5 of the best UK walking holiday routes
If you’re looking to get away this spring, look no further than your own doorstep.
The UK has some truly breathtaking scenery and a wealth of cultural and historic places of interest. From Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to National Parks and UNESCO World Heritage sites, the best way to experience all the UK has to offer is on foot.
Here’s your guide to five of the best UK walking holiday routes.
1. Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path winds for 186 miles around the south west coast of Wales.
The full route, from Amroth in the south to Cardigan on the west coast, will take 12 to 14 days for a regular walker of standard fitness, but with 35,000 feet of ascent and descent, it’s not for the faint-hearted.
A more relaxed schedule could see you from start to finish in 18 days. Thankfully, the route can also be split into smaller sections for day or weekend treks. Visit Pembrokeshire has an interactive map that breaks the route into manageable chunks.
Consider, for example, the 11.5-mile route from Amroth to Lydstep. This takes in the walled town of Tenby, from where Caldey Island is visible on a clear day, and is well worth the detour to visit its Cistercian monastery.
From woodland paths to rugged cliffs and seal spotting, the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path has much to offer. From harbour villages to the UK’s smallest city, the route also offers great places to stay.
2. Cotswold Way
Running just over 100 miles from Chipping Campden in the north, through Gloucestershire and Wiltshire, to the World Heritage city of Bath in the south, the Cotswold Way weaves through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
National Trails suggests seven to ten days to complete the route in one go but there are many shorter, circular routes for a day or weekend trip. Try, for example, a four-mile circular route through the Cotswold stone-built town of Broadway to Broadway Tower, a folly offering views across the River Severn towards Wales.
It’s also worth booking accommodation well in advance. Much of the trail passes through small villages, many of which offer accommodation, but they can fill up quickly.
Points of interest along the route include the Neolithic burial chamber at Belas Knap, Sudeley Castle near Winchcombe, and Hailes Abbey. With sleepy Cotswold stone villages, busy market towns and the isolation of the Cotswold escarpment itself there’s always something new to see.
3. Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the south coast of England, stretching from Exmouth to Studland Bay in Dorset. It covers 95 miles of breathtaking scenery and boasts 185 million years of history.
From rugged cliffs to sandy beaches, the route passes many landmarks and places of interest – Lulworth Cove, Chesil Beach and the iconic limestone arch of Durdle Door. The area's geology provides glimpses into the Mesozoic Era – the era of dinosaurs – all along the route.
If you’re looking for an afternoon stroll, a 2.8-mile walk will take you from Lulworth Cove’s Stair Hole to the photo opportunity at Durdle Door. Consider staying at the Limestone Hotel in West Lulworth, just an 11-minute walk from the cove.
Elsewhere, stay in Lyme Regis at the Grade II-listed Lyme Townhouse, close to the beaches and historic Cobb harbour, in this beautiful seaside town.
And, for the truly brave, registration is now open for the Jurassic Coast Challenge 2020. You’re invited to walk, jog, or run routes of varying length and difficulty. The event takes place this year on the weekend of 16 and 17 May.
4. West Highland Way
The West Highland Way stretches 96 miles from Milngavie to Fort William through stunning scenery, from countryside parks and lochs to the wilderness of open moorland and rugged mountains.
The recommended direction of travel is south to north. There isn’t a wrong way to travel, but the north stages are considered the most demanding. The experience gained in the ‘easier’ southern sections is likely to be the best preparation for those faced in the north.
Visit the West Highland Way website for suggested itineraries for five and seven-day treks, as well as shorter trips.
Highlights of the full route include the beautiful Loch Lomond and the village of Glencoe in the Glencoe valley. Visit Glencoe Folk Museum – itself located in thatched cottages dating from the 18th-century – to learn about local heritage and the 1692 Glencoe massacre.
Also consider a tour of the Glengoyne Distillery, where Highland single malt has been distilled since 1833.
For a luxurious place to rest your feet after a day’s walking try the Bridge of Orchy Hotel. The beautiful village is situated at the head of Glen Orchy, directly on the West Highland Way.
Elsewhere along the route, stay at The Oak Tree in the beautiful village of Balmaha on the banks of Loch Lomond.
5. Causeway Coast Way
One of ten Waymarked Ways – accredited walking routes taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in Northern Island – the Causeway Coast Way is a 32-mile walking route encompassing wide bays and sandy beaches, rugged cliffs and castle ruins.
It also includes the UNESCO World Heritage site, and National Trust-managed, Giant’s Causeway.
Running from Ballycastle in the east to Portstewart in the west, it can be tackled in either direction. The trail can be easily broken down into small sections of between two to five hours. Walk NI also lists longer routes, including the two-day, 33-mile walk taking in the Giant’s Causeway and the white-knuckle Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Other highlights of the route include the castle ruins of Dunluce and Dunseverick, but the main attraction is the Giant’s Causeway itself.
Consider staying at the Bushmills Inn just two miles from the Causeway.