owner. And did we mention the rooms? Six of them for an overnighter if you’re too relaxed to go home again.
CHRISTMAS COMMON, MID OXON
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – mostly flat with a couple of stiles and hills. 2.8 mile route taking 1 hours 15 mins. View walk here.
Good for: Families, loafers, half-hearted stretchy leggers
Why we love it: Christmas Common may be close to the M40 (Junction 5, fact fans) but you’d never know it – high up in the Chilterns, this Area of Outstanding Beauty is home to some of the loveliest views and prettiest bluebell woods in the county.
This circular walk actually starts and ends at the The Fox & Hounds pub, a stunning 16th century pub that does fabulous Sunday lunches (yes I have, several times!). There’s a small outdoor area out the front, small atmospheric snug for pints and crisps and then a gastro-offering in the revamped restaurant area. Dog-friendly snacks on offer and four legged buddies welcome in the bar area and outside.
The Fox & Hounds, Christmas Common, Watlington, Oxfordshire, OX49 5HL Tel: 01491 612599.
SKIRMETT, TURVILLE AND FINGEST
Distance and difficulty: Circular walk, 4 miles, two hills, moderate. View map here.
Good for: Those who want to work up an appetite and fancy a choice of pubs – all three villages offer possibilities.
Why we love it: The Hambleden valley is one of the most stunning parts of the Buckinghamshire Chilterns and as it’s a circular walk you can start at any of the three villages. The walk takes in the windmill at Turville (filmed in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang); the Norman church in Fingest; Adams Wood and some of the loveliest scenery you’ll find in this part of the world.
The Chequers in Fingest has a large (ish) car park from which to start and end your walking odyssey, and does a splendid line in luxurious Sunday lunches. Stylishly quirky touches like the vintage hobby horse, copper pots and mixmatched settles also raise The Chequers above the usual country pub vibe. Expect half-sized portions for kids and a large beer garden (nearly 2 acres!). Not starting in Fingest? The Bull in Turville and The Frog at Skirmett are your excellent alternatives.
COOMBE HILL AND CHEQUERS
Distance and difficulty: 5-7 miles, challenging. View map here.
Good for: Fitties, hikers, those who want to work up the hell appetite before lunch
Why we love it: This walk takes you up to Coombe Hill, highest viewpoint in the Chilterns, and offers exquisite views out to the PM’s Chequers (you’ll be clocked by the secret service way before you see the estate!). You’re enveloped in the rolling Chilterns and pretty much totally off road.
The Russell Arms in Butlers Cross is a 5 minute drive from the National Trust car park from which you start this walk. The 18th century coaching house, which was taken over earlier this year by pub expert Paul Mitchell, serves traditional pub food and stone baked pizzas as well as local ales and new gin offering. Inside the pub is stylish and cosy, plus there’s a beer garden and small courtyard outside. Dog friendly.
ICKWORTH MONUMENT WALK, HORRINGER, WEST SUFFOLK
Distance and difficulty: 5.8 miles around this glorious estate doesn’t feel that far, I promise. It’ll take you three hours, but the promise of a pub lunch at the end will see you through. The terrain ranges from parkland to forest and there are lots of lovely bucolic sights to keep you entertained. View the walk here.
Good for: I’ve done this walk dozens of times and love it even more each time. It undulates a bit, but active families and dogs in need of exercise will really enjoy it. Fit types with babies in papooses will also be fine as will runners and more experienced ramblers. There are ways to divert off and make the walk shorter if you have nippers in tow too.
Why we love it: You can’t fail to fall for Ickworth House and the surrounding land – it’s so well kept and the beauty of this walk is that you won’t see a single car or sometimes even another human being once you get beyond the main part of the estate.
Just outside the main gates of Ickworth is the newly refurbished The Six Bells, Horringer. You can divert off and include the driveway as part of this walk and then hop across the main road to this pub halfway through. If autumn decides to give us any sun, there’s a large walled pub garden or inside you can enjoy gastro-pub fare in the light, modern interiors with your four-legged friend in tow.
CONSTABLE COUNTRY AT FLATFORD MILL, SUFFOLK/ ESSEX BORDER
Distance and difficulty: This circular riverside walk is 3.75 miles along roads, field paths and riverside meadows. There are 5 stiles (what is this, the 100m hurdles?!), but otherwise there’s very little climbing to be done. View the walk here.
Good for: Art enthusiasts and lovers of scenes from a bucolic bygone era. This is the landscape that inspired John Constable and the entire walk, with views over Dedham Vale, feels like you’re in The Hay Wain.
Why we love it: This is quite possibly the most beautiful part of Suffolk – English countryside at its very best. All of the surrounding villages from East Bergholt to Dedham (across the border), where you have to make time for a stop, are picture-postcard pretty and have tea rooms, shops and pubs aplenty.
This walk starts and ends in East Bergholt, where you’ll find the classic Suffolk pink family-run pub, The Carrier’s Arms. Think log fires inside on cold days and drinks in the huge beer garden with pond on warmer ones.
CLARE CASTLE COUNTRY PARK, SOUTHWEST SUFFOLK
Distance and difficulty: There are six different circular walks to choose from starting in the town’s park, but for a guaranteed nice stroll choose the intermediate Clare Loop, a 2 – 4.5 mile loop that’ll take you up to two hours. View the walk here.
Good for: Families, and townie types who don’t want to get their new Joules wellies too muddy.
Why we love it: It might be Suffolk’s smallest town, but it certainly packs a punch in the cultural stakes and we love that you can mix a visit to the town’s antique shops and eateries with a stroll through a park with 13th century castle ruins, an old railway line and the River Stour, and then go out into the rolling hills of West Suffolk.
You can leave your car in the park’s car park and walk across to The Bell Hotel, a traditional coaching inn that was given a modern makeover in late 2018, but still has all the open fires and carved beams you could desire. The main pub restaurant is called Latitude 52, which serves more upmarket dishes or you can enjoy gastropub style food in the bar and lounge with your pooch in tow.
DUNWICH PUB TO PUB WALK, SUFFOLK COAST
Distance and difficulty: A moderate 3.5-mile walk from The Ship at Dunwich to The Westleton Crown, that feels very manageable when you consider there’s a pub at either end. To make it circular, it becomes an 8.5 miler or you’ll need to sweet talk someone into driving you back. The terrain is fairly easy to navigate and flat. View the walk here.
Good for: Celebrations – gather the family together and use the walk as an excuse to visit two of the Suffolk Coast’s best pubs and have a good old knees-up.
Why we love it: A pub to pub walk, you say? What’s not to love! Plus, this walk goes through RSPB Minsmere, National Trust’s Dunwich Heath and the remains of Greyfriars Monastery. Perfection!
Nearby pub(s): This walk was devised by The Ship at Dunwich and its sister pub The Westleton Crown, both of which are well-known for their amazing food and charming interiors. Your choice which you decide to eat in, but we like the idea of a starter and main in one and then pudding once you reach the second.
ANSTEY’S COVE, TORQUAY
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – a circular 3.5 mile walk with some not-too difficult ups and downs, taking just over an hour. View walk here.
Good for: Families, amblers, chatters, shell-pickers, fossil-finders, dog-walkers and buggy-pushers.
Why we love it: It takes you through leafy Wellswood with a mix of woods, fields, pavements and undulating coastline so something for everyone. If you’re lucky you might spot a seal or dolphin from your vantage point.
Park on Ilsham Drive, near Kent’s Cavern and among the boutiques and beauty salons at the top you’ll spot the continental style deli-café Me & Mrs Jones. Tuck into generous home-made tarts and salads – always delicious and a great atmosphere. Plenty of shopping here too, with Sharpham cheeses, sourdough bread, Willy’s kombucha – and covetable bicycle baskets.
BAGGY POINT TO CROYDE, NORTH DEVON
Distance and difficulty: Challenging – a circular 4.5 mile route starting at Baggy Point taking in cliffs and the surfer beach at Croyde along the south west coast path and Tarka Trail. Give yourself around 2 hours. View the walk here.
Good for: stompers and striders, botanisers, binocular-wielders, dogs on leads.
Why we love it: A proper wind-in-your-hair, take-your-breath-away sorta walk, good for getting the old glutes burning with panoramic Woolacombe Bay views as your reward. And where else do you get to see the fossilised bones of a whale?!
Nearby pub: Stop at The Thatch at Croyde for its hearty pub classics and Mexican nachos and enchiladas. Full of olde-worlde character and a fire to warm up your fingers and toes, while channeling a cool surfer dude vibe.
HEDDON VALLEY, EXMOOR
Distance and difficulty: Easy – mostly flat with a few gentle slopes along the River Heddon through ancient woodland to the sea at Heddon’s Mouth, lasting about an hour. View the walk here.
Good for: leg-stretchers, butterfly and wildflower-watchers, Instagrammers, dog-walkers.
Why we love it: Think Utterly Butterly ad: a Site of Special Scientific Interest on National Trust land and one of the most wildflower-filled walks I’ve ever been on with otters playing in the river and rare brown fritillary butterflies flitting between the gorse. Lush.
Start and end your walk at Hunters Inn, originally a thatched cottage but rebuilt in the style of a Swiss chalet in Victorian times. It’s got that middle of nowhere feel (and excellent gin), peaceful for a de-frazzling dinner or a good-value sleepover should you fancy making a night of it. You might wake up to a peacock on your windowsill (I did).
WISTMAN’S WOOD CIRCULAR WALK, DARTMOOR
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – a 5-mile walk taking in ancient stunted oaks, granite tors and awesome 360 degree views over Dartmoor. You’ll need walking boots and waterproofs. and allow a good couple of hours. Check it out here.
Good for: families, kids, dogs on leads, forest-bathers in need of a boost.
Why we love it: A witchy walk through wizened old oaks and boulders covered in moss – very atmospheric – bringing you out onto the moors with their vast 360 degrees views and monolithic tors.
