You may think you know the UK but there are plenty of surprises yet to be found, and a walking holiday is the best way to do it.

Wherever you live, don’t let the cosy familiarity of the UK’s cultural icons and famous landmarks deter you from exploring the rest of the country – ideally by foot!

These four nations are densely packed with variety. Away from Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, there are places that most people, locals and visitors alike, have never heard of. And there's no better way to see it all than on a walking holiday, following the countless miles of footpaths through landscapes that are always rich in tradition, varied in scenery and full of history.

Rolling, rural landscapes stretch away into the distance; a green-and-gold patchwork of farmland, criss-crossed by wildlife-filled hedgerows and fringed with deep-scented woodlands of oak, ash, beech and hazel. Further afield there are windswept moors, remote hills and valleys, and of course, a never-ending coastline, topped by cliffs and dotted with smugglers coves and long sandy beaches.

Here's our essential guide to the best walking holidays in the UK. Happy rambling!

The best places for walking in the UK

Our experts' popular – and some lesser-known – picks

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall

For a group of small islands we are truly spoiled for choice when it comes to walking. There are the obvious – and often busy – hotspots; the Cotswolds, Lake District, Snowdon, the Scottish Highlands, etc. But there are myriad quieter corners that even few native Brits are familiar with. If I had to pick an absolute best place to walk in the UK, it would be my native southwest; the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset, but all the following are well worth your time.

The UK's best walking holidays

Popular and lesser-known walks in the UK

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall

With well marked paths, excellent walker-friendly services, and a cosy country pub always within walking distance, there can't be many places better suited to a walking holiday than the familiar old UK. The following includes some firm and well-known favourites, along with a smattering of walks you may not have heard of, but which I'm certain deserve their place on this list.

South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 630 miles/1,014km
  • Duration: 30 – 60 days, or shorter sections
  • Start point: Minehead, Somerset
  • End point: Poole, Dorset
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard, with repeated climbs and descents
  • Suitable for: There’s a small scenic section for everyone but the whole route is for those with time and stamina.

Of all my favourite walks in the UK, this one easily tops the list.

The South West Coast Path is England’s longest trail but also one of its most famous and highly rated. In the Lonely Planet Guide to Great Britain it is the first attraction mentioned and often features in lists of the world’s best walking trails.

Very few walkers complete the path in one go; for most it’s a longer-term project that’s broken up into more easily-manageable sections. Exactly how you split it up depends on how much time you have for each stretch, and how challenging you want to make it.


Hadrian's Wall

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 84 miles (135km)
  • Duration: From Six to 10 days
  • Start point: Wallsend, Newcastle
  • End point: Bowness-on-Solway
  • Difficulty: Moderate to easy – well-marked route; few steep gradients; some stiles to negotiate
  • Suitable for: Any reasonably fit walker, including families.

This unique walking trail not only crosses the width of England, but also follows the course of Britain’s largest Roman monument – a 1,900-year-old, 73-mile long fortification that once marked the northern boundary of the Roman Empire.

Accommodation is plentiful along the route, and includes campsites, hostels and B&Bs. Where you break for the night depends not only on how far you’re able to walk each day, but also on how interested you are in the numerous Roman sights along the way. It can take a few hours to visit a museum or the ruins of a Roman fort, but not every walker visits them all, so factor this into your plan.


The Pennine Way

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 268 miles (431km)
  • Duration: Three to four weeks, or shorter segments
  • Start point: Edale, Derbyshire
  • End point: Kirk Yetholm, Scottish Borders
  • Difficulty: Moderate/strenuous – hilly, often remote upland, long stretches between accommodation
  • Suitable for: Experienced walkers

This iconic trail follows the rugged ridge forming the backbone of northern England. Don’t be deceived by crowds of day walkers at popular spots, the full route is a tough, varied but memorable undertaking.


Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 186 miles (299km)
  • Duration: 16 days in total or shorter segments
  • Start point: Amroth
  • End point: St Dogmaels
  • Difficulty: Moderate – No problem to navigate, and not technically difficult, but don’t underestimate its length, nor the steepness of some of the cliff climbs
  • Suitable for: Any fit walker; great for families, though not necessarily in one go

Whisper it quietly; this might just be the best coastal path in Britain. Pembrokeshire has it all – dramatic clifftop vistas, seemingly endless beaches, secluded coves and tiny fishing villages, but best of all; almost no one knows about it, so you get pretty much all of it to yourself.

You’ll need two or three weeks to complete the trail in one go, most people do it in shorter segments. Some of the more remote stretches have a dearth of accommodation so you may need to adjust your daily distances accordingly. In general, there’s a good range of places to stay, from campsites and hostels, to B&Bs and guesthouses. Don’t forget to factor in one or two rest days; walking for 16 days on the trot is a tough ask.

Lake District

Wainwright's Coast to Coast Path

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 190.5 miles (306.5km)
  • Duration: 14 days
  • Start point: St Bees
  • End point: Robin Hood’s Bay
  • Difficulty: Moderate to hard – very hilly through the Lake District stages; poorly waymarked in places, particularly over the Pennines; expect rain and boggy ground at times
  • Suitable for: Fit walkers with a sense of adventure

Considered by some to be the best long-distance walk in England, Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Path has many remarkable qualities, but it’s the walker camaraderie that is so often the stand-out take-home of this hugely popular cross-country hike. The scenery is at times stunning – looking at you, Lake District – but the sense of community you experience with fellow walkers is felt here on this walk perhaps more than on any other in Britain.

The Highlands

The West Highland Way

Fergal MacErlean
By Fergal MacErlean
  • Distance: 96 miles (154km)
  • Duration: Eight days
  • Start point: Milngavie
  • End point: Fort William
  • Difficulty: Moderate with harder northern sections – well-marked route; some remote and hilly parts
  • Suitable for: Any reasonably fit walker, family-friendly sections highlighted below

Scotland's oldest and most popular long-distance walking route – the West Highland Way – appeals to serious walkers, strolling day trippers and even runners who race the 96 miles in under 35 hours! Walkers take around a week to complete the distance, travelling from the outskirts of Glasgow, past Loch Lomond’s wooded banks, via Tyndrum and across the wilds of Rannoch Moor before a final stretch to finish in the Highland town of Fort William.


The Monarch’s Way

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 615 miles/990km
  • Duration: 30 - 60 days, or shorter sections
  • Start point: Worcester
  • End point: Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex
  • Difficulty: Easy to medium
  • Suitable for: History fans and walkers who enjoy discovering little known patches of rural England

Here's another left-field suggestion you won't find in all the obvious contenders, but one I feel deserves inclusion for its historical interest as much as the walking.

The Monarch’s Way loops down from the West Midlands to the south coast of England, following the lengthy route taken by Charles II to evade capture following defeat by Cromwell at the Battle of Worcester in 1651.

The Monarch’s Way is so long that it is usually broken into three sections for convenience of description and mapping. It’s customary to start at Worcester, as Charles did. He escaped rapidly after watching the Royalist defeat in the final battle of the English Civil War from the cathedral tower, so the grand gothic church is a good place to begin.


The Wye Valley Walk

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 136 miles/219 km
  • Duration: Seven to 10 days, or in shorter sections
  • Start point: Rhyd-y-benwch (Wales)
  • End point: Chepstow (England)
  • Difficulty: Easy to medium
  • Suitable for: Leafy river walking & romantic landmarks

Not one that features in most "best of" roundups. Unshowy yet stunning and dramatic in places, the Wye Valley Walk is an underrated long-distance route from mid-Wales through quiet, leafy valleys, across austere moorland and through the bucolic farmland of Herefordshire to Chepstow. The Wye Valley itself is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the trail calls at various historic landmarks and picturesque villages.

Do the full route in seven to 10 days, or in shorter segments at your leisure.

