The UK boasts some of the world’s most beautiful multi-day hikes. From the stunning vistas of the Scottish Highlands, to the spectacular sea-views of the south coast, or any of the history in between, the UK has routes to cater for everyone.
We’ve listed a top five, from north to south. Whether you tackle the whole route, just a section, or use one as a starting point for your adventure, the UK is one of the best places for a multi-day hike.
- The West Highland Way
Scotland’s oldest, and most famous, long-distance hike, the route runs for 96 miles from the edge of Glasgow to Fort William and is usually done over eight days.
The route takes in historic sites, like Glen Coe, and natural beauty with abundant wildlife. For those who are more adventurous the route passes several of Scotland’s munros (Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet), including Ben Nevis at Fort William, providing the opportunity to include a climb.
- Hadrian’s Wall
Built by Hadrian to defend the Roman border from the defiantly unconquered Caledonian tribes, the wall forms a route between the UK’s coasts. Although commonly thought to mark the border with Scotland, the wall lies entirely in Northern England.
At only 84 miles it can be done, by reasonably fit hikers, in about a week, and offers a varied walk. With a mix of gentle strolling and some more challenging hikes, while taking you from rural scenery to urban outskirts, the route offers something for everyone. Those with a love of the past will enjoy the historical sites and the opportunity to take in a World Heritage Site.
3. Coast to coast
Perhaps one of the most famous multi-day hikes, it remains an ‘unofficial’ hike with no marked route. First made popular by Alfred Wainwright with his guidebook ‘A Coast to Coast Walk’, the route takes in some of the country’s most impressive scenery from three national parks: the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, and North York Moors.
Most people take a few weeks to cover the 192 miles. Wainwright’s guide includes sections that end near accommodation, and alternative routes and climbs. However, being unmarked, this is a route for the more confident and experienced hiker.
- Thames Path
While the Thames is associated with London, the Thames Path, for most of its 180-or-so miles, travels through the heart of idyllic countryside and chocolate-box towns.
Beginning in The Cotswolds, the path follows the river from its source to its end at the Thames Barrier in Greenwich. Following the towpath through verdant Cotswold countryside, picturesque cities and towns like Oxford and Henley-on-Thames, it finishes with a section that takes in London’s most iconic sights.
- The South West Coast Path
The most arduous walk on the list, the path stretches a lengthy 630 miles, starting in Somerset and following the coast around Devon, Cornwall, and Devon again to finish in Dorset. The walk is a major commitment, but there are many itineraries that focus on sections for those with less time.
Following the coast means that spectacular ocean views accompany every step, but the walk includes much more than sea air. You will pass vibrant coastal towns and history from Bronze Age burial sites to World War II defence posts. Meanwhile, the wildlife can include, depending on time of year, seabirds, seals, dolphins, and even sharks.
If you are contemplating a hike, all you need is a reasonable level of fitness, good equipment, and some planning.
Be prepared for the UK’s unique climate, sunshine in the morning does not mean you won’t be donning waterproofs in the afternoon. If you are planning on camping, make sure you are comfortable carrying all your kit, and be realistic about what you can achieve, if you are a beginner it’s worth trying shorter test hikes.
But, above all, be prepared to enjoy yourself. Hiking is a fantastic way to see the country and taking a slower pace means being able to take in more of everything.