The UK has many fantastic long distance walking trails to offer. If you already live in the UK, you may not even realise that you are surrounded by all of this beauty.
In December 2016 I decided to make my own trail from my home in Wiltshire to Yorkshire. I spent most of this adventure on busy roads so I thought I would compile a list of walking routes that take you away from the roads and into the wild. There is no shortage of trails that take you away from the busy roads and into the wilderness. This list is far from definitive and is set in no particular order. If there are any trails that you think should be in this top 5, it would be awesome if you could write a comment below.
5. The West Highland Way
Distance: 96 miles
Average time needed: 7 days
The West Highland Way is one of the most magnificent areas of the UK. Stunning high mountains, lowland moors, dense woodland and rolling hills. This wide variety of environments provides habitats for a diverse range of wildlife species. You can expect to see a variety of deer, the mountain hare, otters, foxes, badgers and even the Scottish wildcat.
May is the most popular month to attempt this route but it also means there is more demand for accommodation at that time. Anytime in spring and autumn will be especially beautiful. I took the photo above in November and as you can see, I had clear skies for miles.
Most people walk the West Highland Way from south to north. The reason being, the southern stages are easier than the north so a walker will be more prepared for the more demanding hills. As the route is completely in Scotland you are able to wild camp freely due to the Scottish outdoor access code. For those that are new to wild camping, here is a link to my guide to wild camping for beginners.
4. The Coast to Coast
Distance: 192 miles
Average time needed: 2-3 weeks
This route is high on my list. I’ve yet to complete it but I lived on the route in the North Yorkshire for a short period and loved bumping into the c2c walkers when I was out on a run. The route was popularised by Alfred Wainwright and passes through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors. It is one of the most popular routes in England, even though it doesn’t officially have National Trail status. Most people attempt the walk heading west to east. This takes advantage of the prevailing winds that should also go from west to east and keeps the evening sun out of your face. The first few days can be quite tough as you will be heading through the hills of the lake district. This is definitely on the list of walks for the future. Don’t take this walk for granted 190 miles is a tough distance to cover and the weather in the north of England can be bad, to say the least.
The route was popularised by Alfred Wainwright and passes through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorkshire Moors. It is one of the most popular routes in England, even though it doesn’t officially have National Trail status. Most people attempt the walk heading west to east. This takes advantage of the prevailing winds that should also go from west to east and keeps the evening sun out of your face. The first few days can be quite tough as you will be heading through the hills of the lake district. Don’t take this walk for granted. 190 miles can be a tough distance to cover and the weather in the north of England can be miserable to say the least.
3. Pennine Way
Distance: 268 miles
Average time needed: About 3 weeks
Steeped in history, this National Trail follows the mountain tops along the rugged backbone of England and offers 268 miles of the finest upland walking in England. A once in a lifetime experience.
The Pennine Way has a fearsome reputation. It is one of the most remote walks in the UK with bags of hills and boggy moorland. Just like the Coast to Coast, the weather can be unpredictable at best and torrential the rest of the time. A decent pair of waterproofs and gaiters are highly recommended as you will be walking through plenty of mud and bog.
All of this adds to the greatness of the walk. Once you complete it, you will feel a real sense of pride and achievement. Beginners are best to start with an easier walk such as the West Highland way before attempting the Pennine Way.
2. The Ulster Way
Distance: 625 miles
Average time needed: Quality sections – 3 weeks. Entire route – 5 weeks.
Record: Noel Johnstone, 2015 – 26 days
The Ulster Way was the brainchild of Wilfrid Capper MBE who in 1946 had the inspiration to create a circular walking route taking in the six counties of Northern Ireland. The route was originally planned to be a walking link between the ring of Youth Hostels which used to encircle Northern Ireland. There were about 15 hostels in total, sited in the most scenic areas, and the idea was that walkers could plan to tour the country sleeping in a different place each night.
There are 411 miles of “quality sections” on the Ulster Way. The Quality Sections provide a truly quality walking experience. They are mainly on the already established Waymarked Ways which are predominantly off-road and pass through Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
214 miles of the Ulster way are links sections between the quality sections. The link sections are mainly on busy roads. Walk Northern Ireland actively encourages people to use public transport for these sections. Having spent many days walking on busy roads in the UK, I would recommend avoiding these link sections and saving your time for the beautiful parts of the walk. However, if you are set on completing the whole route, downloadable maps are available for the link sections on the walk NI website.
1. South West Coast Path
Distance: 630 miles
Average time needed: 5 weeks
The SW coast path is for many, the ultimate walking trail in the UK. 630 miles of epic coastline in one of the most beautiful areas the UK has to offer. Many people spend days out on sections of the path but few have the time and dedication to complete the whole route.
If you manage to walk the entire length of the path, it is an amazing achievement that will live long in the memory.
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