Winning tip: White sands and surf, Iona
Head to Scotland’s beautiful twin islands of Mull and Iona in winter and you will have beaches and caves to yourselves. Take a warm tent, a decent wetsuit and warm clothes for exploring the cliff paths, pristine white sand beaches and sparkling turquoise waters. Port Ban beach is sheltered and if the sun comes out you are in heaven – you could be in the Caribbean here if the temperature were 20 degrees higher. The surf is good at Ardanalish beach if you are into that – or just walk and enjoy fresh air and open views to the wild Atlantic.
Cold water boost, Cornwall
I swim year-round in Cornwall, and in all sorts of places: tidal pools, rivers, quarries and beaches. I take short dips without a wetsuit, but use one for long-distance swims – along with two swimming caps and thermal undergarments! Find tips on wildswimmingcornwall.co.uk. It was set up to promote the mental health and community benefits of wild swimming in the UK and encourage people to get closer to nature, and also raises money for Mind UK, using the #selfcareswims hashtag.
King of the hill, Cheltenham
My favourite wintry walk is up Timbercombe Hill in Charlton Kings in Cheltenham. You get beautiful views of the town, houses, cars and people scattered below like an upturned toy box, upright sparse trees and raggedy bushes marking the way up the hill. Standing at the top you feel like the king of the world. A hotty choc in hand is my sweet reward.
English skiing, Lake District
My top tip for a UK winter trip has to be the Lake District Ski Club next to Helvellyn. Boasting a 360-metre button-tow and up to nine ungroomed runs (depending on conditions), this is an amazing place to ski, snowboard or just visit! Access is a little challenging as it’s an hour’s walk from the mines at Glenridding, but this hidden gem is well worth putting in the effort for. The Club members are lovely, welcoming folk, and there’s even a heated ski lodge to have a rest and a brew in. The snow conditions are obviously very variable, but on a good day this is a unique experience for intermediate-to-advanced skiers and snowboarders.
Woodland wonderland, North Yorkshire
For a wonderful winter adventure for all the family, go exploring in the North Yorkshire’s beautiful Dalby Forest. From active stuff like mountain biking, Segway riding and ziplining to gentle strolling, there is something there for everyone.
Every witch way, Lancashire
Any good winter adventure ends up with a cheering mug of tea or hot chocolate, and maybe hot buttered toast or a teacake, too. A bit of social history is a bonus. Untamed and a bit mysterious, Pendle Hill is the site of the 1612 witch trials and abounds with rambles of varying lengths. From the hamlet of Barley just outside town of Nelson, you can do a 7km up-and-down walk or a 15km loop. Then head for the Clarion Tearoom, built in 1912 for Nelson Independent Labour party to support industrial workers escaping for a country respite. An unbroken link to our past.
Pines and puddles, Kent
My favourite cold weather day out is driving to Bedgebury Pinetum in Kent. A lovely walk through the woods, seeing lots of wildlife, walking my rescue labrador and watching my children jumping in puddles and piles of leaves.
Chasing waterfalls, Lake District
I took a weekend trip to Penrith to get out of the hustle and bustle of London. The walking was beautiful, and the best one was Aira force waterfall (pictured), reached on a round-trip hike from the car park off the A592 along the shore of Ullswater. Take waterproofs and hiking boots, and hire a car: it makes visiting all the remote trails, farms and lakes much easier.
Fast and light by bike, Scottish Highlands
Established in 1980 for walkers, the 96-mile West Highland Way runs from Fort William to Glasgow. Immerse yourself in the wild scenery as you pass through the Highlands’ most inspiring landscapes. Make it as challenging as you want. Go by train and use a mountain bike to travel fast. Use hostels, hotels, B&Bs and a luggage transfer services to travel light. Or carry minimalist gear: tarp, bivi-bag, four-season sleep system, mini stove and cooking gear on a bikepacking setup. It’s advisable to plan escape routes for bad weather.
Warmer winters, Isle of Wight
Winter temperatures on the island can be a couple of degrees milder than on the mainland, so as long as you have appropriate clothing you will enjoy your holiday. The coastal walks have amazing views. My favourite place is Godshill, and the fabulous model village (pictured) – plus plenty of cafes for the obligatory cream tea.