The ultimate guide to hiking and walking in the UK

With over 150,000 miles of footpaths crisscrossing the four corners of the country, 15 National Trails and the same number of National Parks, it’s fair to say the UK is a haven for hikers. From remote Highland retreats to mountain tops with endless panoramas, coastal treks navigating sub-tropical gardens and fossil-lined beaches to family-friendly hikes that epitomise the magic of the Lake District, the UK is best explored on two feet (and a comfy pair of hiking boots).

Whether you’re looking for a gentle coastal ramble, a three-week trek along the backbone of Britain or a mountainous scramble, our Premier Inn guide covers all the most amazing routes. We’ll also give you some top tips on the best time of year to take a hike, the sights to look out for on the way and – naturally – the best pubs en route. Plus, we’ve got a list of the essential kit you’ll need and answers to some of the most common hiking questions. So, strap on those hiking boots, zip up your waterproof coat and get planning your next two-footed adventure.

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Hiking Guide

The essential hiking kit list

Walking is one of the simplest and most accessible forms of exercise. But whether you’re out for a quick stroll, embarking on a week-long trek or climbing to the top of your nearest peak, having the right walking gear will help make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable.

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Hiking clothes

A good pair of walking boots or sturdy shoes are essential for any hike, as are a pair of comfy thick socks. Try and break in any new boots by wearing them around the house for several days before using them on a hike: A blister – or three – can be a swift and painful end to your day’s walking.

Lightweight, durable, quick-drying trousers (not jeans) are best, possibly fitted with zip-off shorts if you’re hiking in the summer.

When it comes to the top half, three layers of clothing is a good starting point. With a thermal long-sleeve as your base layer, a fleece as your mid-layer and a lightweight waterproof jacket on top, you’ll be able to retain your body heat and have plenty of options to adapt to the weather. Layers are a great way to adjust to the temperature, so it’s a good idea to pack more in your bag.

A warm hat and sun hat, ideally covering your ears and neck, is a good way to beat the cold or stay in the shade, but you’ll also need gloves for winter hikes.

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Navigation

What navigation equipment do I need for my hike?

  • Compass and the relevant set of maps – Ordnance Survey Maps are the most detailed and comprehensive
  • Phone/watch with GPS and online maps
  • Phone battery charger and pack if you’re relying on phone GPS and online maps
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Your bag

Ensure you have a waterproof rucksack or cover the inside with bag liners if not. If you can, get a bag with adjustable straps and several compartments. And which items should I pack for a hike?

  • Extra layers
  • Sunglasses
  • Lip balm
  • Torch
  • Waterproof matches/lighter
  • First aid kit
  • Multi-tool
  • Emergency shelter for longer, more exposed walks
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Food and drink

What food and drinks should I take with me on a hike?

  • A packed lunch
  • Two litres of water per person (a rough guide is one litre for two hours of walking)
  • Snacks including fruit, dried fruit and nuts and energy bars
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Hiking Guide: Kit list

The UK’s best coastal walks

We’ve hand-picked the best coastal treks in the UK – and considering there are over 7,000 miles of coastline to choose from, that wasn’t an easy job. Covering everything from family-friendly walks to two-week treks that explore some of the most remote wilderness in the UK and plenty of Instagram-worthy beaches along the way, you’ll be humming along to ‘I do love to be beside the seaside’ in no time.

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Jurassic Coast

Jurassic Coast

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Holy Island

Holy Island

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Formby Beach

Formby Beach

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Jurassic Coast, Dorset

  • Total Distance: 95 miles
  • Time to Walk: 9 days
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/Autumn
  • Difficulty: Medium

What do a fossil forest, ITV drama Broadchurch and cliff-top views towards France have in common? The Jurassic Coast, of course, all 95-majestic miles of it. Stretching from Old Harry’s Rocks in Dorset, a stunning collection of chalk stacks along the English Channel to Exmouth, the designated World Heritage route covers a stunning part of Britain’s coastline. Travelling from east to west, you can explore 185 million years of history via a visible fossil record contained in 70 different rock strata that line the cliff faces.

The trail takes around nine days from start to finish covering largely easy terrain with a few climbs, notably at Golden Cap, the highest point on the South Coast. Don’t worry if the idea of a 100-mile hike makes you nervous: there are dozens of smaller day hikes you can choose from, including exploring iconic coastal locations like Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, Broadchurch location West Bay and Chesil Beach, one of Europe’s first barrier beaches.

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Lindisfarne & Holy Island, Northumberland

  • Total Distance: 3 miles
  • Time to Walk: 2 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Any
  • Difficulty: Easy

If you’re lucky, you might spot a school of dolphins playing off the coast, a pod of sunbathing seals or oystercatchers scavenging for mussels on this beautifully rugged stretch of coastline. If you’re not, you’ll still have the 16th-century Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island in full view for most of the walk. You’ll need to time your hike right, as the tide covers the only road in and out twice a day, leaving the three-mile causeway flooded. Once you’re on the island nine miles south of Berwick-upon-Tweed, the circular five-mile hike starts from the main car park on the north side of the village and takes in the recently renovated castle, its historic limestone kilns and impressive walled Gertrude Jekyll gardens.