Nearby pub: This walk starts and ends at Two Bridges one of those wonderfully laid-back inns which manages to be spacious and cosy, where no-one bats an eyelid if kids and dogs are playing up. Good for a hot chocolate by the fire or a slap-up cream tea.
PARKE, BOVEY TRACEY
Distance and difficulty: Easy-peasy – a fairly level 1-mile potter around a 19th century National Trust estate. Wear wellies as it can get boggy in parts. Allow 30-40 minutes. See the walk here.
Good for: meanderers, period-property fans, toddlers, the oldies and veg-plotters.
Why we love it: A feel-good yesteryear vibe with beehives, a pond with dragonflies, old orchards and a working kitchen garden, lots of natural inspo with something to see whatever the season.
Nearby cafe: Muddy-approved Home Farm Cafe is worth the visit without the walk, a destinations for foodies who love home-made, locally sourced good grub, and the rustic vibe which perfectly channels its location. Brunches, cream teas and a good kids menu – it’s all here.
SALCOMBE AND SOAR MILL COVE
Distance and difficulty: Challenging – a mix of hedgerow lanes, steep rocky cliff paths and stiles, to the aptly-named high point of Soar with a stop at the beautiful beach at Soar Mill Cove and back. 6.6 miles, taking 3 hours. View the walk here.
Good for: families with gung-ho kids and hardy teens, Ten Tors and DoE-ers, buzzard and bird watchers, seal and dolphin-spotters.
Why we love it: What’s not to love about Salcombe and its Mediterranean like golden sands and turquoise blue seas? The palm-filled garden and quirky inventor’s house at Overbecks is en route if you fancy a detour for a seagull’s eye view of the boats on the estuary.
Nearby cafe: Park on the road at North Sands (the car park is currently closed) and start and finish your walk from The Winking Prawn where you can sit under the bunting (or right next to the beach) and scoff on fresh salads, local-caught fishy dishes or a slap-up cream tea. There’s a dressing-up box by the door, and your cutlery and condiments comes in a pink child’s beach bucket. The Mudlets will love it.
AROUND MINCHINHAMPTON COMMON
Distance and difficulty: Easy/moderate – 4 miles. View walk here.
Good for: Butterfly lovers – the Adonis Blue is often found on the western edges of the Common in the breeding season (there are two broods per year, one in June and then August/September).
Why we love it: This is a fairly level walk that follows the outer boundary of Minchinhampton Common and can be started from a number of places, including the Bell Lane car park, the Common Road car park, the Beaudesert car park, and for local residents pretty much anywhere within Minchinhampton itself. You can hardly get lost as long as you stick to the Common, and it can be made shorter by cutting corners. The views all around are excellent and the going normally very dry, unless after recent rain, and mostly on short grass.
When you come to The Weighbridge, a 17th century this inn, with rustic interiors and a ‘come on in’ ambience (everyone’s welcome from the Muddy-boot brigade to motley children and dogs), make sure you come hungry because The Weighbridge is the inventor of the 2in1 Pie. What’s that you ask? That is the pub’s inspired culinary invention which puts your braised beef and ale, say, side by side with your cauliflower and cheese, say, topping the pair of them with the shortest, crumbliest homemade pastry ever. There are veggie, vegan and gluten-free options, full-sized and minis, and they are a-mazing. You can ask for the recipe but you won’t be given it as it’s been a closely guarded secret, passed down from landlord to landlord for 40 years.
The Weighbridge, Longfords, Minchinhampton GL6 9AL, Tel: 01453 832520
TURKDEAN AND NOTGROVE FROM COLD ASTON
Distance and difficulty: Easy/moderate – 6.5 miles. View walk here.
Good for: Cotswold snoopers – the buildings you’ll pass are stunning! It’s a good half day walk, so great for keen beans
Why we love it: This Gloucestershire walk features typical rolling Cotswolds rolling countryside and visits three lovely villages – Cold Aston, Turkdean and Notgrove – following mainly well-trodden paths .
Nestled in the small Cotswold village of Cold Aston, The Plough Inn is a true country pub. The three rooms are cute and quirky, produce is local and seasonal, with particular attention paid to animal welfare, while the bar is a gin lover’s heaven. But it is the location that really impresses – Bourton on the Water, Stow on the Wold, Upper and Lower Slaughter – basically it’s bang in the middle of Cotswolds’ day-trip nirvana. We love the story behind this pub – owners Tom and Josie have been friends since the age of 3 and, after high octane lives in London and New York, the pair returned to work their hospitality and design magic on this gem of a pub – a truly local, warm and welcoming gaff.
The Plough Inn, Chapel Lane, Cold Aston, Nr. Cheltenham, Gloucestershire GL54 3BN, Tel: 01451 822602
STOW ON THE WOLD CIRCULAR WALK
Distance and difficulty: Easy/moderate – 3.5 miles, about one hour. View walk here.
Good for: Walkers who like a snoop around shops!
Why we love it: Half well-marked footpath, half country lane, this is a gorgeous country stroll before hitting the indie boutiques of Stow.
England’s self-proclaimed ‘oldest inn’, The Porch House, also happens to be one of the classiest, with stylish interiors, excellent gastrofare and luxe bedrooms. First opening its doors in 947AD, for centuries punters have been choosing The Porch House as their local and despite renovations this countryside inn has all its quirky and historic features intact. Perfectly suited for fine dining or a casual Sunday lunch, the menu boasts robust cooking, sourcing all ingredients from local suppliers.
The Porch House, Digbeth Street, Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, GL54 1BN, Tel: 01451 870048
FAIRFORD – SOUTHROP – FAIRFORD
Distance and difficulty: Easy/moderate– 6.25 miles. View walk here.
Good for: Pretty much everyone!
Why we love it: This easy walk from the centre of Fairford passes over tracks, paths and minor country roads, with sweeping views of the rich farmlands of the Eastern Cotswolds.
Attracting tourists and locals alike, The Bull, Fairford is the place to head to for fab food and stylish interiors. Fab Sunday lunches include oak cured organic salmon, grapefruit, beetroot & rocket salad, baked garlic camembert or venison carpaccio for starters, followed by flat iron steak, roasted breast of chicken or pan fried fillet of sea bream, amongst others. For parties and weddings, hire the Bull Room – a vaulted barn with its own bar, garden and entrance – a mini pub for up to 60 guests.
The Bull, Fairford, Market Place, Fairford, Gloucestershire GL7 4AA, Tel: 01285 712535
BEAULIEU TO BUCKLERS HARD TRAIL, NEW FOREST
Difficulty and distance: Super easy – The total route there and back is a 4.5 mile walk that is suitable for pushchairs. View walk here.
Good for: Young families, animal lovers and loafers.
Why we love it: As well as the gorgeous views of the Beaulieu River from Buckler’s Hard there’s also the chance to see all that glorious New Forest wildlife. Whenever we’re here we always see at least a few ponies and donkeys trotting about which the kids (and the grown-ups!) love.
Attached to The Montagu Arms (one of the best hotels in the county) is Monty’s Inn. This gorgeous little pub is really relaxed, right by the beginning of the trail and serves up excellent pub grub and local tipples. There’s usually a few donkeys outside to squeal at as well.
Monty’s Inn, Palace Lane, Beaulieu, Hampshire SO42 7ZL Tel: 01590 614986
WEST MEON, MEON VALLEY, HANTS
Difficulty and distance: Easy to moderate – this 5.9 mile circular walk through the South Downs isn’t too taxing but isn’t flat enough for wheelchairs or pushchairs. View walk here.
Good for: Sunday strollers, families and view seekers.
Why we love it: The Meon Valley is incredibly beautiful and encompasses the awesome views of the South Downs without being overly far from the beaten track. Here you’ll find cute little thatched cottages and all the sights, sounds and smells of the Hampshire countryside.
The Thomas Lord in West Meon near Petersfield is everything you could want in a country pub. Leather chairs, roaring log fires and excellent traditional pub food done really well. And its location with easy access to the M27 and M3 means you can linger a little bit longer before heading home.
The Thomas Lord, The High Street, West Meon, Nr Petersfield, Hampshire, GU32 1LN Tel: 01730 829244
FLEET POND, NORTH HANTS
Difficulty and distance: Super easy – This circular walk is a relaxed 2.5 miles of flat surfaces from start to finish. View walk here.
Good for: Families with small kids, those who like the idea of going for a walk without too much effort.
Why we love it: As well as being a really easy and chilled walk it’s also close to Fleet train station meaning you can leave the car at home. There’s lots of great wildlife to spot and there’s even a mini-beach which you wouldn’t expect on an inland stroll.
Perfectly located right by the water is the Heron on the Lake. With a cosy and contemporary interior inspired by the sea, plus some super comfy outside space (complete with hot water bottles for chillier days) you can continue to enjoy the outdoors while you kick back with a well deserved G&T.
Heron on the Lake, Old Cove Road, Fleet, Hampshire, GU51 2RY Tel: 01252 812522
BISHOP’S WALTHAM HERITAGE WALK, SOUTH HANTS
Difficulty and distance: Moderate – This 4-mile circular walk isn’t too tricky but does involve a few stiles so not suitable for pushchairs and those with limited mobility. View walk here.
Good for: History buffs, families and chilled out strollers.
Why we love it: Not only do you get a lovely countryside walk but a history lesson with this one. On the route, you can see what is left of the once impressive Bishop’s Waltham Palace which was ripped down during the Civil War.
Two log fires greet you as you enter The Black Dog and they’ve also got all-day food service on a Sunday, so you won’t have to walk too fast to ensure you get a Sunday roast. Also, if you don’t fancy anything that heavy the pub also does lighter bites that showcase local produce.
The Black Dog,Winchester Road, Waltham Chase, Southampton, Hampshire, SO32 2LX Tel: 01329 832 316
BEACON VIEW WALK
Distance and difficulty: A 6.5 mile circular route (with a shorter 2 mile option) across a mix of easy terrain from farm tracks and woodland footpaths to canal towpaths and tarmacked roads. Takes 2.5 hours (or 1 hour for the short cut). View walk here.
