Reasons to take a Walking Holiday in the U.K.
While the United Kingdom is well known for the London Underground and Jacobite steam train, you can have yourself a far more rewarding travel experience by opting for a much more primitive form of transportation. Walking holidays across the U.K. allow you to explore the hidden corners, rich history, dramatic landscapes, and lovely culture of the region.
Offering a wide range of waking trails spread across four different nations, you’ll find walking journeys that are suitable for hikers of nearly all fitness levels. From short off the beaten path journeys lasting a few days to epic multi-week expedition style walking holidays, you’re sure to find a U.K. walk that suits your personal interests, budget, and preferred duration.
While many of England’s trails can be walked year round, the best season to pre-book your self-guided walking holidays is from around the beginning of May to the end of September. This is especially true if you plan on walking the northern regions of England and Scotland. Arranging a self-guided walking holiday is easy and allows you to experience the trails at your own pace. You’ll be provided with all the detailed route descriptions and maps along with having all your accommodation needs booked well in advance.
No need to rough it while walking the U.K. as you can ditch the tent for charming B&Bs, guest houses, and hotels along many of the routes. Have the majority of your luggage transported for you to each new accommodation along the trails to limit the size of your day hiking packs which will allow you to more thoroughly enjoy your time exploring each day.
We’ve gathered a few of our favourite walking routes in the U.K. that will prove enjoyable to both newcomers to the world of walking holidays as well as more experienced walkers. Whether you wish to seek out historic battlegrounds and castles, wildlife, or simply breathtaking landscapes away from the main tourist centres, we hope these trails will inspire you to consider a walking holiday through the United Kingdom to see it in a whole new light.
If you’re short on time but would love to get a feel for each trail / region, short weekend breaks UK can be a great way to complete small sections of a longer trail, and assess whether you want to come back to complete the whole trail.
Isle of Wight Coastal Path
Situated in the English Channel is England’s largest island, where a stunning circular walk can be enjoyed as you circumnavigate the island. Unlike much of the U.K which is known for its rather common cloudy and rainy weather, the Isle of Wight sees rather abundant sunshine.
While you can begin the circuit from almost anywhere, the seaport town of Cowes with its large sailing regatta makes a great starting point. Explore remote inlets, bays, marshes, and beaches as you seek out castles and churches. The Isle of Wight is home to Carisbrooke Castle, the 11th century Old St Boniface Church, and the Roman Villas of Brading.
The Isle of Wight has been so popular throughout its history that it was once home to many different dinosaur species as well as notable humans including Queen Victoria, Darwin, and Charles Dickens. The island is considered one of the richest dinosaur localities in Europe and is now home to the dinosaur museum known as Dinosaur Isle.
Make your way along the whale-backedridge of Tennyson Down and past the island’s only National Nature Reserve, the Newtown National Nature Reserve, where legend states that a pied piper once led hoards of rats out of the nearby town. Today, you won’t find many rats, but will find an abundance of birds. This makes it popular with birdwatchers which make use of the bird hides to spot species of birds rarely seen elsewhere in the U.K.
You’ll also encounter one of Southern England’s greatest natural wonders when you visit the three chalk stacks known as The Needles which rise 30 metres out of the sea. See a number of lovely lighthouses including some of Britain’s oldest such as St Catherine’s Lighthouse.
Distance and Time: 113 km : 4-7 days
Hadrian’s Wall Walk
Get up close and personal with Britain’s largest Roman archaeological structure. Built during the reign of Roman emperor Hadrian, hence the name, the wall runs for almost 120 kilometres across northern England. A rather new walking trail was built in 2002 alongside the remarkably well preserved wall, allowing visitors to walk along the wall to witness its many forts, watch towers, and milestones.
Built as a defensive fortification for the Roman province of Britannia, the wall has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has quickly becomes one of Britain’s most cherished long distance walks. While most walkers choose to walk from East to West starting in Wallsend and ending in Bowness-on-Solway, you can opt to have the wind mostly at your back by traversing from West to East.
Distance and Time: 143 km : 6-10 days
Coast to Coast
Those looking for an even longer walk than Hadrian’s Wall will be delighted to know there is the Coast to Coast walk which is twice the length. Created by the famous British fellwalker Alfred Wainwright, the roughly 300km long Coast to Coast Walk cuts through three national parks including Lake District National Park, Yorkshire Dales National Park, and North York Moors National Park.
Considered by many to be one of the top 3 walks in the world, the Coast to Coast walk may be a monster of a walk, but each day’s section conveniently finishes at or near a settlement where comfortable accommodation will allow you to rest your aches and pains and get ready for the next day. The walk allows you to set foot in both the Irish Sea and North Sea, making its way along minor roads, public footpaths, and tracks. Climb to Nine Standards Rigg, the summit of Hartley Fell in the Pennine Hills, see Neolithic stones and medieval stone crosses, and witness the magical forests, lakes, and mountains of the Lake District.
Seabirds can be seen along the sea cliffs, where cormorants, kittiwakes, guillemots, fulmars, and razorbills congregate. Begin the walk in the seaside village of St Bees, make your way along St Bees Head, and continue on to see some of England’s most impressive natural scenery.
Distance and Time: Roughly 300 km : 12-18 days
Thames Path National Trail
While it may not be the U.K.’s longest river, the Thames is definitely the most famous. The Thames Path National Trail allows visitors to walk along much of the river’s length, taking in a mix of country and city. While walking the trail in its entirety may be long, it is one of the U.K.’s easiest walks with very little elevation change. Many sections of the trail are paved and certian sections are open to cyclists.
The trail makes its way from Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds into London’s heart. Those who have never been to England and want to see the many iconic sights of London can benefit by taking in the touristy stuff along with discovering lesser known gems by walking the Thames Path.
See riverside towns and villages, Windsor Castle, Westminster Palace, and the beautiful Chiltern Hills. There is access to facilities along much of the route and most of the trail can be enjoyed year round. During winter there are just a few small sections which may become flooded, in which case you may need to make a slight detour along the way.
Distance and Time: Roughly 300 km : 10-17 days
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Heading to Wales, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path hugs the rugged Welsh coastline for nearly 300 kilometres. In 2020, the National Trail will celebrate its 50th anniversary. Home to sandy beaches, natural rock arches, sea caves, and sea birds, the region was named by National Geographic as being one of the world’s best coastal destinations in terms of sustainable tourism.
Unlike the Thames Path National Trail which is flat an easy to manage, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path presents a bit of a physical challenge. Walkers can expect to experience a total 11,000 metres of ascent and descent. The coastal path lies almost entirely within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, the only coastal national park to be found in Britain. Spend your days taking in some of Britain’s most scenic coastal scenery and end each day in a coastal village inn or campsite.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a section of the much longer Wales Coast Path. At a distance of 1,400 km, the Wales Coast Path is an expedition-style walk of epic proportions.
Distance and Time: Roughly 300 km : 13-16 days
We hope you enjoy these U.K. walking holiday recommendations. Many of these trails are accessible by public transport and can be shortened or lengthened in terms of number of days depending on your wishes. Planning a longer holiday to complete these routes will obviously result in you needing to walk shorter distances each day.