Where to go for UK Walks
Many areas without guidebook defined boundaries offer the adventurous hiker inspiring walks.
However, those taking a book along with them will find that the UK’s National Parks, ‘Designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty‘, ‘National Scenic Areas‘ combined with several long distance National Trails offer comprehensive coverage of the best places and are usually worthy of their status.
Public Rights of Way
These are paths accessible to people not on motor vehicles. There are thousands of miles of right of way in the UK for foot, horseback or bike.
World Natural Heritage Sites
‘Protecting natural and cultural properties of outstanding universal value against the threat of damage in a rapidly developing world’.
e. g. the ‘Jurassic Coast’ in Devon and Dorset – one of the oldest coastlines in the world, stretching 95 miles from Orcombe Point in Devon and ending at Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, it encompasses over 185 million years of geological and fossil records. The United Nations have described it as ‘an outstanding example, representing a major stage of earth’s history and the record of life’.
Most of this coast is part of the South West Coast Path National (walking) Trail.
The most scenically interesting areas include the fossil centre of Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach (though very tough walking), Portland Bill, Durdle Door, Lulworth Cove, Kimmeridge Bay, Dancing Ledge and Old Harry Rocks. See Dorset’s South West Coast Path pictures.
National Parks in England
These are usually large protected areas, well organised and catering efficiently (signage, path maintenance etc. ) for all levels of walkers.
Lake District in Cumbria, England
Glenridding in the Lake District of Cumbria. Photo by Diliff
885 square miles of steep but rounded mountains of well watered green flora surrounding a cluster of lakes in Cumbria, a hill walker’s paradise.
UK Walks: 1, 799 miles of public rights of way, from easy valley trails to steep, precarious treks. The highest peak is Scaffel Pike at 3209 ft. Buttermere is perhaps the most beautiful and tranquil lake for a base at which to stay.
Climbing: many demanding peaks and crags, topped by Pillar Rock and Scaffel Crag.
Watersports: various watersports on Windermere, Coniston, Derwent Water, Ullswater and Bassenthwaite lakes, but water skiing is only allowed at Windermere, the largest lake in England.
Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, England
683 square miles of gently rolling landscape with dry stone walls, high granite hills and limestone cliffs.
Walking: lots of potential but make sure to visit the old waterfall of Mallam Cove and perhaps some large caves like the Ingleborough Cave, White Scar Caves, and the Stump Cross Caverns.
Climbing: quite a few gritstone crags such as Caley and Almscliff and limestone scars such as the popular Mallam as well as the Twistleton Scars, Giggleswick, and the Gordale and Kilnsey Crags.
Caving: extensive limestone cave systems including Alum Pot, Gaping Gill, Mossdale Caverns, and the Kingsdale Master System.
North York Moors in North Yorkshire
Cleveland Way on the North Yorkshire Moors. Photo by Kreuzschnabel.
554 square miles which includes the largest heath moorland in the UK and also the largest natural woodland areas of all the national parks. Some parts are like the Yorkshire Dales – created by generations of sheep farming.
Walking: 1, 000 miles of rights of way including the 108 mile Cleveland Way National Trail.
Biking: Ideal for mountain biking, for example the Whitby to Scarborough Trailway, 20 miles along the edge of the North York Moors National Park, is one of the most spectacular routes. You may be able to travel with bikes on the North York Moors steam railway.
Peak District, Derbyshire
Part of a Pennine Way footpath, Derbyshire
555 square miles of dry stone wall patchwork, narrow winding lanes, and quaintly bleak rolling hills and valleys.
Walking: 1, 479 miles of public rights of way, especially on the well-orgainsed Pennine Way.
Climbing: very popular region with numerous gritstone crags.
The Norfolk Broads in Norfolk and Suffolk (not far from London)
117 square miles, the largest wetland area in the UK on the coast of Norfolk. Consisting of 124 miles of waterway including 5 lowland rivers, 40 shallow broads plus marshes and fens along with wooded areas. The broads are the result of hundreds of years of digging up peat for fuel.
Walking: 193 miles of paths. Generally flat and easy traversing all manner of waterways and their wildlife, through many villages with many pubs. Long walks include the Weaver’s Way and Angles Way.
Biking: easy going riding through country lanes or along rights of way where permitted. There are 12 bike hire places at moorings for boaters.
Watersports: canoeing allows access to the more sensitive areas of the broads.
Boating: cruisers and houseboats are available for voages along the larger waterways.
Birdwatching: excellent region for watching migrating wetland birds.
Fine Parks for hiking in Wales
Wales is darkly magnificent and full of lush slopes, bug-eyed sheep, babbling brooks, brooding peaks, spooky woods, calm lakes and cosy little pubs. Some of the best spots are:
Snowdonia in North Wales
Crib Gock in Snowdonia, Wales. Photo by diliff.
827 square miles of dark and dramatic mountain hikes, including Mt. Snowdon, with a peak at 3560 ft.
Walking & Hiking: 1, 739 miles of paths with lots of ups and downs, lakes, rivers, bogs and pubs.
Climbing: lots of mountainous crags, especially Mt. Snowden itself, the second highest mountain in the UK. Plus winter mountaineering.
Pembrokeshire Coast in South Wales
240 square miles of unspoilt coastline. The Gower Peninsula is here.
Walking: 500 miles of rights of way including the 186 mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail.
Brecon Beacons in South Wales
The Brecon Beacons in Wales. Photo by SNappa.
519 square miles of scenic, moderately mountainous highlands.
Walking and Hiking: 1, 242 miles of paths.
Climbing: lots of crags and disused quarries.