The Highlands

The Great Glen Way

Fergal MacErlean
By Fergal MacErlean
  • Distance: 78 miles (125km)
  • Duration: Five to seven days
  • Start point: Fort William
  • End point: Inverness
  • Difficulty: First half flat, then some very hilly sections
  • Suitable for: All levels

The Great Glen fault line bisects the Scottish highlands to create an epic backdrop for this spectacular hike. The largely low-level Great Glen Way has beautiful and varied scenery throughout as you follow canal towpaths, pass forests, moorland and mountains on a well-marked path.

The Great Glen Way is well served by various walking holiday companies and services. You can book your own accommodation and baggage transfer, or let a specialist organise your entire trip.

Northern Ireland

Causeway Coast Way

Belinda Dixon
By Belinda Dixon
  • Distance: 32 miles/51km
  • Duration: Two days
  • Start point: Portstewart, Derry
  • End point: Ballycastle, County Antrim
  • Difficulty: Moderate, with well-marked trails
  • Suitable for: Fit hikers; families; geographers; photographers

This path takes in the big sights on Northern Ireland’s blockbuster shore. You’ll encounter the mesmerising Giant’s Causeway, wobbly Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge and photogenic Dunluce Castle, as well as a clutch of Game of Thrones film locations.

Inevitably the big-name sights get busy, but tucked in between are vast sandy beaches and stretches of uncrowded cliffs.

South Downs

South Downs Way

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall
  • Distance: 99 miles (159km)
  • Duration: Nine days
  • Start point: Winchester
  • End point: Eastbourne
  • Difficulty: Moderate to easy – relatively short and very easy to navigate; few very steep climbs, though a lot of walking up and down small hills
  • Suitable for: Any reasonably fit walker, including families; can also be cycled

You’ll walk through landscapes of rolling hills and breezy fields of corn, passing numerous pretty villages with thatched cottages, historic pubs and gardens bursting with blooms. And there’s a fitting final-day climax as you rollercoaster your way up and down the majestic chalk cliffs known as the Seven Sisters before reaching the beaches of Eastbourne for a celebratory ice cream.

Most of the gradients are reassuringly manageable along the pleasant chalk hills of the South Downs Way, and the weather down here is usually pretty favourable.

South West Coast Path Valley of the Rocks Exmoor Devon UK

Valley of the Rocks, Exmoor, on the South West Coast Path

Walking holidays in the UK

Everything you wish you'd known before you booked

The United Kingdom is a walker's paradise: Hundreds of thousands of miles of well-mapped public footpaths, beautifully varied landscapes, excellent hospitality, and easily accessible. It’s no wonder this is a nation of walkers.

From the Scottish Highlands to the South Downs and almost everywhere in between, walker-friendly accommodation, well organised baggage transfer services and convenient transport connections make organising walking trips a piece of cake.

And don’t forget the British USP: almost every day of walking can be rounded off in that most unique and ancient of British institutions: the village pub, a welcoming place to rest, drink, usually eat, often stay and always experience an easy way to meet the locals.

Self-guided vs guided walking holidays

There are three broad categories of walking holidays: Fully independent, an organised but self-guided holiday, or an escorted tour, typically with a guide and a group of other walkers.

Each has its own merits. Which you plump for depends partly on your physical ability and your budget, but generally speaking it’s a question of convenience versus freedom.

Fully independent

This is typically the preserve of dedicated trekkers in the more remote wilderness areas where accommodation and services are few and far between.

Some take this to the extreme by being almost completely self-sufficient, carrying a tent and cooking equipment with them and pitching up at whatever quiet camping spot they find each evening. (Wild camping is generally prohibited in England and Wales, but is permissible—within limits—in Scotland.) Others will use B&Bs as they go, but carry everything they need for the entire trip, perhaps altering their route as they go.

It’s difficult to quantify the sense of freedom you have when you set off on a walk from A to B, carrying everything you might need along the way and navigating yourself the entire way. It’s also usually the cheapest way to go, but the main advantage is that you don’t have to tie yourself down to a rigid schedule. Instead, you can go with the flow, walking as fast or slow as you prefer and stopping wherever and whenever you like. And unless you’re hiking a very remote mountainous area in, say, the Scottish Highlands, navigation is rarely a major problem.

