Natural wonders, spectacular coastlines, panoramic mountain views, local delicacies and wild blueberries all lie awaiting discovery in the UK’s best destinations for walking holidays.
Here’s our guide to 6 of them and their most scenic walking trails.
The Mendip Hills
The Mendips are a chain of limestone peaks that stand south of Bristol. Their grass and woodland-covered slopes are adorned with rocky outcrops that draw and please the eye like spectacular items of showpiece jewellery. The natural delight of these hills is complimented by the intrigue evoked by the 200 ancient monuments strewn among their slopes and valleys.
The Mendip landscape is chequered with scenic walking trails. The most awe-inspiring of the lot traces the rim of Cheddar Gorge. Sliced into the hillside by a prehistoric glacier, Cheddar Gorge is among the UK’s most dramatic natural features. Walk the trail, and you can enjoy views down into its deep rocky depths and way off over the Somerset Levels up to the distant tower-capped mound of Glastonbury Tour. The trail is three miles long. Most walkers complete it in around two hours.
After you’ve completed the walk, you can reward yourself with a nibble of the area’s famous cheese washed down with a pint of the local scrumpy.
The Peak District
Between the cities of Yorkshire and those of Lancashire lies a great expanse of desolate beauty. The Peak District is a land of high, windswept moorland plateaus grooved by long, fertile green valleys. At its heart rises the southernmost tip of England’s mountainous backbone, the Pennines.
This, the UK’s oldest National Park, has a long-held reputation as a first-rate destination for walking holidays. Its 1,600 miles of public footpath follow the banks of gushing woodland streams, through chocolate-box stone villages, and up, over, and across the high barren plains above. The Peak District’s must-walk peak is Kinder Scout, which is also its highest. Five walking trails lead to its summit. The easiest leads up gentle inclines, the toughest includes sections that require scrambling. Visit at the right time of year, and you can snack on the wild blueberries that grow by the path sides.
The Lizard Peninsula
The Lizard Peninsula is the most southernly point in mainland Britain. It juts out from the tip of Cornwall where it basks in the warm currents of the Gulfstream. With only two roads, a scattering of fishing harbours and thatched cottage villages, and a landscape of rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, secret bays, sub-tropical plants, gently sloping hills and wild heathland, the peninsula is a secluded little world of its own. You may have seen snapshots of its picturesque scenery in the BBC drama, Poldark.
A section of the long-distance South West Coast Path leads along the Lizard Peninsula’s coastline. This section can be walked in its entirety over a few days, walked partially, or dipped in and out of on walks that also include inland trails. World-class coastal scenery and views over the local shipwreck-lined seas are yours to enjoy along its length.
After you’ve finished exploring for the day, you can unwind in restaurants specialising in locally caught crab and lobster, and cosy old pubs that hum with traditional Cornish folk music.
Many of Europe’s last true regions of untamed wilderness lie within The Scottish Highlands. This region also harbours romantic castles, traditional whiskey distilleries, and Britain’s highest mountain. Its animal inhabitants include big-horned, shaggy-coated Highland cattle, Scottish wildcats, and golden eagles. Twisting among the region’s mountains, moors, forests, and lochs are many truly spectacular walking trails.
The village of Glencoe stands on the banks of Loch Leven at the mouth of a steep-sided valley. This patch of the Highlands is one of cascading waterfalls and rocky peaks. One of the many walking routes that lead out of Glencoe winds two and a half miles through the beautiful mountain scenery of the ‘lost valley’, Corie Gabhail. Centuries ago, the Macdonalds would use this valley to stash cattle they’d pinched from neighbouring clans. More recently, the Glencoe vicinity served as the real-world location of James Bond’s childhood home in Skyfall.
The Welsh Borders
Many treasures lie waiting to be discovered on walking holidays in the England-Wales borderlands. The region’s magnificent countryside sinks into deep forested slopes in The Wye Valley and rises into high green domes in the Shropshire Hills. The natural beauty that abounds here is presided over by grand medieval fortresses such as Ludlow Castle and is home to Britain’s longest ancient monument, Offa’s Dyke.
One of the most dramatic cross-border walking trails runs along the Kerry Ridgeway. This 15-mile walk follows an ancient trade route beginning at Cider House Farm, near the village of Kerry in Powys, and ending at Bishops Castle in Shropshire. It spans woodland, moorland and heathland, and never dips below 1,000 ft above sea level. From its vantage points, views unfold over Wales to the far-off mountains of Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons. The skies above are often graced with the fork-tailed silhouettes of red kites.
The Mourne Mountains
Some of the best walking holidays in Northern Ireland are to be had in the Mourne Mountains. The awe-inspiring grandeur of the area was best summed up by CS Lewis:
“I have seen landscapes, notably in the Mourne Mountains and southwards which, under a particular light, made me feel that at any moment a giant might raise his head over the next ridge.”
The 11-mile route that loops out from Trassey Track Car Park leads along the mountains Commedagh, Bearnagh, and Northern Ireland’s highest, Slieve Donard. The amazing views that open along the way stretch out over the High Mournes and at certain points, across the blue waves of the Irish Sea. If you want to follow the footsteps of ancient mountain smugglers, don your hood and slip onto the nearby Brandy Pad Track. This trail was once so busy with the transit of illicit goods it’s rumoured half the houses in nearby Hilltown were once pubs pulling pints for thirsty smugglers.
Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to lace up your walking boots and head out for an adventure. Wherever your walking holidays take you, enjoy the ramble.