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Best Woodland Walks in the UK

Friday 15 September 2023

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In Britain, we are blessed with thousands of acres of woodland, some of it dating back thousands of years and much of it offering scenic views. Whatever the weather, a woodland walk is a great activity for the whole family. Get your wellies on in the rain, crunch Autumn leaves, or pack a picnic for the sunnier months.

Taking a walk in the woods is a fantastic way to enjoy the outdoors, get closer to nature and leave behind the hustle and bustle of modern everyday life. We’ve picked out our favourite woodland walks in the UK that are easily accessible by train.

Grizedale Forest, Lake District

Inspiration to the great romantic poets, it really is no surprise that one of our favourite woodland walks is located in the heart of the Lake District. Whether you're a lover of Wordsworth or just enjoy a great hike, a visit to Grizedale Forest is sure to offer a great day out. 

During the autumn, Grizedale Forest is especially scenic. Grizedale Forest covers around nine square miles and boasts some of the area's most challenging, but most satisfying, walking routes. Follow the Machell's Coppice trail right up to the top, where you will find gorgeous views over Coniston village and water - even more beautiful than usual when autumn showcases its orange and red leaves reflected on the water.

If you're visiting with adventurous kids or big kids, you may enjoy the cycle paths, horse riding trails, and Go Ape courses dotted around.

Getting to Grizedale Forest by train: If you're visiting the Lake District and travelling with CrossCountry, you can find connections from Manchester Piccadilly or Newcastle station.

Wandlebury Country Park, Cambridge

There is nothing better on a chilly autumn day than exploring the enchanted world of Wandlebury. Sitting amidst the Gog Magog hills near Cambridge is Wandlebury Country Park; 110 acres of woodland paths, lush meadows, and chalky grassland to discover. Wandlebury is perfect for history lovers and adventurous children alike, making it the perfect location for a family day out. 

The north section of the Country Park is home to Beech Avenue - 400m of beech trees leading to an historic Roman road where you can walk in the footsteps of Roman centurions and rebellious Celts. In the park you can also find the remains of a fifth-century Iron Age Hill Fort to be transported back in time, as well as the Godolphin Arabian horse grave.

If you prefer nature spotting to history trails, look out for herds of highland cows who are responsible for keeping the meadows in good condition for flowers and wildlife. For an autumn woodland walk, we recommend taking the Wandlebury Circular walk to really see the best the park has to offer before stopping in one of their pop-up cafes to enjoy a pot of tea and a slice of cake.

Getting to Wandlebury Country Park by train: From Cambridge station, a 20-minute bus ride will take you to the park.

Hermitage of Braid & Blackford Hill, Edinburgh

This delightful walk combines the wooded nature reserve of the Hermitage of Braid with an ascent of Blackford Hill, giving superb views over Edinburgh. Not only is it one of our favourite woodland walks, but also one of the best Edinburgh’s hill walks.

The Old Hermitage House is a fantastic place to enjoy the great outdoors. As well as woodland, there is scrubland, grassland, and the Braid Burn – all of which house a variety of wildlife. Keep an eye out for green woodpeckers, and if you’re lucky you may see herons, kestrels, and kingfishers too.

The Hermitage is designated an ancient woodland, as there have been trees on this site for over 300 years. Beech, ash, and sycamore trees are common, mainly dating from the early 19th century, but there are some older specimens which have grown over 40m tall! They are at their best in autumn, with red and orange leaves falling from the trees creating a stunning environment to enjoy.

The Hermitage is also home to Blackford Hill, a muddy woodland walk that offers a beautiful 360-degree view over the city skyline, Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills from the top.

Getting to Blackford Hill by train: You can get to the Hermitage of Braid & Blackford Hill from Edinburgh Waverley station via a range of bus routes across the city.

Cardinham Woods, Cornwall

From adventure and exercise to peaceful strolls and stunning scenery, Cardinham Woods in Cornwall is a wonderful place to explore. Famed for its walking trails, from easy routes to longer walks that include steep valley climbs and fantastic views, this mixed woodland is a great day out for all.

You’ll find mountain bike trails and family-friendly play and picnic areas, as well as the Zog activity trail that little ones will really enjoy following. Discover stunning viewpoints and evidence of the area’s fascinating history, including remnants of the old mine and traditional clapper bridge.

There are easy short strolls around Lady Vale Bridge, and visitors with impaired mobility can hire Tramper off-road vehicles to see the stunning scenery with ease. For experienced hikers, a slightly more strenuous uphill trek brings you to the old lead and silver mine of Wheal Glynn. The old engine house and chimney can still be seen through the trees.

A day out to Cardinham Woods would not be complete without a pit stop at the Woods Café, renowned for its outstanding Cornish cream tea!

Getting to Cardinham Woods by train: From Bodmin Parkway station, you can hop on the bus directly to Cardinham Woods.

Ecclescall Woods, Sheffield

From twisting tracks and unexplored pathways to sparkling streams and waterside wildflowers, Sheffield’s Ecclesall Woods are delightful. They are the largest semi-natural woodland in South Yorkshire and are especially popular due to the wide range of wildlife, plus the archaeological and historic features.

The woods offer miles of great walking trails to try in autumn – with over 300 acres to explore you’ll be spoilt for choice. Historic features to look out for include a Second World War bomb crater that was created in December 1940. There is also evidence of saw pits, charcoal heaths and quarrying in these ancient woods, plus a 200-year-old oak tree.

Head to the Woodland Discovery Centre at the Abbey Lane entrance, here you can pick up walking trails to follow. Explore the routes given in guides such as the archaeological walking map or listen to a family-friendly audio adventure.

If you fancy a cuppa and a piece of cake whilst you’re in the woods, head to the Woodland Coffee Stop. All their produce is sourced from small local businesses and the cakes are delicious!

Getting to Ecclesall Woods by train: To get to Ecclesall Woods from Sheffield station, you can jump on a bus and get there in half an hour.

Symonds Yat, Wye Valley

With unparalleled views over the River Wye in Gloucestershire, walking around Symonds Yat is the perfect autumnal woodland walk. For experienced hikers, we recommend the Mailscot Wood trail which takes you uphill to get the best views of the surrounding environment. 

Symonds Yat is known for excellent birdlife, making it a haven for twitchers. The area is often home to peregrine falcons, goshawks, sparrowhawks, buzzards, barn owls, and more - so make sure to pack your binoculars. Pack a picnic or head to the log cabin Rock Cafe to refresh with a cup of tea - you might need it after following the Mailscot Wood trail!

If you're visiting with children or less experienced hikers, never fear! You can follow the Symonds Yat circular trail or the Woodlands trail to enjoy all the best of the wildlife and scenery without having to brave steep inclines or unmade paths. 

Getting to Symonds Yat by train: You can get to Symonds Yat from Chepstow station using public transport connections.

 

If you’re planning a woodland walk, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or the CrossCountry app. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

Written by Julia

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