Most walking trails in Britain are well marked, particularly the National Trails and the coastal paths, and they are usually covered by a comprehensive, easy-to-follow guidebook, or at very least a mapping series. Top tip: Invest in a walking guide. It’ll be the best £10 you spend on your trip.

Recommended guidebooks

Simon Heptinstall
By Simon Heptinstall

The information on the following pages is intended to help you decide what, when and where your next walking holiday should be. Once you've booked your trip it's wise to invest in a detailed, location-specific walking guidebook. There are lots on the market, the following are particularly recommended:

Cicerone Guides are the best-known source of up-to-date walking guides, with a range of around 350 practical, pocket-sized books and around 30 new editions a year. Expect to pay between £9 and £16 for a guide.

Trailblazer guides are highly recommended by walkers and travel writers alike with a level of detail and usability that is second to none, and large-scale maps that are drawn from scratch.

Look out too for Poucher’s Guides, published by Frances Lincoln and highly rated by walkers. They’re hard to find today other than secondhand from online sources. Other good titles are Crimson Publishing’s Pathfinder Guides or the Inn Way Series.

Organised/self-guided walking holidays

For most walkers, carrying all the gear you need for a multi-day trip just isn’t feasible, but going on an escorted or fully guided tour also doesn’t appeal. Fortunately, there are plenty of specialist walking holiday companies that will tailor an itinerary to your level, book your nightly accommodation and transport your luggage from one guesthouse to the next as you complete your walk. This is by far the most common and popular mode of walking holiday in the UK.

There are some restrictions (they can’t always deliver to campsites, for example, nor to very remote hostels), and you’ll be tied to a pre-set itinerary of course, but this option does leave you with the freedom of walking on your own, without having the physical burden of anything more than a light daypack.

A slightly more DIY variation on the organised self-guided walking holiday is to pre-book each night’s accommodation yourself and organise your own baggage transfer from inn to inn. Walker-oriented B&Bs may offer a baggage transfer service via local taxi companies or, in the more popular walking areas, you’ll find standalone baggage transfer services. When all’s said and done the cost saving between this and booking an organised holiday won’t be significant, and the convenience and reassurance of using a specialist walking holiday company usually outweighs any benefits of doing it all yourself.

Escorted/group walking tours

For those who don’t trust their navigational skills or just prefer to walk with others, escorted tours offer fully supported group walks with an experienced guide. This also removes the hassle of having to plan your trip—a nice feeling when you’re on a holiday. Trips usually include accommodation, transport arrangements, baggage transfer, minibus back-up and, of course, a guide.

The downside is that you won’t be able to stop where and when you want, to take that afternoon snooze on a sunny riverbank, to spend an extra few minutes lining up that perfect selfie, or to take an extra rest day in an idyllic fishing village you discover you have a soft spot for. Taking a guided tour also makes your walking holiday significantly more expensive.

Point-to-point vs centre-based walking holidays

Classic point-to-point (sometimes marketed as ‘inn-to-inn’) walking trips follow a single route for the duration of your holiday. This allows walkers to tackle long distance trails and enter into the purposeful mindset of accomplishing a single, longer journey with a rewarding sense of completion at the end.

The downsides are of course a lot of planning for changing accommodation and refreshment on a daily basis. It may mean organising a luggage transfer service, either formally with a specialist company, via taxi, or through your accommodation. You’ll never be settled and feel at home in one place and may be forced to walk to the next accommodation whatever the weather or state of your legs.

Centre-based walking holidays are a more relaxed option, although if your centre is Llanberis in Snowdonia or Windermere in the Lakes you could be in for a very challenging series of day walks. The choice of home base becomes more important if you are spending every night of the holiday there.

If your holiday is more than a couple of days your walks from the same base are likely to involve some repetition, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if the scenery is truly great. You will never get the same smug feeling of completion at the end of a two-week hike but balance that with the compensation of being able to do something different whenever you fancy or find a short cut back to your accommodation if it starts raining. You can adapt to the weather and your energy levels in a way that point-to-point walkers can’t.

