The 50 Best summer walks
Whether it’s a trample through woods and fields or a stately saunter around a historic attraction with a pub lunch en route, Mark Rowe discovers the perfect paths to explore in the Great British summer
Friday 12 July 2013
David Stewart is co-founder of walking world.com
Tim Woods is co-founder of carfreewalks.org
Sarah Spencer is marketing manager at cicerone.co.uk
Mike Dawson is the editor of go4awalk.com
West and South-west:
Eastville Park, Bristol, 5 miles
This is a lovely short stroll near to Bristol centre. It takes in a good walk along the city’s underrated and oft-overlooked River Frome, with a café and children’s play area along the way. You’ll pass by two parks, including Eastville Park, which is a prime example of a grand Victorian city park, and the relics of a working stone sawmill at Snuff Mills.
Chetnole, Dorset, 8 miles
Starting from Chetnole Station on the “Heart of Wessex” line, this walk explores a quiet area of Thomas Hardy’s rural Dorset. “There are several historical points of interest and a selection of good country pubs – try the Chetnole Inn at the end of the walk,” says Woods.
Oldbury and Littleton, South Gloucestershire, 5.2 miles
Starting and ending at the Anchor Inn, Oldbury, this walk follows country lanes, field paths and an interesting stretch along the River Severn near the mudflats – where the pretty sea-spurrey flowers in late summer. It’s also a good excuse for a pub lunch at the White Hart pub in Littleton.
Perranuthnoe, Cornwall, 5 miles
“This is a walk with a good smuggling story,” says Stewart. It heads inland from Perranuthnoe before returning to the coast and Prussia Cove, one time home of the notorious 18th century smuggler John Carter. Along the way, you pass Bessy’s Cove, where you can see bricked-up caves which, legend has it, contraband materials. The tunnels beyond may even have led to nearby dwellings.
Burrington Ham, Somerset, 4.8 miles
A delightful ramble along country paths leading down to sleepy villages. Then, it’s just one steady climb up to the highest point on the Mendips – Burrington Ham. “Enjoy splendid views from limestone grassland where, in summer, you are surrounded by countless flowers and butterflies,” says Southworth.
This walk follows the South West Coast Path between Sennen Cove and Mill Bay via Land’s End. “Alongside stunning cliff views and shipwrecks, you will get a glimpse of The Longships – a group of rocky islets that are just over a mile offshore,” says Dawson.
Saltash, Cornwall, 5.5 miles
Starting and finishing at St Stephen’s Church, Saltash, this walk takes in footpaths and Cornish lanes. A perfect route for summer, you’ll walk through both meadows and woodland and alongside creeks.
Withypool Hill and River Barle, Exmoor, 8.75 miles
This fine Exmoor walk initially crosses higher ground, visiting the top of Withypool Hill and a stone circle before descending through farmland to reach the Tarr Steps – a medieval stone clapper bridge reassembled after being washed away by winter floods last year. The return leg follows the often turbulent River Barle.
Sugar Hill from Aldbourne, Wiltshire, 8.5 miles
The historic Ridgeway track features in this delightful stroll, which also passes two ancient burial grounds, “The Giant’s Grave” and “Four Barrows”. Aldbourne church, overlooking the village green, was built in the Middle Ages and is a Grade I listed building.
South and South-east:
Westhumble, Surrey, 8 miles
“This is a classic North Downs walk, with a National Trust property and a winery,” says Stewart. Your farthest point is Polesden Lacey, an Edwardian house with a stunning location on the crest of a hidden valley within the Downs. This dramatic landscape has inspired writers, poets and artists alike.
Ewhurst, Surrey, 3 miles
This family walk from Ewhurst provides a taste of Surrey’s unexpectedly rural hinterland, including Pitch Hill. Along the way. you can refresh at The Windmill gastro pub.
“This circular walk from Westerham to French Street and Chartwell is a real gem that explores some quiet little valleys, woodland and hill-top crests with expansive views,” says Spencer. “It’s a switchback of a route with several steep, though short, ascents and descents to tackle, and it wanders alongside Chartwell, one-time home of Winston Churchill,” she adds.
