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TRAIL TO TIDE: THE NORST JOURNAL

6 epic places to hike in the UK

by Gemma Tadman 19 Aug 2022 0 Comments
6 epic places to hike in the UK

Pull on your walking boots and grab your rucksack – it’s time to explore the country’s most beautiful hiking destinations

Okay, we know – the UK is not exactly known for having the highest mountains and most elevated hikes in the world (by a long shot) but hear us out, because: Great Britain has some of the most awestriking scenery in Europe. From the rugged beauty of Snowdonia in Wales to the open moorlands of Devon’s Dartmoor National Park, there’s plenty of landscapes to discover and even more to learn. 

Hiking is a wonderful way to experience and get close to an area’s flora and fauna whilst taking in the sights, pushing yourself and perhaps, even doing some soul searching. Indeed, hiking is so much more than trekking up a large hill or mountain; it’s about the long game, the navigation and manoeuvring yourself and your gear around obstacles, as well as, at times, traversing tricky elevations and reaching panoramic peaks. 

Whether you’ve never hiked before or are an experienced trail-blazer, the UK is rippled with beginner level to challenging routes – across the middle, north, east, south and west of the UK. So, what are you waiting for? There are plenty of tracks waiting to be uncovered by you.

 

What is hiking?

What is hiking?

First things first – let’s get a better understanding of what exactly hiking is. As we touched upon above, the activity essentially involves walking across long distances, generally on trails or paths. Yet, unlike the simple act of ‘going on a walk’, hiking trails, although mostly visible, are not often the smooth surfaces of a walk, but are across rougher terrain of varying elevations and landscapes.

Before you set out on your first hike, it’s a good idea to look into your route, and purchase a few essentials. What you need with depend on what type of hike you are embarking on, but here’s a selection of things you might need:

  • A hiking backpack and rain cover
  • Walking poles  
  • A good pair of walking boots and socks
  • Clothing suited to season and weather: waterproof trousers and jacket, gloves, beanie, thermals, extra layers, sunhat and sunglasses 
  • Sunscreen and mosquito repellent 
  • Microfibre travel towel 
  • Navigation tools: reputable guidebook, compass, smartphone with maps, GPS watch, maps and topographical maps
  • Refillable, insulated water bottles and a thermos
  • Food and drink supplies and lightweight, portable cooking equipment
  • Water purification tablets
  • First aid kit
  • Camping gear, if stopping overnight
  • Head torch
  • Harness, rope, carabiner (depending on terrain)

 

Now you know what hiking is and what equipment you might need, let’s take a look at the best places to hike in the UK.

 

Hadrian’s Wall, Bowness-on-Solway to Newcastle

North

Hadrian’s Wall, Bowness-on-Solway to Newcastle

A hike for history buffs and beauty searchers alike, Hadrian’s Wall once marked the north-western boarder of the Roman Empire and covered a whopping 73 miles. The coast-to-coast World Heritage Site, now mostly in ruins, dates back to the reign of Emperor Hadrian in 122 AD, and was dotted with forts, settlements and bridges. 

You can walk along the remains of Hadrian’s Wall via a spectacular National Trail, Hadrian’s Wall Path, which covers 84 miles. The route extends across northern England from Wallsend, Newcastle Upon Tyne in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria on the west coast. As well as following the line of the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site, the trail sweeps through gorgeous parts of the UK – from lush fields and wild borderlands to the eclectic cities of Newcastle and Carlisle.

Whilst the route itself isn’t too challenging (anyone who is reasonably fit should be able to complete it), it is certainly a time investment – the entire hike will take you between six to seven days. Make a multi-day trip of it and camp or stay in a B&B as you go, or chose to tackle some of the shorter sections, taking around two to three hours a-piece. 

