The pagan celebration of Yule, or the winter solstice, marks the shortest day of the year and the rituals that are associated with it include the cutting of mistletoe, the lighting of candles and the burning of a yule log. It is, of course, also one of the coldest times of the year and for those of us who enjoy walking, that calls for, short, brisk jaunts through wonderful winter wonderlands.
The following short walks in Cumbria are the perfect counterbalance to the indulgence of the festive period, try out your new Chapman rucksack and look forward to the new year.
Fancy a bit of a challenge, a walk that will get the blood pumping and the adrenaline racing? The Stickle Tarn Walk runs from the back of the New Dungeon Ghyll pub in the remote Langdale Valley.
This is the place where explorers have been pitting themselves against nature for decades. In the summer months it is busy with climbers and hikers, but in winter it is generally you, your companions and a trusty compass. Immediately, you climb a steep and rocky route alongside the gushing ghyll and waterfalls. This continues as far as Stickle Tarn, which takes approximately 30 minutes to reach and is packed with exhilarating features en route. Stickle Ghyll is a very hands-on walk, but a really rewarding one.
For a post walk reward and some hearty Christmas cheer, one of Cumbria’s top luxury pubs, the Drunken Duck, is a short drive away from the Langdale valley. Here Dubarry and Hunter boots sit happily alongside Chelsea boots and Brogues as well as furry four-legged walkers, to enjoy a pint of excellently kept ale, crafted onsite, and Champagne is always on ice.
Lowther Castle Estate and Gardens
An altogether more serine adventure is the one to be found at the Lowther Castle Estate and Gardens in Penrith. On arrival you can explore the enchanting 19th century castle ruins before heading to the extensive grounds and gardens for your walk.
Whilst wondering through the woodland you will come across an adventure playground and the garden within a garden. The whole experience is quite magical and great fun for the whole family. As far as walks go, you can make this one as long or as short as you wish, but to get the most from your visit to Lowther, allow for at least a couple of hours.
From the National Trust car park, a short trail walk will lead you to the Aira Force waterfall. Nature’s power is demonstrated at its best here and it is a very humbling to experience up close, watching tonnes of water crash down the 20-meter fall. From here you can take the short walk back to the car park or continue on the longer walk to Gowbarrown.
There’s also now a jetty onto Ullswater at Aira Force and refurbished Victorian pleasure cruisers where you can see the tranquillity of the lake in winter. This is an inspiring juxtaposition to the masculinity of Aira Force and a lovely way to conclude your visit to the area.
For a post walk pint try the Punchbowl Inn at Askham and plan your next short winter walk.