Cicerone’s “Walking in Kent”, p35
Aston Rowant, Oxfordshire, 6.2 miles
Although this walk starts close to the M40, don’t be deterred, says Stewart. “This is village walking with some fun outdoor sculptures and a nature reserve and the escarpment of the Chilterns,” he says. The walk takes you through the woods of the nature reserve to take in the views from the very top of Beacon Hill.
Amberley, West Sussex, 6.8 miles
A circular walk across the South Downs, above the Arun Valley from Amberley, West Sussex. The walk loops through the undulating downs and affords superb views over the Sussex countryside on your return journey.
According to Spencer: “This is a fairly level out-and-back walk from picturesque Beaulieu.” It visits historic Buckler’s Hard, where some of Nelson’s famous ships were built from mature oak trees that grew in the forest. The return route follows a lovely riverside path.
Start/finish: Car park in Beaulieu (SU 386 021), off the B3056 behind Beaulieu Garage; Cicerone’s “Walking in the New Forest”, p169
Eton Dorney to Windsor and Eton Station, 2.4 miles
A pleasant walk following the Thames Path, this stroll takes in one of the River Thames’ busiest and most attractive locks, Boveney Lock, as well as the world’s oldest wrought iron bridge, Brunel’s Windsor Railway Bridge.
Starting in Teston Country Park, with its meadows and abundance of wildlife, this leisurely walk includes one gentle climb and offers fine views of the Medway with its locks and river traffic.
Leybourne Lakes, Kent, 2.8 miles
This is an easy, short and accessible walk on flat terrain in Leybourne Lakes Country Park in Kent. The green flag country park has fantastic views across its series of lakes and wildlife-rich grasslands – perfect for spotting dragonflies on a summer stroll.
Midlands and East Anglia:
Jacob’s Ladder, Peak District, 6.2 miles
This is an ambitious but rewarding walk. The story of Jacob’s Ladder is central to the history of the northern Dark Peak, as it was made to cut out the long zigzag path taken by packhorses headed across the Pennines. A clear day in summer allows superlative views of the outlandish rock formations along the ridge of Kinder Scout.
Stanage Edge, Carl Wark and Higger Tor, Peak District, 8 miles
“Kids can practise their scrambling skills on this walk to Burbage Rocks, Carl Wark (an Iron Age hill fort) and Higger Tor,” says Woods. The route starts and finishes at Hathersage Station and the gritstone edges are tough going.
Back Tor and Derwent Edge, Peak District, 11 miles
This entertaining walk begins along the shores of Derwent Reservoir, then follows the sinuous Abbey Brook to an airy moorland crossing before finishing with an easy amble beside the Ladybower
Reservoir. Start/finish: Derwent valley (SK173893); Cicerone’s “Great Mountain Days in the Pennines”, p235
Lantern Pike from Hayfield, Peak District, 4.75 miles
Hayfield was the setting for the recent BBC Series The Village, and this walk follows the Sett Valley Way before climbing to the summit of Lantern Pike. In the summer months, look out for wells decorated with flower petals – a practice known locally as “well dressing”.
Hawkesbury Canal Junction, Warwickshire, 5.5 miles
A walk from the historic junction on the Coventry and Oxford Canals, once a major rendezvous for working boats awaiting cargo. Taking in locks, towpaths, common land, footpaths, paddocks and farms, this route passes colourful canal boats, and a great old English pub, the Greyhound Inn, serving real ale and good food.
This walk, says Southworth, “beautifully contrasts the Fen landscape with the undulating farmland to the south”. The fens, a National Nature Reserve, are among the most important wetlands in Europe and a good place to spot the chunky raft spider and Polish Tarpan horses that were introduced to graze the fen.
Cromer, Norfolk, 13.6 miles
This stroll along the Norfolk Coast Path from Cromer leads to Cley-next-the-Sea. Walk along woodland paths and cliff tops to the highest point in Norfolk (a mighty 336ft) with its fine sea views.
Forest of Bowland, Lancashire, 13.3 miles
The Forest of Bowland brims with wildlife even though the term “forest” is a little misleading: Bowland was a royal hunting forest and most of the area is moorland. This was the first area to be opened up under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and the route passes lonely farms and takes in wonderful empty countryside.
