Walks through time

From ancient drover roads and Iron Age hillforts, to trees said to have captured the souls of Viking soldiers and rocks that lead to the world of pixies, these 10 walks take you back in time.

Words by Phoebe Smith 

A person on a beach dwarfed by a large cave

Heritage Coast, Glamorgan

About

This area has been inhabited by humans for over 2,000 years, but fossils that you will find littering the beach (especially at the Triassic limestone cliffs around Southerndown, at the western end of the trail) point to a much older history. Stand at Nash Point to learn about the sinking of the paddle steamer Frolic in 1831 that caused the lighthouse that stands here today to be built. And pass Atlantic College, near Llantwit Major, where the first designs for a rigid hull inflatable lifeboat were produced. And you can watch the sunset at Rhoose Point, arguably the most southerly spot in Wales.

Walk it

The Glamorgan Heritage Coast runs between Ogmore by the Sea and St Athan, and is signposted. 

Find out more

visitthevale.com

An area of medium sized stones

Yr Eifl, Snowdonia

About

At the entrance to the Llŷn Peninsula is this group of three hills, Yr Eifl (from the Welsh word for forks: geifl). It is home to Tre’r Ceiri – ‘Town of the Giants’– one of Britain’s best-preserved Iron Age hillforts, full of the remains of roundhouses, ramparts and gateways. 

Walk it

From Porth-y-Nant car park, above Nant Gwrtheyr, a Welsh language and heritage centre, head up to Bwlch yr Eifl – the col between the first two tops. Take the faint path up to the summit of Carn Ganol for an overview of the hillfort, before descending to the start of Tre’r Ceiri’s ancient site.

Find out more

coflein.gov.uk/en/site/95292e

A person wearing a bobble hat, looking out at a view over fields and hills

Bennachie, Aberdeenshire 

About

Now a peaceful place offering wildlife walks and strolls among trees, the Bennachie hill and forest area was quite probably the scene of battles between the Pictish people, who built a fort on the rising ground of Mither Tap, and invading Vikings, Angles and Romans. But there was another battle on its slopes in the wake of the Highland Clearances, when a group of displaced crofters – taking advantage of its undefined boundaries – lived there rent free from 1801 to 1859.

Walk it

From the car park at the visitor centre, follow signs for the Colony Trail to spy remains of the rebellious community.

Find out more

forestryandland.gov.scot/visit/bennachie-visitor-centre

A pile of very large stones in a landscape

Sheeps Tor, Devon 

About

Take a look at the Ordnance Survey map for this area (Explorer OL28), then look again – closely. You’ll notice an intriguing feature pinpointed on the southern side of this Dartmoor tor. It clearly states ‘Piskies or Pixies House’. The home in question is actually two slabs of granite that have fallen and landed in such a way as to create an inner cavern large enough to squeeze in an adult human (and probably many more pixies). If you visit, it’s said you need to leave behind an offering – such as a feather, leaf or stone – lest the residents come home with you and disturb your sleep.

Walk it

The car parks by Burrator Reservoir offer easy access to Sheeps Tor, where you can scour the rocks to find the hidden house.

Find out more

torsofdartmoor.co.uk

A white stone horse cut in a grass hill

White Horse Hill, Oxfordshire

About

The Ridgeway has been trodden since prehistoric times by drovers, those marching to war and, nowadays, hikers. One of the most rewarding stretches can be found in Uffington where a terrific example of chalk art can be seen in the form of a huge white horse, believed to have been carved during the Bronze Age. Alongside it is the dry valley cleaved by permafrost during the last Ice Age – called the Manger. Then there’s Dragon Hill where St George is said to have slain the dragon. And there’s also the Iron Age hillfort that offers views across six (forgive the pun) neigh-bouring counties.

Walk it

 Begin at the National Trust car park, where the well-signposted trail will lead you onto the Ridgeway for views of the white equine.

Find out more

nationaltrust.org.uk

A large hill in the distance

Chrome Hill, Derbyshire

About

At first sight of this White Peak hillock (which sits roughly halfway between Macclesfield and Bakewell, rising distinctly but modestly above the surrounding farmland), it’s pretty difficult to believe that around 340 million years ago it was actually beneath the sea. But this limestone protrusion is a former coral reef, one that would have edged a shallow lagoon during the Carboniferous era. And, as you wander its slopes, checking out its nooks and crannies, suddenly the idea of saltwater life hiding within its crevices isn’t so far-fetched at all.

Walk it

Parking is available in Hollinsclough, from where a series of footpaths take you to the base of Chrome Hill and equally as shapely Parkhouse Hill – explore both and you’ll also be celebrating the history of the CRoW Act – as pre-2000 both were on private land. 

Find out more

visitpeakdistrict.com

A person walking past a cave opening

Castle Crag, Cumbria

About

While most of us would plan to relocate to the Lake District by investigating houses for sale, Millican Dalton decided to make the move a little differently. In the early 1900s, he gave up a good job and house in London to live in the Lake District, at first camping there during the summer, and later living in a cave found on the lower flanks of this Lakeland fell. He used it as his base as self-styled Professor of Adventure, and from it would lead walkers and climbers into his beloved surrounds. Until the very end of his life, he remained wedded to the outdoors, only moving into 
a hut during cold winters. He died aged 79 in 1947.

Walk it

Follow the Cumbria Way from Rosthwaite into High Hows Wood. The cave is marked on the OS Explorer OL4 map. 

Find out more

keswick.org

A sculpture of a man coming from a brick wall

Parkland Walk, London

About

When most people think of England’s capital city, they might picture tourist attractions, shops and theatres, but head north to Finsbury Park station and there’s a rather unexpected walking wonder. The Parkland Walk is London’s longest linear nature reserve. It follows a now-defunct railway line that ran between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace. Even now, while wandering amid the wildflowers and spotting muntjac deer, birds and butterflies, you’ll see remains of a former Crouch End station platform and old tunnel archways where the curious Spriggan sculpture (pictured) resides.

Walk it

Starting at Finsbury Park station, follow signs for Parkland Walk, funnelling along as trains used to, all the way to Highgate station.

Find out more

parkland-walk.org.uk

An old tree with branches that reach over and down to the ground

Kingley Vale, West Sussex 

About

A short hop north from the cathedral city of Chichester brings you to the nature reserve at Kingley Vale. Here rise the chalk slopes of Bow Hill – itself home to a series of four Bronze Age barrows, aka the Devil’s Humps, which legend says contain the remains of Viking leaders vanquished by locals. But more captivating still is the woodland that coats its slopes and surrounds its summit. Not only does it contain some of the oldest trees in Britain, but the area is also said to be inhabited by the spirits of the Viking soldiers who roam the forest when night falls. 

Walk it

The nature reserve car park is the perfect starting point, from where a footpath can be followed to find the ancient yew trees. 

Find out more

southdowns.gov.uk

Ruins of a building

Castle Acre, Norfolk

About

Unless you’ve walked the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, you may not have heard of this Norfolk village. Yet it is home to one of the best examples of a motte and  bailey castle and Norman earthworks in the country. Entry is free, allowing you to wander amid the impressive ramparts, imagining it in all its glory, following its construction shortly after the Battle of Hastings. But the beautiful architectural examples don’t end there – just a stone’s throw away are the ruins of a Cluniac priory from 1090, and, though not intact, it still sports some elaborate decoration. The Peddars Way itself has been used for many centuries as a route to move cattle and goods.

Walk it

Start in the village of Castle Acre. From there a circular stroll can easily be undertaken using a section of the Peddars Way and Nar Valley Way.

Find out more

english-heritage.org.uk