Do you ever find that a hectic Christmas can leave you needing to escape the family to find peace and space?

I often visit standing stones or some other ancient site on New Year’s Day. It’s the ideal way to ring in the new year and blow away those morning-after cobwebs.

Try Something New

This new year saw me indoors on a rainy Sunday, brainstorming about Kids of the Wild; perhaps not the most sensible idea with a bunch of hung over family members! I highly recommend a hike rather than a business meeting on the first of the year (although my brother-in-law had some excellent ideas so watch this space to see how his advice materialises in 2017!)

Walking to an ancient site gives a real focus and might be something you don’t normally do on a hiking trip. It’s a great way to see the countryside, learn about the history in our landscapes and, with an end goal, you should stay motivated even if that headache refuses to shift.

If you find it hard to get moving on New Year’s Day tell the family to take a hike and find an ancient site to explore. OK, take the family if you like but get walking one way or another.

5 Reasons to Take a Hike on New Year’s Day: –

  1. Fresh air is a great way to cure a hangover
  2. Walking clears the head, perfect for clarifying (or cancelling!) New Year’s resolutions
  3. It gets everyone outdoors on a potentially flat day
  4. Involving the kids is a great idea/excuse for a shorter than usual walk if you’re feeling fragile
  5. It stops you hanging around indoors talking about work!

How to Find an Ancient Site to Visit

Start your ancient site visit with a look at The Modern Antiquarian, an online guidebook where you can search for all the ancient sites in your area. Once you choose a site check out the OS map, pack snacks, drinks, the right clothing and get going.

Duddo, ‘The Stonehenge of the North’

Last year we were intrigued by a place billed as ‘the Stonehenge of the North’ near the village of Duddo, close to Northumberand’s Scottish border. A dry, bitterly cold New Year’s Day found us in the car through raw and rugged countryside where we saw a huge hare at the roadside and a buzzard feasting on another!

4-standing-stones-on-top-of-hillThe Duddo Stones, one re-erected in modern times with holes where a further 2 were removed

The attraction of the Duddo Stones is their remoteness, giving the site a strong sense of mystery and atmosphere. They are not visible from the road and we saw nobody else during our visit. It is a mile of mostly flat walking (parking space for 3 or 4  cars near the gate) on private farmland (permission granted by Duddo Farm) to the hilltop site; the perfect distance in chilly weather for our then 6-year-old. We had great fun along the way breaking ice on puddles and ruts left by farm vehicles.

young-girl-in-polar-bear-hat-holding-up-piece-of-broken-ice-in-a-fieldFinding bullet holes in frozen panes of ice

Interestingly, there seemed more ‘atmosphere’ at the foot of the incline towards the stones (below photo) than at the actual circle itself, which has stunning views towards the Borders and the Cheviots. From the foot of the hill the stones appear like a crown and entice you on in an otherwise empty landscape. Bleak but with hidden tales to reveal.

man-and-girl-walking-up-gentle-slope-towards-standing-stne-circleGreat atmosphere from this position

The 4000 year old Neolithic (Bronze Age) stones are each around 2-3 metres in height and 10 metres in diameter and taper towards the bottom, forming a circular ‘crown’. They remind me of giant pulled teeth stuck in the ground!  It is possibly a cremation site due to excavated ashes and bones found there. If you visit Northumberland I highly recommend a trip to this alluring and enigmatic stone circle.

For more walking and hiking ideas see our Walking and Hiking section where we are adding location ideas and maps all the time.

For an inspiring read about the beauty of getting up for a sunrise hike in Wales check out Cool of the Wild’s article Catching the Wonder of a Sunrise Hike

And if you’ve really had enough of everyone after Christmas and all else fails, tell the family to properly take a hike and go on one on your own – but don’t say I suggested it!