There’s nothing better than getting outdoors on a guided ramble of the great British countryside on foot – and with our diverse range of scenic routes, trails and guides, it has never been easier. From acres of glorious rural scenery, off-the-beaten track woodland walks, to coastal paths with views out to sea, Britain offers a tranquil escape for those dreaming of the great outdoors.
It seems we’ve all fallen in love with walking over lockdown, but now that we can roam further than just in our local area it’s time to start taking note of our fantastic national walking routes. From the coastal charms of the North Coast 500 in Scotland to the idyllic countryside and quaint villages of the Great West Way in England, it’s time to lace up those boots and make time to explore somewhere new. Take advantage of your increased fitness levels with our selection of guided walks from across the British Isles, guaranteed to put a renewed spring in your step!
This Channel island has a dazzling coastline – from long glittering beaches to secret rocky coves, Napoleonic forts and Second World War bunkers. The new Islands of Guernsey Way signposted trail can lead you round it all, as well as the smaller sister islands of Herm, Sark, Alderney and Lithou. The free app helps visitors find their own way around, featuring a comprehensive walking guide with maps and audio (a hard copy guide will be available to buy for those who prefer old school!). Each route will also detail timings, gradients and difficulty levels, as well as those all-important refreshment and loo stops. Dip in and out of the walks as you desire or go all out and do the lot, totalling over 50 miles (plus the odd ferry hop).
Love and appreciate works of art and beautiful things? Then you might enjoy the new Renoir Walk in Guernsey – an art trail following in the footsteps of the famous French impressionist, Pierre-Auguste Renoir showcasing how the island inspired some of the artist’s greatest works.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: Take a small rucksack and pack swimming cossies and towels for impromptu sea swims.
The Antrim Coast
The Antrim coastline packs in blockbuster sights – from the Glens of Antrim to the Carrick-a-Rede bridge and the spectacular hexagonal basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway. Exploring on foot is a good way to savour them properly. The new Walking the Antrim Way holiday from Headwater (headwater.com), with three days of self-guided walking, enables you to see them all, plus huge sandy shores, clifftops, castles and forest trails in between. All route maps are provided, as is a luggage forwarding service. Accommodation is in small B&Bs and the adventure finishes in Bushmills, where you can toast the end of your stay with a whiskey tasting at the famous distillery. Daily departures run until 3rd October.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: Game of Thrones fans can visit Ballintoy Harbour, near the Carrick-a-Rede Bridge – it appeared as the Iron Islands when Theon first returns home on his ship.
“I somehow feel more English for having seen those Dorset fields, surrounded by hedges basking in the sun”. So said Julian in Enid Blyton’s Five on Finniston Farm. The author holidayed for over 30 years in the Studland area, and it inspired much of her writing. The Carter Company (the-carter-company.com) have based their Enid Blyton’s Dorset walking and cycling tour around the places she loved. Set off on adventures on foot or by bike – maps and lunch (don’t forget the ginger beer) packed into your rucksack. Cycle traffic free forest trails to Corfe Castle, thought to be the inspiration for Kirrin Castle, walk the Jurassic coastline to picture perfect Lulworth Cove and Stair Hole, which featured in the stories, and hop on a boat to Brownsea Island, aka Whispering Island.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: If you have the enthusiasm but not the energy of the Famous Five, an electric bike is an option.
England Coast to Coast
Experienced hiker? Then the 182-mile England Coast-to-Coast trail could be your most exhilarating challenge yet. This guided trip, from newly formed Wilderness England (wildernessengland.com) from the same team as Wildnerness Scotland, starts on the coast at St Bees in Cumbria and finishes at Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire. In between, you’ll walk up hill and down dale through no less than three National Parks – the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Expect eye popping scenery -and some fascinating lessons in everything from medieval history to local romantic poets like Wordsworth and Coleridge from your expert guide.
You could do your research first looking online at England’s Coast who have just launched an interactive map planner (englandscoast.com/en/create-itinerary). Everything – food, snacks, water and cosy accommodation- is included on this hike, so you can concentrate on enjoying yourself. The trip runs on several dates between now and mid-September.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: It’s good to do this with a guide to avoid having to map read as it’s not the best marked trail, although good progress is being made!
Follow the campaign hashtag #WalkTasteExplore to join an English walking adventure as part of a new national campaign from sleeping under the stars near the Pennine Way to following in the footsteps of Romans along Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Five hours on the ferry from Scotland’s north east coast carries you to the far flung Outer Hebrides. These islands have their own special feel, with bleached white beaches lapped by the wild Atlantic, a land dotted with mountains and moorland and a gaelic culture all their own. Macs Adventure’s Outer Hebrides Island Hopscotch (macsadventure.com) is an easy breezy ‘drive and hike’ self-guided trip around five of the them. Short daily walks (maximum seven miles) leave time for feasting on the heavenly local seafood and for sightseeing.
Visit an eagle observatory, a whisky distillery, the showstopping beach of Luskentyre and prehistoric ruins including the world-famous Standing Stones of Callanish (older than Stonehenge) and the Bosta Iron Age house. Even the ferry trips between the islands are an adventure… This trip is available now until October.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: Treat yourself to a Harris Tweed jacket, woven by hand on the island of Harris.
