There are many pristine villages dotted across the UK countryside, and well-maintained cottages are abundant, but it also boasts some of the finest hiking trails in western Europe. Hikers who prefer hills to mountains and beaches to lakes are in the right place. Not to mention the sunnier and drier weather you can expect to get in England compared with its colder and wetter neighbour Scotland.
So, what hiking trails are well known in the UK? Whether you want to take on multi-day hikes or simply stroll in the park on a relaxing afternoon, here are the best British trails for walking in the UK:
The Offa’s Dyke
The Offa’s Dyke walkway is named after a Dark Ages fortification that roughly defines the England-Wales border. On its way from the Irish Sea in the north to the murky tides of the Severn, the trail swings back and forth between the two countries. The stretch from Pandy to Hay-on-Wye, where the route reaches the easternmost edge of the Black Mountains, provides magnificent views of the brooding Brecon Beacons to the west and Herefordshire cider orchards to the east, is one of the highlights of this 82-mile adventure. Finishing in Hay, a charming, bookish town with bus connections to Hereford, which has a station, is a lovely way to end the book.
The Ridgeway is England’s oldest path, having been travelled by wayfarers, soldiers and the enigmatic masons who built some of Britain’s greatest neolithic monuments since prehistoric times. Start at Overton Hill, near the Avebury standing stones, then walk East through farmland and beech woodlands, clambering up the Iron Age hillfort of Barbury castle for the views of the Wessex landscape. Spend the night in Ogbourne St.George before continuing North on the M4 through a rural and hilly region of chalk hills to Sparsholt Firs.
Norfolk Coast Path
On relaxed summer days, Norfolk’s relatively level countryside makes for pleasant trekking and the length of the seaside trail from Cromer’s charming Victorian townhouses. Head west along the cliffs, passing through hedgerows and breakwaters, with the North sea as your companion. Beeston Bump, a 207-foot slope that looks down onto Sheringham’s roofs, is the walk’s pinnacle. Both towns are connected by train.
Despite the fame of Broadway and Chipping Campden, the Cotswold’s lesser-known southern regions provide more stirring scenery and some of the best treks. Just outside of Bohemian Stroud, join the Cotswold Way: continuing south, the escarpments soon rise above the countryside.
Across the Severn Estuary and Welsh mountains, oak trees line the slopes. Take a detour to the village of Uley, which has biscuit-coloured houses hidden behind an Iron Village fort, before arriving at Dursley. Trains or buses connect Cam and Dursley station to Stroud station.
South Downs Way
Lewes and Ditchling are two of Sussex’s prettiest towns, with crooked Tudor homes, charming taverns and cottage gardens that back onto the Downs’ green hills. The walk between them is lovely: join the South Downs Way not far from Lewes, then meander west along the chalky slopes, rising Ditchling Beacon and keeping an eye out for the Clayton twin windmills. Hassocks, near Ditchling and Lewes, both have convenient onward connections from their stations.
Edale is a launching pad for treks on Kinder Scouts, the plateau that is the spiritual heart of UK hillwalking. Follow the Pennine Way West from the settlement, ascending Jacob’s Ladder stone stairs until you reach the Dark Peak’s lakes and woodlands. You can continue on the Pennine Way all the way to the Scottish border from Kinder Downfall waterfall. However, if you don’t have a month to spare, another trail runs Southeast across the moorland, followed by gurgling brooks down to Edale and the station.
Yorkshire Three Peaks from Ribblehead
Many walkers and fell runners strive to summit Yorkshire’s holy trinity of peaks in the shortest time possible, which requires strong nerves. Start in Ribblehead before scaling the enormous peak of Whernside for views of the Lake District falls. Continue on to Ingleborough to search for its Iron Age hill fort. After breakfast, tick off the summit of Pen-y-ghent and loop back to Ribblehead station from Horton in Ribblesdale.
West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is a 96-mile journey across Scotland. However, you can join the path on the final dramatic part from the Bridge of Orchy to Fort William to watch the edited highlights. The windswept highlands of Glen Coe rise out of the bleak expanse of Rannoch Moor on the first day. Stop at Kingshouse for a breather before continuing on to Kinlochven across snow-flecked heights. You could take a walk to the North until Ben Nevis emerges from the trees. The finish line is Fort William, which offers connections to Glasgow, London and back to the Bridge of Orchy.
Wales Coast Path
The Llyn Peninsula, a rugged peninsula of land jutting into the Irish Sea, offers a spectacular stretch of the Wales Coast Path. From Nefyn, travel West to Porthdinllaen, where a small tavern overlooks a crescent of golden sand sea cliffs and offers views of Snowdonia’s peaks. However, you may need to make arrangements for transfers because public transportation is limited.
Southern Upland Way
When it comes to Scottish climbs, the Highlands get the spotlight, but the Lowlands offer their own high spots, particularly the Galloway Hills, where gently-contoured hills rise over lochs and shady oak woods. Walking part of the Southern Upland Way is a fascinating way to view it. Starting in Bargrennan, you’ll walk east into Glen Trool, a valley associated with Robert Bruce’s victories. You’ll pass by forebodingly named landforms such as the Dungeon Hills and the ‘Awful Hand’ range. The starting point is St John’s Town of Dalry. You may like to split the journey over two days, staying in the White Laggan Bothy in between.
Walking is a destination you must experience at least once in your lifetime. Through well-marked paths and hard-won land access, anyone with sturdy footwear can explore the British terrain, from windy Yorkshire fells to salty Cornish cliffs. Don’t miss out on those little-known trails spread all over the UK as well– hundreds of them!