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Best literary walks for children

Lorna Cowan / 05 July 2016 ( 30 May 2017 )

Fun family days out for young bookworms, including walks for Winnie the Pooh, Roald Dahl, Gruffalo, Watership Down and Alice in Wonderland fans.

Winnie the Pooh bridge, Ashdown Forest
Winnie the Pooh bridge, Ashdown Forest. © James Boardman / Alamy Stock Photo

If a child in your family always has their nose in a book, they will love to go a walk to see their favourite characters or the places that inspired much-loved stories. Here are our pick of great UK walks to enjoy with young bookworms.

Ashdown Forest, East Sussex, for a Winnie-the-Pooh walk

I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today? Well Piglet, maybe a short walk around Ashdown Forest, near Hartfield in East Sussex, where AA Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, spent much of his childhood. Enjoy an adventure with young Pooh fans in spectacular woodland and recall the bear’s exploits at the Heffalump Trap, look out over Hundred Acre Wood and pick up a twig or two for a game of poohsticks. 

The wooden bridge where Pooh played can be found in the village of Upper Hartfield – follow the signposted path.

Best for: Winnie-the-Pooh fans.
Also good for: Pooh collectors – Pooh Corner, a shop in Hartfield, is crammed with all things related to Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and friends.
For more details: Ashdown Forest

North Wessex Downs, Hampshire, for a Watership Down walk

Dandelion, Hazel, Bigwig, Bluebell, Fiver – just five of the rabbits that appeared in Richard Adams’ famous book set around Watership Down, a hill at Ecchinswell, near Kingsclere in Hampshire. 

There are plenty of walks of varying distances over the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, but a two-mile trail – which includes a bit of a steep climb at the start – takes you past Nuthanger Farm, where Clover and Haystack lived with their fellow hutch buddies. See if any little bookworms can spy a rabbit hiding under the hedgerows.

Best for: Watership Down devotees.
Also good for: kite flyers – the Ridgeway and Wittenham Clumps are both great places to be on a windy day.
For more details: Hampshire County Council

Find out the best UK gardens to visit with children

Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, for a Matilda walk

It’s not only Matilda who gets a look-in on this literary walk, author Roald Dahl lived in the village of Great Missenden for 36 years, so the area inspired many of his books. The library you pass at the start of the Village Trail is where Matilda would while away the hours when her mum was off playing bingo. 

The petrol pumps on the high street prompted Dahl when writing Danny the Champion of the World. And if you choose to go on the hour-long Countryside Trail, Angling Spring Wood is said to be the inspiration behind Fantastic Mr Fox.

Best for: Matilda buffs.
Also good for: hill walkers – nearby Chiltern Hills are a mecca for those who enjoy exploring the countryside.
For more details: The official Roald Dahl website

Whitby's 199 Steps

Whitby's 199 Steps, where Dracula disguised himself as a dog

Whitby, north Yorkshire, for a Dracula walk

Okay, so the younger members of the family won’t have read Bram Stoker’s horror, but they are sure to have heard of Dracula and, well, it’s nice to have an excuse to visit the quaint Yorkshire seaside town. Walk through the spooky churchyard at St Mary’s, where Stoker was apparently inspired to write his vampire tale. 

Teenage legs may want to climb the 199 steps, known locally as the Church Stairs, up to East Cliff – Dracula, disguised as a black dog, scampered up these after arriving in Whitby.

Best for: Dracula fiends.
Also good for: sandcastle builders – Whitby Sands, also referred to as West Cliff beach, has a Blue Flag award and is ideal for families.
For more details: Visit Whitby

Whinlatter Forest, Cumbria, for a Gruffalo walk

Gruffalo fans will love an encounter with everyone’s favourite monster – created by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler - on an easy one-mile walk around Whinlatter Forest, near Keswick. 

Buy a trail guide at the visitor centre before you set off, and follow the map to find 12 Gruffalo markers. On the pushchair-friendly walk, children can get up close to a giant wooden Gruffalo and Gruffalo Child – take your camera. Fifteen forests in the UK, including Sherwood Pines in Nottingham and Hamsterley Forest, Durham, have similar Gruffalo walks.

Best for: Gruffalo fans.
Also good for: active adventure seekers – there’s not one, but nine children’s play areas at Whinlatter, all linked by a 600-metre-long trail.
For more details: Whinlatter Forest

Find out the best Charles Dickens places to visit

Llandundno, Conwy, for an Alice in Wonderland walk

Make sure you stop off for a tea party while on this Alice in Wonderland walk around Llandundo in north Wales. 

The star of Lewis Carroll’s book of nonsense was Alice Liddle, a young girl who lived in the seaside resort in the 1860s. Follow in her footsteps while keeping an eye out for bronze rabbit paw prints along the route – children will be grinning like the Cheshire Cat if they find all 55. 

Admire the White Rabbit wooden sculpture and sit on the royal throne – just don’t let the Red Queen see you, or it’ll be off with your head!

Best for: Alice in Wonderland worshippers.
Also good for: tobogganers – a 750-metre toboggan ride, the Cresta Run, can be found at the local ski slope.
For more details: Visit Llandundno

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