Good for: Families after a decent stomp, which can be adapted for those with little legs and less stamina.
Why we love it: If it’s variety you’re after, this one takes you from open farmland, through the 18th-century woodland landscape of Tring Park (which might be ringing a bell for being the home of the famous Performing Arts School), with fabulous views across Tring towards Ivinghoe Beacon, and on to the Grand Union Canal, where you can look out for wildlife, spot the most colourful barges and let the mind boggle over the engineering feat that is the lock.
Handily, this one starts and finishes at The Greyhound pub in Wigginton – a trad village inn where you’ll find real ales, log fires and decent home-cooked nosh. You’ll be in good company amongst the local hikers and cyclists who can often be found propping up the bar here.
The Greyhound, Greyhound Pub, Chesham Road, Wigginton, Tring, HP23 6EH, 01442 824631
THE ALFORD ARMS AND CHILTERN HILLS WALK
Distance and difficulty: A moderate 3.8 mile loop along well-trodden trails (which can get marshy in wetter months), fields and country lanes with some gentle up and downhill sections (some steeper than others) and the odd kissing gate thrown in. View walk here.
Good for: Getting muddy.
Why we love it: It’s brimming with wildlife and wild flowers round here (Heizdin’s Wood is awash with bluebells in the spring), and you’ll be rewarded with lovely views across the valley at Potten End. Plus the route passes a Buddhist monastery (not something you see every day!)
The Alford Arms in Frithsden won the Muddy Award for Best Destination Pub 2019, so it doesn’t need much more of a sell than that, but I can vouch for the fact that dining here is a real treat (and definitely worth the three courses). There’s a real community feel here too, but unlike some pubs which serve excellent food, there’s no pomp and ceremony – the more muddy boots and dogs the merrier. Make sure you plan ahead though – it can get booked up weeks ahead especially on Sundays.
The Alford Arms, Frithsden, nr. Hemel Hempstead, Herts, HP1 3DD, 01442 86 44 80
THE ALBAN WAY
Distance and difficulty: A 6.5 mile walk which connects Hatfield and St Albans, along the former Great Northern Railway Line. From one end to the other it takes around 3 hours. It’s flat, traffic-free, and accessible to all users. There are various places to park along the route and multiple access points. View walk here.
Good for: Those looking for a more more urban interactive walk which takes in a bit of everything.
Why we love it: This purpose-built trail is ideal for dipping in and out of if you don’t fancy doing the whole thing in one go. There’s loads to see and do en route, including some specially commissioned artworks, a nature reserve with a butterfly meadow and wetlands, Grade II listed former railway stations, kids’ play areas and it even passes right by the Galleria Shopping Centre in Hatfield. Plus you’re close enough for a pop in to Hatfield House if you plan to make a day of it.
Just off the mapped trail is Dylan’s The Plough at Sleapshyde – definitely worth a well-earned pit stop, with its menu of pimped-up pub classics and craft beer ‘wall’. It’s about 45 minutes’ walk from Hatfield or an hour from St Albans depending on your starting point, just don’t forget you’ll have to get back to your car afterwards though, so you might want go easy on the dessert!
Dylans The Plough, Sleapshyde Lane, St Albans, AL4 0SE, 01727 823720
EASTERN CIRCULAR WALK, CHIPPERFIELD COMMON
Distance and difficulty: 10 miles along riverside paths, commons and fields with one stile, some kissing gates and a few short stretches on country lanes. View walk here.
Good for: Fitties after a good hearty stomp in the countryside.
Why we love it: It starts and finishes at Chalfont and Latimer train station (so you don’t need a car, but you can also park at the station – win win). OK, so it’s just over the border into Bucks, but the Eastern trail tips the majority of the walk into Herts territory, taking in part of the Chess Valley Walk, the Frogmore Meadow Nature Reserve, Chipperfield, Commonwood and Dawes Commons, and the picturesque village of Sarratt (claim to fame: some scenes from Four Weddings and a Funeral were shot here).
Near the start of the trail you’ll pass through the village of Flaunden, home to The Bricklayers Arms. Don’t miss it mind – you’ll just need to take a slight detour from the route that the map in the above link suggests, making sure you stop off at point 14 (at the wonderfully named Hogpits Bottom). It’s got proper chocolate box appeal, a Michelin-trained chef and it’s been named Dining Pub of the Year in Herts multiple times on the trot.
The Bricklayers Arms, The Bricklayers Arms, Hogpits Bottom, Flaunden, Hertfordshire, HP3 0PH, 01442 833322
ISLE OF WIGHT
TOTLAND TO ALUM BAY, WEST WIGHT
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – there’s a bit of ascent and the rural nature means that it can be a tad slippery. You have a choice of a shorter circular walk of 3 miles but it’s definitely worth the extra 1.25 miles to take in Alum Bay. View walk here.
Good for: Families, nature enthusiasts and shutterbugs.
Why we love it: You’re hitting some of the top West Wight spots on this walk, including the absolutely iconic views of Alum Bay and the Needles.
This circular walk is in a less built-up area of the Island but is lucky enough to have The Waterfront in Totland Bay towards the end of the stroll. Along with excellent food and a fantastic view over the bay itself, its menu has awesome Sunday roasts and plenty of vegan options for all your walking buddies.
The Waterfront, The Beach, Totland Bay, Isle of Wight, PO39 0BQ Tel: 01983 756969
TIP OF THE WIGHT WALK, SOUTH WIGHT
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – It can be a tad steep round here and the wind coming from the Channel is strong, but the 3.5 miles is well worth the trundle. View walk here.
Good for: Dog walkers, families and heritage enthusiasts.
Why we love it: The southern tip of the Island is breathtaking and has a real sense of history to it. Smuggling coves and ancient lighthouses are dotted around a very secluded, but incredibly beautiful area.
Cosy, historic and with absolutely cracking food, The Buddle Inn in Niton is the perfect spot to stop mid or post walk. As well as being steeped with smuggling history with its stonework and roaring open fire, it’s the ideal place to warm yourself after a brisk stroll on one of the windiest places on the Wight.
The Buddle Inn, St Catherine’s Rd, Niton, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, PO38 2NE Tel: 01983 730243
APPLEY BEACH TO SEAGROVE, NORTH WIGHT
Distance and difficulty: Easy-ish – The total route is 4.4 miles however, the walk itself is adaptable if you want to shorten it. Make sure to check the tides as you can’t access some parts of the route during high tide. View walk here.
Good for: Beach lovers, view seekers and families.
Why we love it: As well as being on the sandy shorefront, you can also look over to the mainland for an epic view of Portsmouth and the Solent Forts.
The Isle of Wight Distillery not only makes excellent gin and vodka but also has it’s own watering hole, The Mermaid Bar, just a couple of streets away. If you fancy switching that super traditional pub vibe for a contemporary cool atmosphere (plus the chance to take some awesome Island-made drinks home) this should definitely be on your radar.
The Mermaid Bar at The Isle of Wight Distillery, Pondwell Hill, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 1PX Tel: 01983 613653
SHANKLIN TO SANDOWN, SOUTH WIGHT
Distance and difficulty: Easy – This is a straight walk that is 3 miles long (6 if you walk back) but if you’re a bit too tired there are regular buses back to the starting point or even the chance to ride on the quirky Island railway. View walk here.
Good for: Families, lovers of traditional seaside towns and those looking for a longer stretch to walk.
Why we love it: Both Shanklin and Sandown are the quintessential nostalgia spots of the Island, and there’s a real Enid Blyton vibe to them (make a note to check out the cute cottages in Old Shanklin). There’s also a bit more protection from the elements here so you can walk the south of the island without getting too windswept.
The Caulkheads is a really family-friendly pub located in Sandown, just two minutes from the beach. Part of the local Character Inn chain it’s really true to its Island roots (in fact Islanders are also known as Caulkheads, has a great menu plus a pirate (or should that be smuggler?) themed play area to keep small people amused.
CLOPHILL AND HAYNES CIRCULAR WALK
Distance and difficulty: An easy to moderate 6-miler along gravel tracks, footpaths, farmland and lanes. View walk here.
Good for: A romantic ramble.
Why we love it: It starts in the pretty town of Clophill, and takes in views of the 18th century mansion at Haynes Park as well as farmland and woodland terrain, to keep things interesting. There are plenty of stiles, kissing gates, bridges and hedge gaps to navigate your way over and around, too.
The Flying Horse in Clophill is a contemporary barn conversion nestled within the Maulden, Warren and Clophill Woods, with a varied menu of hearty pub food, vegan dishes and kid-friendly options.
The Flying Horse, 2 The Green, Clophill, Bedford, Bedfordshire, MK45 4AD, 01525 860293
TURVEY CIRCULAR WALK
Distance and difficulty: This 6 mile walk with stiles can be adapted with shortcuts for those feeling less ambitious View walk here.
Good for: Local heritage buffs.
Why we love it: Fancy a local history lesson? This one starts and finishes in the pretty and historic village of Turvey (look out for the Saxon church) this route takes you through Turvey Abbey Park (the grounds of the 17th-century Abbey), over Turvey Bridge (thought to be the oldest crossing of the River Great Ouse in Bedfordshire) and along part of the disused Bedford to Northampton Railway line, so there’s plenty to see along the way and swot up on afterwards. The village is also home to Turvey House too – a privately owned Grade I-listed 18th-century manor house which is normally closed to the public, but can be booked out for weddings and special events.
Right on the river bank and bordering the Turvey House estate is The Three Fyshes. The accommodating landlords will happily let you park up there while you go for a walk as long as you call in for a pint (OK, you’ve twisted my arm), and it would be rude not to have lunch while you’re there, too. And it’s perfect pre or post-walk carb-loading fare, from BLTs and burgers to bangers and mash.
