Walking In The UK

The Best Family Walking Holidays In The UK

The Best Family Walking Holidays In The UK
By Simon Heptinstall

A walking holiday with the kids can be immensely rewarding for the whole family, especially with some forward planning to avoid the possible (but largely obvious) pitfalls.

The location, distance and duration depends entirely on age: very young children are capable of less distance, but older kids can often go further than adults. Teens may relish the challenge of a point-to-point longer distance walk, while younger families may prefer centre-based holidays, with daily hikes from the same location that can be interspersed with non-walking days.

Whatever their age, the most important factor is maintaining morale with interesting sights along the way and, ideally, a memorable finale to aim towards.

Traffic-free routes with options for adapting to the weather are a good idea. In reality almost anywhere in the UK can be adapted for walking with kids. Here’s a selection of some of the country’s best family-friendly hiking locations and routes.

UK family-friendly walking holidays

Welsh Highland Railway, Snowdonia

Distance: Various day walks, from three miles+

Difficulty: Easy

Suggested age: Eight+ if walking, buggy friendly

The 25-mile Welsh Highland Railway runs steam trains through Snowdonia between Porthmadog and Caernarfon. Each station offers some great walking possibilities, so the train line can be used as the basis of a very adaptable walking holiday. Use it to make inn-to-inn journeys or stay in one spot and travel each day. A collection of 32 walks has been published by Walking Books (www.walkingbooks.co.uk) and there are many more, varying from a 20-mile Snowdon circuit to a three-mile potter around Caernarfon Castle.

Family Welsh Higland Railway wales uk

The Welsh Highland Railway promises family fun for all ages

The Yorkshire Dales

Distance: Various day walks, from four miles+

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Suggested age: Eight+

The Dales National Park is full of walks of varying length and difficulty, and most have interesting features to entertain youngsters. The less touristy towns like Settle, with its rail link, or Hawes, with its cobbled streets, make good bases. Walks in the Dales can be hardcore or relaxed. Holiday highlights may include memorable real-life geography lessons like visiting Aysgarth Falls, Malham Cove and White Scar Cave.

Family Aysgarth Falls Yorkshire Dales UK

Aysgarth Falls in the Yorkshire Dales

The Purbeck Way, Dorset

Distance: 28 miles/43km

Duration: Two to three days

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested age: 12+

There’s plenty to keep children entertained on this established scenic route through Dorset. The Purbeck Way leads from Wareham to Old Harry Rocks via Corfe Castle. Then switch to the South West Coast Path through the traditional seaside resort of Swanage. At Chapman’s Pool the path returns to Corfe, or extra keen walkers can opt to continue ten more miles along the coast path to see Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door.

Family Corfe Castle Dorset UK

The ruins of Corfe Castle on the Purbeck Way in Dorset

The Brecon Beacons, Wales

Distance: Various day walks, from four miles+

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested age: Eight+

Streams pour south from mountains in Brecon Beacons National Park through wooded valleys and gorges to the south, creating the UK’s biggest concentration of waterfalls. Dozens of walks cover the area, some even passing behind the cascades of large falls. The varied distances and difficulties of walks make it a perfect flexible option for families with children. The riverside villages of Ystradfellte and Pontneddfechan make good bases. Note that the falls are best after rain, but that means woodland paths can be very muddy and slippery.

Family Sgwd Gwladus or Lady Falls on the River Pyrddin in the Brecon Beacons National Park UK

Sgwd Gwladus, or the Lady Falls, on the River Pyrddin in the Brecon Beacons

The Weavers’ Way, Norfolk

Distance: 62 miles/100km

Duration: Four to six days

Difficulty: Easy

Suggested age: 10+

Find an intriguing sequence of windmills, old churches and large manor houses on this quiet, safe and traffic-free long distance path in the north east of Norfolk. There’s a limited selection of refreshments and accommodation in villages between Cromer and Great Yarmouth, so book ahead. Reward reluctant children with seaside days at either end of the walk.

Family Cromer Norfolk UK

Take a break from walking at the Cromer seaside

Best of Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland

Distance: 30 miles/48km

Duration: Three to five days

Difficulty: Moderate

Suggested age: 12+

The best stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, between Lanercost Priory and Corbridge, is like a walking history lesson. The wall and its forts are some of the UK’s best-preserved Roman sites and stand amid a dramatic Northumberland moorland landscape. Scenic highlights will also include the photogenic Sycamore Gap and Sewingshields Crags. Walk west to east with winds behind and take advantage of plentiful luggage services, public transport and walkers’ accommodation in inns, B&Bs and guesthouses.

Family Hadrians Wall UK

Following Hadrian's Wall in Northumberland

The Great Glen Way, Highlands

Distance: 79 miles/127km

Duration: Five to seven days

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Suggested age: 14+

Scotland’s Great Glen Way leads along a series of lochs, rivers and canals between Inverness and Fort William. Handily, the two highland towns are connected by train too, making transport arrangements easy. Kids will love exploring the shores of Loch Ness and the mostly flat route is full of chances to spot deer, dolphins, red squirrels… and maybe the monster too.

Family Fort Augustus Scotland UK Crowds of people visit the Caledonian Canal locks at the south side of Loch Ness on a cloudy day

Impressive locks on the Caledonian Canal, Loch Ness

The John O’Groats Trail (final section), Highlands

Distance: 34 miles/64km

Duration: Three to four days

Difficulty: Moderate to hard

Suggested age: 15+

Select the final quarter of this 147-mile long distance trail from Inverness to give a meaningful finale to a family walking holiday. Start instead from Lybster and head north along this wild and rugged coast. Kids will love to boast that they walked to John O’Groats. Luggage can be transferred but facilities like buses and B&Bs are limited, so plan carefully. Highlights include cliff waterfalls, dramatic sea stacks, ancient harbours, windswept castle ruins… and of course John O’Groats itself.

Family John O Groats Scotland

Next stop the Arctic Circle

The Best Family Walking Holidays 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.

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