Best winter walks in Somerset and beyond
Walk off the excesses of Christmas and New Year with eight bracing perambulations – plus pitstops en route to keep you going
OK, so you’ve eaten your body weight in turkey, nailed an entire family tin of Quality Street, drunk about 8,000 units of wine, sherry, fizz and Baileys and have been slumped on the sofa for three days straight. In the immortal words of George Michael (RIP), let’s go outside – ideally for a long, bracing walk, with a pitstop close by. Grab your wellies then….
Burton Bradstock, Dorset
Park in the Hive Beach car park in Burton Bradstock, then take a left (east) up the cliff path and and along to Chesil Beach. Keep walking until you get fed up and turn back and then head into National Trust owned The Hive Beach Cafe, for crab sandwiches or a whole lobster. Or follow the coast path signs heading west, marked ‘Freshwater and West Bay’ for a 40-min walk, with spectacular views of Golden Cap (the highest point on the south coast, 30m higher than Beachy Head) and then take the little path beyond The Hive Beach Cafe up to the cliff top The Seaside Boarding House for lunch, coffee, a cocktail….
Got the energy to climb up to the top of Golden Cap? Here’s a hour and-a-half walk starting at the car park at Seatown (not to be confused with Seaton, further along the coast). The excellent and very dog-friendly The Anchor Inn lies at right angles to the beach.
Will’s Neck, in the Quantocks
Another high spot (literally): this one-hour walk takes you to Will’s Neck (but not Will), the highest point in the Quantock Hills. On a good day you can see over to Exmoor and Dunkery Beacon and across Somerset. Wild ponies too. You can start and finish at The Rising Sun in West Bagborough (where the food’s said to be very good).
Bishopswood Meadows, nr Chard
Walk over vale and hill (the Blackdown variety), through the Bishopswood Meadows and Jan Hobbs nature reserves close to the river Yarty, with an extra loop in the Bishopswood reserve if you fancy. This hour-long route from the Somerset Wildlife Trust, very handily starts and finishes at the cosy 17th century Candlelight Inn. Definitely one with wellies on, especially after rain.
Brean Down, north Somerset coast
Fab views in all directions – across the Bristol Channel to South Wales, the Mendip Hills, the Quantock Hills, the Somerset Levels, even Glastonbury Tor – once you get to the top of the (admittedly) steep Brean Down, a rocky peninsular stretching a mile and a half into the briney. Start off from the Cove Cafe car park on an hour-long walk taking in Bronze Age burial mounds, the remains of a Victorian fort and masses of wildlife. The expanse of beach below can be very windy but will give your dog (or nab someone else’s) a brilliant run around. Soup, jackets, coffee and cake in the basic Cove Cafe.
Tarr Steps, Exmoor
Tarr Steps, the ancient clapper bridge dating back to around 1000 BC, crossing the river Barle is one of Somerset’s most magical places. This is a longer walk through a landscape of steep-sided fields on Exmoor – about 4 and half hours – but as you start and finish with food and booze at the fantastic Tarr Farm Inn, you probably won’t mind.
Montacute, south Somerset
Starting at the the glorious Tudor Montacute House house built by one of Guy Fawkes’ prosecutors Sir Edward Phelips, and now housing famous Elizabethan royal portraits on loan from the national Portrait Gallery, this six-miler takes in the village, with an eccentric TV & Radio museum, Ham Hill and St Micheal’s Mount (a folly) and more. Good pubs en route are The King’s Arms in Montacute and the more casual Prince of Wales in a former quarryman’s cottage on Ham Hill.
White Field Nature Reserve, Butleigh
Another start and finish at the local village pub, this time it’s the Rose and Portcullis, renowned for its ales and the food (classic pub grub) is not bad either. The walk, which is super short at 20 mins, offers view of Glastonbury Tor – then you can get back to those ales.