Cornwall’s north coast is blessed with rugged, near-ethereal running spots. One of the most dramatic is from Porthtowan to Chapel Porth ( http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/st-agnes-and-chapel-porth/ ). It begins with a gentle incline before levelling out. You’re then faced with a cliff-side run. To your left is the Atlantic, to your right derelict tin mines pepper the land. Once at Chapel Porth, if the tide’s out you can run back to Porthtowan on the beach. The loop measures about three miles.
On the southern edge of Windsor Great Park lies Virginia Water Lake ( http://www.theroyallandscape.co.uk/gardens-and-landscape/virginia-water/ ). The lake was damned and flooded in 1753 and remained the UK’s largest manmade lake until the creation of reservoirs. A circuit is just over four miles of paved and trail with points of beauty including the stunning Valley Gardens. It’s mostly flat. For a stiffer challenge, starting at Savill Gardens elevates the distance to six miles.
The Ainsdale Loop is a whisker over 4.5 miles and weaves its way through grassy sand dunes and follows the Trans Pennine Trail from Ainsdale, looping back around the world-renowned art-deco-style Royal Birkdale Golf Club. If after you’ve completed your winter run you fancy playing one of the finest courses on the British Open rota, it’ll set you back a mere £180 for a weekend 18-holer. That does include a soup and sandwich lunch for rapid refuelling!
Hadrian’s Wall was built in AD122 by order of Emperor Hadrian. It took 15,000 men over six years to construct and, at 73 miles long, links the North Sea on the east to the Irish Sea on the west. Now we’re not asking you to run the full route – maybe next year! – but a 4.8-mile primarily flat route at Steel Rigg. The views of the surrounding area and the Roman fortification will motivate you to come back time and again.
The Harlech run is 3.5 miles long and begins at Upper Bron y Graig car park. The route flows across sand dunes and beaches but, for the most part, you’ll be running on footpaths. Stunning views of Harlech Castle and the Irish Sea will flood the senses. Also keep an eye out for the Maid of Harlech, a US Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter aircraft from the Second World War that was discovered off the Welsh coast in 2007 and is in the middle of being removed.
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