Jennifer Gant | 7th September, 2021
The best hikes in the UK are a contentious matter, but let me start by saying, you don’t need to be any kind of hiking enthusiast or Bear Grylls wannabe or even consider yourself someone whose hobbies include weekend trekking or reading National Geographic from cover-to-cover. Most, if not all, of the hikes I’ve discovered across the UK could be conquered by the everyday inquisitor. All you need to know is where to start and where to end...you're all set!
"I don't claim to be particularly adventurous, just curious...."
Who am I, and what makes me an expert? Well, I am not an expert…I am an expat from the southeast coast of Australia and I don't claim to be particularly adventurous, just curious. I joined the team here at A&E Agency when I landed in the UK back in February of 2019, predominantly for career aspirations and to do a whoooole-lotta travel around the Northern Hemisphere. As fate would have it, the events of 2020 somewhat imposed on plans to tour anywhere outside of this ancient little island and the stunning sovereign nation that calls itself the United Kingdom.
Hence, I have spent the last 18 months filling my diary on the pursuit of a different perspective, only to discover the almost unfathomable scenery and rugged wonders of the UK, from famous walks in the Scottish Highlands to hidden gems and some personal favourites just a hop and a skip from ye olde London town. So, if you’re looking for some unreal places to visit in the UK - from intrepid trails to gentle jaunts, look no further. Here are some UK classics and my top picks for you.
1. Kinder Scout: Peak District National Park, England
A stunning peak with multiple walking routes through the one-of-kind Peak District National Park. A quick Google search and you can find loads of detailed walking routes around Kinder Scout. Some of which can be moderately challenging, but all with impressive scenery both on the way up and down, and some of the most spectacular views I’ve ever witnessed at the summit. IMO you could probably take on the Peak District just about any time of year. I ventured up there in April 2021 and the conditions were sunny and crisp and utterly perfect for the 10.75-mile (17.3km) circular path which I rambled across. Kinder Scout does not qualify as a mountain, it’s simply not tall enough, but despite this, the terrain and sweeping views would suggest otherwise. Check the forecast before you set off and for this one, make sure you have the right clothing and walking shoes and pack plenty of snacks and water because you will want to stop at every breath-taking bend. With so many walking routes it’s easy to pick a path that suits yourself or your family. The Peak District region also offers superb countryside accommodation and plenty of local pubs and restaurants to remedy your post-hike appetite. We nestled in an Airbnb in the Spa Town of Buxton and stopped off in Bakewell to try their local tart *iconic* and took a quick drive-by Chatsworth House for good measure.
2. Seven Sisters Cliffs: Seaford to Eastbourne, England
The cliffs of Dover might be England’s most famous cliffs, but the Seven Sisters are (in my humble extraneous opinion) so much more beautiful. The Seven Sisters are a series of chalk cliffs stretching from Cuckmere Haven to Birling Gap in East Sussex, England. These white cliffs along the English Channel are one of Southern England’s most striking landscapes. Topped with a carpet of green grass, the brilliant white cliffs plunge dramatically into the cerulean sea.
The best way to experience the Seven Sisters cliffs is by walking the coastal trail from Seaford to Eastbourne which is super easy to access via the train stations. The 14 miles (22.5km) Seven Sisters walk is easy technically, though moderate due to the distance and the rolling ascents and descents over the Cliffs. I have in fact now wandered this walk three times over, and each time is as spectacular as the next. My recommendation - sourcing a fish-and-chip spread from a local chippy in Eastbourne and resting on the rolling hills above the shoreline taking in your almost certain sense of accomplishment after conquering the Seven Sisters.
3. Land’s End: Cornwall, England
Land’s End…It’s all in the name! This iconic coastline is mainland Britain’s most south-westerly point and one of the country’s most famous landmarks. A legendary Cornish destination which I’ve learned has many colourful chapters in history and some mythical tales inspired from ancient Greek times when it was referred to as Belerion – ‘Place of the Sun’. Land’s End is a spectacular headland, and a must-do on a visit to Cornwall. This part of the rocky coast with its granite, wave-battered cliffs juts proudly out over the Atlantic Ocean and rules the west. I was lucky to arrive here on a clear, sunny day in the summer of 2020 and got to witness the most vibrant views out to the famous Longships Lighthouse and endless cliffs with sapphire blue ocean swirling beneath. If I squinted, I could even glimpse the Isles of Scilly. The promenade around this cliffy coastline is a breeze…the weariest of wonderers could take it on. There is a clearly defined path, and it will take you less than an hour to amble across…unless you’re snapping pics with a wide-open gob at every corner, cove, and peak. Caution: extremely hard to resist with such a dreamy backdrop. Greek Mythology innit...