  • Visit National Trail to find out more about the route as well as tips on where to stay whilst completing it.
Scafell Pike, The Lake District

Northwest 

Scafell Pike, The Lake District

The Lake District is well known for its beauty, the area being home to sixteen lakes (though only one – Bassenthwaite Lake – is officially a lake by name!) and many more marvellous bodies of water. Ramblers are spoilt for choice when it comes to peaks to climb and vistas to view, but it doesn’t get much better than Scafell Pike. England’s highest mountain is not an undertaking for the faint of heart; the main ridge is a wave of rocky summits and narrow cols with towering crags aplenty and heavily indented gills. On every side, its edges twist this way and that, baffling many walkers at first, but take a closer look and you are sure to become excited by the challenge the terrain presents. 

A recommended route to Scafell Pike is the direct line via Brown Tongue from Wasdale. However, experienced hikers will prefer to indulge in a longer approach that explores all the distinctions of the spectacular mountain range (the Southern Fells and Scafell Massif).

  • For comprehensive route breakdowns, visit the Lake District National Park website.
Leith Hill, Surrey

Southeast

Leith Hill, Surrey

Although the southeast is known as being one of the flattest areas in all of England, there are spectacular hikes to be found. If you do fancy some south-eastern 'height', Leith Hill can satisfy, being the second highest point in the district. Nestled among the Surrey Hills, Leith Hill is set within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), offering an abundance of nature and wildlife that once inspired scientist Charles Darwin. 

There are trails aplenty, taking you through ancient woodland, across heathland and farmland, to a gorgeous waterfall and the top of Leith Hill (and Leith Tower), itself. From the Tower, the highest point in southeast England, enjoy sweeping views towards London in the north and the English Channel in the south. 

  • Visit the National Trust's website for a whole list of trail routes of varying experience levels. 
  • If you’re an intermediate hiker of good fitness, we recommend this 6.72-mile trail by Komoot.
Devil’s Dyke, South Downs National Park

South

Devil’s Dyke, South Downs National Park

Loose yourself in the tranquil oasis that is South Downs National Park, a sprawling landscape that covers 1,600km2 of glorious English countryside brimming with wildlife and breath-taking views. You’ll feel like a child in a sweet shop, with more trails than time to walk them!

At the top of the must-hike list in the South Downs is Devil’s Dyke, a beauty spot offering panoramic views across the South Downs and Sussex Countryside. At almost a mile long, the Dyke Valley is the longest ‘dry’ valley in the UK. Going around, up or down the valley makes for a challenging walk that will have you dreaming of the landscape for years to come. 

  • For a mixture of beginner to higher level trails on and around Devil’s Dyke, head to the National Trust's website. 
Dartmoor National Park, Devon

Southwest

Dartmoor National Park, Devon

A uniquely beautiful place, Dartmoor National Park is a landscape full of wonder – home to southern England’s largest open moor, wildlife-rich wetlands, ancient woodlands, deep river valleys and numerous granite tors. This remote wilderness provides habitats for a number of different species, with many rare animals located there too. 

Consequently, Dartmoor is a hiker’s paradise – with diverse terrain and natural marvels all around. There are routes throughout the park for all levels of hiker, so whether you are a beginner and looking for a gentle ramble, or an experienced long-distancer looking to push your limits, you are sure to find a trail that suits. 

  • Head over to Dartmoor National Park’s website to discover a variety of recommended options, as well as info about wild camping in the area. 
Carding Mill Valley, Shropshire

Midlands

Carding Mill Valley, Shropshire

For gorgeous walks across fauna-rich heathland and up rolling greens, Shropshire will satisfy. We recommend tackling the challenging Burway Loop – the hike takes you to the head of Carding Mill Valley and up to the highest point of the Long Mynd, where you’ll be able to view the spectacular Shropshire Hills. 

The five-mile hike will take you around two and a half hours, starting at Carding Mill Valley, where you’ll be able to follow a pretty stream for a while, before beginning a steep incline towards the top of the hill. There lies your reward!

  • For trail instructions, visit the National Trust's website. 

 

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