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Best UK Walks – Amazing Hikes from Scotland to the South West Coast Trail

The slower you travel, the more you see. And there is no slower way to travel than walking. Most of us, with stops for tea, ice cream, admiring the views, looking at insects, and re-tying our shoelaces, averaging two miles an hour.

This is absurdly slow for the modern world of instant gratification. Instead of skimming the surface like impatient damselflies, walking takes you into the landscape. There is simply no better way to understand a section of the country, its history and customs, its people and its wildlife, than wandering through it on your own two legs. A pause to walk for several days develops its own magical rhythm. Here we recommend some of the best routes in the UK.

Coast to coast

God's Own Walking Country: The Village of Keld in the Yorkshire Dales, located on the coast-to-coast footpath

God’s Own Walking Country: The Village of Keld in the Yorkshire Dales, located on the coast-to-coast footpath

For some, the ‘coast to coast’ will always be the most magnificent walk in the UK.

Designed by Alfred Wainwright (who dedicated one of his Lake District guides to his own legs), this exceptional and quite demanding hike traverses the rugged north of England from the Cumbrian coast at St Bees east to Robin Hood’s Bay in the North Sea.

It crosses the high hills of the lakes, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York moors. Ramblers Holidays offers this epic in two sections, since it is a good 15 days to do the full 190-mile route. The first day alone covers 15 miles and about 2,300 feet of ascent. This is a once in a lifetime hike.

Go for a walk: Walking the western route with eight nights of half-board accommodation costs from £ 1,169 per person; nine nights half board for the eastern route from £ 1,335 pp (ramblersholidays.co.uk).

St Cuthbert Trail

As you walk the 62 mile St Cuthbert's Way, you will pass through Eildon Hills, pictured above

As you walk the 62 mile St Cuthbert's Way, you will pass through Eildon Hills, pictured above

As you walk the 62 mile St Cuthbert’s Way, you will pass through Eildon Hills, pictured above

The 62-mile St Cuthbert’s Way, which straddles the border between England and Scotland, is simply wonderful. This is also the country of Sir Walter Scott.

For six to seven days you will walk from Melrose, birthplace of the much-loved Anglo-Saxon saint, through the Eildon Hills, along pretty Tweed, and visit St Cuthbert’s Cave.

A walk along the coast and along the famous tidal causeway to Holy Island, St. Cuthbert’s last resting place after his death in AD 687, is a must.

Go for a walk: Four days from £ 470 pp (mickledore.co.uk).

Peaks and ravines

Discover panoramic views of Loch Ness (pictured) and beyond as you walk the Great Glen Way

Discover panoramic views of Loch Ness (pictured) and beyond as you walk the Great Glen Way

Discover panoramic views of Loch Ness (pictured) and beyond as you walk the Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is another majestic route, from Fort William below Ben Nevis to Inverness. But it’s not as well known as Wainwright’s Coast to Coast.

Again, this one only suits fit and experienced hikers. You may have to deal with mosquitoes, monsoon rains, and even the occasional earthquake. After all, Great Glen is a massive geological fault.

But you can expect sublime clouds and sunsets, panoramic views of Loch Ness and beyond, plus a sense of wilderness too rare in this country.

Go for a walk: An eight-day self-guided hike with accommodation from £ 870 per person (desertscotland.com).

Norfolk weave

Don't miss Felbrigg Hall, pictured above, as you stroll down Weavers Way, one of Britain's lesser-known long-distance trails.

Don't miss Felbrigg Hall, pictured above, as you stroll down Weavers Way, one of Britain's lesser-known long-distance trails.

Don’t miss Felbrigg Hall, pictured above, as you stroll down Weavers Way, one of Britain’s lesser-known long-distance trails.

The Weavers Way, one of Britain’s lesser-known long-distance trails from Cromer to Great Yarmouth, covers 61 miles through quintessential Norfolk scenery of windmills, reed beds and slow-tidal rivers.

Also, don’t miss Felbrigg Hall, once home to William ‘Mad’ Windham, a country gentleman given to displays of public nudity while ‘screaming like a demented imp’. Why bother queuing for Snowdon when you can enjoy the tranquility of our eastern plains?

Go for a walk: From £ 500 pp with five nights accommodation (norfolkwalkingholidays.com).

Take me to the river

The view of the Thames at Henley, one of the stops along the excellent new Thames Valley Path

The view of the Thames at Henley, one of the stops along the excellent new Thames Valley Path

The view of the Thames at Henley, one of the stops along the excellent new Thames Valley Path

Headwater hiking vacations have created a great new Thames Valley Path.

Staying close to England’s most famous river, follow the Thames through the heart of our country, history, ancient cities, and great architectural beauty.

From Oxford to Windsor, it feels like real progress, accompanied by herons, kingfishers and water voles.

Go for a walk: Eight days from £ 1,349 pp with accommodation (headwater.com).