4. Snowdon Mountain: Snowdonia, Wales
There’s something so wild and medieval about the Snowdonia landscape, with soaring, sharp and magnificent peaks rising up high above the deep valleys. Ancient and slate scarred villages scatter the region and are excellent bases for exploring or just relaxing and enjoying the views. Wales is undeniably a prehistoric land of contrasts and timeless beauty. Then there’s Yr Wyddfa (which I have no idea how to pronounce…in English – Snowdon Mountain. The 1,085 metre (3,560 feet) peak makes it the country’s tallest mountain and when you get there you will see just how much it dominates the skyline of North West Wales. Now, this is where I address anyone still reading who may not be a keen hiker in the slightest but has read enough to want to add some of these scenic destinations onto your UK bucket list. Well, guess what guys - you can take the Snowdon Mountain Railway all the way to the top. How brill is that! Or, you can do what I did and decide on a semi-challenging 6-8 hour hike, with little shelter from the elements. Unfortunately, weather doesn’t always permit this iconic trek. It is often foggy and drizzly, and the winds can be lashing. On a clear-ish day though - O.M.G. Remarkable. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. I accomplished Snowdon in early September 2020. It wasn’t the clearest day, but I made it to the summit where it was about -2 degrees Celsius, but it was so worth it. Adventure Smart UK has plenty of advice on how to ‘make a good day better’, and we recommend you read it before planning your days out in Snowdonia.
5. Scafell Pike: Lake District, England
There are several ways to reach Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England, but whichever way you go up, reaching the summit is accurately an unforgettable experience – I mean, you’re standing on top of England. There are several ways to reach Scafell Pike. You’ll likely cross paths with the horde of walkers leaving Wasdale, in the western part of the Lake District, heading for the shortest route to the top. I’m here to tell you about the path less travelled to reach the 977 metre-high summit. If you don’t want to follow a line of other people, start from the more scenic and less crowded north side, beginning in Seathwaite (or Borrowdale for a longer hike). Known as the “Corridor Route”. This 9-mile (14.48km) trail winds through the valley beneath rocky walls and crossing ravines before you reach Scafell Pike’s summit boulder field. I don’t believe anyone would argue with me (outsider and all) that the Lake District is where you will see some of, if not the most scenic hinterlands in the UK, in every single direction. To cover off this region in all its glory in one short paragraph would be impossible. If you’re interested in more walks in this region and the best places to go when you’re there, here’s a good list I stumbled across in my seek to the peak.
6. Ben Nevis: Fort William, Scotland
Scotland's landscape is scattered with Munros and mist-shrouded hills...but Ben Nevis is simply the king of them all. In the north west Highlands, near the town of Fort William and part of the Grampian Mountain range, the famous peak is well worth a visit to the Scottish Highlands. Honestly, whether you're an avid ambler or you just want to see one of the most beautiful sights the UK has to offer, bagging 'the Ben' 100% needs to feature on your Scottish bucket list. An ancient giant of the land, Ben Nevis was once a massive active volcano that exploded and collapsed inwards on itself millions of years ago. At the summit, there is evidence of an explosion in the form of light-coloured granite. The name itself has two translations from the ancient Gaelic language, meaning 'mountain with its head in the clouds', thanks to its iconic mist-shrouded peak, or it can also mean 'venomous mountain' – you can decide which translation you prefer after the climb. Recommend 👏🏼 recommend 👏🏼 recommend 👏🏼
7. Five Hundred Acre Circular: East Sussex, England
The Five Hundred Acre Circular is a circa 5 miles (8.04km) loop trail located near Hartfield, East Sussex. The best part about this hiking path is that you extend it and trek through the mossy green forest and out across enormous paddocks teeming with local nature and livestock. Ashdown forest is also known as the very real place where Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh, arguably the most famous bear in the world, and their friends grew up together. This walk also explores some of the places of their best-known exploits. For a mid-way graze, forage your way to the Anchor Inn - a traditional British pub located in the heart of Ashdown forest.
