‘Crisp air and wildlife – fantastic’: readers’ top tips for UK winter outdoors activities

Serenity for cyclists, New Forest

Experience the unique beauty of the New Forest national park on a winter cycling adventure. With fewer crowds, you can enjoy peaceful rides through ancient woodlands and across heathlands. Remember to dress in warm layers, check your bike for winter readiness, and bring some hot tea or coffee in a Thermos to savour in the midst of your journey. Wildlife, serene landscapes and crisp winter air make this a fantastic outdoor activity in the UK.
Magsy Griffin

Stoked by Stoker, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Whitby Abbey.
Whitby Abbey. Photograph: John Potter/Alamy

My partner and I visited Whitby for a long weekend in February. I bought him a fossil-hunting experience for his birthday (with Byron Blessed at Sandsend) and he was stoked! The weather was rainy, dreary and dramatic, so perfect for exploring the sites that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Natalie Woodford

We should all flock to Norfolk

Pink-footed geese migrate to Norfolk in autumn mainly from Iceland.
Pink-footed geese migrate to Norfolk in autumn mainly from Iceland. Photograph: Joe Blossom/Alamy

Watching and listening to the “winking” calls of 40,000-odd pink-footed geese fly overhead at RSPB Snettisham in Norfolk is an unforgettable experience. It’s an early morning – the birds leave their roosts at dawn to feed, forced off the sandbar by the incoming tide. Warm up afterwards at nearby RSPB Titchwell Marsh, which has a lovely cafe, fabulous hides and acres of sandy shore overlooking the Wash. Snettisham is free to enter but £3 to park. Titchwell Marsh is free to RSPB members, a fiver for other adults, £2.50 for a child.


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Who let the huskies out? Cumbria

Me and my boyfriend went dog sledding with Horse and Husky in Cumbria last year. We chose the Young Passenger Family Fun package, costing £150, so that we could experience it together. As huge dog lovers, we enjoyed getting to know each husky. They were all well behaved and were all rescues. It was an educational experience – we learned about the dogs’ temperament, the amount of exercise they need (a lot!) and more besides. Overall, an amazing and once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Seals the deal, Grimsby

Bull seals wrestle at Donna Nook nature reserve.
Bull seals wrestle at Donna Nook nature reserve. Photograph: Rebecca Cole/Alamy

Visit Donna Nook nature reserve, just south of Grimsby, between November and December to see the grey seal colony. In 2021, 2,134 snow-white pups were born on the beach here, and you can get feet away from them. You can also watch males that weigh up to 300kg (660lb) battle each other to become “beach champion” and bag mating rights to harems of females. It’s like being in an Attenborough documentary. Parking in a field is £5 for the day, and stalls sell fresh produce from local farms in the car park.
Rob Dalziel

Downhill all the way, Cairngorms

A ski lift in the Cairngorms.
A ski lift in the Cairngorms. Photograph: Neiliann Tait/Alamy

Skiing in the Cairngorms near Aviemore is an amazing experience. It’s £109 a family for a full day of lift passes, and if there’s no snow you can travel on the funicular railway, which is £55 for a return family ticket, take in the breathtaking scenery and warm up with a hot chocolate in the cafe at the top. Wander round the town afterwards for a truly Christmassy holiday vibe, exploring the shops, cafes and restaurants.

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Take the plunge, Cornwall

Coasteering near Newquay, Cornwall.
Coasteering near Newquay, Cornwall

My antidote to the winter blues is to embrace the “fresh” temperatures by jumping, as instructed by a guide, off a cliff into the Atlantic Ocean. Fully kitted up in a wetsuit, you can safely explore Cornwall’s natural beauty while coasteering along the rugged coastline. Cornish Wave runs this exhilarating activity (£45pp) as well as surfing, paddleboarding and camping adventures. Local surfers insist that winter is the best time as the waves are better, the tourists have headed home and the sharp coolness of the water really wakes you up, especially after a night out!

On the trail of big beasts, London

A Wild Life for Wildlife in London
An exhibit on A Wild Life for Wildlife. Photograph: Chris Dalton Photography

I love exploring and art, and London has a great range of outdoor trails. We have found a herd of orphaned elephants roaming Old Spitalfields Market, and are looking forward to finding more animals in A Wild Life for Wildlife, on the South Bank – both created by Rabbitwoman and Dogman. We searched for the Queen’s corgis, Morph, gorillas in Covent Garden, Sculpture in the City and visited Wembley. It’s a great way of discovering a new area and racking up steps. Trails are free and available 24/7, and as you’re busy searching, you don’t notice the weather.
Helen Jackson

Towpath and tea, Peak District

Aqueduct Cottage beside Cromford canal.
Aqueduct Cottage beside Cromford canal. Photograph: Daniel Matthams/Alamy

An ideal way to enjoy the outdoors during the winter is to go for a walk along a canal towpath. We love the Cromford canal in Derbyshire, parking at High Peak Junction, then walking the one-mile towpath down to Arkwright’s cafe at Cromford Wharf, where there is a lovely tea room, for a cup of tea and some lunch. The only cost is parking (from £2.50 to £7 for all day). The walk is nice and sheltered, and you get to enjoy the wildlife on the canal.
Janet Ashenden

Winning tip: Birding with the Exe factor, Devon

High tide sunset on The Goat Wal
High tide on the Goat Walk. Photograph: robertharding/Alamy

Stroll along the Goat Walk in Topsham, Devon, to spot oystercatchers and egrets fishing in the Exe estuary. The views across the water are stunning – whether the birds show up or not. For guaranteed wigeons, black-tailed godwits, pintails and avocets, keep walking to the RSPB hide on Bowling Green Marsh. On Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays the “Lookout” section of the hide is a warm and welcoming spot to borrow binoculars and take in the views. Return trains from Exeter St David’s cost from just £4.20 and everything else is free. Time your visit with high tide to see the most birds.

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