Cotswolds walk

Spend the night in the 'painfully pretty' Chipping Camden, pictured above.  Double rooms at the elegant Cotswold House Hotel start at £ 175 per person for two nights

Spend the night in the 'painfully pretty' Chipping Camden, pictured above.  Double rooms at the elegant Cotswold House Hotel start at £ 175 per person for two nights

Spend the night in the ‘painfully pretty’ Chipping Camden, pictured above. Double rooms at the elegant Cotswold House Hotel start at £ 175 per person for two nights

The 102 mile Cotswold Way is well signposted

The 102 mile Cotswold Way is well signposted

The 102 mile Cotswold Way is well signposted

If you prefer to stay in one place, try Great Little Breaks, which offers well-priced inns and hotels across the country, from Scotland to the Isle of Wight.

My pick would be a spa hotel in painfully pretty Chipping Camden, with towns and fields to explore.

Go for a walk: Double rooms at the elegant Cotswold House Hotel from £ 175 per person for two nights (greatlittlebreaks.com).

island visits

Explore the Isles of Scilly on a guided ‘island hopping’ tour organized by HF Holidays, offering 32 miles of gentle hiking over five days and a small ascent.

Visit the Bronze Age burial chamber of Bant’s Carn and the remote island of Bryher, which has a population of approximately 100 people.

Visit the Bronze Age burial chamber of Bant's Carn, pictured, on the HF Holidays Guided Island Hopping Tour

Visit the Bronze Age burial chamber of Bant's Carn, pictured, on the HF Holidays Guided Island Hopping Tour

Visit the Bronze Age burial chamber of Bant’s Carn, pictured, on the HF Holidays Guided Island Hopping Tour

It is said that a traffic jam here is when two tractors meet. You will stay at the Bell Hotel on St Mary’s Island and then sail to a different island with a guide every day.

Go for a walk: Six nights from £ 999 per person at the Bell Hotel (hfholidays.co.uk).

Dream About Devon

Stay at a seaside hotel in Dartmouth, pictured above, and plan your own Devonshire walking holiday

Stay at a seaside hotel in Dartmouth, pictured above, and plan your own Devonshire walking holiday

Stay at a seaside hotel in Dartmouth, pictured above, and plan your own Devonshire walking holiday

With thousands of miles of British coastline, no one can agree how many, but there are around 11,000, one of the prettiest stretches and often the most reliably sunny is South Devon.

Stay in a seaside hotel and plan your own walking holiday, whether along the Devon portion of the spectacular South West Coast Path or around the river valleys that line the southern tip of Dartmoor. A hotel overlooking beautiful Dartmouth and the Dart Estuary would be a favorite.

Go for a walk: Watch bespokehotels.com/hotels/coast-country-collection for a large selection of hotels.

Welsh Borders

Tintern Abbey, pictured, features along the southern section of Offa's Dyke, a classic long-distance hike for hardier types

Tintern Abbey, pictured, features along the southern section of Offa's Dyke, a classic long-distance hike for hardier types

Tintern Abbey, pictured, features along the southern section of Offa’s Dyke, a classic long-distance hike for hardier types.

Offa’s Dyke is another long-distance classic hike for hardier types, named after the Anglo-Saxon king Offa of the Mercians, who had this massive embankment built in the 8th century, passing through the quiet Welsh borders.

My pick would be the southern section, with the Black Mountains, the famous ‘book town’ Hay-on-Wye, the beautiful River Wye, and Tintern Abbey.

You end up at Chepstow Castle, Britain’s oldest Norman castle.

Go for a walk: Nine day hiking holiday with accommodation from £ 1,229 pp (exodus.co.uk).

Way west

The 630-mile-long Southwest Coast Trail runs from Minehead to Poole.  The photo is part of the path at Chapel Porth along the Cornish coast.

The 630-mile-long Southwest Coast Trail runs from Minehead to Poole.  The photo is part of the path at Chapel Porth along the Cornish coast.

The 630-mile-long Southwest Coast Trail runs from Minehead to Poole. The photo is part of the path at Chapel Porth along the Cornish coast.

We can’t stop a route often voted one of the top ten best walking trails in the world – our own ever popular South West Coast Path, all 630 miles from Minehead to Poole via Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. .

It is said that walking all the way is equivalent to climbing Mount Everest from sea level three times, all those ups and downs. But unlike Everest, here you can recharge yourself with creamy teas.

Go for a walk: Contours Holidays offers the hike in separate sections, with multiple options (contours.co.uk).

TIPS FOR A SUPERIOR TOUR

  • Wear what you have used before, never try new equipment on a multi-day hike.
  • Make sure jackets and boots are waterproof.
  • Try walking poles if your knees hurt (they work great).
  • Don’t bother with expensive ‘protein bars’ or ‘rehydration tablets’ – salted nuts, bananas, and chocolate are the best.
  • Don’t rely on technology and devices – paper maps are cheaper and don’t need a “sign” or batteries.
  • Take your time … you see a lot more that way.

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