10 best walking holidays
Leave home behind and take on a multi-day walk
1. Coleridge Way (51 miles) - Best for… Literary landscapes
The Coleridge Way begins in the Quantocks village of Nether Stowey, once home to Samuel Taylor Coleridge. It finishes in Lynmouth, where the wilds of Exmoor meet the sea. In between it roams the hills, heath, moors and combes that inspired its namesake poet. It even visits Porlock, from where a ‘person on business’ famously interrupted him as he penned Kubla Khan. Coleridge himself was a keen hiker and once trekked from Nether Stowey to Porlock in just one day. Better to spread this trail over five or six, staying at remote villages en route.
2. Isle of Wight Coast Path (70 miles) - Best for… Making a circumnavigation
It’s a satisfying prospect indeed. In less than a week you can loop around an entire island. The Isle of Wight Coast Path sticks largely to the edges of this sunny, southern outpost. That includes walking via bird-flocked marshes, sandy beaches, plunging chines, rolling downs, chalk stacks, lighthouses and Queen Victoria’s Osborne House. Sail over by ferry or hovercraft and pick up the coast path at whichever port you dock. The going is gentle, the views varied, the atmosphere laidback. Good places to pause include the historic port of Yarmouth, genteel Ventnor and beautiful Freshwater Bay.
3. Norfolk Coast Path (84 miles) - Best for… Birds and beaches
If you love a long, invigorating walk, but aren’t fond of hills, this is the trail for you. The Norfolk Coast Path stays mostly at sea level, barely breaking 60m altitude. But it’s far from dull. It runs between Hunstanton and Hopton-on-Sea, visiting enormous beaches, small fishing quays, seaside towns and sweeping salt marshes. And it passes through numerous nature reserves that are rife with waders, raptors and seabirds. Spring and autumn are the best months for birds. Or wrap up and walk in winter, to spot low-season migrants and pupping seals.
4. White Peak Way (85 miles) - Best for… Looping a protected landscape
The wiggly White Peak Way was originally conceived to link youth hostels in the Peak District’s southern dales. That means it’s easy to plot a multi-day trip. Even though some hostels have since closed, you’ll find plenty of comely villages with welcoming B&Bs. The trail circuits a large chunk of the UK’s first national park, with Bakewell, Hathersage and Buxton all possible starting points. Wherever you begin, it’s a strenuous loop, crossing some rugged terrain, with almost 4,000m of ascent. But the payoffs are magnificent limestone valleys, striking ridges, wild moors and impressive human heritage, such as stately Chatsworth House.
5. Dales Way (78 miles) - Best for… Combining national parks
Winding northwest from Ilkley to Windermere, the Dales Way connects the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks. It’s a spectacular week’s walk, showcasing the best of northern England. That includes ruined Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire’s Three Peaks, Dent Head Viaduct and the handsome Howgill Fells. But despite the dramatic terrain in all directions, the Dales Way is relatively gentle, largely sticking to riverside paths. It also links a succession of charming villages, which offer cosy beds and hearty meals each night.
6. Hadrian’s Wall Path (84 miles) - Best for… Ancient history
Hadrian’s Wall has been spanning England for over 1,900 years. It’s northern Europe’s largest surviving Roman monument. Which means the National Trail running beside it offers both great hiking and great history. Along the way are impressive remnants of the wall, including milecastles, fortifications and fascinating museums. It traverses wonderfully wild countryside too, from the untamed escarpments of Northumberland to the salt marshes of the Cumbria coast. You can walk the well-marked path from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway over a week. It’ll feel like walking back centuries.
7. Ceredigion Coast Path (60 miles) - Best for… Quieter cliffs
Since the launch of the country’s 870-mile Coast Path in 2012, it’s been possible to walk all the way along the coast of Wales. But if you just want a gentle, week-long option, focus on the Ceredigion stretch. This trail begins in historic Cardigan and ends at Ynyslas, on the Dyfi estuary, looking up at Snowdonia’s mountains. It’s a total delight, tracing Cardigan Bay’s blonde sands, high cliffs and pretty fishing villages. Dolphins, seals and porpoises are regularly seen offshore. But despite its charms, this coastline is often overlooked, so you’re more than likely to have the route to yourself.
8. Snowdonia Slate Trail (83 miles) - Best for… Hills and heritage
This fascinating trail begins in coastal Bangor and loops though some of Snowdonia’s lesser-visited corners. En route it reveals the region’s rich heritage, transporting you back to when slate mining was the main industry here. Along with lakes, peaks and valleys, you’ll see deep pits, former quarries, old mills and mining villages. The trail often intersects with the narrow-gauge railways that thread Snowdonia’s mountains too. Listen out for puffing steam trains. Or hop aboard if you fancy a break.
9. Rob Roy Way (76 miles) - Best for… Ambling with outlaws
The Rob Roy Way treads in the footsteps of notorious outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor. In doing so, it reveals a handsome swathe of the southern Highlands. The going is moderate, with the route pursuing old tracks, riverbanks, loch edges and glens to link Drymen and Pitlochry. It enters Loch Ard forest, visits Callander, in Rob Roy’s old heartland, and passes the Falls of Dochart. It also winds via lochs, crannogs, ruined crofts, prehistoric stone circles and breathtaking mountains. A short detour towards Balquhidder and you can also visit Rob Roy’s Grave.
10. Arran Coastal Way (65 miles) - Best for… Scotland in miniature
Floating in the Firth of Clyde, Arran is a microcosm of Scotland. It has a bit of everything you want from the country. There are formidable peaks, thick forests, gusty shores, cultural festivals, red squirrels, red deer, even a whisky distillery. The Arran Coastal Way loops the lot, a varied route via 12 villages that all offer a warm Arranach welcome. Ride the scenic ferry from mainland Ardrossan to Brodick, Arran’s main hub, and make a circuit from there. The walking is mainly low-level, though there are some rugged sections. Walk clockwise for better sea views.
We’ve got ideas for hundreds more wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
All images © Getty
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