Call it a hike, a stroll, a toddle or a ramble – there really is nothing that the British like better than a jolly good walk in the countryside. Since ancient times, people have been exploring every last inch of this old island on foot, leaving behind a great web of byways, bridleways, lanes, tracks and footpaths covering practically every corner of the British landscape.
Lonely Planet's Best Day Walks in Great Britain has lots of of inspiration, from family-friendly strolls through city parks, to scenic walks across wild moors, and challenging hikes through snow-blown glens. In the meantime, you can check out 10 great walks below. Just remember to pack the brolly (umbrella).
Helvellyn and Striding Edge - Cumbria and The Lakes
Duration: 6-7hr | Difficulty: hard | Distance: 8 miles/12.5km
Cumbria’s third-highest mountain (950m) is a fairly formidable proposition even for experienced walkers, with dizzying drops and some all-fours scrambling. But don’t let the challenges put you off: Helvellyn is well within the reach of most ordinary walkers.
The key is not to rush, to watch your step on the trickier sections, and to try and take the easiest route wherever you can. You’ll be on the top in no time. The there-and-back trail starts at the car park in Glenridding, next to Lake District National Park.
Hadrian's Wall - Northern England
Duration: 4hr | Difficulty: moderate | Distance: 7.2 miles / 12km
Hadrian’s Wall is the most dramatic and extensive legacy of the Roman occupation of Britain, stretching for more than 70 miles across northern England. This walk follows part of the famous Pennine Way along the most scenic stretch of the wall, as well as visiting the two best-preserved Roman forts in the country (the time given is for walking; allow at least two hours extra for exploring at Housesteads and Vindolanda). Start and end at Still Visitor Centre.
Porthcurno to Land's End - Devon and Cornwall
Duration: 3.5-4hr | Difficulty: moderate | Distance: 7.2 miles / 11.2km
Is Porthcurno to Land's End the finest coast walk in all of Britain? Many a seasoned rambler might say so – and there are few who would sensibly argue. This walk really has it all: booming surf, massive cliffs, historic lighthouses and wild Atlantic vistas that will sear themselves onto your retinas.
Don't forget to pack swimming gear; there are some great spots for bathing along the way, including the popular Porthcurno beach and the relatively quiet Porth Chapel beach. The trail starts in Treen village and ends at Land's End.
The Ridgeway - Southwest England
Duration: 5hr | Difficulty: hard | Distance: 11 miles / 18km
The Ridgeway is one of the most ancient walkways in the country. It runs for 87 miles, from Overton Hill in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. Take the longish stretch from Foxhill to Wantage – it’s a little difficult to access, meaning you need an early start, and you’ll probably want to stay at the Court Hill Centre hostel at the end. But it’s well worth the effort to follow in the footsteps of some of England’s first hikers, and the prehistoric sites you’ll encounter – the tomb of Wayland’s Smithy, the earthworks of Uffington Castle and the graceful White Horse – are some of the most mesmerising anywhere. Start at Foxhill and end at Wantage.
The Seven Sisters - Southeast and East England
Duration: 5hr | Difficulty: hard | Distance: 12.5 miles / 20km
Brace yourselves for a big bold walk, which leads from Eastbourne, with its long stone beaches and grand Edwardian seafront, up onto the high chalk cliffs whose most famous landmark is the red-and-white-striped Beachy Head lighthouse. You’re then on the ups and downs of the famous Seven Sisters, which will give your legs a great workout and your eyes some gorgeous English Channel vistas.
The route drops down to the Friston Forest, winds past lovely Westdean village, then follows the bends of the Cuckmere River to the beautiful downland settlement of Alfriston. The trail starts at Eastbourne station and ends in Alfriston.
Hampstead Heath - London
Duration: 1.5hr | Difficulty: Moderate | Duration: 3.4 miles / 5.5km
Even hardened Londoners are amazed by the size and wildness of Hampstead Heath. Set on a sandy ridge, it provides sweeping urban views as well as dense ancient and more recent woodland. On a sunny day bring a swimming costume, as the natural ponds provide a gorgeous spot for a dip. Kenwood House is a good stop for art lovers, and Keats House, the poet’s home from 1818 to 1820, is a stroll away. Start and end at Hampstead Heath Overground, near Parliament Hill.
Loch Affric Circuit - Scotland
Duration: 5-7 hrs | Difficulty: hard | Distance: 11.5 miles / 18.5km
Glen Affric – Gaelic for ‘valley of the dappled woods’ – is a scenic wonderland of shimmering lochs, rugged mountains and mist-shrouded forests of native Scots pine, home to a treasure trove of iconic Scottish wildlife including ospreys and golden eagles, wildcats and otters, red squirrels and pine martens.
The upper reaches of the glen are designated as the Glen Affric National Nature Reserve. This is a great trail for wildlife-watching, start and end at the River Affric car park.
Haystacks - Cumbria and The Lakes
Duration: 4-5hr | Difficulty: moderate | Distance: 5.5 miles / 8.8km
Haystacks is far from the highest Lakeland fell, but the views over Buttermere are hard to better. This route follows cartographer and author Alfred Wainwright’s preferred ascent from Gatesgarth, and descends via the arête of Fleetwith Pike. The climb to the summit is steep but not too testing, although there are a few bits of clambering. The panorama from the top is grand, stretching northwest across Buttermere, west into Ennerdale and south towards Pillar and Great Gable. Start and end at the car park near Gatesgarth Farm.
Pen Y Fan, Corn Du and Cribyn - Wales
Duration: 4hr | Difficulty: moderate | Distance: 8.2 miles / 13.2km
At 886m above sea level, Pen y Fan is southern Wales’ highest mountain – which means everyone wants to climb it. Tackle it from the less-trodden southern side to avoid most of the crowds, and take in two other summits (Corn Du at 873m and Cribyn at 795m) – a boon for peak-baggers.
The route begins and ends at the car park near the Upper Neuadd Reservoir.
The Malvern Hills - Central England
Duration: 1.5hr | Difficulty: moderate | Distance: 2.5 miles / 4km
The green spine of the Malvern Hills rises to unexpected heights out of the gentle contours of three counties: Worcestershire, Herefordshire and Gloucestershire. The rocks from which the hills are formed are the most ancient in the country, something which perhaps adds to the mystical feel of the area, with its mineral springs, prehistoric earthworks and caverns. All this beauty has provided plenty of inspiration, from the 14th-century Visions of Piers Plowman by William Langland, to the works of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis and the music of Elgar. Start and end in the spa town of Great Malvern.