Muddying the waters further is the option of dual (or more) centre trips. There’s nothing stopping you spending several days in one place and then moving on to the next. A specialist walking holiday company can create a suitable itinerary.

How much does a UK walking holiday cost?

Costs vary depending on your chosen flavour of trip and can fluctuate significantly by location. Prices are generally higher the further south you go, but also spike in tourist hotspots like the Lake District and the Cotswolds. Solo travellers will often pay more for accommodation than a couple would pay per person.

Fully independent

(per person)

Accommodation (B&B/walking inns): £50 - £100 per night

Evening meals (in pubs/hotel restaurants): £15 - £20 per day

Baggage transfer, if applicable: around £10 per day per bag

Extras (lunch, snacks, entrance tickets): £5 - £20 per day

Self-guided walking holidays

Between £80 and £150 per person per day, depending on the location. Typically includes accommodation, breakfasts, bag transfers and all other logistics.

Escorted/group walking holidays

One week escorted tour: depending on standard of accommodation, from £700 to £1,000 (including accommodation & breakfast, but no other meals)

Meals: £120-£200

When to go walking in the UK

The UK has a temperate-maritime climate which brings cold, wet winters and warm(er) but also often wet summers. Surrounded by sea, the country has changeable weather that can vary within short distances and timescales. There can be fine bright walking days at any time of the year, but they can just as quickly turn into wet and windy afternoons!

Summer is almost never too hot to walk but winters can bring snow, particularly in Scotland and on high ground in Wales and northern England.

Overall the north is on average four or five degrees cooler and wetter. The southwest and Wales are mildest but due to prevailing winds from the Atlantic get more rain than eastern areas.

Generally the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn offer the best balance of smaller crowds and more agreeable weather.

Aside from the more remote stretches of the Scottish Highlands, you won’t find any genuine wilderness in the UK. But conditions can still turn treacherous even when you’re relatively close to civilisation. Regardless of the month, sensible preparation and packing all-weather gear is essential.

UK walking resources

Maps, walking guides, apps and other trip planning resources for UK walking holidays.

Walking maps

Ordnance Survey: The gold standard of maps and a national treasure.

Harvey Maps: Specialist walking maps in a variety of scales.

Walking guides
UK walking sites
Country-specific walking sites

In this guide

About the authors

Walking holidays in the UK

Simon Heptinstall

Simon is a TV writer turned travel journalist and photographer who specialises in walking and hiking holidays in the United Kingdom, Europe and beyond. He writes on walking holidays in England for the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The Daily Mail, among others.

Walking holidays in the UK

Kerry Walker

Based in the mountains of Mid Wales, Kerry Walker is an award-winning British travel writer, author, photographer, translator and co-founder of Undiscovered Wales. She is also lover of mountains, cold places and true wilderness.

Walking holidays in the UK

Taylor St. John

Taylor is a freelance travel journalist based between Glasgow and the east coast of the U.S. She writes for publications like HuffPost UK, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Country Walking, easyJet Traveller and

Walking holidays in the UK

Daniel McCrohan

Daniel is a prolific guidebook writer who divides his time between exploring Asia for Lonely Planet and Britain for Trailblazer. As well as writing close to 50 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, he has worked on more than a dozen Trailblazer walking guides, and has hiked and camped his way across many parts of the UK, China, Mongolia and India.

Walking holidays in the UK

Belinda Dixon

Belinda Dixon has researched Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland guidebooks for Lonely Planet and produces podcasts for Ordnance Survey (OS). She has led wilderness expeditions to the Indian Himalaya, Iceland and the Canadian Yukon with the youth development charity, British Exploring.

Walking holidays in the UK

Fergal MacErlean

Dublin-born Fergal fell in love with Scotland as a student, settling there to become a journalist and cycle guidebook writer. In addition to his guides covering Scotland, he has written for the BBC, New Scientist, BBC Countryfile Magazine and many travel publications. Andalusia is a second home.

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