8. Port Meadow: Oxfordshire, England
*Siiiigh* A stroll through Port Meadow is straight out of a storybook. The one’s we were read to as children growing up, about an imaginary faraway land that was England. It’s not imaginary though, it is very real place and it is very much worth a visit. When you walk down the Thames Path from Godstow lock towards Oxford, you will run into Port Meadow. In the spring and mid-summer, it is a sea of buttercups; in the autumn the trees will glow every single shade of brown, orange, honey and gold; and in the winter the area will be inundated with the natural flora and fauna. But the best part - the pub you will find amongst the enchanted woods. The Perch is a thatched 17th-century country inn with a massive beer garden draped with willow trees that will charm even the most seasoned pub-goers. It’s one of Oxford’s oldest pubs and you can’t miss it on this walk – Oxford’s iconic stretch of the river Thames from Jericho to Wolvercote and straight through the prettiest meadow I ever did see. It’s a fairy-tale. Just trust me on this one.
9. Chess Valley River Walk: Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire, England
This stunning walk through the rural outer region of London is one of the closest day hikes from the capital city and will give you your countryside fix within minutes of arriving. It passes through the spectacular Chiltern Hills, glistening fields of wheat, sweeping valleys, past streams and the River Chess, as well as meandering past some quintessentially English villages. This 10-mile (16km) walk takes you from Rickmansworth in Hertfordshire to Chesham in Buckinghamshire. I was mesmerised by the outstanding natural beauty this walk offers, and just a stone’s throw from bustling London. While it starts and ends in towns, the majority of the walk is through the countryside – plenty of ponies and horses and cows and goats to pet on the way. Basically, it’s a farm animal extravaganza. The entire route is marked out with obvious signposts to guide you and it is so easy to access from London via Rickmansworth Station or the Metropolitan Tube line which runs via Chesham. In the summertime, pack yourself a picnic lunch for an intermission stop, or in the winter, stumble into a gastropub with a blazing fire (won’t be hard to come by in the tail end towns) and tuck into a roast dinner. This one is a true hidden gem. Well…tbf maybe not so hidden because it is really well mapped when you get out there, but it is one of my personal favourites.
10. England Coast Path: Kent, England
From the sand dunes of Camber to the white cliffs of Ramsgate, the England Coast Path is a coastal waltz through Dover that you could brave barefoot - whether you decide to go the full distance or take it in bite-sized pieces. This is an 8-mile (12.87km) stride setting out from the East Sussex coastline you will stumble across all the coastal delights of England as you make your way over the cliff tops with sweeping views of the English Channel. Heading into Kent you’ll see the unusual shingle landscape of Dungeness, which is home to some of the rarest birds and wildlife. Making your way further along the coast, discover the Martello towers of Dymchurch and the pretty market town of Hythe packed full of independent boutiques, tea rooms and hidden cobbled walkways. The endpoint is Ramsgate - a grand seaside town with a beaut British beach, and a Royal Harbour packed full of small niche businesses to discover. With a whole host of chippys, pubs and beachside bars you won’t be stuck for choice. The perfect point to rest your sandy soles when and take in sights of the seaside. Needless to say – a summertime excursion is recommended.
Flatford Mill Circular Walk: Stour Valley, England
Tring Circular Walk: Hertfordshire, England
Epping Forest’s Oak Trail: Essex, England
Box Hill Walks: Surry, England
Leith Hill Circular: Surry, England
The Thames Towpath: Richmond to Hampton Court
Durdle Door, Jurassic Coast: Dorset, England
Wells-next-the-sea: North Norfolk Coast, England
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"It's really not hard to see what the locals, visitors and expats alike love so much about this bountiful country. I get to live in London and then get to enjoy the contrast of these scenic rural escapes and some seriously surprising coastlines that nobody seems to talk about. The fact is - the UK is a fascinating field of beauty to be discovered. This tiny island is a boundless region of breathtaking views and relentless landscapes that all come with a side-serve of quintessential British charm. Land, sea, all types of terrain and extreme seasonal changes...I love it all and I'm grateful to call the UK home for now. Where to next...TBC. Thanks for reading."
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