From glorious coastlines to dramatic peaks, there is an abundance of breathtaking one-day walking trails in the UK just waiting to be explored. Whether you’re an experienced peak bagger or just fancy a picturesque stroll, these top walks will inspire you to venture out into the countryside and make you fall in love with Britain’s wild side.
Hiking without the right kit is a challenge so I’ve also compiled a list of my favourite sustainable hiking essentials (all affiliate-free, I just love them) to help you be an ethical hiker when you’re out in nature.
The Best Hiking Trails in the UK
Ben Macdui, Cairngorms National Park
Distance: 12 miles
Time: 8 hours and 30 minutes
The Scottish Cairngorms is an area of outstanding natural beauty and there’s no better way to enjoy them than with a hike through this iconic mountain range. If you’re keen to do a full day’s hike then I recommend the Ben Macdui trail.
The route begins with a 650m high start which leads you on a rugged path past beautiful lochs and dramatic views of Rothiemurchus forest.
The final leg takes you up Ben Macdui, the second-highest mountain in the UK. Once you’ve made it to the top, you will be rewarded with breathtaking panoramic views of the Cairngorms National Park in all its glory.
Ben Lomond, Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
Distance: 7.5 miles
Time: 4 hours
Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park is another Scottish gem. Visitors from all over the world come to climb Ben Lomond to catch a glimpse of the wonderful scenic views of the lake and its islands below.
This walking trail is one of the tougher ones, with its fair share of steep rocky terrain to navigate. Nevertheless, the sense of achievement once you make it to the summit is palpable. For the most scenic descent, make sure you head back down along Ptarmigan Ridge and you’ll soon see why it’s one of the best walking trails in the UK.
Y Garn via Devil’s Kitchen from Ogwen, Snowdonia
Distance: 4.42 miles
Time: 4 hours
Y Garn from Ogwen is a popular hiking trail in Snowdonia and it epitomises the wildness of the Welsh landscape perfectly. The walk includes the ominously named Devil’s Kitchen, a dark crack in the middle of Clogwyn y Geifr rock. Its title was inspired by the plume of steam that rises from the crack to give the illusion of a chimney.
This hike is steep with a fair few scrambly sections along the way but the views make it worth it. As you follow the route to the finish, head through the gully of Tin Pan Alley for striking rock formations that will have you thinking you’ve stepped into a fairytale.
Marloes Peninsula, Pembrokeshire
Distance: 5.4 miles
Time: 3 Hours
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is one of my absolute favourite coastal walks in Wales. Here, you can see stunning natural arches, sea caves and plenty of golden sandy beaches. Quaint, seaside towns and villages nestle along the coastline with seafood eateries and country pubs to entice you.
For a fairly short and leisurely walk, head to Marloes Peninsula. This stretch of coastline is renowned for its stunning clifftop views, wildflowers and jagged rock formations. If you’re lucky, you might even spot seals, seabirds and porpoises.
Lizard Peninsula walk, Cornwall
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 3 hours
Cornwall has long been admired as a paragon of the English coastline. This coastal walk on the Lizard Peninsula is one of the best walking trails in the UK for sightings of rare wildflowers and dramatic cliff tops.
The trail is a little strenuous in parts and you can either follow the coastline back the way you came or head inland towards Lizard village (it’s really called that!). The walk might only take 3 hours to complete but I recommend that you take a picnic with you for an excuse to sit awhile and enjoy the view. The best picnic spot is Pen Olver right before you turn to go inland.
Coniston Round, The Lake District
Distance: 14.4 miles
Time: 8 hours
The Coniston Round is one of the Best Lake District walks and day hikes you can do. A popular path, the walking trail is well-trodden by outdoor enthusiasts and tourists alike. The circular hike starts with an ascent through the Coniston Fells up to the Old Man of Coniston before summiting the towering cliffs of Dow Crag at the end.
This walk has its fair share of challenges and you spend the majority of it high up on the ridges but the stunning views of the Lake District and beyond is a more than worthy reward.
Burnham Beeches, Buckinghamshire
Distance: 4.5 miles
Time: 1.30 hours
Burnham Beeches is one of the most beautiful hiking trails near London. It offers a welcome retreat for anyone wanting to do a spot of forest bathing and it’s thought to be one of the best examples of ancient woodland in the UK. Some of the beech and oak trees in this forest walk have been around for over 400 years.
Burnham Beeches is also home to an abundance of woodland wildlife, including woodpeckers and deer. I love this walk. It’s the perfect ramble for Londoners looking for an afternoon of fresh air and cosy country pubs.
