Winter walks

Wildlife, historic canal architecture and cosy waterside pubs: we’ve picked 10 beautiful towpath walks to help you unwind this winter

Winter walk illustration

Kvocek/shutterstock.com

 

Take in a zoo, poets island and gothic cemetery on the Regents Canal

4.6 miles / 7.4 km

1hr 30 minutes

Starting point: Camden Lock

A brisk walk through central London along the Regent’s Canal. Start at busy Camden Lock and then meander past London Zoo and the fine villas of Regent’s Park. After crossing Edgware Road – you may have to leave the towpath briefly – the walk continues through the pretty patch of Little Venice. The island in the middle is named Browning’s Island after the poet Robert, who lived nearby. Continue west through a particularly colourful stretch of the urban canal with artist’s studios, statue gardens and unusual architecture on either side of the towpath. You can get off the towpath anywhere – or just keep going until the North Circular – but a wander round the neo-Gothic Victorian monuments of Kensal Green Cemetery is highly recommended.

Nearby: London Zoo and Kensal Green Cemetery.

Recover afterwards: Stylish gastropub for dinner. William IV, 786 Harrow Road, NW10 5JX (020 8969 5955; www.williamivlondoon.com). Open from 5pm.

Travel: Tube to Camden Town.

Visit a Norman castle on a busy section of the Grand Union Canal

6 miles / 10 km

2hr 30mins

Starting point: Berkhamsted Station.

Come left out the station and join the towpath down the steps at Castle Street. Turn left and follow the Grand Union Canal past Castle Wharf, once the centre of Berkhamsted’s canal trade, serving many industries. Continue through the countryside to Bridge 146 where you will leave the canal. Turn right at Pix Farm into Sharpes Lane, cross London Road and head into Sugar Lane. This track takes you through farmland and overlooks the valley housing the Bourne Gutter River. Go under the A41 and around the boundary of the field and past a farm. Head north from here to Sandpit Green back across the A41 towards Berkhamsted Boys School and make your way back through town to the station via Kings Road or Chesham Road.

Nearby: Berkhamsted Castle is worth a visit, as is the lovely restored Rex Cinema.

Recover afterwards: Lovely canalside boozer with great terrace. The Boat, Gravel Path, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire HP4 2EF (01442 877152; boatberkhamsted.co.uk). Open from 11am.

Travel: Train to Berkhamsted from Euston or car parking at Waitrose.

Delight in the Georgian architecture of Bath on the Kennet & Avon Canal

2 miles / 3.2 km

45 minutes

Starting point: Sydney Gardens

There are several great walks along this beautiful Georgian canal, including a satisfying long stroll from Sydney Gardens in Bath centre to Bradford On Avon taking you past John Rennie’s Dundas Aqueduct. This shorter looped route also starts at Sydney Gardens, a former pleasure garden with lovely iron bridges. Simply head south past the stunning Cleveland House, built partly over the canal and used as the canal company’s HQ. Next you’ll pass the impressive pumphouse chimney at Abbey View lock before reaching the Avon. Turn right past Thimble Mill and continue to Pulteney Bridge. Turn right again down Great Pulteney Street to take you back to Sydney Gardens.

Nearby: Bath city centre, with numerous historic streets, galleries and museums.

Recover afterwards: Splendid regal listed inn. The Pulteney Arms, 37 Daniel St, Bath, Avon BA2 6ND (01225 463923; www.thepulteneyarms.co.uk). Open from midday.

Travel: Train to Bath spa or car parking at Sydney Gardens.

Pocket park filled with public art on the Coventry Canal

5.5 miles / 8.9 km

2hrs

Starting point: Coventry Canal basin

There are around 40 pieces of public art to see in this walk, which takes you from the centre of Coventry out of the city to Hawkesbury Junction. The walk begins in the canal basin in the town centre at the terminus of the Coventry Canal, which opened in 1769. As you walk along the towpath you’ll see dozens of public artworks, many of which have been are inspired by the canal or the history of Coventry such as the bronze statue of James Brindley, the canal’s first engineer. Look out for mosaics, painted bridges, playful seats and light displays. Some are standalone sculptures, other integrated into their environment. The walk ends at Hawkesbury Junction, which has a wonderful iron bridge and several buildings that transport you back to when was a working canal.

Nearby: Coventry Cathedral and Coventry Transport Museum.

Recover afterwards: Legendary traditional pub for boaters. The Greyhound Inn, Sutton Stop, Coventry, West Midlands CV6 6DF (024 7636 3046; http://www.greyhoundinn.org).

Travel: Train to Coventry. From Hawkesbury Junction, you can take the No 20 or No 50 bus back into Coventry.

Walk up an amazing lock flight on this historic section of the Grand Union Canal

3.6 miles / 5.8 km

1hr 10min

Starting point: Hatton station

Hatton Flight is a series of 21 locks, with a 45 metre difference between the top and bottom. It can take more 2,000 turns of the lock key to get through the lot of them. This well-marked walk offers great views of the cascading locks. From Hatton, walk along the towpath until you reach the station at Warwick Parkway, although diversions can be made to nearby villages and attractions if you so fancy. It’s a tranquil walk on a crisp winter’s day, especially given that you don’t have to deal with any of the lock gates.

Nearby: Hatton Country World has lots of stuff for children to do, including falconry and gold panning, plus a shopping village for adults. Closed on Boxing Day but open the rest of the holidays. Warwick Castle is also nearby.

Recover afterwards: Excellent refurbished pub close to the locks offering smart dining. The Hatton Arms, Birmingham Road, Warwick CV35 7JJ (01926 492427; hattonarms.com). Open from midday.