The gentle hike should take around two and a half hours depending on how long you stop and explore the castle, the small village of Lindisfarne, the harbour, beaches and inlets, which are home to some breathtaking views, scenery and wildlife.

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Formby Beach, Liverpool

  • Total Distance: 95 miles
  • Time to Walk: 9 days
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/Autumn
  • Difficulty: Medium

With wild, windswept beaches, desolate dunes overlooking the Irish Sea and epic low tides that reveal prehistoric animal and human footprints, Formby Beach is an unspoilt stretch of coastline that feels a million miles from the hustle and bustle of nearby Liverpool and Southport. Despite largely being a beach walk, there are plenty of other habitats to discover on the family-friendly three-mile hike, including a pine woodland home to hundreds of red squirrels, moths and butterflies and even several asparagus farms. But it’s the combination of the high dunes – that on a clear day let you see over to the Lake District – and the sprawling sandy beaches dotted with ancient footprints that make this walk a real winner. The 150 acres of unspoilt wilderness transports you to an alternate world where tax returns and social media haven’t been invented yet.

There are plenty of trails to follow, but our favourite starts at the car park near Cornerstone Wood and heads out to the beach, following it for over a mile before heading back via asparagus farms and the appropriately named Squirrel Wood.

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**Eagle-eyed fossil hunters can pick up their own Trilobite or Ammonite fossil on Charmouth Beach or in Lyme Regis**

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St Kilda

St Kilda

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South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path

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Kynance Cove

Kynance Cove

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St. Kilda, Scotland

  • Total Distance: 4 miles
  • Time to Walk: 3 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Medium

One of the most remote islands in the UK, St. Kilda lies 41 miles beyond the Outer Hebrides in Scotland – if you want to know how it feels to be the last human on earth, this is the place to come. The four-mile hike takes in the UK’s highest sea cliffs. It’s home to spectacular bird colonies, Conachair, the island’s tallest peak and Village Bay, which was evacuated in 1930 leaving only a dedicated band of scientists, military personnel, conservationists and day-trippers from Harris, Lewis or Skye to explore the rugged island.

The hike takes in some seriously steep terrain and cliffs, as well as some boggy ground and miles of treeless landscape. Avoid coming in winter unless you’re equipped with ice picks and crampons, as it gets seriously cold. But arrive in the summer, and Britain’s only double World Heritage Site for cultural and natural significance delivers a real sense of wide-eyed wonder, with the long days, end-of-the-world views and deserted village living long in the memory.

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**St Kilda is home to 1,260 cleits, simple stone huts dotted around the landscape that date back centuries and were often used by islanders for storing and preserving their food.**

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South West Coast Path, Weymouth to Lulworth Cove

  • Total Distance: 13 miles
  • Time to Walk: 7 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/Summer
  • Difficulty: Medium

At 630 miles long, the South West Coast Path stretches from Somerset to Dorset and is a serious investment in time and energy (not to mention blister plasters). However, the 13-mile hike from Weymouth that takes in Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door is a glorious one-day adventure that cherry-picks some of the best landmarks on the south coast.

Starting in Weymouth, the trail snakes out of town along the promenade, climbing the Exmoor cliffs past hidden beaches, riverside ravines and cosy coves before reaching Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove and the region’s famous white cliffs. If the sun is shining, take a dip in the waters around Durdle Door, which is protected from big waves by an offshore reef (please note, the area is not protected by lifeguards). You can also impress co-walkers with the knowledge that Durdle Door is a hard limestone arch formed 25 million years ago by tectonic plate pressure.

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The Lizard Peninsula/Kynance Cove, Cornwall

  • Total Distance: 7 miles
  • Time to Walk: 3 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium

A round trip that starts and ends at Kynance Cove, there’s a lot to love about this hike around the Lizard Peninsula, the UK’s most southerly point. Kynance Cove with its azure seas, rock stacks, large low tide pools and white sands is often called the UK’s best beach, and it’s not hard to see why. The path leaves from the National Trust car park and follows the coastline to Lizard Point, past some brilliantly named locations, including Bumble Rock, Lion’s Den and Bass Point, before arriving in Pen Olver. Here, you’ll find two small huts used by Nobel Prize-winner Guglielmo Marconi. The cabins have now been turned into a small radio museum, paying homage to Marconi’s work and are well worth visiting on your way.

The trail then heads inland through the village of Lizard before heading back to the coast where you might spot sunbathing adders, bright pink thrift wildflowers or the red-billed Cornish chough. If you can, try to avoid the peak summer weeks when you’re more likely to spot tourists and traffic jams.

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Hiking Guide: Coastal Walks

The UK’s best hill and mountain walks

We’ve hand-picked the best coastal treks in the UK – and considering there are over 7,000 miles of coastline to choose from, that wasn’t an easy job. Covering everything from family-friendly walks to two-week treks that explore some of the most remote wilderness in the UK and plenty of Instagram-worthy beaches along the way, you’ll be humming along to ‘I do love to be beside the seaside’ in no time.