Orrest Head and Troutbeck from Windermere, The Lake District, 7.25 miles
“One of the best walks you can do from Windermere is this short climb to the top of Orrest Head,” says Dawson. “From the trig point, there are lovely views of Lake Windermere and the Coniston Fells.
“This is a great little walk just north of Appleby in Westmorland” says Spencer. The conical-shaped hill seems to tower over the sandstone village of Dufton, and the views from the top over the Lake District and Howgills to the south are amazing.
Start/Finish: car park in Dufton (NY 689 249); Cicerone’s “Walking in Cumbria’s Eden Valley”, p95
Smardale Viaduct, Cumbria, 4.4 miles
“This is a great walk along an old railway through a nature reserve, with some interesting lime kilns and a quaint packhorse bridge,” says Stewart. It crosses a dizzyingly high viaduct before returning along the open access countryside on the other side of the valley for spectacular views of the viaduct itself.
Little Salkeld, Eden Valley, Cumbria, 5.6 miles
“The Eden Valley must be one of the most underrated walking areas in the north of England,” says Stewart. Tiny St Michael’s Church in Addingham is a delight and also has a bridleway running right through the churchyard, while Long Meg and Her Daughters is a highlight of the many Cumbrian stone circles.
Ivelet Bridge from Muker, North Yorkshire, 5 miles
This leisurely ramble from the picturesque village of Muker offers superb views along the dale, while the return follows the riverside meadows from an impressive pack-horse bridge. Spencer advises: “Keep your eyes open for moorland birds, such as curlew and lapwing, and by the river you might spot oystercatchers and wagtails.”
Start/finish: Muker (SD910978); Cicerone’s “The Yorkshire Dales: North and East”, p135
Robin Hood’s Bay, North York Moors, 8 miles
There are fantastic coastal views on this walk, while the inland section follows a former railway line. “Don’t be surprised to see weary but happy hikers dipping their feet in the North Sea whilst swigging on a bottle of Champagne after finishing the Coast to Coast Walk which begins on the west coast at St Bees Head in Cumbria, 192 miles away,” says Dawson.
Great Whernside, North Yorkshire, 11 miles
Tackle one of the Yorkshire Dales’ outlying giants, Great Whernside, on this long walk from Grassington,” says Woods: “The Blue Bell Inn in Kettlewell is the perfect place to end the walk while waiting for the bus back home.”
Sedburgh, Cumbria, 10 miles
The Howgills is a group of fells that is often overlooked by visitors to the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. This walk takes in the waterfall of Cautley Spout and involves a steep path climbing up to Arant Haw alongside the falls. It finishes in the market town of Sedburgh, famous for its many book shops.
Tam o’Shanter trail, Ayr, 3.1 miles
This is a short, jolly walk following the footsteps of Tam o’Shanter in Burns’s eponymous poem. Your journey begins in Ayr High Street and takes in parkland and picturesque woodland with views across to Arran.
White Loch of Myrton from Back Bay, Dumfries & Galloway, 9.5 miles
A gentle walk from Monreith Bay, including the shore of White Loch of Myrton and passing The “Wren’s Egg” (thought to be a “glacial erratic” – a naturally deposited boulder from the Ice Age) and a number of standing stones. “Don’t miss the sculpted otter standing on a rock, a memorial to Gavin Maxwell who wrote Ring of Bright Water,” says Dawson.
The Coral Beaches, Isle of Skye, 2.5 miles
“With more than a passing resemblance on a fine summer’s day to a Pacific Island coastline, the Coral Beaches of Claigan are immensely popular and easy to reach,” says Spencer. “The fine white beach is yet another charming feature of this remarkable island.”
Start/Finish: Claigan car park (NG232537); Cicerone’s “Isle of Skye”, p215
Dollar Glen, Clackmannanshire, 5.3 miles
Starting from Dollar, a small town at the southern edge of the Ochil Hills, the route rises through Dollar Glen, a deep, tree-filled gorge with waterfalls and mossy rocks. The glen is home to the spectacularly positioned 15th-century Castle Campbell.
Finglas Woods, 5 miles
“With its wide views of the freshwater Loch Venachar, ancient oaks and a splendid tearoom, this is everything you could ask for in a valley walk,” promises Spencer. On the slopes above Brig o’ Turk, the Woodland Trust has planted 450,000 native trees.