See waterfalls and aqueducts along the stunning Llangollen Canal

8 miles / 12.8 km

2hr 45mins

Starting point: Horseshoe Falls, Llangollen

This is one of the most beautiful walks in the UK, taking in magnificent countryside as well as the one of the most remarkable pieces of engineering on the canal – the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. We suggest taking the long route from Horseshoe Falls, just outside Llangollen, all the way along the Dee Valley to Chirk. If you fancy a shorter ramble, you can call a halt at the aqueduct about halfway along and retrace your steps to Llangollen. This 126ft-high marvel spans 1,000 feet and has 18 arches, with everything held together by lime, Welsh flannel and ox blood. Completed in 1805, it’s now a World Heritage Site. The long walk ends at the 1801 70-foot Chirk Aqueduct, on the Anglo-Welsh border, another masterpiece of Georgian construction.

Nearby: Chirk castle, Llangollen Motor Museum and the medieval ruin of Castell Dinas Bran near Llangollen.

Recovering after: Friendly canalside pub with good food. Bridge Inn, Chirk Road, Wrexham LL14 5BU (01691 773213). Open from midday.

Travel: Car parking at Llangollen Wharf; train to Chirk. No 64 bus runs between Chirk and Llangollen except for Bank Holidays.

Look out for red kites, lime kilns and Welsh villages along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

 6.4 miles / 11.2 km

2hrs

Starting point: Brecon Tourist Information Centre

This is a rewarding walk through the wilderness of western wales from Brecon to Talybont-on-Usk, where this tranquil canal – which is unattached to the rest of the network – threads through the heart of the Brecon Beacons National Park into the Usk Valley. The canal dates back to the 1790s, when it was used to bring coal and lime, and later iron, along the canal from Newport to Llanfoist Wharf. The walk starts in Brecon, where the canal basin now houses an excellent theatre and other attractions, and takes you past lime kilns, aqueducts and castles, and also give you the chance to look out for red kites and otters, which live alongside the peaceful and beautiful canal.

Nearby: Brecon Cathedral is in Brecon while Talybont has lots of outdoor activities for those with more energy to burn.

Recovering after: CAMRA-winning local pub. The Star Inn, Talybont-on-Usk, Brecon, Powys, LD3 7YX (01874 676635; http://www.starinntalybont.co.uk/). Open from midday.

Travel: There are several car park in Brecon or at the community hall in Talybont. The X43 bus travels between the towns but does not operate on Bank Holidays.

Aqueducts and Frog Row in this gentle stroll along the Shropshire Union Canal

3 miles / 5km

1hr

Starting point: Shrewbridge Road car park

A popular walk on the outskirts of Nantwich in Cheshire, this gentle loop follows the Shropshire Union Canal and River Weaver and offers a pleasant country stroll within easy reach of an interesting town. Completed in 1835, the Shropshire Union Canal was the last major canal to be built in England. The walk takes you from the station through Riverside Park and left along the River Weaver until you pass Nantwich Lake. After the lake, turn right over the river, walk across several fields and over a level crossing until you reach the steps that lead down to the canal. Turn right along the canal, eventually crossing the aqueduct and then turn right again past the old buildings of Welsh Row, once known as Frog Row. This will bring you back to the town centre.

Nearby: The historic market town of Nantwich is lovely, while nearby is a secret nuclear bunker at Hack Green and the fine neo-Gothic Cholmondeley Castle Gardens.

Recovering after: Recently refurbished boozer with good beer and filling food. Wickstead Arms, 5 Mill Street, Nantwich CW5 5ST (01270 610196; www.wicksteadpubnantwich.co.uk). Open from midday.

Travel: Car parking in Nantwich town centre, or train to Nantwich station.

Locks, forests and secret tunnels on the Peak Forest Canal

7 miles / 11.2 km

2hr 30mins

Starting point: Marple Locks

Like the great canal walks, this 7-mile route combines natural delights with incredible the man-made wonders and has some thrilling views along the way. Start at Marple Locks. See if you can find the two flight tunnels carved into the hill at lock 13 – one is hidden inside the other and provides a route down for the boatman working the bottom lock. The highlight of the walk is crossing Marple Aqueduct, the highest in England with amazing views of the Goyt Valley. Follow the canal all the way to Bugsworth Basin, the recently restored canal basin. You can stop here or continue all the way to Whaley Bridge along the route of a former railway.

Nearby: Peak District National Park contains several National Trust properties.

Recovering after: Super food and ale outside Whaley Bridge at Bugsworth Basin. Navigation Inn, Brookside, Buxworth, High Peak, Derbyshire SK23 7NE (01663 732072; navigationinn.co.uk). Open from 11am.

Travel: Car parking at Brabyns Park in Marple; there are stations at Marple and Whaley Bridge, though youll need to change at New Mills or switch to a bus.

Yorkshire beauty and a fine castle town on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal

5.2 miles / 8.3 km

1hr 45mins

Starting point: Gargrave

Enjoy a gentle stroll between two fine Yorkshire towns along the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. The canal was built to cross the Pennines and eventually provided a crucial link, via other navigations, from Hull right across to Liverpool. This was one of the first sections to be completed in the 1770s. It’s a simple walk along the towpath from the pretty village of Gargrave, past various locks, stone, bridges, mills and canal buildings into Skipton, a town that really embraces the presence of the canal. You can walk further from here along a short branch line, the Springs Branch, which passes Skipton Castle.

Nearby: Skipton Castle, the Craven Museum and Gallery, and Skipton Castle Woods.

Recovering after: Friendly pub in cobbled street with canal memorabilia. The Narrow Boat, 36-38 Victoria Street, Skipton BD23 1JE (01756 797922; www.markettowntaverns). Open from 3pm.

Travel: Car parking in Gargrave; there are stations at Skipton on Gargrave on the same line.

Check opening times for parking, pubs and nearby attractions before departing.