Two people sat on beach looking at white cliffs

David Hughes/Robert Harding

Eight of the most captivating walks in the UK

Get off-road and see more of Britain’s jaw-dropping countryside on foot

June 2020

By Johanna Derry

Gain a new appreciation for a slower pace of life – three miles an hour, to be precise – and immerse yourself in the beauty of the UK’s landscape on foot. Whether it’s short rambles, vertical scrambles or long-distance treks, these walking routes show off the splendor of the British Isles and will give you a taste to explore more.

Buttermere and Crummock Water in the Lake District National Park

Buttermere and Crummock Water in the Lake District National Park © Ashley Cooper/Robert Harding

1. Luscious surroundings in the Lakes

Starting point: Buttermere, Cumbria, England

Many visitors to the Lake District stop when they reach Windermere, the largest and most southerly of the lakes, but we recommend venturing deeper into the national park, north to Buttermere. The lakeshore path here circles the water for four and a half miles through lush green fields and slopes covered in gorse and bluebells in spring. With striking views down the lake of Fleetwith Pike and Haystacks, it’s easily one of the most beautiful Lakeland walks and, pleasingly, one of the most effortless.

2. East Sussex clifftop views

Starting point: Seaford, East Sussex, England

The white cliffs of Dover may be immortalised in song but travel further west along the coast towards Eastbourne and you’ll find the Seven Sisters knocks them out of the park. Almost none of this route is flat, but for the drama of following this cliff walk, where the South Downs meet the sea, the effort is well worth it. Reward yourself with fish and chips in the elegant Victorian seaside town of Eastbourne at the finish – you’ll have earned them.

Looking Over Loch Linnhe To The Town Of Fort William

Looking across Loch Linnhe to the town of Fort William © Visit Scotland/Paul Tomkins

3. Non-stop scenery in the Highlands

Starting point: Fort William, Inverness-shire, Scotland

Perhaps one of Scotland’s more well-known hikes, West Highland Way stretches 96 miles between Fort William and Milngavie. This route has gained popularity thanks to the epic scenery through which it passes – Loch Lomond, Ben Lomond, Glencoe, Loch Leven and Glen Nevis to mention a few. Thankfully, it’s also a route easily split into smaller chunks, and none less beautiful than another, meaning you can choose your section and enjoy it at leisure.

4. Cornwall’s golden coves

Starting point: Falmouth, Cornwall, England

The South West Coastal Path is famously England’s longest waymarked footpath, running 630 miles from Minehead to Poole Harbour. While the determined might walk the entire route, for most, it’s enjoyed in small sections. Wherever you join it, the scenery is striking, offering cliffs, smugglers’ coves, Jurassic Coast beaches, two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and a UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve and Global Geopark. It’s inspired artists and writers from JMW Turner to Barbara Hepworth and Agatha Christie to Raynor Winn, whose book The Salt Path captures the majesty and wildness of this far westerly coastline.

People walking along the Llanberis Path one of the routes up Snowdon

Along the Llanberis Path, one of the routes up to Snowdon © Sebastian Wasek/Robert Harding

5. Snowdon made simple

Starting point: Llanberis, Gwynedd, Wales

As the second-highest mountain in the UK, Snowdon commands attention, but it’s surprisingly one of the most accessible to climb. There are six official paths to the summit, and the Llanberis Path is the easiest, winding its way up the mountain’s shallower slopes. At the top, you’ll be rewarded with a cafe and, on a clear day, magnificent views over Snowdonia to north Wales, Anglesey and the sea beyond.

6. A cityscape in Edinburgh

Starting point: Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

There are very few cities that can lay claim to being built around a volcano, but Edinburgh is one of them. Arthur’s Seat, along with Salisbury Crags next to it, dominates the city skyline, and walking to the top offers an escape into nature right in the city centre. At its foot, you’ll find the Queen’s city residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the Scottish Parliament, while from its summit, you’re treated to impressive views of the Scottish capital’s skyline – Edinburgh Castle, the Scott Monument and Calton Hill – and beyond over the Firth of Forth. It’s definitely an uphill ramble.

People walking to Lindisfarne Castle

Head up to the majestic Lindisfarne Castle © Ashley Cooper/Robert Harding

7. A Northumberland pilgrimage

Starting point: Lindisfarne, Northumberland, England

The ancient route to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne has been well-trodden for centuries, first by devout pilgrims and now, more commonly, by global visitors. From 635 – when King Oswald gave the land to St Aidan to build a monastery – until 1954, the only way to access the island was at low tide by following wooden vertical poles set in sand. Though there is road across now, it’s a magical experience to follow in the footsteps of medieval wayfarers. This is a walk unlike any other in the UK.

8. Northern Irish charm

Starting point: Portballintrae, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland

One of Northern Ireland’s most iconic sights, the Giant’s Causeway is a rare rock formation of tessellated hexagonal limestone pillars that form a jutting pavement into the sea. But those who drive there and back miss out on the beauty of Ireland’s north coast. Instead, take the five-and-a-half-mile walk from Portballintrae to enjoy the quiet sandy beaches and dunes of this under-explored coastline. It’s a small detour to the Bushmills distillery, where a well-earned dram of Irish whisky will send you on your way.

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About the Author

Johanna Derry

Johanna Derry

Johanna Derry Hall is a journalist and features writer with a focus on food, drink and travel. She writes for the Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, and Mr Porter among others, and has a reputation among her friends for often being found in a distillery, on a remote Scottish island, or both.