UK walking and cycling charity Sustrans is custodian of the National Cycle Network – a network of traffic-free paths and quiet on-road cycling and walking routes. Here they share their favourite routes for a winter walk and where you can stop for a tipple along the way…
Wells and Holkham Circuit – The Globe Inn
As part of the National Cycle Network Route 1, and the Norfolk Coastal Cycleway, this is a great circular walk that leads you through the beautiful Norfolk countryside. The Globe Inn in the beautiful seaside town, Wells-next-the-sea offers the perfect resting spot, where you can enjoy a Christmas tipple and some delicious home cooked food.
Jubilee River – The Duchess of Cambridge
For Londoners wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a day out over the holidays, this route takes in Windsor castle, Eton College, Dorney Lake, the Jubilee River and the River Thames. Situated in the heart of historic Windsor, and just a 300 metre walk from the National Cycle Network towards Windsor Castle, the Duchess of Cambridge is the perfect place to end the walk and soak up the festive atmosphere. With an extensive list of fine wines and award-winning ales from Hertford’s McMullen Brewery, there’s something on offer for everyone. Just a few minutes’ walk away from both the Riverside and Windsor Central stations, city-dwellers can be back in the capital before the day is out.
Tonbridge Castle to Penshurst Place – Bottle House Inn
Making up part of the National Cycle Network route 12, this delightful walk takes you past fields on the edge of Tonbridge and into Haysden Country Park, running along the edge of Barden Lake. The one noticeable climb of the route comes between the bridge over the River Medway and Well Place Farm, giving you wide-ranging views of the surrounding countryside and setting you up for a fine descent past two lakes to arrive at Penshurst Place. Take a moment to the beautiful 14th century architecture before heading to the historic Bottle House Inn to enjoy their extensive and excellent wine list.
Cwbran to Brynmawr – The Little Crown
Spanning over 15 miles across the Welsh countryside, taking in the splendid views of the Pontypool and Blaenavon Railway, this route is ideal for anyone serious about walking off their Christmas dinner. For those looking for something a little more relaxing, start at Forge Hammer in Cwmbran on the National Route 492 which branches from National Route 42 and runs northwards to Pontypool. Once in Pontypool, visit The Little Crown Inn. Situated on the site of the old Elled Level Drift mine in the heart of the Welsh Valleys, this family owned business is full of unique charm. If you want to carry on along the trail once you leave Pontypool, continue along the beautiful Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal; the route then runs along the line of the old mineral railway to Blaenavon onto Brynmawr.
North Wales Coast Cycle Route – Liverpool Arms
This section of the National Route 5 takes in a number of classic north Wales seaside towns. The coastal route passes through Colwyn Bay and Rhos-on-Sea before continuing to Conwy. Once you reach Conwy, head to the Liverpool Arms, the oldest traditional pub in the area. Overlooking the Conwy Quay, the Liverpool Arms boasts the largest beer garden in Wales, making it the perfect spot to take in the surrounding natural beauty while sipping on a festive beverage.
Lagan and Lough Cycle Way – Cutters Wharf
The Lagan and Lough Cycle Way or NCN Route 9 is a level, traffic-free walk connecting Lisburn, Belfast, and Jordanstown. The route passes along the waterside of the Lagan Towpath and Belfast Lough. Stretching over 20 miles in total, the route can be split into shorter walks, with several train stations along the route and one at each end. Once you make it to Belfast, visit the Cutters Wharf bar where you can enjoy a riverside drink and live entertainment from some of Belfast’s finest bands.
Route 62/662 – The Continental
With a range of changing ales and craft ciders available on tap and by the bottle, The Continental in Preston is the perfect place to stop off for a drink and warm up after a wintery stroll. Situated on the banks of the River Ribble, the Continental can be easily reached via Route 62/622, which encircles the city of Preston, passing by local docklands, parks and nature reserves.
Route 627 – Kelham Island Tavern
With the National Route 627 passing through the Kelham Island, the ‘Real Ale Quarter’ of Sheffield, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to a Christmas tipple. Among the pubs and bars worth a visit here is the Kelham Island Tavern – the only pub to have been voted the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) National Pub of the Year for two years running.
Union Canal – The Bridge Inn
The Bridge Inn is the perfect spot to warm up by the fire while sipping on a festive beverage. With a drinks menu boasting local beers, Scottish whiskeys and an extensive list of wines, you’ll be tempted to stay all afternoon. The Bridge Inn sits along the banks of the Union Canal – a beautiful spot for a winter stroll.
Forth and Clyde Canal – Stables
Originally built as a resting stop for watermen and horses using the canal, the Stables is a truly charming country pub. With a seasonal food menu and a fantastic list of cask ales and fine wines, the Stables is the perfect way to end an idyllic festive walk along the Forth and Clyde Canal.
The Caledonia Way- Old Ferry Bar at Loch Leven Hotel
Enjoying stunning Highland views, there are few better stopping points after a crisp winter stroll than the Old Ferry Bar at Loch Leven Hotel. Views across Loch Leven and the mountains beyond provide the perfect backdrop for a well-deserved festive tipple, whether you choose to sample craft beer from local brewers River Leven Ales or gin produced at the hotel’s on-site gin distillery.