The Three Fyshes, Bridge Street, Turvey, Bedfordshire, MK43 8ER, 01234 881463
Distance and difficulty: A circular 6.25 mile walk with one steep ascent and descent. View walk here.
Good for: Wildlife spotters and history geeks.
Why we love it: The Barton Hills are believed to have inspired the Celestial Mountains in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress so you’ll be walking in the footsteps of one of Bedfordshire’s most famous historical figures. You’ll also pass Barton-Le-Clay manor (which got a mention in the Domesday Book) and Bury Farm, (formerly Sharpenhoe Manor), which dates back to 1197. And the Sharpenhoe Clappers, an ancient woodland and National Trust-owned site, is home to an Iron Age hill fort. Those into wildlife will enjoy wandering through the Nature Reserve, which is awash with rare wild flowers and attracts all sorts of butterflies – you might even spot a grizzled skipper!
Plonked right in the middle of the village itself, The Bull serves food created with only locally sourced produce, including meat from a family butcher, fruit and veg from a nearby farmer and Wobbly Bottom Farm cheese (yep, we just wanted to get that in there). It’s got bags of character, is full of English rustic charm and you can find everything from a doorstep sarnie to a fillet steak on the lunch menu.
RUSHMERE COUNTRY PARK CIRCULAR WALK
Distance and difficulty: 4 miles, which takes around 1.5 hours, or there’s a 1-mile shortcut which takes around 30 minutes. The terrain is easy, across flat footpaths and bridleways. View walk here.
Good for: Families and mini explorers.
Why we love it: Known as the gateway to Greensand Ridge, there are 400 acres of woodland, heathland, meadows and parkland to explore here. What’s more, there’s a fab natural sculpture trail with carved creatures, giant chairs and secret fairy doors, as well as a huge gateway to ‘where the wild things are’ to fuel little imaginations (and keep little legs moving along!). You might also be lucky enough to spot the odd green woodpecker or heron.
This quaint and cosy country pub is just the ticket to warm the cockles after a chilly woodland stomp. You’ll find the Heath Inn in the sleepy village of Heath and Reach, a 10 minute diversion from the Stockgrove entrance, marked on the main trail, or a 5-minute car journey from the Heron’s View visitor centre if you’d prefer to complete your circuit before lunch. Chow down on a homemade chilli or pie of the day (there’s a kids’ menu too) or a hearty roast on a Sunday.
The Heath Inn, 76 Woburn Road, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, LU7 0AR, 01525 237390
COUSLEY WOOD TO BEWL WATER WALK
Distance and difficulty: Easy, circular walk of around 2.75 miles (allow at least 40 mins for round trip). View walk here.
Good for: Families and relaxed Sunday lunchers.
Why we love it: Park the car in the Old Vine car park and walk from there to Bewl Water – you’ll arrive near one of the Water Taxi stop off points. So if you want you can take the Bewl Belle around the reservoir and make a day trip of it. Bewl Water is the largest stretch of open water in the South East. The 800 acre site is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in the heart of the High Weald. Open all year, a visit to this stunning lake is fantastic family fun and great value.
Galapagos restaurant at the Old Vine pub is a wonderful slice of South American sunshine on the Kent/Sussex border. If you’re after something a bit different, in rural surroundings without any formality this could be just the ticket. Kids are well catered for yet it’s also smart enough for more discerning grandparents/in-laws too.
WALK 2 / WYE DOWNS WALK
Distance and difficulty: Moderate/ harder – 4 stiles and some steep slopes – one path that’s possibly a bit slippy so take care. 4.3 mile route, allow 3 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Stretchy leggers, adults – this walk has some challenging climbs in places but well worth it for the spectacular views from the Downs.
Why we love it: Wye is a gorgeous corner of Kent countryside, nestled at the foot of the North Downs (and just North East of Ashford with it’s high speed train in and out of London) in an area of outstanding natural beauty. And this walk takes in some of the pretty, historic village itself.
The Kings Head is a smart pub with rooms situated in the middle of Wye. With a relaxed vibe, but careful attention to detail the menu here is inspired by some of the best dishes from around the British Isles, some old, some new, all tasty and they’re on a mission to provide the best produce Kent has to offer. Gorgeous guest rooms too should you fancy making a weekend of it – dog-friendly. Woof!
IGHTHAM MOTE TO SHIPBOURNE WALK
Distance and difficulty: It’s an easy, circular walk, 3.5 miles – allow 2 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Stately home fans, family day trippers and dog walkers.
Why we love it: This Ightham Mote circular walk begins with a wander through ancient Scathes Wood, before taking in some wonderful views of the Kentish countryside on the way to the neighbouring estate of Fairlawne and on to Shipbourne (for refreshments). Wander out in early spring and you’ll find a magnificent display of bluebells in Scathes Wood.
For non-fussy, decent pub fare in a comfortable, friendly setting you can’t go wrong with The Chaser Inn. This is an informal, relaxed pub, in sleepy Shipbourne, next to the church and overlooking the common. Children are well catered for, there is a lovely beer garden for warmer days and cosy spaces and roaring fires inside. Plus a dog-friendly section by the bar – all bases covered.
THE THREE BRIDGES TOUR
Distance and difficulty: Easy to moderate – 4.5 mile route, over three bridges (you’d never have guessed) and along river banks. Allow 2 – 2.5 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Families with older children (prams and tiny toddlers might not be best suited to a waterside walk).
Why we love it: There’s always something interesting to see when walking near water. Here you’ll amble along the river Medway, over three bridges at East Lock and between ponds and lakes surrounding the river. Great surrounds for both sunny summer days or brisk, fresh winter walking.
The Poacher & Partridge is a spacious, open plan family-friendly pub with floor to ceiling glass doors leading to the large garden and views stretching across Kent’s open farmlands. There’s a decent children’s play area outside (go on, boot ’em out) making this an ideal family destination. The pub is just a short walk from All Saints Church; the only church in the world to have all its stained glass windows designed and made by the Russian-French artist Marc Chagall.
STOURBRIDGE COMMON CIRCULAR WALK, EAST CAMBRIDGE
Distance and difficulty: Easy. A perfect 1.5 mile riverside walk for families with buggies, toddlers and dogs that only takes an hour and is mostly flat. View walk here.
Good for: Families with lots of different walkers from buggy-bound babies and quick-to-tire toddlers to parents needing a bit of fresh air without having to drive miles outside the city to get it.
Why we love it: A country walk for city dwellers, where you don’t get the wheels of the pram stuck in the mud or come across a stile that you have to carry a child/ dog/ grandma over. This walk is particularly lovely as it runs alongside the River Cam, there are often grazing animals, and there’s a children’s play area for when the walking boredom kicks in.
Cross over the river at the end of your walk via The Green Dragon Bridge and you’ll find a pub of the same name, The Green Dragon, in Chesterton, one of the oldest pubs in Cambridge. You can follow in the footsteps of a list of illustrious former drinkers – Oliver Cromwell and JRR Tolkien, no less. We love this pub for its river views, beer garden and cosy interiors where you can work your way through the hearty pub grub menu.
DEVIL’S DYKE, REACH, EAST CAMBS
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – mostly flat terrain, but the circular route is 5.5 miles taking around 2 hours 10 mins (short cuts are possible). View walk here
Good for: Keen weekend walkers who aren’t going to “need a wee” half way round and history lovers – the majority of the walk is along the intriguing ancient Anglo-Saxon defensive structure known as the Devil’s Dyke and the route takes in pretty Swaffham with its two windmills and two churches.
Why we love it: The views from the up to 10 metres high Dyke are stunning across the vast swathes of flat fenland that this area is famous for. Plus, there are information boards dotted along the route explaining the archaeological importance of the Dyke, so you can come away feeling like you’ve learned something too, before an afternoon in the pub where you’ll forget it all!
This circular walk actually starts and ends at the privately-owned Dyke’s End Pub, that overlooks Reach village green. You can park in the car park here, don your wellies (the fenland part of the walk can be boggy) and then return to your car and the cosy bar area for pints and snacks or the restaurant area for an excellent Sunday lunch.
GRANTCHESTER MEADOWS TO CAMBRIDGE, CENTRAL
Distance and difficulty: Easy, flat riverside terrain. You can either do this as a there and back or a circular walk, and to Cambridge and back is around four miles. You could always punt back up the river to get back though! Directions here.
Good for: Families, pub-lovers and for bringing visitors to show off the best bits of Cambridge.
Why we love it: This Grantchester walk is heaving in the summer, but come autumn is just as pretty and much less crowded. Also, it starts and ends in Grantchester, which is without a doubt one of the prettiest and most pleasant villages to while away an afternoon. Oh, and there’s a smidgen of a chance that you might run into Robson Green and James Norton filming here.
Where do we start? You could actually do a pub crawl on this walk with no fewer than four pubs to choose from on the Grantchester end alone. Our pick of the bunch is The Red Lion, for its warming Sunday roasts, friendly service and relaxed atmosphere. It’s a good size too, with different zones, so you can usually get. seat and dogs and muddy wellies aren’t frowned upon at all.
BARRINGTON TO SHEPRETH RIVERSIDE WALK, SOUTH CAMBS
Distance and difficulty: The terrain is fairly easy to navigate, but this circular walk is around 5 miles so will take you two hours. View the walk here.
Good for: A bit of variety. This walk goes through some of the county’s prettiest villages as well as woodland, a nature reserve and along the river.
Why we love it: There’s a free car park for riverside walks and the chance to sample two pubs along this walk (The Royal Oak Barrington and The Plough Shepreth). It’s also a rather good-looking walk with plenty to pique your interest, and the odd bit of river wildlife, like kingfishers, to keep your eyes peeled for.
