The United Kingdom is nothing short of beautiful; a destination with ancient landscapes that transports you into a real life fairytale, complete with castles, gardens, kings, and princesses.
A land that overflows with natural attractions, many adventurous travelers opt for road tripping around the cluster of countries that are England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales.
But the even more adventurous choose to go one step further (literally).
The UK has an amazing selection of long walks; the options are abundant and the places are nothing short of mesmerizing. So, if you’re keen on immersing yourself in Britain’s most spectacular landscapes, why not consider walking!
The Best Long Walks in the UK
The Ridgeway Trail
6 days through South England
The Ridgeway Trail is the very first on our list, as it’s one of the oldest trails in Britain. The route starts in Overton Hill (Wiltshire), and ends in Ivinghoe Beacon (Buckinghamshire), and has been used for the past 5,000 years.
This is an ancient set of tracks that run along high ridges through South England, that have historically been used by travellers, shepherds and soldiers. It runs for 85 miles, and is unpaved, though technically provides a far more direct route than today’s roadways.
Taking such a historic route not only allows you to immerse yourself in some of England’s most ancient landscapes (the path passes through woodlands, grasslands, and valleys), but also takes in ancient barrows, ruins of old forts, picturesque villages, and a lot of other surprises.
It’s a popular year round hike, and in 1973 was added to the National trail network for its overall significance to the country. Click here for a full guide to planning your own hike.
Image credit: Andrew Bowden (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
6 – 11 days: Chipping Campden to Bath
This wouldn’t be a list if we didn’t mention the Cotswold Way; a 100 mile (163 km) trail thhat leads from Chipping Campden North Cotswolds, to the historic City of Bath.
This route is nothing short of eclectic; you’ll start in a medieval market town, and follow the western edge of the Cotswold Hills. You’ll hike through gently rolling, sheep-grazed pastures, stunning beech woodland, and dreamy, honey-coloured villages.
There are many ancient commons along this route, as well as burial barrows, historic battle sites, and ancient abbeys. And of course, the walk ends in the UNESCO World Heritage City of Bath, with its Georgian Architecture and Roman remains.
This is quite a gentle introduction to long-distance walking, so it’s a great choice if you’ve never done a multi day walk before. You can walk the route in as little as 6, or as many as 11 days, and it’s one of the best marked trails in the UK.
Image: Bath, England by Pedro Szekely (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast
12 – 15 days across Northern England
While the coast to coast is not technically an official trail, this is one of Englands most iconic walks. It’s a 190 mile trek that cuts from one side of Northern England to the other, from the west to east coast.
Starting from St Bees in Cumbria, and ending in Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire, you have a number of options when planning your route, though the highlights include the dramatic scenery of the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the beautiful North York Moors.
This one is a more difficult trek, and while it’s available year round, navigation and conditions in poor weather can make it quite challenging, so it’s best walked between May and October.
There’s a strong sense of camaraderie on this trek, and a big part of the culture of the walk is connecting with other “coast to coasters”. For recommended itineraries, routes, and tips for planning your own trek, check out this post.
Image: Robin Hood’s Bay by Matthew Hartley (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
Hadrian’s Wall Path
6 – 7 Days through Northern England
Next on the list of the best long walks in the UK is the Hadrian’s Wall Path. This is an 84 mile trail from coast to coast that follows the World Heritage Site of Hadrian’s Wall. And there’s Roman history every step of the way.
Starting in Wallsend, Newcastle upon Tyne, and making your way towards the west coast to finish in Bowness-on-Solway, the line of Hadrian’s Wall passes through some of the most beautiful parts of the UK.
The route mixes rolling fields and rugged moorland with the vibrant cities of Newcastle and Carlisle, and it is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s many Roman forts and settlements along the way.
Built back in AD 122 by the Emperor of Hadrian, the trail is situated in the northernmost frontier of what was one of the most famous outposts for the Roman Empire. This is not an easy walk, but the trail is well signposted, and if you’re fit, you’ll be fine.
Image: Glen Bowman (CC BY-SA 2.0) via Flickr
South Downs Way
8 – 9 Days through South East England
If you’re keen on exploring the South East of England, the walk you want to head on is the South Downs Way. Starting in Winchester and ending in Eastbourne, this is a 100 mile trail, and one of the most walked in the country.
This walk is known for it’s scenic beauty; you’ll hike through stunning English countryside as you make your way through South Downs National Park, taking in fields of grazing sheep, corn and wild flowers, as you follow the northern crest of the chalk escarpment all the way to the sea.
This is a great walk if you’re interested in a taste of rural life; yes, there are spectacular views, but you can spend your nights in pretty towns, villages and farms along the way. It has been walked by locals for almost 8,000 years (back then it was used by horse carts and Stone Age traders), so there’s also a lot of history.
There are a few steep sections, but overall it’s a low difficulty walk. It’s recommended to take this walk from west to east to avoid the prevailing winds.
To cycle the South Downs Way takes 2 or 3 days if you are used to off road cycling. It is possible to do it in a day but that’s an extreme challenge! There’s about 12,600ft (3800m) of climb as well as the 100 miles (160km) of distance.
Image: Nick Rowland (CC BY-ND 2.0) via Flickr
Yorkshire Three Peaks
12 Hours in the Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Three Peaks is a popular adventure challenge route; one that demands a grueling 24 miles (38.6 km), with 1,585 m (5200 ft) of ascent in a 12 hour timeframe.
Set in the Yorkshire Dales, the three peaks in question are Pen-y-ghent (694m; 2,227 ft), Whernside (736 m; 2415 ft) and Ingleborough (723m; 2,372ft). And the challenge? Summit them all in less than 12 hours (usually in that order).
This is a circular route, and it’s a popular charity fundraiser because of it’s difficulty. The peaks form part of the Pennine range, and you’ll have spectacular views over the valley of the River Ribble, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Being that there are three peaks involved, the route consists of three different trails. It’s important to plan the route in advance and have locators and maps with you on the walk so you don’t get lost between each trail.
The West Highland Way
7 – 8 days through the Scottish Highlands
One of the most spectacular walking trails for natural beauty is Scotland’s West Highland Way; a 96 mile trail that starts from the outskirts of Glasgow and ends at the foot of Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the UK.
This is a classic walk, and following the banks of Loch Lomond, across the wilderness of Rannoch Moor and into the breathtaking beauty of Glencoe, you’ll be immersing yourself in the very heart of the Scottish Highlands.
Expect to walk through towering mountains, past tranquil lochs, and enjoy the wonderful international camaraderie of fellow walkers on the trail. It’s of medium difficulty, and because of it’s popularity, you’ll be walking with a lot of other hikers.
Being that the walk ends at the foot of Ben Nevis, a climb to the summit can make for a great add on to the end of your trip. It’s best to walk between April and October.
Check out the official West highland Way website for information on planning, routes, and organizing your own self guided trip.
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