Start/finish: Little Drum car park, Loch Venachar; Cicerone’s “Walking Loch Lomond and the Trossachs”, p51
Meall a’ Bhuachaille from Glenmore Forest Park Visitors Centre, The Cairngorms, 5.25 miles
“This shortish walk offers a real taste of the high Cairngorm Mountains,” says Dawson. “Meall a’ Bhuachaille has a wild and rocky summit, with a shelter built from boulders and offers fine views of some of the highest mountains in the UK.”
Water of Leith, Edinburgh, 9 miles
This linear, half-day riverside walk runs from Balerno, on the outskirts of Edinburgh, to the city centre along Edinburgh’s river. The route passes several interesting landmarks, including Murrayfield Stadium and the Roseburn viaduct.
Knoydart, 26 miles
This is no summer walk in the park, but a two or three-day hike perfect for making the most of long summer evenings and good weather. It covers the wilds of the Knoydart peninsula to reach Britain’s most remote pub, the Old Forge in Inverie.
Wales and Northern Ireland:
Llangollen, Denbighshire, 5.6 miles
“This canal walk with a castle and abbey ruins has something for everyone,” says Stewart. It’s also perfect picnic territory. You cross the bridge over the River Dee to reach the canal towpath, open countryside and later the medieval Castell Dinas Bran.
Moel Eilio, Snowdonia, 8 miles
Should anybody fancy a change from the tradition of climbing Mount Snowdon, they can try this hill-top walk over the outlier peaks Moel Eilio, Foel Gron, Foel Goch and Moel Cynghorion above Llanberis. “Despite their relative lack of height, completing all of them is still a full day out with superb views of Snowdon on a clear summer’s day,” says Woods.
Cefn Bryn, Gower Peninsula, 6 miles
While Gower is best known for its iconic west and south facing coastline, it has a handful of small hills worth climbing. One of the best is the sandstone ridge of Cefn Bryn, easily accessible by bus as a family day walk from Swansea. Start at Knelston and finish on the beach in Penmaen.
Abercastle and Careg Samson from Trefin, Pembrokeshire, 9.5 miles
This is a fine coastal walk along the Pembrokeshire Coast with dramatic views of sheer cliffs and sandy bays. “Along the way you will pass the Carreg Samson Burial Chamber – a 5,000-year-old Neolithic burial chamber, situated high on a cliff overlooking Abercastle Harbour and the Irish Sea,” says Dawson.
Spencer describes this route as “a gentle but absorbing walk on to the limestone downs above St Brides Major, which makes its way across the high dunes of Merthyr Mawr Warren.” Highlights include the ruined priory at Ewenny, crossing the river on ancient stepping stones at Ogmore Castle, the birds and butterflies at Old Castle Down and the remains of Candleston Castle.
Start: Ewenny Priory (SS 912 778) Finish: Newton church (SS 836 775); Cicerone’s “South Wales Valleys”, p143
“This route takes in some of the finest coastal scenery Gower has to offer,” says Spencer. “The walk returns via a ridge with panoramic vistas of the whole of Gower and beyond.” She advises allowing extra time at Tor Bay, a beautiful sandy cove, and excellent place to stop off for a swim on a summer’s day.
Start/Finish: Penmaen (SS 5314 8877); Cicerone’s “Walking on Gower”, p68
Divis Mountain, Co Antrim, 4 miles
Follow the summit trail across Divis Mountain for stunning views of Belfast and right across Northern Ireland as well. The Ulsterbus No 106 takes you near to the mountain; get off at Upper Springfield Road and walk along Divis Road to the start of the way-marked trails.
Whitehead and Black Head, Co Antrim, 3 miles
Starting from the small town of Whitehead on the northern shore of Belfast Lough, this lovely walk takes you along the rugged cliffs of Black Head. “The well-engineered path features overhangs and caves, with footbridges across chasms. Steep steps lead up to a lighthouse, where your hard effort is rewarded with some great views from the top,” says Spencer.
Start/finish: Whitehead Railway Station; Cicerone’s “Irish Coastal Walks”, p166
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