After a hectic Christmas, Boxing Day provides a good opportunity to escape outdoors, stretch your legs and breathe.

And where better to walk off the festive fare than the UK’s glorious woods? In winter, spectacular frosty landscapes and bare branches expose elusive wildlife and hidden history. What’s more, all our woods are free to enter. So dig out your wellies and woollies and burn off some of those extra Christmas calories! Here are our top 10 woods for a Boxing Day walk.

Hackfall, North Yorkshire

Wild and wonderful Hackfall was hailed by 19th century writers as one of the most beautiful woods in England. Hunt out the grottos, glades, rustic temples and follies that hide in the steep gorge. Winter is the perfect time to see the splendid waterfalls in all their glory.

Brede High Woods, East Sussex

Six miles north of Hastings, Brede High Woods stands on the shore of Powdermill Reservoir. Take in the history of the undulating landscape and find the earthworks where iron ore has been excavated since Roman times. This stunning mosaic of woodland, heathland and grassland is the perfect place for a post-Christmas dinner stroll.

Hainault Forest, London

Just 15 miles from the capital’s centre, Hainault is a perfect countryside escape for Londoners. Its hidden treasures include ancient hornbeam pollards, majestic wellingtonia avenues and herds of red deer. How many can you spot?

Nidd Gorge, North Yorkshire

Ancient broadleaf woodland covers the steep cliffs and slopes of Yorkshire’s Nidd Gorge. This very special place is home to a wealth of wildlife, including 80 species of bird. Take a stroll through the crisp winter wonderland and keep an eye out for roe deer, tawny owls, herons and woodpeckers.

Crinan Wood, Argyll and Bute, Scotland

Lose yourself in the spectacular views of Loch Crinan, the Isles of Jura and Mull, and the historic 12th century Duntrune Castle. On a wild, wintry day you might even hear the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool – the third largest in the world – thundering a few miles out to sea.

Wentwood Forest, South Wales

Wentwood’s history stretches back more than 1,000 years and was once a hunting preserve of Chepstow Castle. Wander through the trees and look out for Bronze Age burial mounds, ancient track ways, charcoal hearths and the remains of an old mill. This is a fascinating spot for a cold winter stroll. 

Carnmoney Hill, Northern Ireland

Stalked by ghosts of the Vikings, witches and highwaymen, a walk on Carnmoney Hill offers balcony views of Belfast. Home to an abundance of wildlife including Irish hares and long-eared owls, this site has a range of walks to suit all abilities.

Ledmore and Migdale Wood, Scottish Highlands

These woods in Spinningdale on the Dornoch Firth date back thousands of years and are one of the finest wildlife woods in Scotland. Look out for otters, pine martens or even the elusive black grouse as you explore over six miles of tracks and paths. Wrap up warm, pack up a winter picnic and head out in search of breathtaking views.

Coed y Gopa, Clwyd, Wales

Coed y Gopa is an ancient woodland with a fascinating past. Explore its secrets using the waymarked heritage and wildlife trails. Climb up to the Iron Age hill fort on the summit and enjoy magnificent views across the vale. The limestone caves are one of Wales’ largest winter hibernation sites for lesser horseshoe bats.

Explore more nature walks around the UK