Disclaimer: my not-so-distant relatives once owned and ran The Royal Oak, a pretty 16th century thatched pub in the gorgeous village of Barrington. That’s not why I’ve chosen it for this walk though – it really is a great place to rest weary legs after this countryside romp. It overlooks the longest village green in England, serves delicious dishes using locally-sourced ingredients, and the cosy interiors invite you to settle in for the rest of the afternoon.
RYE NATURE RESERVE, EAST SUSSEX
Distance and difficulty: Various lengths. Flat and coastal, incorporating saltmarsh, lagoons and reed beds.
Good for: bird lovers, beachcombers, kid-friendly activities.
Why we love it: Rye Nature Reserve is managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust and circular walks here should include plentiful birdlife. For a bit of extra insight keep an eye out for mini safaris and beachcombing events run by the Trust and family-friendly guided birding tours run by RSPB volunteers on certain dates. View Sussex Wildlife Trust’s walks here.
Afterwards, drop into the cobbled streets of historic Rye and head for a well earned drink or meal at The Ship Inn, which was established way back in 1592 and has a past as a smugglers’ hangout. Locally caught fish is one of the menu highlights and as the pub is related to Hush Heath vineyard in Kent you’ll find its wines on the drinks menu. Rooms are available for staying over. Camber Sands isn’t far away by car if a stroll in the dunes also appeals.
The Ship Inn, The Strand, East Sussex, TN31 7DB, 01797 229 256
(In West Sussex, for a similar bird and pub combo check out walks at the RSPB reserve at Pagham Harbour, a stone’s throw from excellent seafood dining at The Crab & Lobster, Siddlesham which uses the catch landed at nearby Selsey.)
ASHDOWN FOREST, HIGH WEALD, SUSSEX
Distance and difficulty: Various options, some child friendly. Pooh Walks from Gills Lap are 1km – 3.25km. Forest and heathland. Mainly flat.
Good for: Children, the nostalgic and those with moderate fitness levels.
Why we love it: In AA Milne’s home village of Hartfield, you can drop in at Pooh Corner gift shop and tea rooms and pick up a route map to nearby Ashdown Forest and a ‘passport’ to tick of various places mentioned in the stories, like Roo’s Sandy Pit and the Pooh Sticks Bridge – with instructions on how to play the game (just in case you’d forgotten). Or, take the Ashdown Forest’s own recommended Pooh Walks from Gills Lap on which you skirt hit Hartfield part way.
Enjoy top-notch organically-reared meat from the Buckhurst Estate at The Dorset Arms just up the road in Withyham. The pub and estate are owned by the current Lord de la Warr whose father used to play with the real life Christopher Robin and his toy bear in what became known as Hundred Acre Wood. There’s also a cottage to rent at the pub if you fancy staying over.
The Dorset Arms, Buckhurst Park, Withyham, Hartfield, TN7 4BD, 01892 770278
CASS SCULPTURE FOUNDATION, GOODWOOD, WEST SUSSEX
Distance and difficulty: an easy circuit (can be cut short) around 50 sculptures through 26 acres of light, flat woodland. See walk here.
Good for: art lovers, townies, families.
Why we love it: On this world class sculpture trail set in woodland you can appreciate art at the same time as getting some exercise. Some works are on a large scale, some interact with their environment, taking on moss or refracting light. There are very few that can’t be touched, some actually encourage you to interact, stooping through arches, and walking through rooms, so it’s a perfect gallery to visit with children, who shouldn’t get bored either (although note: no dogs). It closes for winter on 31 Oct so chop, chop! As an alternative in the colder months, you can stroll among the ancient twisted yew trees in nearby Kingley Vale.
Just up the road in East Lavant village, the Royal Oak serves up excellent food in a cosy low ceilinged bar, where fires are lit in cooler months and there’s a terrace for when the sun’s out. The menu foregrounds local produce and there are special tasting menus on certain dates. Smart bedrooms are also available, some in a stable block overlooking fields.
Royal Oak Inn, Pook Lane, East Lavant, Chichester, West Sussex, PO18 0AX, 01243 527 434
SOUTH DOWNS WAY AT FIRLE BEACON, EAST SUSSEX
Distance and difficulty: About seven miles for a circular walk. Moderate fitness required to make the circuit, with a steep hill at the start or end. Or, simply stroll a while along the top.
Good for: Impressive views and ticking off part of the South Downs Way.
Why we love it: The South Downs Way, running from Winchester to Eastbourne, bisects a large swathe of Sussex. With proper prep you can tackle the lot over a week or two, but it’s more fun doing a relaxed chunk in an afternoon. To make a circuit at Firle, park in the village, or at the car park at the top of the hill nearest Firle Beacon (you’ll walk up the hill at the beginning or end depending on which you choose). Once you’re out on the ridge of the South Downs, on a clear day you can see for miles, with Charleston below and sometimes paragliders in the distance. After a while you head down a chalky path and circuit back to the village via the public right of way across the grounds of Firle Place. See more South Downs walks here.
The Ram Inn in Firle is a characterful 500-year-old low-ceilinged affair with good food (lamb, beef and game are very local), cosy fires and a community feel (musicians were jamming in a side room on our visit). Five bedrooms are also available.
The Ram Inn, The Street, Firle, Nr. Lewes, East Sussex, BN8 6NS, 01273 858222
Woodhouse Eaves and Beacon Hill
Distance and difficulty: A six mile walk with some steep hills that can take up to 5 hours. See walk here.
Good for: Strong walkers and dogs.
Why we love it: This walk takes in some of the best views in Leicestershire. Pass by craggy rocks, up through Beacon Hill where you can spot wooden sculptures, and a natural play area – including a log train for children, plus, don’t miss the view from Bucks Hills.
The Curzon Arms in the pretty village of Woodhouse Eaves is a good old fashioned village pub with a contemporary feel. Grab a spot by the wood burning stove to warm up your tootsies after your walk. There’s also a traditional bar area, large terrace and beer garden that serves proper pub grub.
The Curzon Arms, 44 Maplewell Rd, Woodhouse Eaves, Loughborough LE12 8QZ
Distance and difficulty: A short 30 minute walk for the whole family to enjoy. See walk here.
Good for: Easy walkers, half-hearted stretchy leggers and even push chairs.
Why we love it: A chance to enjoy the Foxton Locks Canal with the family. This unique waterway landmark features colourful narrowboats, the famous flight of 10 locks and the Canal House Museum so you can make an entire afternoon of it. An easy walk which can start and finish at the nearby pub.
Foxton Locks is a cosy child and dog-friendly pub is located at the bottom of the canal locks with pretty views over the waterside. Food here is a variety of wholesome and hearty pub dishes think fish and chips, pies and rump steak but they also offer a menu for gluten-free, vegan and kids.
Foxton Locks Inn, Bottom Lock, Gumley Road, Foxton, Market Harborough, LE16 7RA
NATIONAL TRUST BLAKENEY POINT
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – a mostly flat walk (it is Norfolk, after all) that starts at Cley Beach and takes you along the 4 mile shingle spit to the Lifeboat House (with its toilet facilities). It’s a 7 mile circular route taking 3 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Active families who don’t mind a bit of shingle trekking and the coastal elements!
Why we love it: There are lots of lovely walks within the Blakeney Nature Reserve, but this route is a favourite because of the varied landscape – shingle, dunes, salt marshes and beach. The Watch House is the half way marker – an interesting building built in the 19th century as a look-out for smugglers and now available as a holiday let. Stunning views for miles and at low tide the chance of seeing the seals on the tidal banks.
The village of Wiveton is a 5 minute drive from Cley and perched on the picturesque village green next to the church is the cosy Wiveton Bell. The perfect spot for a post walk fuel up – great menu (Michelin Guide Bib), roaring fire and six gorgeous rooms just in case you fancy making a weekend of it.
Wiveton Bell, Blakeney Road, Wiveton, Blakeney, Norfolk, NR25 7TL Tel: 01263 740101
REPTONS WALK AT SHERINGHAM PARK
Distance and difficulty: Easy – there’s a marked path through the parkland with stunning views of the surrounding coastline and Sheringham Hall. It’s a 2 mile circular route that takes 1.5 hours . View walk here.
Good for: Nature enthusiasts, little legs, buggies and bikes.
Why we love it: There are actually four walks to choose from, ranging between one and five miles. Depending on your mood and energy – you can explore the landscaped gardens (the rhododendrons are a sight to behold in the spring), play in the woods or breathe in the cliff top views. Plus there’s some beautiful places to relax along the way such as the Bower nature area, Ling House and Repton’s Temple. You might get to spot the steam train that runs between Sheringham and Holt and have a little Railway Children knicker flag moment!
A short drive (less than five minutes) to the neighbouring village of Weybourne and the rather lovely The Ship Inn where you can ‘mardle’ with the locals over a pint of Norfolk ale or one of their 150 gins. It has all the Muddy prerequisites – enclosed garden, log burner, dog/kid friendly and sea food landed on the local beach.
The Ship Inn, The Street, Weybourne, Holt, Norfolk, NR25 7SZ Tel: 01263 588721
HOLKHAM TO WELLS-NEXT-THE-SEA CIRCULAR ROUTE
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – flat walk through woodland and along sandy beaches. It’s a 7 mile walk taking 3 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Weekend walkers, families with older kids and dogs.
Why we love it: Food glorious food! Snack up at the new eco friendly Look Out Cafe at Queen Anne’s Gate before wandering through the incredibly peaceful pine forests to Wells-next-the-Sea. Snack time again – grab a home made sausage roll at the Wells Beach Cafe, pop into the beach hut Joules for a spot of coastal shopping then meander back along the beach, past the brightly coloured beach huts to Holkham and lunch at The Victoria.
Sitting on the edge of the Holkham Hall Estate, The Victoria dates back to 1837 and has a distinctly Downton Abbey feel to it. Bursting with the history and grandeur of its surroundings, expect great locally sourced dishes in a refined yet wonderfully relaxed environment.
