6 of the best Boxing Day walks in Cheshire
- Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
At some point you need to heave yourself off the sofa, put the selection box down and get out in the fresh air – happily these six suggestions come with a cosy pub to ease you in gently
The Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley
The walk: This circuit takes you on and off the Sandstone Ridge, offering splendid views across the plain and of two local icons, the castles at Peckforton and Beeston.
Mileage: 4.5 miles
Descend from the Sandstone Ridge through fields to the road on which the gatehouse to Peckforton Castle stands (pick up a leaflet with full directions at the pub). Then take a step back for a fine perspective of this Victorian fantasy - a dream home for the 1st Baron Tollemache, now a hotel - before snaking through woods to reach the medieval stronghold at Beeston for a double whammy of fortress views. Climb the wooded slopes of the Peckforton Hills to reclaim the ridge and glimpse more spectacular views before returning to The Pheasant Inn. They're used to muddy boots at this old country pub (with rooms), a warren of an inn with fires burning in the hearths where they serve a glass of good grog and cut-above pub grub.
The Barbridge Inn, nr Nantwich
The walk: Meander along the Shropshire Union Canal on this linear walk to or from the pub, passing through peaceful pastures and encountering feats of engineering, including an aqueduct by Thomas Telford.
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Mileage: 6.5 miles
Follow the Old Chester Road to Stoke Hall Bridge to join the towpath on the opposite bank of the canal. Stride onwards towards Hurleston Junction, where four narrow locks reveal the point at which the Llangollen Canal branches off, bound for North Wales, continuing on to Nantwich to reach Thomas Telford's fine cast iron aqueduct by the Jacobean mansion, Dorfold Hall. You might want to wander into the pretty market town or continue to Lock 91 to follow a sculpture trail. Otherwise, retrace your steps along the towpath to the Barbridge Inn and warm up by the woodburner. The canalside location begs you to bag a table by a window and watch the narrowboats drift by with a glass of local Weetwood ale.
The Church Inn, Mobberley
The walk: The stations along the Mid-Cheshire railway line provide gateways to several walks, including this circular trail around one of Britain's oldest parishes.
Mileage: 4 miles
Take a turn around the village of Mobberley on a trail that offers the sharp contrast of rural views and the sight of planes swooping into Manchester Airport. Leaving the Victorian railway station, cross open countryside, dip into woodland and follow a stream before reaching the edge of the runway for some premium plane-spotting. The walk (full notes are in the downloadable booklet, 'Rail Walks in Knutsford and surrounding villages') also calls by the church of St Wilfrid and St Mary where a young George Mallory practised his mountaineering skills on the steeple. Opposite stands the Church Inn, a tavern that twinkles with candlelight and revels in its long history with stylishly mismatched furnishings and enough curios to hold your gaze all the way to the bottom of a pint.
The Poacher's Inn, Bollington
The walk: This circular hike up Billinge and Kerridge Hills, calling by White Nancy, should work up a thirst for a drink in Cheshire's first 'Walkers Are Welcome Town'.
Mileage: 6.9 miles
Bollington, just outside the boundary of the Peak District National Park, was renowned as a mill and mining town during the industrial revolution but today is better known for its pubs and as a gateway to walking country. In fact, it became Cheshire's first 'Walkers Are Welcome Town' in 2013 and holds an annual walking festival in September. At its eastern edge, the Poacher's Inn is a popular watering hole for passing ramblers, who gather around its open fire in winter with a glass of fine gin or real ale. Use the pub as your jump-off or go-to point for a trek up Billinge Hill and to the summit of Kerridge Hill, where stands White Nancy, a white stone dome built by Elizabeth Gaskell's family in 1817 to celebrate the victory at Waterloo (full route notes can be found at bollingtonoutdoors.co.uk).
The Little Manor, Thelwall
The walk: Britain's oldest canal, the Bridgewater, meets the route of a disused railway on this historic circuit.
Mileage: 3.4 miles
Trains, planes, automobiles, they all converge at the northern reaches of Cheshire. Yet there are quiet byways to explore, including this easy circuit along a disused railway and the towpath of Britain's oldest canal (see the pub's website for full walking notes). The railway tracks, over which trains once travelled between Warrington and Stockport, are long gone, replaced by a well-made path through gentle countryside. A flight of wooden steps leads to the towpath of James Brindley's Bridgewater Canal, which opened in 1761 to carry coal to Manchester. Beware, you'll need your walking boots, this can be a muddy terrain. Your reward is a drink in the Little Manor, built in 1660 as a family home but much extended to provide plenty of corners to snuggle up in by an open fire. It's a characterful place with bookshelves to pluck from and peruse with your choice from a top-notch drinks list and hearty menu.
Egerton Arms Country Inn, Astbury
The walk: This pleasant circuit connects the pretty village of Astbury to its Mere, a sand quarry transformed into a country park.
Mileage: 5 miles
Is there a more idyllic sight than the village green at Astbury, around which huddle centuries-old cottages and the cathedral-size church of St Mary's? Spy the scene through the window of the 16th-century inn, the Egerton Arms, warmed by the open fire. This cosy beamed pub (with rooms) could be your start or end point for a walk to the Mere, which follows the Priesty Trail, a path pounded by clergymen journeying between St Mary's and St Peter's in Congleton in the Middle Ages. Leave this sacred path at Meadow Avenue and switchback through housing and woods to reach the Mere's shore, which is bounded by an accessible path. Like Sandy Bear - the model of a bear, painted with the scene of the former sand quarry, that sits aloft on a pole at the water's edge - you can survey a scene of Pochards and Canada Geese among other wildfowl in winter.