If you’re enjoying this post then you might like to read about how walking amongst trees has therapeutic qualities here.
Bonus Multi-Day Walking Holiday Trails in the UK
Causeway Coast Way
Distance: 33 miles
Time: 2 days
Difficulty: Relatively easy
Causeway Coast Way is without a doubt one of the most beautiful walking trails in the UK. The whole route takes about 2 or 3 days depending on your pace, making it an ideal choice for a UK walking holiday. This walking trail is probably most well-known for being home to the UNESCO World Heritage Giant’s Causeway, a unique geological formation made from basalt columns.
The Causeway Coast Way is also an area of outstanding natural beauty, with glorious bays, cliffs and sandy beaches. It’s an absolute must for anyone wanting to see the very best of the Northern Irish coastline.
Hadrian’s Wall Walk
Distance: 84 miles
Time: 6 days
Hadrian’s Wall combines ancient history with the northern English countryside. Unsurprisingly, this mammoth of a trail is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and hikers can spot fascinating Roman forts, watchtowers and temples along the way.
The walk begins in the east at Wallsend, near Newcastle and leads you over the Northumberland countryside to the city of Carlisle. From there, you can cross the Solway Plains to Bowness-on-Solway and the finish line. This adventure is one of the most epic walking trails in the UK and a contender for any hiker’s bucket list.
What to pack for a day hike in the UK
What to take with you on your walk really depends on where you’re going and what time of year it is. If you’re tackling the more mountainous peaks in winter then you might want to layer up with some thermals. In the summer, not so much. In fact, you will probably find yourself getting too hot regardless of the time of year. The key is to wear layers so you can control your temperature.
Not sure what else to bring? Here’s everything you need to pack for a walking trail in the UK:
First, a note on PFCS
You may have noticed that some of the items on this packing list are PFC-free. PFCS are artificial man-made chemicals that are commonly used in waterproof coatings and membranes. PFCS are used for weatherproof clothing and they can cause harm to both the wearer and the environment.
Once they enter into the environment they can disperse across the globe and take years to break down. PFCS have been found in water, snow and ice in some of the most remote corners of the world. To help limit the impact of PFCS on the environment, try to buy your outdoor gear from brands that are working hard to avoid them. I’ve included some of my all-time favourites in this list below:
PFC-Free walking boots
Walking boots can make or break a hike so it’s important to wear the right ones for you. Make sure they’re boots rather than trainers, that they cover your ankle and don’t pinch at the toe. Whatever you do, don’t head up into the hills with a brand new pair of boots on. You’re guaranteed to get blisters and I wouldn’t wish that pain on my own worst enemy!
My favourite walking boot brands include Jack Wolfskin, Patagonia, Adidas and Vegetarian Shoes.
If you’re planning to walk Hadrian’s Wall or any of these top walking trails in the UK then it’s a good idea to pack a spare pair of shoelaces just in case one snaps.
Thick walking socks
Thick walking socks are an essential part of any hiking checklist. They help protect your feet against blisters and painful rubbing from your boots.
Blister plasters (to be on the safe side)
Just in case!
First aid kit
Another one for the just in case pile.
For any unwelcome hitchhikers – specifically, midges in Scotland.
If you’re out walking in the summer, make sure you wear a hat and sunscreen. To protect the environment, wear mineral-based sunscreen made from titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Pai does my favourite face sunscreen. It’s light, moisturising and non-greasy. Alternatively, read my guide to the best eco-friendly sunscreen.
If you’re only going on a single-day walk then you don’t need to haul a great deal along with you. A nifty day pack is all you need like these ones from Osprey. You can get rucksacks specially designed for both men and women for maximum comfort. Some of their ranges are even made out of recyclable and sustainable materials.
Comfortable hiking trousers (not jeans)
Wear a pair of trousers that are durable, lightweight, breathable and gentle on the skin so they don’t start to rub halfway up hill number two.
For when it gets too hot.
Lightweight fleece (easy to wear and easy to carry)
You’ll need this, particularly on chillier days or if you’re planning on heading up into the hills. The weather can change suddenly in the mountains so a lightweight fleece is essential. It won’t weigh you down if you need to take it off either. Patagonia, Paramo and Fjiallraven are all great for fleeces.
PFC- Free waterproof jacket
Pack a jacket that’s lightweight, waterproof and windproof – particularly if you’re going up high or along blustery coastlines. You can get PFC-free jackets from Patagonia, Jack Wolfskin and Paramo.