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Snowdon

Snowdon

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Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

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Snowdon, Wales

  • Total Distance: 9 miles
  • Time to Walk: 8 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Hard

The highest summit in England and Wales at over 1km, nearly 400,000 people make it to the top of Snowdon each year (or Yr Wyddfa to give it its proper Welsh name). Not all of them have scaled the 1,085m mountain themselves, however: there’s been a train line to the top since 1896, with regular departures every 30 minutes during the summer months.

While the mountain railway has its own charm, Snowdon remains one of the best hiking challenges in the UK with six different routes to the top. The Llanberis path – or pony path as it’s locally known – is the easiest and most popular route to the top, while those looking for a challenge can try the Snowdon Horseshoe Scramble. The two hotels that were located at the summit have long since closed, but there’s a visitor centre and café where you can pick up a hot chocolate and psyche yourself up for the descent.

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**Temperatures on Snowdon can vary from -20C in the winter to highs of 30C in the summer, while over 5m of rain falls at the summit each year.**

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Ben Nevis, Scotland

  • Total Distance: 8.5 miles
  • Time to Walk: 8 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Hard

The UK’s highest peak at 1,345m, Ben Nevis was first climbed back in 1771 and is now scaled by around 125,000 walkers each year. Impressively, some even manage to run up and down the Highland mountain in 90 minutes as part of the annual Ben Nevis race. A much more achievable time is around eight hours, making this one of the most testing climbs in the country. Experienced climbers might opt for the Carn Mor Dearg Arête route, which will take around 10 to 11 hours, while the more popular Mountain Track begins at the Glen Nevis Visitor Centre and should get you up and down in daylight hours during the summer with plenty of time to visit the nearby distillery.

The views from the top of the inactive volcano are superb, looking out towards the Nevis range and Fort William, but don’t linger for long. Ben Nevis in Gaelic can either mean ‘mountain with heads in the cloud’ or ‘venomous mountain’, and with quick-changing weather, this iconic peak lives up to its name and can quickly disappear in a maze of thick clouds.

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Helvellyn

Helvellyn

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Old Man of Storr

Old Man of Storr

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Three Peaks

Three Peaks

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Helvellyn, Lake District

  • Total Distance: 9 miles
  • Time to Walk: 7 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Hard

Scafell Pike might be the highest English peak, but a more rewarding hike is nearby Helvellyn. The third highest mountain in the Lake District, you’ll need to climb and descend over 1,800m on this challenging trail and choose from several routes, all of which offer their own range of problems. The brave (and those with a head for heights) will enjoy clambering along Striding Edge, a spectacular narrow ridge that drops vertiginously down either side to Red Tarn. Slightly easier routes can be found via Swirral Edge and lower-lying bypass paths.

The hike is easy to access from Glenridding, the small village at the base of Ullswater, with a large car park to start from and several nearby pubs to celebrate in afterwards including The Travellers Rest. Come with the correct kit, check the local forecasts and be prepared to change your route if the weather closes in, as Helvellyn can be very unforgiving.

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**Red Tarn is home to a rare form of freshwater fish, with Schelly only found in a few Lake District tarns and the arctic.**

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Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

  • Total Distance: 4 miles
  • Time to Walk: 2.5 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Easy

Created by an ancient landslide, the Old Man of Storr on Skye is one of the most recognisable rock formations in the UK. With five jutting lava rock features that loom from the stunning Trotternish Ridge set against lush rolling green hills, the scene feels like something from a movie – which is often the case, as it’s been the backdrop for Hollywood films like Transformers, King Arthur, The Big Friendly Giant and sci-fi flick Prometheus.

The four-mile hike takes in cliff faces, hidden plateaus and jaw-dropping views across the Cuillin Hills, Portree and several sea lochs, but be prepared for queues in and out of the nearby car park during the peak summer months. Like all good west Scotland islands, the twin terror of rain and midges can loom at every turn, but either wait out the showers or avoid June, July and August to escape the worst of the flies.

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**If you’re feeling adventurous, you can climb nearby Ben More, Britain’s last active volcano.**

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Three Peaks, Yorkshire

  • Total Distance: 24 miles
  • Time to Walk: 12 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/Autumn
  • Difficulty: Medium/Hard  

Although often referred to as the Three Peaks Challenge with the aim to complete all three summits in under 12 hours, each climb and peak is worthy of inclusion on its own. Spanning Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in the Pennines, the three peaks follow the River Ribble in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with Whernside being the tallest at 736m.

If you’re attempting the challenge, it’s often best to start the walk in Chapel-le-Dale to avoid the crowds and finish in Horton in Ribblesdale, while dodging the summer heat and the cold of winter can help your chances of making the finish line in time. If you’re taking the hikes one at a time, there’s plenty to enjoy on each trail, with highlights including the caves of Ingleborough, impressive limestone features such as towering gorges and hidden waterfalls, the Ribblehead Viaduct, plus jaw-dropping views over the Lake District and Morecambe Bay.

