Britain's winter wanderland
Walk in the valley of Glen Coe, one of the most beautiful spots in the exhilarating Scottish Highlands (Justin Foulkes)
Through the colder months, the British landscape can be at its dramatic, blustery best. Enjoy it on one of these six walks – and warm up by the fire in a cosy pub at the end.
Scottish Highlands: Through frosty glens to warming whisky
Along with Ben Nevis and Loch Lomond, the great valley of Glen Coe is one of Scotland’s best-loved locations, home to some of the country’s most admired scenery. Carved out by giant glaciers back in the Ice Age, the glen’s sheer size is immediately impressive. The steep-sided valley walls on either side appear almost vertical, topped on the northern side by the serrations of the Aonach Eagach ridge and on the south by the trio of peaks known as the Three Sisters. Nearby is the conical summit of Buachaille Etive Mòr. It is the type of classic Highland scenery that decorates a million tins of souvenir shortbread, and it’s all the more dramatic in winter, when the mountains are covered in a layer of snow. Unlike much of Scotland’s wilder landscapes, which often require long journeys or serious hikes to appreciate, Glen Coe is splendidly accessible and can be enjoyed by the most casual of weekend walkers.
Start at the An Torr car park, just off the A82 which runs through the glen. A clear path heads eastwards between the River Coe and the A82, leading to a bridge carrying the main road over the river, just west of Loch Achtriochtan. From here, you simply keep heading up the glen. Sometimes you can follow the old road that runs roughly parallel to the A82, while other times you have to walk beside the main road itself. This is an ‘out-and-back’ route, so continue walking for as long as you like, but a great spot to aim for is the viewpoint over Glen Coe near Allt-na-ruigh, about 2½ miles along the route.
After walking back down the glen, top off your day in the Clachaig Inn, a spot long favoured by hikers and climbers. The bar offers more than 200 whiskies, while the menu includes local venison, haggis and wild boar burgers, so make your order and warm up by the fire – no-one here will worry about a little snow tracked in onto the flagstones. The convivial atmosphere is further enhanced by the long tables and benches in the main bar, so you’ll find yourself forced – in a positive way – to eat and have a good chat with other walkers.
Make it happen
At the northwestern end of the valley of Glen Coe is the village of Glencoe. The nearest train station is about 16 miles away at Fort William. Scottish Citylink coaches run between Glasgow and Fort William via Glen Coe.
An Torr car park is 2½ miles east of Glencoe village on the A82. Much of Glencoe is under the protection of the National Trust for Scotland – see glencoe-nts.org.uk for more details .
The Clachaig Inn is 2½ miles east of Glencoe village on the old road which runs parallel to the A82. Food is served between 12pm and 9pm, and there are also rooms available (mains from £8; rooms from £44).
For more walks in the Scottish Highlands, see walkhighlands.co.uk.
Cotswolds: Stroll through classic Jane Austen countryside
The Cotswolds have a special charm in winter, with quiet country lanes shrouded in mist and cottages frosted with snow. This relaxing route takes you through a tranquil river valley to two quintessentially English villages. The footpaths are easy to follow and pass the grounds of a grand country house – which has a silent beauty on a chilly winter’s day – before leading back to village life. Your most strenuous part of the day will be deciding what to choose for lunch in the pub.