Easy UK Walking Holidays For Beginners

Easy UK Walking Holidays For Beginners
By Simon Heptinstall

If you think hiking in the UK is all about interminable days on long-distance paths, or scaling Ben Nevis in the driving rain, it’s time to reassess your idea of what a walking holiday can entail.

Many beginners are deterred for fear of getting something wrong or being out of their depth. In fact it’s easy to tailor a walking holiday to virtually every ability level.

Just be honest with yourself about your capabilities. Challenges are good but if you’ve never walked up a mountain it might be rash to plan a holiday doing it every day.

Nevertheless, even beginners can have fun making plans for tackling a long route. A walking holiday in the UK is not an Everest expedition. It doesn’t really matter if you forget to bring enough socks or don’t fix a lunch stop on day six. You’ll get by and tackling the challenges the route throws up is all part of the adventure.

It’s more about recognising your own limits and setting a schedule that fits. Organise something that is going to be an enjoyable holiday.

If you're a walking holiday novice, there a few things to remember in your planning:

Bad walking boots or shoes can spoil the holiday. Make sure they’re well worn in and comfortable before you set off.

Similarly, decent wet weather clothing and a comfortable backpack could save your day.

For absolute peace of mind, a centre-based trip is probably the most beginner-friendly format of walking trip. This is where you base yourself in the same place for several days and take day hikes as and when you desire.

If you feel like tackling a multi-day or point-to-point walk, there are plenty of ‘easy’ to ‘moderate’ rated routes, and many long-distance paths can be shortened into more manageable sections. Look for routes which follow towpaths or old railway lines, with plenty of facilities along the way. These may be the more popular paths and bases but they offer a risk-free way to get started, and they’re popular for a reason: they pass through some of the UK’s best landscapes.

Luggage transfer services are well worth it on a point-to-point trip, converting a self-supported trek into a much more manageable series of day hikes. They can be booked as a standalone service, via walker-friendly accommodation, or as part of a self-guided walking holiday package.

If you are unsure about what to do for your first walking holiday, a group and/or guide does take away some of the worry but you could alternatively opt for a simple centre-based holiday in a spot with plenty of walking options, say Windermere in the Lakes or Brecon in South Wales, and see how you get on. With a centre-based holiday there’s nothing to stop you taking a day off or changing your routes day by day. If you’ve committed to a long distance route you may have accommodation waiting for you up ahead and there may not be much leeway.

Here’s a handful of the UK’s top easy walking holiday paths and locations:

Easy walking holidays in the UK

Ambleside, Lake District

Distance: Various day walks

Duration: Two to three days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Basing a walking holiday in a popular Lake District centre like Ambleside means you have a vast choice of accommodation, outdoor shops and walking routes. It can be crowded and won’t feel like ‘getting away from it all’ but with all those resources on hand it can be perfect for beginners. Walkers can find paths ranging from tricky fell ascents to gentle hikes around lakes, right from their doorstep.

Windermere from Ambleside Lake District England UK

Windermere from above the village Ambleside, in the Lake District

Betws-y-Coed, Snowdonia

Distance: Various day walks

Duration: Two to three days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Snowdonia’s answer to Ambleside is another outdoor centre nestling among trees amid an inspiring mountainous landscape. The picturesque riverside town is a tourist honeypot but walkers can avoid day-tripper crowds by setting off on a wide choice of routes in all directions, then return for quieter evenings among a wide choice of restaurants and accommodation. Highlights could be easy but impressive waterfall walks or tackling one of many routes up Snowdon.

Afon Llugwy at Betwys y Coed Wales UK

Riverside walks from Betwys y Coed, Snowdonia

Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal

Distance: 36 miles/58km

Duration: Two to three days

Difficulty: Easy

One of the UK’s quietest, least known canals isn’t even connected to the rest of the network but offers a leafy, flat, easy walking adventure through the Usk Valley. Historic towns like Crickhowell and Abergavenny provide en-route facilities while walking highlights will include an aqueduct, tunnel, locks, lifting bridges… and fine Brecon Beacons views.

Monmouthshire and brecon canal brecon beacons national park powys wales uk

Relaxed (and flat!) towpath walks alongside the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal

Gower Coast Path

Distance: 46 miles/74km

Duration: Four to five days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

This section of the Wales Coast Path packs a spectacular series of coastal landscapes into a short and, apart from a couple of steep cliffs, mostly easy walk. The route passes some of Britain’s best beaches, swaying marshes, caves, castles and churches. Landscape highlights include Worm’s Head and Three Cliffs Bay. It’s impossible to get lost and walkers find plenty of accommodation and luggage transfers available.

Gower coast path Wales UK

Glorious views from the Gower Coast Path

The Speyside Way

Distance: 65 miles/104km

Duration: Five to six days

Difficulty: Easy

The route through the Speyside Valley winds through pine forests and farmland amid many of Scotland’s famous distilleries. The picturesque area between the Moray coast and Aviemore in the Cairngorm foothills teems with wildlife as well as whisky. The well-marked riverside trail leads through a series of attractive villages offering good rest and refreshment options.

Speyside way Scotland UK

Easy-going trails on the Speyside Way, Scotland

Yorkshire Wolds Way

Distance: 79 miles/ 127km

Duration: Five to seven days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

The little-known south-eastern corner of Yorkshire between Hessle on the Humber and Filey on the North Sea is a rural landscape of gentle hills and valleys. There are no big towns; instead this well planned route wanders across pretty farmland, with possible stays at B&Bs and inns. The best bits will be the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy, the picturesque remains of Londesborough estate and the East Riding’s big skies and panoramas.

UK Yorkshire Wolds

The gently rolling Yorkshire Wolds make for easy-going walks

The Thames Path (Cotswolds to Reading stretch)

Distance: 84 miles/135km

Duration: Seven days

Difficulty: Easy

The first part of this 184-mile national trail leads from the river’s source in the Cotswolds along its banks to the outskirts of Reading. There’s continual walking interest through Cricklade, Lechlade, Oxford, Abingdon and Wallingford with classic English countryside between, including memorable spots like Wittenham Clumps and Oxford’s water meadows. It’s safe, sheltered, flat and walkers will be well supported with facilities.

South Oxfordshire countryside with River Thames looking from Wittenham Clumps england UK

The upper River Thames winding through the Oxfordshire countryside

The South Downs Way

Distance: 100 miles/160km

Duration: Seven to nine days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Enjoy relaxed walking over rolling chalk grassland in South Downs National Park, England’s newest national park, with a chance to stay at cosy B&Bs or quality country inns. It’s a well-marked and maintained route between Winchester and Beachy Head. Facilities include luggage transfers, public transport and plentiful teashops and the holiday highlights may be famous natural landmarks like Devil’s Dyke, Seven Sisters and Old Winchester Hill.

England South Downs Way 5

Relaxed trails through South Downs National Park

Easy UK Walking Holidays For Beginners

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.

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