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Hiking Guide: Mountain walks

The UK's best woodland walks

The UK has long had a reputation as a green and pleasant land, and while farmland might account for most of that, a lot of Britain is covered in leafy forests with around four billion trees providing 15% woodland cover. Our roundup of the best woodland hikes in the country spans the largest man-made forest in England, the untouched medieval majesty of Hatfield Forest, the wild ponies of the New Forest, natural art installations and much, much more.

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Kielder Forest

Kielder Forest

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Grizedale Forest

Grizedale Forest

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Hatfield Forest

Hatfield Forest

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Lakeside Way, Kielder Forest, Northumberland

  • Total Distance: 27 miles
  • Time to Walk: 2 days
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer/Autumn
  • Difficulty: Easy

The largest man-made woodland in England covering over 250 square miles, Kielder Forest is the perfect place to stretch your legs under a green canopy while being serenaded by woodland birds. The Lakeside Way makes the most of the forest’s 27 miles of shoreline as it follows Kielder Water, the UK’s largest artificial lake. The impressive wood and water skyline makes a wonderful backdrop for 20 pieces of public art, including the ultra-futuristic Belvedere shelter and the oversized swivelling Janus Chairs: just right for taking a breather and inhaling the panoramic views. Other highlights on the circular walk include Kielder Dam and Kielder Castle, formerly the Duke of Northumberland’s Hunting Lodge. You should also keep your eyes peeled for wildlife on the way including ospreys (which have been successfully re-bred in the area), roe deer and otters.

A dual-purpose cycle and walking trail, the terrain is mostly flat and gentle, but there are several steep climbs towards the end of the route that might get you puffing. Kielder Forest also boasts one of the darkest skies in England, so make sure to look up when night falls and keep your fingers crossed for a cloudless sky.

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**Kielder Forest is one of the last bastions for red squirrels, home to over half of the UK’s native population.**

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Grizedale Forest, Cumbria

  • Total Distance: 10 miles
  • Time to Walk: 4 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Any
  • Difficulty: Easy

Despite being a World Heritage Site boasting an array of hikes that cover forest, woodland and wetlands embellished with over 80 art installations and sculptures, hiking is only half of the reason to visit Grizedale Forest. Nestled in the Lake District between Coniston and Windermere, the forest is a hive of activity. As well as a large car park, a network of walking and cycle trails, children’s play areas and activity trails, an excellent café, picnic and BBQ area, you can also explore the forest via the hour-long Forest Segway tour or on electric bikes. The 4,000-hectare forest is also a haven for wildlife, home to buzzards, red kites, butterflies and dragonflies in the Brand Wetlands.

There are plenty of walks to suit all ages and fitness levels. The longest is the Silurian Way, which takes you up and down Grizedale Valley including to Carron Crag, the highest point in the forest.

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**Grizedale Forest is home to more than 80 permanent installations and sculptures including some made from natural materials designed to be gradually reclaimed by the forest.**

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Hatfield Forest, Essex

  • Total Distance: 11 miles
  • Time to Walk: 5 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Start of summer
  • Difficulty: Easy

Visit Hatfield Forest during May and June, and you’ll be confronted by seemingly endless golden plains as the forest fields erupt in a sea of 300 million buttercups. Then again, there’s no bad time to visit Hatfield Forest, Britain’s best-surviving medieval royal hunting forest home to over 3,500 species of wildlife and trees more than 1,000 years old. Come in autumn, and you’ll catch the changing of the guard as the leaves turn from green through a symphony of red and golden hues. Meanwhile, spring sees the historic forest waking up from its winter slumber, green shoots thrusting forward at every opportunity. And thanks to the management of the land, its history has been unchanged for centuries, making a trip to Hatfield Forest a little like time travelling.

While there are plenty of paths and trails to discover in the forest, our favourite hike starts and finishes at the nearby village of Hatfield Broad Oak. It takes you through Hatfield Forest before crossing back along the gentle countryside, finishing back at Hatfield Broad Oak where you’ll find several excellent pubs to rest your weary legs.

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**Make sure to visit nearby Saffron Walden, a historic medieval market town which has kept many of its architectural features.**

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Ashdown Forest

Ashdown Forest

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Offa’s Dyke

Offa’s Dyke

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Lyndhurst, New Forest

Lyndhurst, New Forest

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Ashdown Forest, Pooh Corner, East Sussex

  • Total Distance: 9 miles
  • Time to Walk: 4 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Any
  • Difficulty: Easy
Combining a rose-tinted stroll down memory lane and an invigorating nine-mile hike that takes in some stunning historical features, Ashdown Forest is one of our favourite woodland walks. A designated Area of Outstanding Beauty, Winnie the Pooh fans will instantly recognise the rolling wooded landscape as it inspired much of A. A. Milne’s Five Hundred Acre Wood, the famous home of Pooh, Piglet and the mysterious Heffalumps. And the best place to park is in the – yup, you guessed it – Pooh Car Park.

