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.

The only thing you need to know is decide where to go, and how to do it. We’ve got you covered on both counts. Read on for our in-depth guide to planning a walking trip in the UK.

Planning a walking trip in the UK

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Self-guided vs guided walking

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

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 (www.cicerone.co.uk) 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 (www.trailblazer-guides.com) 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.

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The UK By Foot

Walking holidays in the UK

The United Kingdom must be one of the easiest places on earth to explore by foot. Compact, well-connected and criss-crossed by hundreds of thousands of miles of footpaths and public rights of way; just find one of those familiar yellow and green arrows, and off you go.

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Point-to-point vs centre-based trips

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 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. (www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk)

Harvey Maps: Specialist walking maps in a variety of scales. (www.harveymaps.co.uk)

Walking guides

Cicerone Guides (www.cicerone.co.uk)

Pathfinder Guides (www.pathfinderwalks.co.uk)

Inn Way Guides (www.innway.co.uk)

UK walking sites

UK National Trail website (www.nationaltrail.co.uk)

National Trust walks (www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walking)

Long Distance Walkers Association (www.ldwa.org.uk)

Met Office mountain weather forecast (www.metoffice.gov.uk)

GPS Routes (www.gps-routes.co.uk)

Country-specific walking sites

Walk Highlands (www.walkhighlands.co.uk)

Walk NI (www.walkni.com)

Visit Wales (www.visitwales.com)

Visit England (www.visitengland.com)

Walking In The UK

Simon Heptinstall

Former Top Gear writer Simon Heptinstall has slowed down a bit recently and now much prefers walking. His hikes have taken him as far as Svalbard, the Falklands and Budleigh Salterton. Find his travel writing everywhere from the Wall Street Journal to the Daily Mail.

Walking 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 In The UK

Taylor St. John

Taylor is a freelance writer and international odd-jobs enthusiast who has spent the past eight years collecting unique work experiences across New Zealand, Australia and Scotland. Currently based between Glasgow and the east coast of the U.S., she writes about travel and the outdoors for publications like HuffPost UK, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Country Walking, easyJet Traveller and Orkney.com. She is also an associate for an Orkney-based environmental consultancy, helping to promote innovations in sustainability and renewable energy development.

Walking 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 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), Great Britain’s national mapping agency. She’s also a Media Leader with the youth development charity British Exploring, a role that’s seen her help lead wilderness expeditions to the Indian Himalaya, Iceland and the Canadian Yukon.

Walking 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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