Winter Weather Walking

I’m in the midst of a walking holiday in the Lake District and just three days in I’ve already learned a lot of lessons about walking in this wintery weather. Since Saturday we’ve had snow, ice, rain, wind and freezing temperatures. Despite this wet and chilly weather I’ve still really enjoyed getting out into the countryside and exploring the Lakes for the first time.

In front of a waterfall

Prepare for the worst to have the best time

On my first walk of the holiday, I got together some gloves, a hat and a waterproof jacket and headed out to visit Morecambe Bay and Whitbarrow Crag. I’m here with some family and two dogs, so we also made sure we had the dog leads and some coats for them. Whilst walking along Morecambe Bay I was fine, it wasn’t raining and my big boots held up well against the sea water and boggy areas. I saw some fantastically frozen foam where the sea had frozen whilst drawing out.

The worst of the weather came when we went to Whitbarrow Crag. There is a section on top of the Crag where we were really exposed and the heavens opened. All four of us were wearing jeans and could feel the rain coming through in minutes. My hands were cold and putting them in my pockets didn’t even help with warming them up because they got wet so quickly. I learned from my mistakes quickly, and for the next couple of days, I made sure I packed a bag full of extra layers and protection.

The best things to pack or wear for a winter walk are:

  • Woolly hat (ideally one that fits under your hood!).
  • Down jacket (or another thin but warm layer). I find down jackets are great for walking in the winter because they are really warm but still relatively thin, so you can fit an extra waterproof layer on top.
  • Waterproof layer. Either get a waterproof shell jacket to put over other layers, or wear a thicker, ski style, coat to wear.
  • Water resistant gloves. It’s hard to keep your hands warm when out walking, and impossible to do so once they get wet. Protect your hands with some water resistant or waterproof gloves.
  • Waterproof trousers. Learn from my mistake and definitely don’t wear jeans (they soak up the water and get stiff and heavy!).
  • Waterproof boots with thick socks.
  • Sunglasses for those moments when the sun does come out.
  • A platypus of water. These fit so well in the back of your backpack but if you don’t have one then you can always take a water bottle. When it’s cold it’s important to remember to keep hydrated as you might not naturally think of reaching for the water bottle when it’s chilly and you’re not feeling hot.
  • Snacks! You’ll use up lots of energy trying to keep your body warm whilst also walking, so take some snacks (such as nuts) with you to keep you going.
  • Thermos flask with hot tea inside. This is sure to warm you up immediately!

Descending stone steps

Appreciate the winter landscape

We have had one sunny walk where we got some fantastic views of Lake Windermere from Gummers How, but the majority of the time it’s been dull and we haven’t been able to see as far as you would on a sunny summer’s day. However, there is something magical about the landscape here in this weather. The mist paired with the fallen branches and boggy areas gives the whole area a mystical and magical look and feel. I visited Tarn Hows, near Coniston, on a dim and rainy afternoon. By the time I reached the picturesque tarn, it felt as though I was almost within the cloud. It wasn’t really raining on me, but the air was misty and wet. Looking down over the partially frozen tarn, it appeared like a scene out of a fairytale or a fantasy like The Lord of the Rings.

Online and in guidebooks you will usually see photos of these locations taken in the summer, where you can see an amazing view for miles around. When visiting in the Winter the light is unlikely to be as high quality, and the weather is probably going to be very changeable. I think it’s important not to compare these two and feel disappointed when you don’t get that perfect photo opportunity. Over the last couple of days, I’ve found a real appreciation for this wintery landscape. I would love to come back here and see the same locations in the autumn, spring or summer too, but for now, I am thoroughly enjoying the magical views and more immediate landscapes (rather than the larger scale, distant landscapes).

Highland cow

Soak up the calm, quiet and crisp air

I’ve always been told that the Lake District is full of tourists and places like Windermere, Ambleside and Tarn Hows are difficult to walk around with all the people there. Winter is the perfect time of year to visit the Lakes if you don’t like crowds. We didn’t see another person on our whole walk around Tarn Hows and barely crossed paths with anyone, other than the occasional dog walker, on our other walks. With the lack of people came tranquillity and peace. I felt like I could absorb the highlights of nature much more easily than if I had been in a crowd of people taking photos and brushing past one another.

It’s a great excuse for a winter holiday

Explore a new part of the UK by going on a winter walking holiday! The UK has some epic scenery, and you can get to most places by train if you don’t have a car. You could just go away for a long weekend so you don’t have to use much holiday time from work either. Check the train fares about 4 weeks in advance and you can bag yourself some cheaper fares. These walking trips have given me something to look forward to over the colder months of the year. If you don’t want to travel across the UK then I’m sure there will be lots of stunning walks just a short drive or bus ride away from your house. Search for Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty near to where you live, or Google “scenic walks near me”, and I’m sure something will pop up. I’ve found some cute little footpaths along a canal near my house using this method, and I now walk down there at least once a week.

The best piece of kit I have for winter walking

For Christmas, I got some new thick black lace-up boots that come part way up my calf. They have been fantastic for all my trips recently. They were warm enough to walk amongst the ice and snow in -8°C in Munich, smart enough to wear to the opening concert of Mozart Woche in Salzburg, and waterproof enough to wear around wet wintery walks in the Lake District. I have also got some trail running shoes with me, but only because I have travelled up to the Lakes in a car, so have lots of room for extra kit. If you’re planning a varied trip that features walking, city sights and cold weather, then I would highly recommend getting some versatile boots as then you won’t have to carry around any other footwear!