7 of Britain's best long distance walking trails

Britain’s National Trails will lead you through some of the country’s most awe-inspiring landscapes. From the River Thames to the Northumberland National Park and the classic English beauty of the Cotswolds, here’s the low down on some of our most outstanding long-distance paths, if you’re longing to explore the great outdoors on a future trip to Britain.

 

The South West Coast Path

A person on a footpath on the coastal path towards Praa Sands.

Following 630 miles of dramatic and varied coastline, the South West Coast Path connects Somerset to Dorset as a section of the England Coast Path. This trail can be completed in 30 to 50 days or split into far shorter breaks, such as the two-day adventure from Charmouth to Abbotsbury, which takes in the fossil-filled Jurassic Coast.

Looking forward to the dramatic coastal views of south-west England? Make note of a five-mile section of the path that runs from Steart Farm to the fishing village of Clovelly. This historic route includes the much-loved Hobby Drive viewpoint, built as a scenic carriage route in the 19th century to showcase the area’s nature beauty.

Where to stay: On a future trip, you could enjoy a night at Clovelly’s Red Lion Hotel, which is nestled in an idyllic spot by the waterfront.

 

The Pennine Way

People walking on the limestone pavement above the cliffs of Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales. Pennine Way walking route. Hiking. Hikers, walkers.

The 268-mile Pennine Way is one of Britain’s most famous walking trails, a route which meanders from the Derbyshire Peak District, through the Yorkshire Dales and ends on the Scottish border. This trail – the oldest National Trail in England - can be completed in 19 days, independently or as part as an organised walking holiday. It crosses many different terrains, so there are also numerous chances to slice it into shorter day rambles, such as discovering Yorkshire’s striking Malham Cove or exploring Kinder Scout, Derbyshire’s highest point.

Memorable stops along this route are Yorkshire’s cool, creative hub, Hebden Bridge, and the market town of Skipton, home to an 11th century castle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.

Where to stay: Looking for a room with a view? You could enjoy a night or two at Britain’s highest pub, the Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire.

 

Hadrian’s Wall, North-East England

Once an ancient Roman fortification built to ward off the northern tribes, these days Hadrian’s Wall is a World Heritage Site and a fantastic location for walking, taking six or seven days to complete on foot.

It marks a National Trail that runs for 84 miles (135km) through the spectacular landscapes of the Northumberland National Park. Walkers can look over miles of sweeping farmland to the distant rise of the Whin Sill escarpment and the lush green pastures of Cumbria, and imagine the Roman soldiers who once kept guard on the wall.

A circular route from Housesteads to Steel Rigg, featuring a centuries-old Sycamore Gap tree, takes in some of the best preserved parts of the wall. The remains of the Housesteads Roman Fort can give you a glimpse into Roman life, as can stops at other sites along Hadrian’s Wall including Segedunum, Birdoswald and Vindolanda.

Where to stay: If you’re a history buff looking to stay near to the sites, Beggars Bog is a bed and breakfast close to Housesteads Roman Fort.

 

 

Glyndŵr's Way, Mid Wales

Female walker on Glyndwr's Way below Foel Fadian Cambrian Mountains, Powys, Wales

Green pastures and dramatic open moorland await on Glyndŵr's Way, a National Trail that runs for 135 miles (217km) through some of Mid-Wales’ most beautiful parts. Taking approximately nine days to complete, you can look forward to gazing out over the Cambrian Mountains and seeing the sky reflected in Lake Vyrnwy as you enjoy the peace and quiet of the Welsh countryside. For a taste of Glyndŵr's Way, you could adventure from Llanidloes to Machynlleth. This 27-mile route includes a climb to a reservoir behind Britain’s tallest concrete dam, coupled with the striking scenery of the Cambrian Mountains and the glistening lakes and epic views of Dulas Valley. Other notable sights in Machynlleth include the Owain Glyndŵr Centre, the site where the medieval warrior was named Prince of Wales in 1404, and MOMA Machynlleth.

Where to stay: You’ll find there are plenty of places to stay along Glyndŵr Way, such as the Maenllwyd Guest House, which offers cosy rooms and hearty breakfasts.

 

 

Cotswold Way, Central England

If you’re looking for those traditional English countryside scenes of rolling green hills, forests and farmland, the Cotswolds offers just that. The Cotswold Way runs for 102 miles (164km), rewarding walkers with great views over the beech woods, pasture and traditional limestone villages of the Severn Vale. Connecting the quintessential English town of Chipping Campden to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre city of Bath, it takes approximately 10 days to complete. Highlights along the trail include Broadway Tower, a hilltop folly castle with panoramic views and the grand Sudeley Castle and Gardens, which is bursting with royal stories.  

If you want to experience a slice of the Cotswold Way in a day, venture along the six-mile Cleeve Hill Ring walk. As you stroll through limestone grassland, you’ll be rewarded with vast views, babbling streams and lush woodland.

Where to stay: South Gloucestershire’s Haresfield Beacon is the route’s halfway point and is home to the 19th century Beacon Inn, complete with restaurant, bar and beautiful views of the surrounding landscape.

 

 

The Thames Path, Southern/Central England and London

Follow Britain’s best-known river as it winds into London, and imagine all the goings-on this waterway has seen through time. The Thames Path runs 184 miles (294km) from the source of the River Thames in Kemble, Gloucestershire, and you can watch it turn from a stream into the broad river that runs through London. Riverside pubs, market towns (including Oxford) and London’s bustling Southbank are all highlights of this trail.

This entire route can be walked in 14 days, but one tempting 22-mile section connects Henley-on-Thames to Windsor, both of which are drenched in English tradition. From the classic town which hosts the annual Henley Royal Regatta, you can follow the river and pass through picturesque villages on the way to the royal residence of Windsor Castle.

The Thames Path is also peppered with bucket-list gems including Hampton Court Palace, relaxing river cruises, and a chance to sample a taste of Britain on a Chiltern winery and brewery tour.

Where to stay: You could enjoy a stay in Rioshouse Henley Hotel or Hotel du Vin, located close to the famous waterway in Henley-on-Thames.

 

 

The West Highland Way, the Highlands, Scotland

Loch Leven is a freshwater loch set in the dramatic landscape of mountains in the Scottish highlands. An islet in the loch with yachts moored.

The West Highland Way is like a sightseer’s guide to Scotland’s most famous landscapes. The snowy crags of Ben Lomond, the great glassy expanse of Loch Lomond, and the rugged peaks of Glencoe are among the sights you’ll encounter as you tackle Scotland’s great outdoors, and meet all kinds of wildlife as you go.

This 96-mile (154Km) route can take between five and eight days to complete, going from Milngavie near Glasgow, through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, to Fort William in the Highlands. Some of the best views along this route can be experienced along the last section of the trail, from Kinlochleven to Fort William, with scenes across Loch Leven and views of Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain.

Where to stay: You’ll find there is plenty of accommodation available along the West Highland Way, including Loch Lomond’s Arrochoile B&B or Ben Lomond Bunkhouse – both a stone’s throw from the sparkling loch itself.