The new Seascapes of North Norfolk itinerary from Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk) uncovers this unique coastline. The walks are self-guided and gentle (maximum seven miles), with some circular routes, meaning that you stay in just three excellent pubs and hotels over the course of the six nights. When it comes to scenery there’s plenty of variety – vast beaches and dunes, marshland nature reserves, cute flint and brick villages and historic country estates. The flatness of the coastline means the skies (as well as sunrises and sunsets) are always huge – don’t forget your camera. A transfer is included from Kings Lynn station, which means you can leave your car at home.
You might choose to extend your holiday by booking a stay with Barefoot Retreats (barefootretreats.co.uk), a holiday cottage rental agency with some of the finest luxury holiday cottages (and self-catering holiday homes) in North Norfolk.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: Take binoculars to appreciate up close the huge variety of bird and wildlife enroute.
Don’t miss the new aerial walkway opening at Aira Force, Cumbria later this summer, to experience its waterfall from a new dramatic steel platform. “This innovation will recreate the drama that Victorian thrill-seekers sought here” says Project Manger Charlotte Fuke.
Walk the Lake District
The Borrowdale Valley makes a perfect base for exploring the beautiful Northern Lake District. On Explore’s (explore.co.uk) small group walking holiday you’ll stay at a comfortable three-star hotel and stride out on six days of spectacular walks. These begin with Cat Bells, the perfect first day fell – not too arduous, with just one steep but short scramble to the top.
The reward is 360-degree views over Derwentwater and the surrounding fells. That should give an appetite for further forays, including Haystacks (favourite of Alfred Wainwright – author of the famous guides to the fells – and where his ashes were scattered). Toughest of the walks is a seven hour schlep up Scafell Pike, England’s highest peak at 978 metres. It’s no Everest but most walkers feel proud to have conquered it! The walks run from April-October.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: Train hill walking muscles on that StairMaster at the gym – or your stairs at home will do.
Gower Coast Path
This wild part of the Welsh coastline is less well known than Pembrokeshire, yet its magnificent beaches are regularly voted amongst the best in the world. Celtic Trails (celtictrailswalkingholidays.co.uk) invigorating 43-mile route can be covered in five or six days (depending on preference) with stays at guesthouses and B&Bs along the way and your luggage sent ahead of you. Highlights include Three Cliffs Bay, with its limestone cliffs and vast swathes of caramel coloured sand and the giant curve of Rhossili Bay, which includes the wreck of the Helvetia Viking ship on the shore. The path snakes slightly inland in places, past dunes and through marshland and forest. The Gower Coast Path itinerary is available between March and October.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, which could include kestrels, herons and seals plus all sorts of birds and butterflies.
The Great Glen Way
Take a highland fling following the route of the Caledonian Canal from Scotland’s west coast at Fort William, to the east at Inverness with HF Holidays (hfholidays.co.uk). It’s not all tow paths – on this seven day guided walk you’ll follow forest trails and skim the shores of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness (from where, if the group takes the high route, the views are sublime). You’ll see Neptune’s Staircase, with its eight ‘climbing’ locks, enjoy views of Ben Nevis and visit a floating pub. After skirting a river that feeds Loch Ness you’ll see Nessie herself (just kidding – but please let us know if you do!) Accommodation is in two hotels, both with indoor pools – great for easing tired muscles after a day on your feet. The Great Glen Way Guided Trail is from 18th-25th September.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: This is a ‘moderate’ level trip, so only book if you are fit to cope with some ascents and six-seven hours of walking per day.
If just a long weekend of walks is appealing, Foot Trails’ (foottrails.co.uk) Taste of the Cotswolds package should suit. You will be based in an 18th century inn, celebrated for its excellent food, and head out each day on a self-guided trail. The team tailor-make a trip to suit your interests – and you can include rest days and change distances if you prefer. A typical itinerary might include 7.5 to 10 miles of daily walks, with a mix of villages and scenery, steering away from crowded ‘honeypot’ villages. Instead, discover quiet lanes, achingly pretty cottages, tinkling streams and rivers, maybe even a Roman villa. After a two to three hour morning walk, there’s time to enjoy a slap up pub lunch before another couple of hours on foot.
→ British Travel Journal Top Tip: The Cotswolds is not just about the villages. Check out stunning Cirencester, once the second biggest city in Roman Britain.
Walking Events in 2021
Ultra Challenge – Walk
25, 50 or 100km to raise money for your chosen charity, at events all over England. Challenges in the next few months include the Peak District, Yorkshire, South West and Thames Path.
White Cliffs Walking Festival
26-31 August A choice of walks of varying length each day over the coast and downs in East Sussex
Trekfest – The Beacons
18 September Choose from a 25 or 50km walk over stunning but challenging terrain to raise money for your favourite charity
Mighty Hikes Macmillan
Lots of walking marathons between now and September in locations around the UK. Participants pledge to raise a minimum £250 through sponsorship.
Dartmoor Walking Festival
29 August-5 September Around four events a day, including ranger led walks, archaeological visits and evening walks and talks. The festival will raise money for Devon Air Ambulance.
Words | Emma O’Reilly
* LEAD IMAGE CHERHILL DOWNS © JON ATTENBOROUGH PHOTOGRAPHY/GREAT WEST WAY