While you’re unlikely to come across any whimsical elephant-like creatures or honey-guzzling bears, this gentle forest hike does take in some amazing historic highlights, including the Peat Lump Hill Bronze Age burial ground, an abandoned medieval tower, a motte-and-bailey castle and the last vestiges of a Roman road. And, if you’re a dedicated fan of the classic children’s story, you can climb Owl’s beech tree, play Poohsticks on the original bridge and stop off at Pooh Corner on the way out, a well-stocked shop and tea room where you can tuck into Piglet’s Cream Tea to re-energise after your stomp.
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**A. A. Milne’s antipodean creations Kanga and Roo might have existed in real life: The forest was once home to some red-necked wallabies that had escaped from a captive colony, with the last confirmed sighting in 1972.**

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Offa’s Dyke, Wales/England

  • Total Distance: 177 miles
  • Time to Walk: 2 weeks
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/Summer
  • Difficulty: Medium

Running from Chepstow on the Severn Estuary to Prestatyn in North Wales, Offa’s Dyke is a highly rewarding 177-mike trek that takes in a wonderful variety of landscapes, crisscrossing the Anglo-Welsh border nine times. From the plunging Wye river valley to ancient woodlands, medieval castles, the Brecon Beacons, Clwydian Hills and remote moors, the path follows Offa’s Dyke for 70 miles, a large earthwork barrier up to 20m wide that was built in the 800s by the Anglo-Saxon king Offa.

Named one of Lonely Planet’s best walks in the world, the beginning stages of the trek cut through the glorious Forest of Dean, a wonderfully dense tangle of over 20 million trees, including oak, beech, ash and birch. If you make the journey in late spring, you’ll be confronted by thousands of flowering azaleas and rhododendrons and a carpet of bluebells. One stop well worth making along the way is Puzzlewood, said to be the inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien and his Middle Earth forests. The almost-magical woodland has since been used as the setting for a wide range of TV shows and films, including Doctor Who and scenes from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

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**The Forest of Dean is one of the UK’s most ancient woodlands. It’s been a source of iron and coal for centuries, was used to create ships in the 16th century battling against the Spanish Armada and was the first forest in the world to be actively reforested in 1667 after a royal decree.**

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Lyndhurst Circular, The New Forest

  • Total Distance: 8 miles
  • Time to Walk: 4 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Autumn
  • Difficulty: Easy
The most recent national park officially created in 2005, The New Forest is a vast expanse of woodland. It boasts 193,000 acres of forest located between Southampton and Bournemouth and is bordered by the Solent. With over 143 miles of paths spread over 200 square miles of forest, it’s a haven for hikers and wildlife fans, home to five types of deer, hundreds of bird species and thousands of wild ponies.

Our chosen hike is an eight-mile circular trail from Lyndhurst in the heart of the New Forest, taking in easy footpaths and bridleways and many of the forest’s main sites including Bolton’s Bench, a picturesque yew-topped mound often referred to as the gateway to the New Forest. With a south coast location, the weather is good year-round, but head down in autumn to catch the forest at its best, with leaf-strewn paths, burbling streams and plenty of New Forest ponies keeping the untamed landscape in check.
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**The New Forest isn’t actually new: It was first proclaimed as a royal forest by William the Conqueror in 1079, going by the name Nova Foresta in the Domesday Book.**

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Hiking Guide: Woodland Walks

The UK’s best countryside walks

From quick Lake District scrambles to week-long treks that navigate Britain’s backbone, and limestone geological wonders to mountain hikes designed to put SAS candidates to the test, our round-up of the best countryside walks in the UK is a suitably varied read. Ranging from three-mile round trips to 268-mile epics, there’s something for everyone.

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Malham Cove

Malham Cove

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West Highland Way

West Highland Way

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Malham Cove, Yorkshire

  • Total Distance: 7.5 miles
  • Time to Walk: 4 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/Autumn
  • Difficulty: Medium

Waterfalls, rock-flanked canyons, a natural limestone amphitheatre and some stunning views across the Yorkshire Dales: this seven-mile round trip to Malham Cove delivers like a greatest hits hiking package. Starting in the picture-postcard village of Malham in the Pennines, the walk climbs through a wooded ravine to Janet’s Foss, a magnificent waterfall and rock pool that comes alive in spring with the smell of wild garlic and bluebells. From there, the path rises to Gordale Scar, a breathtaking narrow canyon with yet another waterfall before emerging at Malham Tarn, one of only two natural lakes in the Dales.

While that might be enough highlights for most walks, this trail keeps on delivering as the route summits at Malham Cove and its cracked limestone pavement sitting above a vast natural amphitheatre. Created by ice age meltwater 12,000 years ago, the route gets very busy in summer, and some of the climbs – notably around Gordale Scar – can be a bit of a scramble. But come in spring or autumn, and you’ll be greeted by one of the most action-packed walks in the country without the crowds.