The Victoria, Holkham Hall, Wells-next-the-Sea, Norfolk, NR23 1AB Tel: 01328 711008
BLICKLING HALL LAKE WALK
Distance and difficulty: Very easy – a tranquil walk around Blickling Park and lake. It’s an 1.8 mile route taking 1 hour. View walk here.
Good for: Those not feeling massively energetic and young families.
Why we love it: Blickling Hall is a stunning National Trust property with so much going on, from exhibitions to Ibiza club nights. The multi-use trail is perfect for wheelchairs and buggies plus you can extend your walk around the parkland and visit the Tower, Great Wood, Orangery and Mausoleum.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, warm up at the gorgeous “Bucks” just on the outskirts of the estate. This 17th century coaching inn oozes character and history. You can’t help but wonder who has graced this establishment? From rogues to royalty, I bet many a dastardly plan has been hatched in one of the nooks.
The Buckinghamshire Arms, Blickling, Aylsham, Norfolk. NR11 6NF Tel: 01263 732133
Distance and difficulty: Mainly off road with a few hills. 4.5 miles taking two hours. View walk here.
Good for: Adventurers.
Why we love it: This picturesque and peaceful walk is only 1.5 miles south of Kettering and takes you through two pretty villages and past a reservoir, mixing up the views and keeping it exciting.
This circular walk starts and ends at The Three Cranes. This pub is a hidden gem with a great drinks selection and tasty pub food on offer. The tasteful decor and friendly bar staff make this a worthwhile stop after an adventurous walk.
The Three Cranes, 1 Loddington Rd, Great Cransley, Kettering NN14 1PY Tel: 01536 790287
COLLINGTREE & MILTON MALSOR
Distance and difficulty: With a mixture of hard paths and fields, this walk is flat and easy. 3.9 miles taking two hours. View walk here.
Good for: Leisurely strollers.
Why we love it: It may be close to the M1 but it feels like you could be in the deepest countryside. This gentle mooch can be done throughout the year and, as it goes through two villages, there’s always loads to explore.
The Compass Inn is situated in the heart of Milton Malsor. It’s a proper country pub which is dog-friendly with a large garden, real ales, and open fire giving it a warm atmosphere and making everyone feel welcome (the locals are friendly too). Good food and service all for great value.
The Compass Inn, 61 Green St, Milton Malsor, Northampton NN7 3AT Tel: 01604 858934
HANGING HOUGHTON, OLD AND SCALDWELL, WEST NORTHANTS
Distance and difficulty: A moderate but still lengthly 10 mile walk lasting for most of the day across the Northants countryside. The route is on good footpaths for the whole way and is mostly down hill. View walk here.
Good for: The ramblers and those who fancy a full day of exploring.
Why we love it: A circular walk that gives you a proper stint out exploring the best of the Northants countryside. Alongside a day of nature spotting there’s some beautiful villages where you can take in some great Northants stonework, history and heritage.
The White Horse is a real treat (especially after a full day in the outdoors). It’s a cherished local, offering a great range of drinks and a menu full of signature pub classics.
The White Horse, Walgrave Rd, Old, Northampton NN6 9QX Tel: 01604 781297
SUMMER LEYS, WOLLASTON
Distance and difficulty: Mostly hard paths and completely flat; although it can get very muddy at certain times of year. 2 mile route taking 1 hour. View walk here.
Good for: Families, bird watchers and half-hearted stretchy leggers.
Why we love it: It’s a really peaceful wetland with loads of wildlife and hideouts to watch the birds. The free parking makes this a cheap option to escape and watch nature do its thing. You can also go off piste on the circular walk and make it up to the boozer in Great Doddington.
Only minutes from Summer Leys is The Stag’s Head. A traditional village pub and restaurant with a 48 seater traditional beamed restaurant, a 26 seater cosy cellar restaurant, a large open lounge bar, a separate garden bar and a secret garden; dogs are allowed in the garden bar area. The menu has an extensive selection offering lunch time snacks, tapas and a bigger evening menu.
The Stag’s Head, 1 High Street, Great Doddington, Wellingborough, NN29 7TQ Tel: 01933 222 316
CASTLE ASHBY CIRCULAR
Distance and difficulty: The route is mainly off road and is fairly hilly including a steep path. 6.5 miles taking three hours. View walk here.
Good for: Anyone looking for a bit of a challenge.
Why we love it: Great all year round, this one takes you round Chadstone, Whiston and Castle Ashby. There’s loads to discover and see on this route including a stately home, tea rooms, rivers, wildlife and graveyards (ooh we love a graveyard).
Making a great starting point in The Red Lion situated in the heart of the village, get yourself a strong coffee to keep your energy levels up. And when the hunger hits post walk, you won’t be disappointed. From pizzas, salads, burgers, Sunday roasts, and even just nibbles, it might even take you longer to soak up the menu than complete the walk.
The Red Lion, 89 High St, Yardley Hastings, Northampton NN7 1ER Tel: 01604 696210
Hambleton Peninsula, Rutland
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – mostly flat with a couple of hills. A four mile route taking five hours. View walk here.
Good for: Leisurely walkers and dogs.
Why we love it: Ahh Rutland, you may be the smallest county in England but you’re definitely don’t disappoint. This beautiful circular walk follows the edge of Hambleton Peninsula – a bit of land protruding into Rutland Water. It’s also home to the Rutland Ospreys so if you visit in autumn you may catch a glimpse or two across the reservoir.
You’ll walk straight past The Finch’s Arms in Hambleton. This 17th century English country inn comes with brilliant beamed ceilings, cask ales, a small bustling bar and great restaurant for lunch after your walk. If you love the location, book a room upstairs and wake up to wonderful views of Rutland in the morning. Dogs are welcome in the outside area.
WALK 2 / Clipsham, Rutland
Distance and difficulty: An easy three mile circuit that will probably take around two hours. See walk here.
Good for: Easy for good walkers but bring your wellies.
Why we love it: A circular walk, starting/ending at The Olive Branch pub in Clipsham (below), this simple stroll takes you through the ancient Pickworth Great Wood and the local quarry.
The Olive Branch is a Muddy Award winner serving fantastic food in a rustic, cosy setting. The Kitchen is headed by Chris Ansell (previously of Hambleton Hall) and Luke Holland who create menus showcasing the best local produce as well as ingredients from their own garden and paddock. Relaxed atmosphere with dog-friendly treats on offer too.
The Olive Branch, Main Street, Clipsham, Rutland, LE15 7SH. Tel: 01780 410 355
LANDSDOWN TRAIL, JUST NORTH OF BATH CITY CENTRE
Distance and difficulty: 5.5 miles, moderate terrain, around 2.5 hours. Get a map here or pick up a copy in The Hare & Hounds pub (see below) when you park the car.
Good for: Feeling that you’re lord (or lady) of all you survey – the views across Bath, Bristol and beyond are awesome.
Why we love it: You pass the historic Beckford’s Tower (an early 19th century neo-classical tower, once home to William Beckford’s massive collections of books, furniture and art), with a loop around the Bath Racecourse and there are those views. Note: the Racecourse section is only open when it’s not a race day.
The walk starts and finishes at gastro pub The Hare and Hounds, sitting up on Landsdown Hill looking out across miles of countryside through the enormous Edwardian lead-light windows in the high-ceilinged dining room – or, if you wrap up warm, from the terrace and large gardens. You’d never think the city centre was just down the road. The food is fabulous; come for breakfast, à la carte lunch and dinner, and Sunday roasts.
The Hare & Hounds, Lansdown Road, Bath BA1 5TJ. Tel 01225 482682. hareandhoundsbath.com
THE LITTON WALK, LITTON, NR WELLS
Distance and difficulty: 2 miles, easy to moderate, about an hour. Download the map.
Good for: An easy stroll with friends, kids, dogs (although there’s livestock around). You could make more of day of it by fishing in Litton Lakes.
Why we love it: Just enough of a perambulation to feel you’ve earned lunch. The walk follows the route of the River Chew and into Litton Lakes, with a mini waterfall on the way. Pretty.
This is another circular walk with The Litton at the heart. A prior winner of Best Destination Pub in the Muddy Stilettos Awards, this 15th century village pub’s laid back, with plaid banquettes, reindeer hides, Moroccan poufs, mismatched chairs and vintage mirrors and modern British food, including a vegan menu. It has a main bar, whisky bar and all-year-round outdoor spaces with blankets and firepits.
ALFRED’S TOWER, KINGSETTLE HILL, NR BRUTON
Distance and difficulty: just over a mile (half an hourish) up the steep Kingsettle Hill from Hardway then turn right into woods crossed with footpaths to wander as long as you like. There’s a car park at the Tower if you want to avoid the hill. A short walk from the Tower and longer walk, 5.5 miles, 2 hours, from National Trust Stourhead, are available here.
Good for: Dogs, kids and relatively fit adults who like frolicking in autumn leaves. The sense of achievement on climbing to the top of a 49m high, 18th century folly.
Why we love it: The colours in the woods will be wonderful and you can climb around 200 steps to the top of the triangular Alfred’s Tower, believed to be the place where King Alfred the Great rallied his troops against Danish invaders in 870, with views.
Despite being part of the super cool Roth Bar & Grill/Hauser & Wirth empire, The Bull Inn in Hardway is a good ol’ traditional Somerset pub. Expect beams, brasses, open fires and very much cut-above pub grub classics, like smoked haddock and dill fishcakes, Bull burgers, steak, fish & chips, Sunday roasts plus craft ales and more. Have a game of table footie, giant Jenga, boules or just sup a pint by the fire.
The Bull Inn, Hardway, Kingsettle Hill, Bruton, Somerset BA10 0LN. Tel 01749 812200. thebullinn-bruton.com
EXFORD CIRCULAR, EXMOOR
Distance and difficulty: 3.8 miles, easy to moderate, with some inclines, taking about 2.25 hours. View the route.
Good for: Anyone wanting to fill their lungs with crisp Exmoor air. Twitchers keep an eye out for the buzzards.
