Walking is one of Britain’s most popular outdoor activities. If you’re looking for a challenge, here is our pick of some of the longer routes on offer…
An iconic historical walk, Hadrian’s Wall Path is 135 km (84 mi) long. It mainly follows the Wall’s route, except where it diverts along the river in Newcastle rather than passing through the city centre. Running from Wallsend (east) to Bowness-on-Solway (west), the highest and remotest stretch - where the wall is best preserved - is from Chollerford to Walton. The path is exclusively for walkers, except for a 19km stretch in Tyneside, where cyclists share it. An experienced walker can hike it in around six days, but plan for longer if you want to stop off and soak up the history.
For a whistle-stop tour of eight different counties, walk the 285 km (177 mi) Offa’s Dyke Path, which hops across the English-Welsh border on its course more than twenty times. It runs from Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow on the banks of the Severn through to Prestatyn on the Irish Sea, passing through the Brecon Beacons National Park and three Areas of Outstanding Beauty en route. Terrain varies from flat to gently rolling hills to steep rises and drops; and though it’s rumoured that some walk it in four days, typically a fortnight is more realistic. Or just tackle a particular stretch for a shorter walk.
Dubbed a ‘once in a lifetime walk’, the Pennine Way National Trail is a much longer undertaking, stretching for 429 km (268 mi) in total, from the Peak District in Derbyshire to the Scottish Borders. In total, over 60% of the route falls within three national parks (the Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and the Northumberland National Parks). The path is for the most part fairly rugged, with the highest point being at Cross Fell (893 m / 2,947 ft). While not the longest national trail in the country, the Ramblers’ Association credits it as being one of Britain’s best known – and toughest!
Covering 11,000 m (35,000 ft) of ascent and descent across its 299 km (186 mi) course, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is said to be equivalent to climbing Everest, but overall the route is not overly strenuous. It is distinguished as being almost entirely within Britain’s only coastal national park and has 58 beaches, including all of Pembrokeshire’s award-winning beaches - and 14 harbours along its course. Running from Amroth in the south to Poppit Sands near St Dogmael’s in the north, 75% of the path is within designated conservation sites, providing protected nesting sites for seabirds and spectacular displays of wildflowers in summer.
At 50 km (31.2 mi), this is not the longest, but may well be one of the toughest trails, as it crosses some of the wildest stretches of Bodmin Moor, climbing ten tors, including Cornwall’s two highest peaks – Rough Tor and Brown Willy. Between tors, hikers will cross through steep forested river valleys and isolated moorlands, including a 16 km (10 mi) remote stretch with no shelter, signposts or paths, so experience at map-reading or GPS is recommended, especially as mist can descend rapidly and without warning. The reward, alongside the stunning views, is the solitude: this path is one little trodden by tourists.
This 42 km (26 mi) hike begins on the coast of Northern Ireland at Newcastle and runs almost all the way off road through the foothills of the Mourne Mountains till it returns to the sea at Rostrevor on Carlingford Lough. Traversing the Mourne Mountains Area of Natural Beauty, its forest trails and mountain footpaths pass through this mainly glaciated landscape. In parts, the route is exposed and not waymarked, and there is little accommodation en route – so be prepared, and as following the whole of the trail usually takes up to two days, plan your overnight stay before setting out.
From Portstewart to Ballycastle in County Antrim, the 53 km (33 mi) Causeway Coast Way passes through the Causeway Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, several Areas of Special Scientific Interest and Ireland’s only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giant’s Causeway. The route is largely off road and passes through seascapes and along cliffs, beaches, fields and small towns, with terrain suitable for all with a reasonable level of fitness. Highlights include the Causeway itself, a pavement of around 40,000 interlocking hexagonal columns; and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge which spans a 20 m wide chasm between the mainland and a craggy island.
This long-distance walking route from Milngavie (just north of Glasgow) to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands is 154.5 km (96 mi) long, stretching from the lowlands through the Highland Boundary Fault Zone and on into the Scottish Highlands. The path mainly uses old communications roads, such as drovers’ roads, old coaching roads and disused railway tracks; and is commonly covered in around eight days – it can be done in less, but this doesn’t give time to stop and appreciate the landscapes. En route the Way passes Loch Lomond, crosses Rannoch Moor and descends into Glen Coe, passing at its end the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain.
An unofficial long distance footpath devised by Alfred Wainwright himself, this classic route runs for 293 km (182 mi), beginning at St Bees in Cumbria and passing through the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors National Parks before ending at Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire. The original route has been adjusted to avoid trespassing and foot erosion and largely follows public rights of way, tracks and minor roads and is one of the UK’s most popular walks. It takes in rugged mountains and lakes, rolling hills and long stretches of moorland en route, culminating with dramatic coastal scenery at either end.
This is a relatively new trail which seeks to open up the previously little-known scenery of the six dales between Otley in West Yorkshire to Middleham in North Yorkshire. The trail is waymarked throughout its length – 61.8 km (38.4 mi) in total, with an ascent of 1,461 m (4,793 ft); and it lies almost entirely within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The terrain is varied, ranging from sloping pastureland to flat stretches alongside river valleys; moorland with gritstone outcrops and parkland surrounding ruined abbeys.