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**Janet’s Foss waterfall has a hidden cave where the queen of the local fairies was said to live.**

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West Highland Way, Scotland

  • Total Distance: 96 miles
  • Time to Walk: 7 days
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Medium

Running from just above Glasgow to Fort William, the West Highland Way takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland including wild mountains, serene lochs and remote, rugged moorland. Most walkers take on the trek from south to north as it eases you into the walking, which gets more mountainous towards the end. The walk climaxes in Fort William where you could either celebrate by going one step further and hiking Ben Nevis or take a well-deserved breather at the distillery at the bottom.

Scotland’s first designated long-distance trail when it opened in 1980, the West Highland Way follows traditional cattle drovers’ trails, meaning the 96-mile hike bypasses a lot of the highest peaks. That said, there’s still a fair degree of climbing involved as it treks across the Loch Lomond, The Trossachs National Park and takes in Glencoe, one of Scotland’s main ski resorts and also the location for James Bond’s memorable drive in Skyfall. Get the timing right and dodge the drizzle and midges, and the West Highland Way could be the finest long-distance hike in the country.

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Cat Bells

Cat Bells

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Pennine Way

Pennine Way

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Pen y Fan

Pen y Fan

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Cat Bells, Cumbria

  • Total Distance: 4 miles
  • Time to Walk: 3 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Any
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium

While many of the hikes in the Lake District are geared towards experienced hill-walkers – and those with a head for heights if you’re tackling Helvellyn and Scafell Pike – Cat Bells is a genuine family-friendly walk. With a relatively short but steep 450-metre climb, the going is fairly easy apart from a scrambled section near the summit, which is made easier by tackling the circular route anticlockwise. And once you’re at the top of one of the Lake District’s most accessible peaks, you’ll be rewarded with views across much of the landscape that inspired Beatrix Potter and her Peter Rabbit adventures, including Derwent Water, Borrowdale and Keswick.

As it’s one of the easier Lake District routes, it can get busy, and parking spaces can be hard to find – get down early to bag the best spots or try your luck near the Hawse End Centre.

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**The name Cat Bells is said to come from the old phrase ‘cat’s bield’ meaning a wild cat’s shelter and may stem from days gone by when wild cats were part of our wildlife.**

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Pennine Way, Derbyshire, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Scotland

  • Total Distance: 268 miles
  • Time to Walk: 3 weeks
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Medium

Dubbed the backbone of England, the Pennine Way runs from the Peak District in Derbyshire to the Scottish borders, taking in – deep breath – three national parks, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, two national nature reserves and 20 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. The first of the UK’s 15 national trails when it was created in 1965, highlights include walking icons such as Kinder Scout, Hadrian’s Wall, Malham Cove, The Cheviot and Pen-y-ghent.

If you’re planning to tackle the monumental trail in one go, you’ll need to book three weeks off work or, alternatively, the hike can easily be broken down into smaller, more manageable segments. Whether you’re attempting the full trek or dipping in and out, we’d recommend hiking between May and September, as nearly three metres of rain falls annually across the Pennines, making it a potentially wet-booted experience.

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Pen y Fan, Wales

  • Total Distance: 4 miles
  • Time to Walk: 3 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/ Summer/Autumn
  • Difficulty: Easy

While some might know Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons as the infamous SAS ‘lungbuster,’ there are three other routes up this popular Welsh plateau that don’t require military-grade levels of stamina. Roughly translated as ‘top spot,’ Pen y Fan is the highest point in southern Britain and was a famous burial spot during the Bronze Age. It’s now a popular tourist attraction with nearly 400,000 hikers each year seduced by the glorious views across the Malvern Hills, Snowdonia, the Bristol Channel and – on an especially clear day – even down to Devon’s distant coastline.

If you want to challenge yourself, take the SAS route along Jacob’s Ladder, a steep and rocky ascent that will test you and your fitness. Or opt for the more sensible – and enjoyable – Storey Arms approach that leaves from the National Trust car park. It has become so popular that it’s been nicknamed ‘The Motorway’ by locals thanks to its wide path.

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**The Brecon Beacons mountain range once lay at sea level – look closely on Pen Y Fan and you can see fossilised sand ripples at the top, meaning this was once an ancient beach.**

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Hiking Guide: Countryside walks

The UK’s best landmark walks

While walking is often its own reward in the UK thanks to the big skies, endless views and the sense of achievement as you scale a mountain (or hill), ticking off a world-famous landmark en route is even more rewarding. From quick two-hour hikes that deliver jaw-dropping views across Edinburgh to 90-mile excursions traversing Hadrian’s Wall, we’ve compiled the UK’s best landmark walks.

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Hadrian’s Wall

Hadrian’s Wall

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Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat

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St Michael’s Way

St Michael’s Way

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Hadrian’s Wall, Cumbria to Tyneside

  • Total Distance: 84 miles
  • Time to Walk: 6 days
  • Best Time to Visit: Spring/Summer
  • Difficulty: Medium

While you’re striding along the remains of Hadrian’s Wall – which was built in A.D. 122 to protect Roman England from Scotland – it’s easy to get lost in the reverie, imagining yourself as a Roman warrior or ransacking Celt with vivid historical reminders at every turn. Crossing coast-to-coast, the 84-mile trek takes in Roman forts, houses and settlements, all protected as a World Heritage Site.

