As spring turns to summer (and the sun hopefully dons his fascinator, if not quite his hat), it’s the ideal time to enjoy the great outdoors on a country ramble.
There are idyllic walks all around the UK, from blustery coastal trails to steep mountain hikes.
With something to suit whatever your fitness level, here’s our selection of some of the best.
It’s hard to pick just one walk in Cumbria’s paragon of loveliness, the Unesco-listed Lake District, which is chocca full of jaw-dropping vistas. For an easy yet highly gratifying afternoon, take a stroll around Derwentwater in Keswick – a much more peaceful, compact lake compared to its better-known neighbour, Windermere. Flat paths lead through ancient woodland and along the shores of the lake on a 16km jaunt that is nicely punctuated by beauty spots to share a picnic or pubs to reward yourself with a pint. If you have time, stop by Lingholm Estate – once Beatrix Potter’s holiday home, it now offers luxury self-catering accommodation, a restaurant with walled garden and the chance to walk an alpaca around the grounds…
This range of chalk hills is iconic walking country, offering 1,600sq km of land from Hampshire to East Sussex to explore. It would be a shame to head this far south without seeing the sea: starting at Birling Gap, head along the coast, taking in views of the Seven Sisters clifftops while following the South Downs Way. Finishing at Cuckmere Haven, the 6km walk should take a couple of hours to complete (although extending it to reach the Cuckmere Inn for sustenance is recommended).
For those who can’t quite make it out of the city, there is a solution. London’s Capital Ring Walk offers some picturesque options, all accessible by public transport. This giant, circular 126km trail is split neatly into 15 sections; one of the greenest and longest is Wimbledon to Richmond (section 6). Starting at Wimbledon Park station, it runs through Wimbledon Park, Wimbledon Common and the sublime Richmond Park (look out for the freely roaming deer!) before finishing at Richmond station. The route is 11km and largely flat – it should take two to three hours.
The Wye Valley Walk is an epic marked footpath following the River Wye and straddling England and Wales. The 225km-long trail can be tackled in different sections over the course of a week; but if you’ve not got that, a particularly handsome section starts at Chepstow Castle and finishes up at the haunting ruins of Tintern Abbey. The 10km route includes woodland, a steep climb of the “Eagle’s Nest” and phenomenal river views. Oh, and there’s a decent pub at Tintern, The Anchor.
This huge Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty covers 2,038sq km and stretches across Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. The Cotswold Way is a well-known trail to tackle, running more than 160km from Chipping Camden to Bath. Set aside seven to 10 days if planning to take on the whole thing, or alternatively do the circular trail from Chipping Camden at the start of the walk (a 7km romp around shaded woodlands) or the linear “journey’s end” section, starting in Lansdowne and finishing up at the majestic Bath Abbey (10km).
Yorkshire Three Peaks
This 39km scramble, taking around 12 hours, isn’t for the faint hearted – but it is one heck of a challenge. Yorkshire’s three highest peaks – Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough – form part of the Pennines. Starting at Horton in Ribblesdale, the ascent up Pen y Ghent starts gently enough, before becoming increasingly steep and requiring the use of hands towards the end. Pick up the Ribble Way on the way down before joining the Pennine Journey path to the top of Whernside. Descend, join the Dales High Way and zig zag to the top of the final peak, Ingleborough, boasting 360-degree views of the dales.
There are countless beautiful walks in the Scottish Highlands. The 16km route from Loch Shiel to the dramatic mountain pass of Beinn a’Chaorainn has an extra touch of magic though – it starts at the Gothic church in Glenfinnan before making its way past Glenfinnan Viaduct, best known for playing host to the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. The rest of the route takes in mountain peaks, rivers, bothies and valleys. Well, variety is the spice of hike…
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