After a Christmas Day that may have been hectic or overindulgent (or both!), Boxing Day is a great time to escape to the great outdoors for the good of body and mind. Stretch your legs, breathe in the fresh air and admire nature in all its glory.

And where better than the UK’s glorious woods? In winter, spectacular frosty landscapes and bare branches expose elusive wildlife and hidden history. We have more than 1,000 across the UK that are free to visit and waiting for you to explore. So dig out your wellies and woollies and start planning your Boxing Day walk with 10 of our favourites for inspiration.

1. 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.

2. Credenhill Park Wood, Herefordshire

Just 5 miles from Hereford, Credenhill Park Wood is a local landmark steeped in history. It sits on an imposing wooded hill, topped by one of the largest Iron Age hill forts in England and is thought to have once been an Iron Age tribal capital. The walk to the top is well worth it - on a clear day you'll be rewarded with terrific views across the Wye Valley and into Wales. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife among the bare winter branches, including woodpeckers tapping the tree trunks.

3. 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?

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4. 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.

5. 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 at Crinan Wood, you might even hear the famous Corryvreckan whirlpool – the third largest in the world – thundering a few miles out to sea.

Discover more nature walks in Scotland

6. 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 post-Christmas stroll. 

7. 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.

8. Ledmore and Migdale, Scottish Highlands

Ledmore and Migdale 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.

9. 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.

10. Avon Valley Woods, Devon

Clustered around the village of Woodleigh, Avon Valley Woods is a hidden treasure. Ancient woodland clings to the steep-sided valley of the River Avon, opening up into areas of newer planting and grassy clearings with stunning views over the rolling Devon countryside. Winter is a great time to spot a whole range of finches, blue tits, long-tailed tits and great tits that tend to flock in large groups at this time of year. The riverside walk can be muddy, but the extensive path network offers plenty of grassy tracks too.

Visiting woods

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Primordial landscapes, tangled branches, breathtaking wildlife and miles of woodland trails. From the countryside to cities, we care for thousands of woods throughout the UK, all free to visit.

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