PFC-Free waterproof trousers (just in case)
They’re not 100% essential but if the rain starts to hit or if it’s particularly chilly then at least you can stay relatively warm and dry.
This is a no-brainer. Remember to take plenty of water with you because hiking is thirsty work!
Water purifier bottle
A water purifier is always a good backup in case you do end up running out of water. Plenty of walking trails in the UK have fresh, running water somewhere along the route so you can fill up your bottle. These water purifier bottles by Grayl and Lifestraw are powerful enough to be used in most freshwater sources outdoors. If you want something more lightweight, then you can use this UV SteriPen instead.
All of these walks have breathtaking views so it goes without saying that you’ll want to be able to sit and take them in. You might as well eat a sandwich while you’re at it.
An excuse to take breaks and keep your energy up!
Most of the popular walking trails in the UK are clearly signposted but it’s a good idea to know where you’re going.
You will definitely want to take photos of the scenery and your achievements. Make sure it’s portable and packed into a protective case.
Solar power bank
You might not be able to get phone signal in some of the remotest areas of the countryside but it’s handy to have a fully charged phone in case of emergencies. Instead of trying to conserve your battery, invest in this solar power bank by Elzle.
Trekking poles are ideal for long walks or if you want to keep your stamina up. They can help reduce the impact of hiking on your knee joints and leg muscles. Walking with them can also help relax you and regulate your breathing.
Get your free printable and downloadable UK hiking packing list PDF here!
UK Hiking Safety Tips
When you’re out walking in the British countryside you have to consider a lot of different possible scenarios so you can stay safe. These safety tips should be taken into account for all of the walking trails in the UK:
- Check the weather forecast before you go. The weather can change very suddenly when you’re up in the hills and mountains and it can get perilous if you experience poor visibility or lightning.
- Unless you’re an experienced hiker, don’t go alone just in case you injure yourself.
- Make sure you stay well hydrated on your walk, particularly if it’s warm weather and you’ve got big hills to climb.
- Wear sun protection in the summer to avoid sunburn and heatstroke.
- Know your limits. If you don’t have the physical strength or stamina to climb that next big hill that’s fine. Go easy on yourself, it’s not a competition.
- As tempting as it is to follow the path less travelled, don’t. Stick to the clearly marked tracks. .
- If you’re walking in Scotland, take midge repellent. Trust me, you’re going to need it.
- Don’t hike at night. Simple reason – you can’t see where you’re going.
- Some hiking trails might lead you along roads. Wear something colourful and walk on the right side of the road so you can see the oncoming traffic.
- If there is an emergency, make sure you have the numbers of the appropriate rescue services saved on your phone.
- If you come across horses or cattle on your walk, it’s a good idea to assess the situation before getting nearer. See how the animals are behaving, whether there are any bulls or young. Give the animals a wide berth if you can. Don’t panic or run and keep dogs firmly in control. If they’re obstructing the path you’re within your rights to veer off it and join it again as soon as possible.
A Note for Beginner Hikers
If you’re new to long walking trails or want to get some practice in before you head to the hills, you can build up your strength and stamina by starting small. Find the local walking paths near you and spend a few hours exploring them. Look for small hills to climb or even head to the park if it’s big enough. Once you feel more confident, practice with your rucksack to make sure the weight is comfortable enough for you.
Leave No Trace
The Leave No Trace code of ethics applies to any walker, camper or backpacker. There are seven principles of the code to follow to ensure that you have a safe trip while minimising your impact on the environment as much as possible. I’ve outlined these principles in brief below:
- Plan ahead and prepare for your trip. Problems are less likely to arise if you’re well-prepared.
- Stay on durable surfaces whether you’re walking or camping. This means you should stay in the middle of the path or an established campsite to avoid harming yourself or the environment.
- Dispose of waste properly to avoid pollution. Whatever you bring with you, it should always return with you too whether it’s leftover food or litter. There’s nothing worse than finding an abandoned plastic water bottle up a mountain!
- Minimise campfires if you are camping. Take a lightweight camping stove instead and don’t bring your own firewood as it could introduce new pests and diseases.
- Take only photos and leave everything as you find it.
- Respect wildlife. Keep a distance from any animals you may encounter and don’t try to follow them.
- Respect other visitors and treat others as you would like to be treated.
Of course, this roundup barely scratches the surface of stunning walks in the UK. Other popular beauty spots include the Peak District, the Cotswolds, the Highlands, the Northumberland Coastline and more. The UK truly is a treasure-trove of stunning natural landscapes just begging to be explored. Have fun out there and remember to break in those walking boots first!
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