Why we love it: Starting in the village of Exford and following the River Exe, the route passed through Exmoor’s varied vistas, from farmland, moorland, ruins, streams to hidden valleys. Be prepared to pucker up – there are lots of kissing gates.
Very handily, the walk begins and ends at the iconic, Virginia creeper covered Exmoor White Horse, in the village of Exford (read our review) in the heart of Exmoor. The 16th century inn’s got a bit of a huntin’, shootin’, fishin’ vibe going on, with antlers and hunting pictures on the wall and crackling fires. Friendly bar (over 200 malt whiskies), lounge, formal dining room and riverside seating. Afternoon teas, trad Carvery Sunday roast, bar menu noon to 9.30pm (and Carvery Weds & Sun eves), children’s high tea 6-6.30pm and evening-only extensive à la carte.
Exmoor White Horse Inn, Exford, Somerset TA24 7PY. Tel 01643 831229. exmoor-whitehorse.co.uk
LEITH HILL WOODLAND WALK
Distance and difficulty: Easy – 2.5 mile (4km) route taking 1-2 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Families, couples, dog walkers.
Why we love it: Leith Hill Tower is the highest point in south-east England and on a clear day from the top you’ll get stunning panoramic views towards London in the north and the English Channel in the south.
This circular walk starts at the National Trust’s Landslip car park which is two minutes’ walk from the wonderful Plough Inn in the small village of Coldharbour near Dorking. As well as offering up fabulous food, the Plough Inn also has six boutique rooms – so it’s easy to make a weekend of it. Other walks in the area can be found here, if you’re feeling particularly energetic. Dogs are welcome in the bar area and outside.
The Plough Inn, Coldharbour, Surrey, RH5 6HD. Tel: 01306 711793.
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – there are a couple of stiles and hills. 5 mile (8km) route taking about 3 hours. View walk here.
Good for: More serious walkers, church lovers.
Why we love it: This is a beautiful countryside walk takes you up to the historic St Martha’s Church which has lovely views out over the Surrey Hills. You’ll pass through down lanes and through undulating fields and will get a view of Guildford Cathedral across the fields
This circular walk actually starts and ends at The Percy Arms, an elegant 18th-century country pub that specialises in South African cuisine and also has a dedicated vegan menu. The pub has a big garden with a stream and amazing views over the Vale of Chilworth to St Martha’s Hill. There are seven luxury bedrooms here, so staying over is also an option.
The Percy Arms, 75 Dorking Road Chilworth GU4 8NP. Tel: 01483 561765
WHITEHALL TO MICKLEHAM
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – there are some hilly bits that can be slippery after rain. 3.9mile (6.2km) route taking about 2 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Couples, families, groups, those with some fitness.
Why we love it: This walk is mostly through woodland, but you’ll also get lovely views of Box Hill and Leith Hill, plus it takes you past the church in Mickleham as well as the pub.
The walk starts and ends at the Cockshot National Trust car park taking you on a circular route that goes right past the historic Running Horses a stylish and quirky pub in Mickleham – and the perfect place for a pitstop. Horsey and history types will be interested to know the pub gained its equine name in 1828 when two horses passed the post at exactly the same time in the Epsom Derby. The two nags are still remembered fondly today in the names of the pub’s two bars.
The Running Horses, Old London Road, Mickleham, Nr Dorking, RH5 6DU. Tel: 01372 372279.
TREES AND TIMBER WALK, HASCOMBE
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – there are a couple of stiles and hills. 5.5 mile (9km) route taking 2.5 hours. View walk here.
Good for: More serious walkers, church lovers.
Why we love it: A pretty walk that takes you through several stretches of woodland (which have a stunning bluebell display in early spring), as well as part of the Greensand Way.
This circular walk – published through a collaboration between iFootpath and Surrey County Council – starts and ends at the free National Trust Hydon Heath car park and passes through the pretty village of Hascombe, taking in both the village church and pub. The White Horse is a gorgeous 16th century village pub that has developed quite a foodie following thanks to the efforts of talented head chef Valentino Gentile. It’s well worth stopping her for a bite to eat.
The White Horse, The Street, Hascombe, Godalming, GU8 4JA. Tel: 01483 208258.
CIRCULAR WALK AROUND KENILWORTH CASTLE
Distance and difficulty: 6.5 miles over relatively easy terrain with a few inclines, stiles and kissing gates. Allow 3 hours. Map and directions here.
Good for: Stretchy-leggers; families with older children
Why we love it: Not only does the route take in the impressive English Heritage site, Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden, it also traverses open farmland with quintessential country views. The odd grazing alpaca is a nice touch. Dogs will need to be on leads during the parts of the walk that pass livestock.
Everyone loves a walk ending with a pub meal…but a Michelin-starred one is a true treat! Chef Director Adam Bennet blends his experience of working in fine dining with The Cross, Kenilworth‘s relaxed, accessible feel; creating à la carte and Tasting Menus that are revered across the county.
The Cross, 16 New St, Kenilworth CV8 2EZ, Tel. 01926 853840.
HERITAGE WALK NEAR FARNBOROUGH HALL
Distance and difficulty: 5.5 miles; approximately 3-4 hours over easy terrain with a few stiles. More information and map here.
Good for: Stretchy leggers; families seeking a spot of heritage with their hike
Why we love it: A perfect mix of beautiful countryside, parkland, quaint villages and the opportunity to explore the National Trust’s handsome Farnborough Hall, an Italianate 18th mansion, surrounded by historic parkland with a 5.5mile circular walk.
There are a few walks nearby Farnborough Hall, but this circuit takes you to Avon Dassett and passes back through Farnborough village, giving the chance to reward your efforts in stylish gastro delight The Kitchen, Farnborough owned by husband-and-wife team Jo and Anthony Robinson, who trained at The Savoy and The Dorchester in London. Food is seasonal and rustic with veg grown in the kitchen garden, and the couple champion local producers including award-winning Leamington Spa-based Aubrey Allen Butchers and Warwickshire’s Cotswolds Distillery in Shipston-on-Stour. The pub’s own website also lists some alternative walks.
The Kitchen, Main Street, Farnborough, Nr. Banbury, OX17 1DZ. Tel: 01295 690615
SHORT WALK AROUND WELFORD-ON-AVON AND DORSINGTON
Distance and difficulty: Easy 3.5 mile walk; approximately 1hr 45min. Info courtesy of the Ramblers here.
Good for: Loafers and half-hearted stretchy leggers; families
Why we love it: A circular walk passes through pretty village landscapes including churches and a 65ft maypole, one of the tallest in the country, along with incorporating some riverside strolling.
The Bell Inn, Welford-on-Avon – named Warwickshire’s best dining pub in the Good Food Guide for five years in a row – offers honest pub food using locally-sourced ingredients in the open gallery rooms with low beams and solid oak flooring. This snug, cosy pub has a varied menu including hearty brunches and lunches.
The Bell, Binton Road, Welford-on-Avon, Stratford-upon-Avon CV37 8EB. Tel: 01789 750353
COUNTRYSIDE CIRCULAR FROM PRESTON BAGOT, NEAR HENLEY-IN-ARDEN
Distance and difficulty: 3.5 miles over moderate terrain; a few steady inclines but nothing too steep. Can be boggy after periods of wet weather (boot recommended!). Info here.
Good for: Loafers and amblers; anyone hankering after a brief breath of fresh air and some lovely sights.
Why we love it: Varied scenery and terrain, encompassing canals, towpaths, a ford and a lot of wildlife-spotting opportunities. The end part passes through a pretty village with an imposing church and there are beautiful houses to admire along the way.
Former old cider mill The Crabmill, Preston Bagot has undergone a stylish revamp but still retains every bit of character from its tiny leaded windows, weathered half-timbered exterior and crooked beams to its flagstone floors. It is the ideal start and end point and offers a menu of British classics with the odd twist.
The Crabmill, Preston Bagot, Claverdon, Henley-in-Arden B95 5EE, Tel: 01926 843342.
CANALSIDE WALK AROUND HATTON LOCKS, NEAR WARWICK
Distance and difficulty: Three different canalside walks begin from this perfectly situated pub, ranging from 1.5 to 5.5 miles. Info here.
Why we love it: The choice of three walks means the duration can be adapted to the weather and mood on the day! Every walk includes a potential diversion to Hatton Adventure World, meaning there’s something for everyone.
Reward your efforts back at the perfectly situated Hatton Arms with fabulous views. Make the most of a crisp, sunny autumn day and sip hot chocolate on the large refurbished terrace overlooking the gardens leading down to Hatton Locks. Alternatively, curl up by the fire inside.
The Hatton Arms, Birmingham Rd, Hatton, Warwick CV35 7JJ. Tel: 01926 492427.
HERITAGE WALK AROUND PACKWOOD HOUSE AND BADDESLEY CLINTON
Distance and difficulty: This 5 mile trek over moderate terrain should take around 2.5 hours. Expect some steps, stiles and kissing gates. Field paths may be marshy following wet weather. Parking is available at both National Trust properties and at the pub. View walk here.
Good for: Leisurely strollers; families and heritage lovers.
Why we love it: Great to have the chance to call into two National Trust properties; or at least admire them from the outside and enjoy their picturesque grounds. Baddesley Clinton is a secluded estate nestled in the Forest of Arden, with a pretty walled garden, 150 acres of parkland and a lake. There are also alternative walks around the property suggested on their website. Packwood House is a Tudor manor with a striking topiary garden.
Once you’ve finished your circuit, drive to highly-rated The Boot, Lapworth for upmarket gastro fayre and all-weather al-fresco dining in the giant garden tepee; or, take a slight detour during the route as you pass through Lapworth and call into the pub mid-way on your walk. Worth noting that livestock are present en route, meaning dogs need to be on leads (and won’t be allowed inside the National Trust properties).
