Winter Walks in Somerset

Winter Walks  in Somerset

After the mince pie and box-set lull of the festive period, the New Year brings a desire for fresh air and activity to get the blood pumping. So why not stir up positive thoughts about the coming year on a winter walk? The following are some of the best hikes for occasional ramblers among Somerset’s wildly varied landscapes.

Somerset County Council has a searchable online map of all the county’s public footpaths (roam.somerset.gov.uk/roam/map), or if you want to make walking a more regular thing (a New Year’s resolution, why not), the app Outdoor Active (outdooractive.com/en/) uses sat-nav to show where you are on a footpath, as well as letting you plot your own routes.

Just fill up a hot (or hip) flask, and off you go.

Brean Down

The pier at Weston-Super-Mare might be the more famous landmark but the peninsula at Brean Down is where walkers can surprise themselves with beauty, history and tranquility. The National Trust owns these cliffs, so park at their car park. At the top, there was once a Roman temple and a Bronze Age burial mound. Follow the ridge to explore a ruined fort at the tip, built to defend the country against a possible Napoleonic invasion.

1 hour 10 minutes.

Cheddar Gorge

The challenging, circular walk around the top of Cheddar Gorge is a steep climb in places but affords views along these weathered crags to Cheddar Reservoir, glinting in the sun. There are small parking bays along the gorge road, or park in Cheddar village and walk up. Expect wildlife too, from the curly-horned Soay sheep to peregrine falcons. Wrap up warm, as some parts are quite exposed.

3 hours.

Glastonbury Tor

One of Somerset’s most famous sights is easily visited, though parking can be a struggle. An easy loop can be walked, taking in the underground water channels of the temple of the White Spring, before starting up the steps at the western end of the tor. On top is St Michael’s Tower and miles of wonderful views across the sheep-speckled Somerset Levels. Come down the steps on the far side of the tower, then take a further footpath off Wellhouse Lane to arrive at Glastonbury Abbey.

1 hour.

Quantock Hills

This AONB is characterised by heathland and ancient oaks. It offers views across the Bristol Channel and is packed with great walks. For a varied loop, try a route that heads through some of the loveliest bits, including wooded Hodder’s Combe, an old drover’s road and some hilltop walking. Start at the Hodder's Combe car park, near the village of Holford, and go west through woodland, skirting Lady’s Edge, and ascend to Bicknoller Post. Then head south-east, passing Hurley Beacon, before striking north at Black Hill, along Higher Hare Knap, then coming back down to the car park.

3 hours.

Tarr Steps

This family-friendly stroll follows the River Barle through a scenic part of Exmoor. Beginning at Tarr Steps, children will love crossing the old stone clapper bridge. The riverside path then cuts through the gently wooded valley, which is important for its moss and the otters that feed in the clear water. For something more difficult, take a circular walk from Tarr Steps to picturesque Dulverton. Look out for wild ponies on nearby Winsford Hill.

1 hour.

Montacute House

Marvel at this stately home’s grandeur before starting a four-mile walk through verdant countryside. Set out from the house to climb St Michael’s Hill, beside the village, then skirt the edge of woodland to Ham Hill, to the west, before heading south through woodland. The final leg curves east, cutting back parallel to Hollow Lane, into Montacute.

2 hours 15 minutes

Burrow Mump

The wetlands surrounding this natural knoll look spectacular when blanketed in a winter mist. This striking oddity, rising from level fields, can be viewed at the start of an easy five-mile walk which ventures alongside the River Parrot to the lively town of Langport. Climb the 24m-high hill and see the ruined church at the top, before walking along the ridge beside the river - assuming the fields have not flooded. Continue alongside the Parrot, past Stathe and Oath, to Langport. Refresh at the Bow Wharf Cafe.

2 hours 15 minutes.

Fyne Court

For wildlife lovers, this stroll explores the estate at Fyne Court, a nature reserve and gardener’s cottage, near Bridgwater. Start at the information centre (and learn about the Fyne Court fire) then head right along a stone track, before taking a gravel path left into the woods. Climb steps leading up a hill on the right and then turn right through veteran beech woodland. Follow The Dell to Five Pond Wood, where you might see spotted flycatcher dashing between branches. Cross the meadows towards Broomfield Church and then turn back into Fyne Court.

40 mins