Travel Guides

How to make the most of winter

There may be a chill in the air but winter is a great season to go exploring, so we’ve put together ideas to help you plan the ultimate winter day out. Enjoy walks that take in some of our most atmospheric properties, read about the best places to escape the crowds and be inspired by English Heritage Members’ recommendations of their favourite things to do this season.

Winter Walks

DEVON: BERRY POMEROY CASTLE TO TOTNES CASTLE

Distance: 4 miles/6.4km (2–2.5 hours walking, plus time to visit the properties) Difficulty: 2/5

Berry Pomeroy Castle is known as one of English Heritage’s most haunted properties, and a winter afternoon creates the perfect atmosphere to explore this picturesque ruin. The walk then takes you to the Norman Totnes Castle through gorgeous countryside, where you’ll be rewarded with wonderful views over Totnes. This walk follows the John Musgrave Heritage Trail, so you can use the waymarkers.

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NORTH YORKSHIRE: RIEVAULX ABBEY TO HELMSLEY CASTLE

Distance: 2.5 miles/4km (1 hour 30 minutes walking, plus time to visit the properties) Difficulty: 1/5

Perfect for a gentle stroll, this delightful walk takes in two English Heritage properties set in the beautiful North Yorkshire countryside. Enjoy the winter sunlight flooding through the atmospheric arched stone windows of the ruined Rievaulx Abbey, then head over to the picture-perfect town of Helmsley and explore its magnificent castle, which was founded by the same person as the abbey.

 

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NORTH YORKSHIRE: YORK COLD WAR BUNKER TO CLIFFORD’S TOWER

Distance: 2.2 miles/3.5km (45 minutes walking plus time to visit the properties) Difficulty: 1/5

Compare a 20th-century defence structure with one from the 11th century on this walk between two of York’s most interesting buildings. The York Cold War Bunker is our most modern property, and was built in the 1960s to monitor the fallout from a nuclear attack. Clifford’s Tower is all that remains of the Norman York Castle, and boasts views of the city and out towards the North York Moors.

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SHROPSHIRE: WENLOCK PRIORY TO THE IRON BRIDGE

Distance: 4.5 miles/7.5km (2–3 hours walking, plus time to visit the properties) Difficulty: 2/5

Enjoy the contrast of walking from the beautifully tranquil medieval Wenlock Priory to the masterpiece of 18th century engineering that is the Iron Bridge, all via countryside beloved by Vaughan Williams and A E Housman. It’s also a chance to admire the conservation work that the bridge has recently undergone, which has restored the structure’s original red-brown paint colour.  This route follows the Shropshire Way, so you can use the waymarkers where possible.

 

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THE BEST PLACES TO ESCAPE THE CROWDS DURING WINTER

Get away from it all with a trip to one of our more secluded properties. From Birdoswald Roman Fort in Cumbria all the way down to ancient sites on the Isles of Scilly, you can escape the crowds and experience the very locations where historic events took place.

Read our guide

Member Recommendations

We asked our Members to recommend their favourite places to visit during the winter months; here are some of the fantastic suggestions they sent in:

  • BATTLE ABBEY, EAST SUSSEX

    'I like to walk around the grounds of the abbey in winter because it evokes a real sense of history. I can imagine ice being taken from the ponds to fill the ice house during winters far colder than they are now.' Kam Haviland from East Sussex

  • AUDLEY END, ESSEX

    'The grounds are beautiful and atmospheric, with the house emerging from the layer of mist off the river. The kitchen gardens are a constant source of inspiration and show that there is plenty to be done, even in winter.' Josie Gowler from East Sussex

  • Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

    'Once you’ve braved the cold to walk up to the viewing platforms you get a fantastic view, and far more without the leaves on the trees. Then head to the excellent tea room for a warming cuppa, a super soup or a hearty hotpot. Perfect!' Kate Drake from Kettering

  • Wrest Park, Bedfordshire

    'The grounds of Wrest Park are suitable for walks in all weather, whether in the open or under trees, grass or gravel. It’s not too big and a cup of tea is available when you’re ready, or a couple of tasters from the wine or jam in the shop.' Janet Stow from Bedfordshire

  • Furness Abbey, Cumbria

    'The ancient setting of Furness Abbey gives it such a history and connection to the coastal plains. It’s a dramatic setting and yet so close to Barrow-in-Furness. It’s an absolute gem.' Nigel Dawson from Lancashire

  • Rievaulx Abbey, North Yorkshire

    'If you visit on a winter’s day with spells of intense sunshine interspersed with short periods of rain, the low sun angle and wet conditions really accentuate the brilliant detail of the ragged ruins and their formidable shadows.' Nancy Vickery from North Yorkshire

  • Byland Abbey, North Yorkshire

    'Solitude. Monastic peace and quiet. A little birdsong. In other words, perfection.' Diana Prestwich from North Yorkshire

  • Beeston Castle, Cheshire

    'The views from the top are always wonderful, even when the sky is grey and heavy. There’s less competition in winter for the vantage points, and the walk through the woodlands is so quiet, you can almost believe you’re alone.' Bennett Foster from Merseyside

NOT YET A MEMBER?

English Heritage Members enjoy unlimited access to over 400 historic properties. They also receive free or discounted entry to hundreds of historic events around the country, from medieval jousts to our annual Enchanted series, in which some of our sites are transformed into illuminated worlds. Plus, at no extra cost, Family Members can visit our sites with up to six children for free. Members also receive our Members’ Magazine and a handbook, which has detailed information on all our sites, and you’ll also have the chance to make savings on a range of other attractions.

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STRIDE INTO SPRING

If you’ve been inspired by the winter walks and want to plan for next season, check out our selection of hikes that are perfect for warmer days. From strolling along the sea front to enjoying the majesty of Stonehenge’s ancient landscape, these walks are sure to put a spring in your step!

Plan your Spring Walks

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