There’s nothing like a winter walk for clearing away the cobwebs. Many beautiful burial grounds and cemeteries around the UK are an ideal place for a wander to work off a big dinner.
From the amazing funerary architecture of Victorian graveyards in towns and cities to ancient barrows and woodland burial sites, a cemetery walk can add lots of interest to time spent in the great outdoors.
Here’s a list of 10 spectacular cemetery-inspired walks in city, coast and countryside locations to inspire a winter walk with a difference. Explore our guide to cemetery symbolism to discover the hidden meanings of statues and gravestone carvings you may come across.
St Enodoc's Church and Barnoon Cemetery, Cornwall
St Enodoc. Picture by Colin Ellis
Overlooking sand dunes and North Cornwall’s stunning Camel Estuary, the small graveyard at St Enodoc's Church in Trebetherick is the final resting place of poet Sir John Betjeman.
This pretty church and graveyard is on the route of a circular route around a spectacular stretch of coastline in Poldark country, from Rock to St Miniver. It’s also a shorter trek away from beautiful Daymer Bay.
Further down the Cornish coast at Barnoon cemetery, gravestones covered in yellow lichen cluster around the storm-weathered St Nicholas Chapel. Perched on a clifftop overlooking Porthmeor beach in St Ives, the views from here are breathtaking.
The Long Barrow at All Cannings
Picture by Jim Champion
Wiltshire’s beautiful chalklands are perfect for a leisurely walk or more energetic ramble at any time of the year. There are a number of walks around Avebury, West Kennet and Devizes which circumvent ancient burial mounds and barrows marking millennia-old burial sites.
At Old Cannings near Devizes, you’ll find a stone barrow clad with a mound of earth carpeted with grass. Ancient though it looks, this columbarium actually opened in 2014 and all the niches for cremation ashes within its five underground circular chambers are already reserved or occupied.
With the land surrounding the earthworks already returning back to nature, visitors can walk around the site during daylight hours. At Yule, the barrow reveals its amazing secret when the sun aligns with the tomb to illuminate the internal stone passageway. An open day to mark the winter solstice is held from dawn until 11am on December 23. At other times of year, visits can be arranged by appointment.
St Mary’s Whitby
Picture by Tom Rich/Creative Commons
Set up bracingly high on Whitby’s East Cliff, a walk around the weathered gravestones in the grounds of St Mary’s church is sure to blow the cobwebs away. It’s set close by the ancient abbey ruins which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
The church was built to seat up to 2,000 people (including number demarcated pews ‘For Strangers Only’ to accommodate visitors from out of town). According to local historian Ray Conn, the congregation exceeded three thousand at one memorial service held here.
Dalton Woodland Burial Ground Burton-in-Kendal
With the appeal of a natural burial increasing, many beautiful new woodlands and wildflower meadows are springing into life across the UK as people choose a green or woodland burial for their loved one.
With no gravestones, but trees planted in loving memory, these natural burial grounds are becoming wildlife havens and a place to walk and remember, in tranquility.
Situated in a beautiful country estate in Cumbria, Dalton Woodland Burial Ground is a wonderful place to walk and is in the midst of a beautiful and already mature woodland. There’s a triangular walk for members of the public to follow around the woodland burial ground, which is actively managed to encourage wildlife including woodcock and roe deer.
Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol
Picture by RodW/Creative Commons
Arnos Vale’s beautiful 45 acres of Victorian wooded parkland, is a wonderful place for a winter walk. You can take a guided tour, or simply follow the trails and discover its gothic graves, beautiful statues and mausoleum. Arnos Vale is a wildlife haven and a living community space, which plays host to weddings as well as funerals and many family events.
The National Memorial Arboretum, Alrewas, Burton-upon-Trent
Picture via The National Memorial Arboretum
A memorial ground rather than a cemetery, this magnificent 150-acre parkland is open year-round for people to enjoy at their leisure. There are more than 350 spectacular memorials dedicated to the memory of people who served and by charities in remembrance.
The National Memorial Arboretum hosts family events including wildlife walks, workshops and exhibitions, while you can also take a land train on a 50-minute voyage of discovery around this beautiful memorial park.
Picture by Jack1956/Creative Commons
London has many beautiful Victorian cemeteries to walk, including gothic Highgate and the magnificent Brompton Cemetery, which is now a conservation site managed by Royal Parks. Brookwood in Woking, Surrey was London’s first out-of-town necropolis, which even had its own railway line serving it.
Maps are available to plan a walk amidst its 400 acres, taking in Brookwood’s famous graves including artist John Singer Sargent and beautiful listed funerary monuments. With more than a quarter of a million graves, this cemetery is still open for funerals, with a stunning contemporary community mausoleum currently under construction.
Key Hill Cemetery Birmingham
Key Hill Cemetery is a peaceful oasis, just a stone’s throw from Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter in the busy city centre. A green space in the summertime, it’s a tranquil place in winter for a walk among the beautiful Victorian graves and ivy-clad vaults. Among those who lie at rest here is industrialist and statesman Joseph Chamberlain, who was among the founding fathers of modern Birmingham.
St Lawrence’s Churchyard, Eyam
Picture by Dave Pape/Creative Commons
Located in Derbyshire’s beautiful Peak District, Eyam is famous as the Plague Village, which lost 260 residents to the great pestilence of the 1660s. The community bravely sealed itself off to prevent the disease spreading to villages beyond.
In a bid to manage infection, families took it upon themselves to bury their loved ones in the small churchyard of St Lawrence. Signs and plaques around the beautiful village recount stories about many of the residents who fell victim to the plague. Eyam is in the midst of beautiful walking country, with the ancient St Michael and All Angels church just a few miles away in Hathersage. Underneath a yew tree here, you’ll find the grave of Little John.
Picture by Sweetaholic/Pixabay
Friends of Glasgow’s spectacular city of the dead lead regular walking and wildlife spotting tours among the 35 acre space, which includes 50,000 graves and 3,500 breathtaking mausoleums. Architects modelled the Necropolis on one of the world’s most beautiful cemeteries, Père-Lachaise in Paris.
The second-biggest green space in Glasgow, the necropolis is a summer haven for plants and wildlife including the fearsome-looking Devil’s Coach Horse beetle. The Glasgow Necropolis is just as beautiful during winter months, with a myriad of paths and elevated walkways to begin a journey of discovery on, with views overlooking the city below.
- Our famous graves map has details of many more fascinating cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds around the UK to explore.