I love a walk in winter, with the frost or snow underneath, it makes you feel truly alive. South Devon is sometimes thought of as a summery sort of place, but with its rolling hills and ancient woods, it’s a fantastic place for a wonderful wintery walk. And the best part is that moment following the walk, when you go indoors, at a country pub, or the place where you’re staying, and get toasty warm again.
Lots of people in South Devon spend the winter on snow-watch. Even though the coasts get little or no snow, the hills on Dartmoor are a different story. There is often a scattering of snow on the high ground. At the Haytor car-park, after visiting the visitors’ centre, most people head up to the Tor itself, but I prefer heading slightly to the right and ending up at Haytor Quarries. This is a lovely walk in any weather, but I particularly love it in winter. The bleakness of the granite landscape lends itself to grey winter skies and looks particularly dramatic.
These woods outside Plymouth are some of my favourites. With many interesting trees, relaxing clearings and bubbling streams, this is a great destination. The longer walk takes you over the huge Cann viaduct, with great views over the forest. When I visited, the National Trust had organised an interesting trail called ‘Top Trunks.’ This really engaged my youngest two, aged 6 and 8. Various different species of tree had been labelled with a top Trunks notice outlining the tree’s height, age, thickness, lifespan and how many species it supports.
I love a beach walk in winter. It is quite a different experience than a beach in summer. The waves seem higher, the air seems fresher, the smells seem stronger and the sense of isolation is rousing. To come down to the shore when the crowds have gone, and the waves are high, is one of the pleasures of life. Man Sands is pretty quiet in summer, but in winter you are almost guaranteed to be alone. This beach has dramatic rocks and a great walk past the fishermen’s cottages on the headland. There is also an inland lake behind the beach with a hide for spotting wading birds.
This is the hardest of these winter walks. It is quite a strenuous climb up the path behind Torcross. The South West Coast Path here leads you away from Torcross but it is always good to turn round and look back. The path here is easy to follow, if a little steep in places, but it is worth it for the views. At the top of the headland are beautiful views out to sea, dramatic views to Slapton Ley, and inspiring views along the coast towards start Point. This is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the walk crosses picturesque farmland and dramatic cliff scenery, with the roar of the sea a constant companion. Please remember to keep pets under control and on a lead when crossing farmland with livestock in.
This walk combines a pretty Devon village, a flat lake, and a wide river. Stoke Gabriel is a pretty little village halfway between Paignton and Totnes. The houses here hug the edges of a millpond which connects to a quayside on the River Dart. The Dart here is tidal, and when the tide is low a long jetty can be walked over to explore some lovely riverside walks. Stoke Gabriel is a quiet, mysterious village which seems perfect for winter walks. After walking around the lake, or crossing the jetty and following the Dart, there are a couple of great village pubs to warm up in afterwards.
Have we tempted you to a wonderful winter walking holiday in Devon? Check out our gorgeous cottages in the area to make your stay as magical as possible.