10 gentle walks for all abilities

Easy strolls with something for everyone to enjoy

Loch an Eilein, Inverness-shire - Best for… rare wildlife 

You don’t need to trek remote wilderness to encounter wonderful creatures. On Rothiemurcus estate, in Cairngorms National Park, you can spot rare birds and other animals on an easy 3.4-mile circuit. Loch an Eilein is famed for views across its mirror-like waters to a ruined castle on a lake island. But the ancient woods lining its shores are also rich in natural wonders. Watch for red squirrels, ospreys, crested tits and Scottish crossbills, the UK’s only endemic species, found nowhere else on Earth. A level path leading from the carpark completes a loop around the entire lake. 

Cairngorms routes


Harpley Common Barrows, Norfolk - Best for… Bronze Age monuments  

Norfolk may be famously flat, but that doesn’t mean it’s not packed with rich history and fascinating places to explore. This 4.6-mile circular ramble delves into shady woodland to visit round barrows (Bronze Age burial mounds) dating back some 3,000 years. And it also follows some of the Roman road that now forms the Peddars Way national trail. This distinctively straight route crossed ancient heathland and commons to link Suffolk with the North Norfolk coast. 

Harpley Common Barrows route


Whitby, North Yorkshire - Best for… Gothic grandeur and drama 

No wonder Bram Stoker set part of his novel Dracula in Whitby. It’s custom-made for a Gothic story, its charming harbour guarded by the skeletal remains of a ruined abbey. That’s the start point for a dramatic 2.7-mile circuit, avoiding the steep steps leading down to the old town. Descend south alongside Donkey Field, providing fabulous views across the harbour. Cut through farmland to reach Saltwick Bay, looking out across rock platforms left by cliff collapses. Trace the Cleveland Way along the cliffs back to the brooding 12th-century abbey ruins. 

Whitby Walking route

whitby gentle walks


Bourton-on-the-Water, Glos - Best for… stream-side strolls 

This pretty golden-stone village is surrounded by lovely rolling landscapes studded with natural and historic sights. Link some of the waymarked long-distance trails converging here for a wonderful 4.6-mile loop walk. Set out from the central carpark, strolling alongside a stream. Follow the Monarch’s Way to the hamlet of Lower Slaughter, where limestone cottages and the Old Mill flank the Eye rivulet. Amble back through the town’s side streets to reach Greystones Farm Nature Reserve and the Iron Age fort at Salmonsbury. There’s plenty to enjoy back in Bourton, including the model village at the Old New Inn and countless tempting cafés and pubs. 

Bourton on and off the water route


Newport Wetlands, Gwent - Best for… bustling birdlife  

A favourite with families and keen birders alike, this RSPB-managed site is laced with paths perfect for leisurely nature walks. Combine sections of four colour-coded trails to encounter sculptures, Severn Estuary views, reedbeds and woodland on a 2.4-mile circuit. Watch for diverse birds including egrets and dunlins on the marshy wetlands, and bearded tits clinging to reeds. It’s a delight year-round, with blooming orchids and dazzling dragonflies in summer, and starling murmurations in winter. And with flat, well-made routes, plus a café, toilets and a picnic area, it’s great for kids, too. 

Newport Wetlands route


Greenwich, London - Best for… city spectacles  

There’s history galore on a 4-mile wander around one of south-east London’s greenest districts. You’ll also enjoy wonderful views across the capital from its highest point.  Starting from Island Gardens DLR, burrow beneath the Thames along the Greenwich Foot Tunnel, opening in 1902. Admire the wonderful Cutty Sark and browse the markets and cafés. Then amble up through Greenwich Park to the old Royal Observatory for astronomical heritage and far-reaching vistas. Return to the river via Sir Christopher Wren’s magnificent hospital for retired seamen and the National Maritime Museum.  Beware the climbs are steep in places but they reward with their views. 

Greenwich route


Camel Trail, Cornwall - Best for… rail-trail rambling 

The closure of smaller railway lines in the 1960s had one silver lining for walkers and cyclists. Many have now been converted to level, well-surfaced routes. One such path is the Camel Trail, meandering 18 miles between Padstow and the foot of Bodmin Moor at Wenfordbridge. A particularly lovely section is the 5-mile stretch from Wadebridge to Boscarne Junction on the outskirts of Bodmin. Pass bird-rich wetlands, otter-splashed waters, lush woods, disused stations and one of England’s finest wineries. Ride a steam train on the Bodmin Railway at the end or catch one of the regular buses back to Wadebridge. 

Camel trail route

camel trail gentle walk


Falls of Clyde, Lanarkshire - Best for… crashing cascades 

A stroll of under 4 miles ventures from New Lanark’s 18th-century World Heritage mill village into a lush natural realm. This is the Falls of Clyde Wildlife Reserve, a magical valley lined with ancient trees and home to diverse wildlife. Some of its woodland paths can be slippery after rain but are mostly easy to tackle. Your efforts are rewarding with views of dramatic waterfalls, and perhaps glimpses of dippers, kingfishers, ravens and wildflowers. Come early morning or evening for possible sightings of otters or badgers. 

Lanark routes


Lake Vyrnwy, Powys - Best for… dam fine ambling 

Towards the end of the 19th century, Britain’s first large stone dam was built to flood the Vyrnwy valley. The resulting reservoir is the centrepiece of an RSPB nature reserve surrounded by forests and lovely heather moorland. Several colour-coded paths roam the woods and shore, passing hides for spotting peregrine falcons, redstarts and pied flycatchers. The 5-mile Purple Trail explores the northern hillsides. Admire wooden sculptures and fine views towards the dam and Rhiwargor Waterfall. There’s a short climb from Pont Ty-uchaf, though it can be avoided by returning along the shore. 

Powys routes


Buttermere, Cumbria - Best for… Lake District loveliness 

High fells tower over this gorgeous tarn. Fortunately, you needn’t summit them to enjoy some of the Lake District’s most spectacular views. The 4-mile circuit of Buttermere is almost entirely flat, with just a few rockier sections to keep you on your toes. Except in the worst weather, it’s achievable by all the family. And it’s easy to add on a little extension to Buttermere village where you’ll find food, drink, toilets and parking. High drama without the drama!   

Buttermere route

All images © Getty

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