The Boot, Lapworth, Old Warwick Rd, Lapworth, Solihull B94 6JU. Tel: 01564 782464.
COUNTRYSIDE WALK AROUND OFFCHURCH
Distance and difficulty: Just over 6 miles over easy terrain should take you around 3-4 hours at a leisurely pace. There are a few stiles and kissing gates. Map and directions here.
Good for: Stretchy leggers; dog walkers
Why we love it: The walk takes in the gorgeous views (and handy signposting) of the Millennium Way and includes a tranquil stretch by the River Leam.
Start and end at thatched village country pub The Stag at Offchurch. Fuel up with a coffee before you set out and replenish with a delicious lunch on your return. The seasonal menu features meat from award-winning Leamington butcher Aubrey Allen and imaginative vegetarian/vegan choices. I recently had the Curried cauliflower, new potato and garden pea tagine with spiced lentils.
The Stag at Offchurch, Welsh Rd, Offchurch, Leamington Spa CV33 9AQ, Tel: 01926 425801.
WATERSIDE WALK AROUND DRAYCOTE WATER RESERVOIR
Distance and difficulty: Easy-going on a level path, but a fair distance of approximately 5 miles. More information and map available to download here. Allow around 2 hours at a fairly brisk pace.
Good for: Families with older children (or those in pushchairs); adults wanting to build up a hearty appetite; dog walkers
Why we love it: The waterside setting is super-relaxing and the well-maintained tarmac path is great for all. While it’s gentle in terms of terrain, the walk’s duration means you’ll be well and truly refreshed (and your legs might feel it) by the end. Draycote Water also offers cycling, watersports, fishing and a playground, giving potential for a full family day out.
Once you’ve blown the cobwebs away, hop back in the car for a short 3-mile drive to the The Boat Inn, Birdingbury. If the sun is out you can enjoy canal-side seating at this unpretentious, lively country pub and there’s a children’s play area. The food is locally sourced wherever possible, with meat supplied by Onley Grounds Farm in Willoughby from grass-fed cattle. It was awarded best pub in the 2017 Coventry and Warwickshire Tourism and Culture Awards.
The Boat Inn, Birdingbury Wharf, Rugby Road, Birdingbury, Southam, Warwickshire CV23 8HQ. Tel: 01926 812657
Draycote Water, Kites Hardwick, Warwickshire, CV23 8AB.
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – mostly flat. 4 mile route. View walk here.
Good for: Lovers of forests, fields and farmland.
Why we love it: It’s a fairly easy walk, and none of those pesky stiles! Gorgeous views of Great Bedwyn and the Kennet and Avon Canal, ending up back in the village itself.
The Three Tuns is one of those rare beauties – it has a lovely, dog-friendly beer garden with a boules pitch for summer-drinking but come winter, roaring fires will toast your toes while you glug your way through the jug of freshly-made Bloody Mary propped on the bar, small batch spirits from around the Southwest and, last but not not least, their homemade mulled cider. This freehold village pub has won accolades its Sunday Roast so it’s no surprise that great food is a biggie here, from small bites of cauliflower cheese croquettes to rare Bavette steak. The bar is pretty lively too!
The Three Tuns, 1 High Street, Great Bedwyn, Marlborough, Wiltshire SN8 3NU, Tel: 01672 870 280
PEPPERBOX HILL WALK
Distance and difficulty: Moderate. 6.8 mile route. View walk here.
Good for: Lovers of butterflies – the chalk downland here is a significant site in Wiltshire for rare butterfly species, including the duke of burgundy.
Why we love it: This is a wonderful place for a walk, starting at the folly on Pepperbox Hill and taking you across to Dean Hill, with gorgeous views over the open countryside to the southeast of Salisbury. Carry on through Mean Wood, which in springtime is thickly carpeted with bluebells, and on down into the village of Whiteparish, before heading back across fields and a gentle climb back up to Pepperbox Hill.
The Kings Head, The Street, Whiteparish, Wiltshire SP5 2SG, Tel: 01794 884004
BECKFORD ARMS WALK
Distance and difficulty: Gentle. The length is up to you – choose less than 3 miles up to 10 miles. View walk here.
Good for: Film lovers – the stunning lake here featured in the film Chocolat.
Why we love it: Utterly gorgeous views of the Fonthill Estate, a full ten thousand acres of outstanding beauty in the heart of Wiltshire.
Set in the most gorgeous location in stunning parkland on the Fonthill Estate is The Beckford Arms, a traditional yet stylish country pub, and one that is right up our street. Think lovely garden, cosy bedrooms, #inlovewithlocal ales and gins, comfy sofas and a fab gastro restaurant. For foodies, the menu changes with the seasons to ensure the freshest produce. Whole suckling pig is spit-roasted on the bar’s open fire (yikes!), they make their own hams and piccalilli, serve game pies with homemade pastry as well as aged Wiltshire steaks.
The Beckford Arms, Fonthill Gifford, Tisbury Wiltshire SP3 6PX, Tel: 01747 870385
SALISBURY PLAIN – NETHERAVON DOVECOTE
Distance and difficulty: Easy – you can walk as far as you’d like. Everything from a few hundred yards to 20 miles! View walk here.
Good for: Lovers of flora and wildlife – there is an abundance of it on the plain.
Why we love it: There’s a chance to spot the famous but elusive Great Bustard, while you take in Netheravon Dovecote next to the historic Saxon church, walk alongside the crystal clear River Avon and pay a visit to the local Stonehenge Ales brewery.
The Dog and Gun Inn, Netheravon is a lovely 17th century village inn located in the heart of stunning Salisbury Plain. Recently saved from development, it has been renovated by locals into a quirky pub, café and dog-friendly boutique b&b. The “D&G” is the perfect place for curling up by the wood burner with your pooch to sip a Bloody Mary after a long walk.
The Dog and Gun, Salisbury Road, Netheravon, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP4 9RQ, Tel: 01980 670838
HEAVENLY VIEWS – HORNINGSHAM
Distance and difficulty: Moderate – 4 mile route, takes 2 hours. View walk here.
Good for: Everyone. Except those who’d rather be at the Safari Park down the road!
Why we love it: For a long, brisk walk with stunning views of Longleat House, this is the one for you.
The Bath Arms is a lovely hideaway tucked in the shadow of Longleat, the perfect place to relax and unwind. It’s a foodie pub but is also a lovely boutique retreat, and the 17 characterful rooms with furniture imported from India are a quirky twist on your typical country pub. The food is locally sourced and seasonal wherever possible – you can even hire their Shepherd Room for private dining for up to 50 guests.
The Bath Arms, Horningsham, Warminster, Wiltshire BA12 7LY, Tel:01985 844 308
ZENNOR TO THE GURNARDS HEAD CIRCULAR, NEAR ST IVES
Distance and difficulty: Moderate, the circuit is just over 4 miles. Map here.
Good for: Families with teens – walking boots are advised for this route.
Why we love it: Salty air and fantastic views of the ocean, with half of the route following a coastal path (it skims the cliff edge at times so don’t forget a lead if your dog is going walkies too).
Towards the end the route you can take a stroll onto the headland and then inland towards the The Gurnards Head, a cosy and brightly decorated pub with rooms. Beer and wine is big here, with a good selection of locally produced beers, and wine served by the carafe (we’ll take a large one, please).
The Gurnards Head, Nr Zennor, St. Ives, TR26 3DE
ROCK & ST MINVER
Distance and difficulty: At almost seven miles, this gentle circular walk should take around 2.5 hours. For a shorter circular, you can cut directly across the famous St Enodoc Golf Course. Map here.
Good for: Panoramic views and pretty villages (Instagram catnip). Smaller kids, if you follow the shorter route.
Why we love it: The quirky history – the route starts at Rock car par, then follows the sand dunes to Daymar Bay and passes St Enodoc Church which was actually buried under the dunes for the early part of the 1800s. Rumour has it once a year a vicar was lowered through the roof to conduct a service!
At the end of the route (or start, if you need fuel), there’s The Mariners by Paul Ainsworth, the same chef behind Michelin starred No6 in Padstow. You can reserve a table on the first floor, but the ground floor is non-bookable, so great for drop-ins. Dogs are welcome on the ground floor too.
Paul Ainsworth’s The Mariners, Slipway, Rock, Cornwall, PL27 6LD
Distance and difficulty: Moderate, just over 6 miles. Map here.
Good for: A variety of scenery, this walk has it all – rivers, gardens, country lanes and daffodil fields and, erm, oyster fishing!
Why we love it: The walk follows the Helford River (think Daphne Du Maurier’s Frenchman’s Creek), plus there are some pretty gardens to stop off at if you want to en route, Glendurgan Gardens and Trebah Gardens – you can’t take dogs into these though.
Location-wise you can’t get much better than family-run The Ferry Boat Inn, which has a terrace overlooking gorgeous views, beach-side seating and for colder days, there’s a snug open fire inside. Foodwise, it’s all seasonal with super-fresh produce that come straight from the farm.
The Ferry Boat Inn, Helford Passage, Falmouth, TR11 5LB.
ST MICHAEL’S WAY, LELANT TO ST MICHAEL’S MOUNT
Distance and difficulty: A moderate walk but at 12.5 miles it takes the best part of a day. Map here.
Good for: More serious walkers or culture buffs. It’s the only path in Britain that is part of a European Cultural Route.
Why we love it: St Michael’s Way crosses the county from the north to south coast and is so varied, taking in cliff paths, countryside, marshland and ancient monuments along the way. Take a fit friend along. I walked it with my mum last autumn and it was a great opportunity to spend the day catching up properly.
Nearby pub: Depending when you get hungry, there are a couple of good options. You can either pause for pizza en route at the stylish Una Kitchen or hold out for a pub with a view at the end. Godolphin Arms has a bustling restaurant that overlooks St Michael’s Mount and is popular for its fresh fish and classic British dishes.
Godolphin Arms, West End, Marazion, Cornwall, TR17 0EN