There’s plenty to enjoy beside its historical significance too. The trail takes hikers through Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and Carlisle, giving you a taste of urban hiking. Meanwhile, the Solway saltmarsh on the west coast is a stunning wetland nature reserve home to a wide range of wading birds and the ultra-rare natterjack toad.

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Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

  • Total Distance: 3 miles
  • Time to Walk: 2 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Any
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium

A truly magical city full of history, incredible Georgian architecture and more art, culture and festivals than some countries combined, it can sometimes be a little hard to appreciate Edinburgh from street level. Thankfully, Arthur’s Seat is on hand. This 284-metre-tall extinct volcano at the end of the Royal Mile in Holyrood Park offers magnificent views across the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle, the Firth of Forth and back to the Pentland Hills. The highest point in and around the city, there are several ways to the top. If you really want to stretch your legs, opt for the Purple Route which takes in Salisbury Crags, while families and less experienced hikers can take the sign-posted Red or Green routes which are more relaxed.

The whole hike should take around two hours, but budget for plenty of stops on the way to take in the views, time to explore the 2,000-year-old hill forts dotted around the park and to allow for queues. After all, hikes this good and this close to the city centre can get busy, especially during the weekend. Parking in Edinburgh is tricky at the best of times, so, if you can, use public transport to get there and back or hope for a space near Holyrood Palace.

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**No one knows how Arthur’s Seat got its name. Some say it was the site of Camelot and home to King Arthur, while another version suggests the name derived from its Gallic title, Àrd-na-Said, meaning height of arrows. We prefer the old Celtic legend that says Arthur’s seat is a once terrifying dragon that ate too much and never woke up.**

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St Michael’s Way, St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

  • Total Distance: 12.5 miles
  • Time to Walk: 6 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Any
  • Difficulty: Easy/Medium

There’s so much to love about Cornwall, and the hike around St Michael’s Mount takes in some of our favourite parts. The star of the show is St Michael’s Mount, a rocky fairytale island home to a 12th-century medieval castle and church with coastal views back towards the Lizard Peninsula. The 12-mile day hike loosely follows the route taken by pilgrims and missionaries thousands of years ago as they crossed from Lelant near St Ives on the North Coast to Marazion on the South Coast culminating at St Michael’s Mount.

A one-way trip with clear signposts, the trail takes in Trencom Hill and jaw-dropping views over both coastlines before emerging into farmland, sub-tropical gardens and St Michael’s Mount. You’ll need to time your hike to the twice-daily low tide if you want to walk the causeway, but not to worry, there are plenty of passenger boats to ferry you over in the event of a miscalculation.

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**Try and make time to stop off at the nearby Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens on the hike. The 22-acre valley uses the backdrop of woods, streams and subtropical plants to showcase works of art and installations from big-name artists including James Turrell.**

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Glen Affric

Glen Affric

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Stonehenge

Stonehenge

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Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s Causeway

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Glen Affric, Loch Ness, Scotland

  • Total Distance: 9 miles
  • Time to Walk: 5 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer/Autumn
  • Difficulty: Medium
Loch Ness is simply huge: the largest body of water in the UK, it contains more water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. As you’d expect, there are dozens of hiking routes in the region, including the Great Glen Way which runs alongside Loch Ness on its way from Fort William to Inverness. But while Loch Ness might be the tourist hot spot, there are better hiking gems off the main trail including Glen Affric, commonly referred to as the ‘most beautiful glen in Scotland’.

If you were to imagine the archetypal Scottish glen, Affric would be it with snow-speckled mountains framed by the remains of the Caledonian Forest, all perfectly mirrored in the wonderfully calm and still Affric Loch. As well as one of the most serene and wild slices of nature in the UK, the hike takes you near the most remote Youth Hostel in the country at Alltbeithe, provides breathtaking views across to Loch Ness and – if you’re patient and quiet enough – you might even glimpse a herd of stags in the autumn or winter. The best place to park is the River Affric car park, but it can get very busy in peak summer months so come early if you can.
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**The first reported Nessie sighting was way back in A.D. 565 by St. Columba, while at the peak of Nessie’s popularity in the ‘60s, there were 20 recorded sightings a year.**

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Stonehenge, Wiltshire

  • Total Distance: 5 miles
  • Time to Walk: 2.5 hours
  • Best Time to Visit: Any
  • Difficulty: Easy

A truly iconic, world-famous location, Stonehenge still has the power to stop you in your tracks. A Neolithic burial place nearly 5,000 years old, the ring of standing stones remains one of the most mysterious and captivating sites in the UK and the most sophisticated ancient stone circle in the world. But how did they arrange the 83 stones in concentric circles, with the biggest weighing around 25 tonnes and originating over 140 miles away? Who did it? And why did they do it?

While we don’t have the answers to those questions, we can tell you about the best hiking route that not only takes in the Stonehenge World Heritage Site but also Durrington Walls, thought to be the largest village in Northern Europe from 2800 B.C. to 2100 B.C. with around 1,000 houses. The five-mile round trip from Woodhenge car park also takes you past Bronze Age barrows and along a disused WWI train track. It also leaves plenty of time to properly explore Stonehenge and ponder some of the site’s magic and mystery.

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Giant’s Causeway Coast Way, Northern Ireland

  • Total Distance: 33 miles
  • Time to Walk: 2 days
  • Best Time to Visit: Summer
  • Difficulty: Easy

While it remains your choice whether you want to believe the Giant’s Causeway was created by duelling giants either side of the Irish Sea or, more scientifically, that the World Heritage Site was the product of 40,000 rapidly cooling columns of lava 60 million years ago, we’re just here to urge you to make the journey to Northern Ireland and County Antrim to see for yourself along the Giant’s Causeway Coast Way.

During the 33-mile hike, you’ll come across big-sky terrain, wide sandy beaches that belie the 10°C water, near untouched fishing villages and dramatic shoreline cliffs descending almost vertically into the deep blue. The Giant’s Causeway appears roughly halfway around the two-day trail that starts at Portstewart and finishes at Ballycastle. There are plenty of shorter walks around the region as well, ranging from quick one-mile jaunts to the five-mile Cliff-top Experience which takes in the ruins of Dunseverick Castle and awe-inspiring views across to remote Scottish Islands.

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Hiking Guide: Stonehenge

FAQs

Q) How intensive is hiking as an exercise?

A) A leisurely stroll on flat, even ground at an average pace of two miles per hour will burn around 200 calories an hour. If you were climbing, you’d expect to burn around 450 calories per hour. The key is the intensity of the hiking – the more metres climbed, and the faster you push yourself, the more energy you’re going to burn.

Whether you’re climbing a Lake District mountain, rambling along the South West Coast Path or trekking along Hadrian’s Wall, you’ll need to stay hydrated and keep your energy levels up. Try to budget for one litre of water every two hours, especially for longer and harder hikes. Also take high-energy snacks with you, including nuts and dried fruit.

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Q) How long will my hike take?

A) A good average pace on flat ground is around two to three miles an hour. If you’re climbing, it’ll take approximately an hour to scale 300-metres. The more unsteady the terrain and the more altitude you have to cover, the slower your pace will be. More experienced hikers may be able to cover up to four miles an hour over flat terrain (and fell runners can even go up and down Ben Nevis in under two hours). The key is to know your own pace and budget your energy levels by keeping track of how far you’ve gone and how far is still left to go.

You can also choose to become a member of a charity. The RSPB is just one example. It’s the largest conservation charity in the UK, with projects and reserves spanning the nation and helping all kinds of wildlife, not just birds. Or, you can choose to adopt an animal with the Wildlife Trusts for a monthly fee that’ll help to support wildlife conservation work in the UK.

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Q) What can I do to avoid injury during hiking?

A) Walking and hiking are some of the best forms of low impact exercise, but there can be associated risks including twisting an ankle, sore feet and pulled muscles. To minimise these, make sure you’re prepared for the hike in advance by ensuring your hiking boots fit well and have been well-walked in. If you’re scrabbling up steep peaks in the Lake District or Snowdonia, walking poles might help with your balance, and hiking boots that cover the ankle will help protect sensitive joints (and prevent water seeping in over the top). Double-check the route is suitable for your fitness and experience levels, start off slowly to get your muscles warmed up, ensure that your rucksack isn’t too heavy and make sure your shoes or boots are properly tied and fit well – boots that are too loose or too tight could cause blisters.

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Q) What is the difference between hiking and trekking?

A) Hiking is generally considered more of a leisure activity covering popular trails and man-made paths taking a day or two. Trekking is a more challenging journey, covering adventurous ground and sometimes taking days or even weeks to finish. Either way, whatever you decide to call it, the aim for both is still the same – to get exercise, explore the countryside and have fun!

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Q) How can weather conditions affect hiking?

A) When the sun is shining and the miles fly by, hiking can seem pretty easy. But the unpredictable nature of UK weather means that the perfect hiking conditions probably won’t last for long. And when the weather does close in, bringing with it fog, rain, hail or snow, it can drastically affect hiking. The onset of fog might mean you can’t see further than five metres ahead, while a snow blizzard will bring the temperature right down and affect visibility. Equally, hiking in the middle of the summer brings its own potential problems including dehydration and sunburn.

Check the weather conditions before you set off. Also, pack enough clothing to adapt if the weather changes and even a temporary shelter if you’re hiking in a remote area that is known for bad weather.

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Q) Where can I find hiking routes near me?

A) As well as the dozens of tried-and-tested routes included in this guide, there are plenty of other organisations including the National Trust, The National Trail, Discover Britain and the Wildlife Trust who produce in-depth guides spanning the UK.

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