When you go hiking in UK, you’ll be diving into a world abundant with diverse, breathtaking scenery. Pristine nature combined with cultural highlights make the island a terrific destination for anyone who likes to discover the world on foot.
Whether it’s a romantic stroll along the mighty cliffs of Cornwall, an extended hike in the gently rolling picture-book countryside of the Cotswolds or a visit to mysterious lakes like Scotland’s legendary Loch Ness, the UK is a hiker’s dream come true.
The best hikes in the UK run through broad moors and deep forests, along the Thames in London and up exquisite mountains. British weather does have the occasional surprise in store, but it also delivers impressive sights like mist-covered hills and dramatic cloud formations.
I divided this guide into a few different sections:
- Why the UK is a fabulous hiking destination
- Best time to go hiking in the UK
- Best hiking regions in England
- Best hiking regions in Scotland
- Best hiking regions in Wales
Breathtaking Sceneries – Best Hiking in UK
Your hikes in the UK will lead you through a rich diversity of landscapes. It needn’t always be a challenging day trip; England’s stately manor houses and gardens invite you for simple, relaxing strolls, too.
The country is criss-crossed by world-renowned long-distance hiking trails. Hadrian’s Wall lures you in the north, while in the south, it’s the divine world of the Cotswolds that entices.
The Scottish highlands enchant with their unspoiled, rugged countryside, while storybook castles await you in little Wales. Follow Robin Hood’s footsteps into the heart of the forest, or clamber up Ben Nevis, Great Britain’s highest peak at 1,344 meters.
You can stop for a bite at quaint pubs anywhere along the hiking trails in UK, have a beer and join the locals in complaining about the weather.
The Joys of Hiking in the UK
Here in the UK, hiking is an age-old tradition. The countless hikes in the UK allow you to discover the entire island on your own two feet. Will it be imperial England, fairy-tale Wales or untamed Scotland? You’ll have a tough time choosing among the most intriguing hiking routes.
From short walks to thrilling themed trails to some of the world’s loveliest long-distance routes, Britain has everything the hiker’s heart desires. Thanks to the excellent infrastructure, hiking with kids in the UK is a real pleasure. Hiker-friendly hosts and hiking trails that accommodate strollers will simplify your arrangements, and the wide range of leisure activities will provide diversion when the kids get bored or the weather upsets your plans.
Whatever the weather, you’ll meander by scenic lakes and through dense woodlands, over rolling hills and vast highlands or along fascinating, wave-battered coastlines. Sheep and cattle graze in bright green meadows, and time and again you’ll find yourself in tiny, enchanted villages where you can warm up, dry off and chow down.
What is the best time to go hiking in the UK?
Concerns when planning hikes in the UK mostly relate to the unpredictable weather. Although surprise showers do occur, they’re often only brief ones. The famous climate contributes to the drama of the dreamlike scenery, which would only be half as lovely in perpetual sunshine.
Fog-shrouded rocky coasts are beautifully photogenic, as are the solitary beams of light that find their way through dramatic cloud formations, bathing the forests in a mystical glow.
The best time to go hiking in the UK is usually between May and September. In general, spring is less rainy than fall. That said, even in summer you should be prepared for all weather conditions. Waterproof hiking boots and a rain jacket are essential items, and planning will be easier if you take a daily look at the weather forecast.
Snow comes down in winter, especially in the northern highlands, and the countryside transforms into an enchanting winter wonderland. Whether it’s a romantic stroll along cleared winter hiking trails or a stomp in snowshoes over the gleaming whiteness, gorgeous views are guaranteed.
The Best Hiking Regions in England
1. The Lake District
Located in North England, the Lake District is one of the most iconic places in the UK for hiking and pretty much any outdoor activity. The national park has been announced a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017 and is home to England’s highest mountain (the craggy, 978-meter high Scafell Pike) and over 14 lakes and tarns – the deepest and largest in England.
Its landscape is defined by smooth U-shaped volcanic valleys and steep and sharp ridges, which make for fantastic hiking possibilities.
2. Dartmoor National Park
If you’ve ever read British mystery or horror books, it’s likely they were set in England’s wildest landscapes in Dartmoor National Park. The open moorlands and deep river valleys inspired many famous novelists, like Agatha Christie e.g.. With its rich history and rare wildlife it certainly belongs to the best hiking in UK and won’t disappoint you.
3. The Peak District
The Peak District is a classic among the hiking regions in the UK. It was England’s first national park and remains one of the most popular destinations for outdoor lovers. You can’t go wrong here, there is so many hiking trails to choose from that it’s hard to actually choose.
For breathtaking 360° views over the valleys and mountains of the Peak District, trek up Mam Tor. The route is well-paved and not too hard to hike but rewards you tenfold.
4. The North Norfolk Coast
If you love extended hikes by the ocean, the North Norfolk coast in England’s east is the perfect hiking destination for you. As one of the flattest regions in the UK you can enjoy long walks with trekking up hills, perfect for beginners and families. The scenery boasts miles of rugged shores, cute little villages and rich wildlife.
Another bonus: In North Norfolk, you will likely have most landscapes for yourself as it’s one of the less crowded hiking destinations in the UK.
5. Exmoor National Park
The hiking trails in Exmoor National Park will take you through deep forests, over lush hills and along the rugged coast down of Devon in the very south of England. If you’re looking for the most spectacular views over the cliffs, hike around the huge rocks in the Valley of the Rocks.
Did you know that Exmoor National Park is one of the best places in the UK for stargazing? It’s a dark sky reserve, meaning that the night sky is protected.
Wiltshire is home to one of England’s most famous landmarks – Stonehenge. It’s probably on the bucket list of many hikers and lucky for you, the whole area is an amazing hiking destination. Here, you’ll see something that seems a little odd at first.
The best hikes lead around the eight giant images of horses that have been carved into the hills hundreds of years ago (mostly made of chalk). A truly unique sight!
The Best Hiking Regions in Scotland
1. Loch Leven
Located in central Scotland, the Loch Leven hiking trail offers scenic landscapes and breathtaking sights to its dedicated hikers. Loch Leven is the largest lowland loch in Scotland and is an important site for waterfowls, as up to 35,000 birds migrate here during the winter season – making it an ideal place for bird watching!
The short but steep trail leads to the Alpine lakes, which is a perfect spot for campers and swimmers. The hiking trail is heavily frequented by hiking enthusiasts from early June to November. With a moderate level of difficulty and striking landscapes, the trail is a solid choice for a hiking trail in Scotland.
2. Ben Nevis
If you’re looking for a more challenging hike in Scotland, then Ben Nevis will be an ideal choice! This legendary mountain towers gracefully over the glistening lakes and mesmerizing glacial valleys – making for an ideal hiking experience!
The path upwards is steep and strenuous and those with little experience of hiking should be sure to read all the precautions before they begin with their hiking journey. The upper sections are rough and stony and may become hard to locate during the snow.
3. Yellowcraig Beach
Located near Edinburgh, Yellowcraig Beach is the perfect choice for a day out with your family. There’s enough to do for everyone – take a walk along the beach and enjoy the stunning views or take to the nearby woodland trails to experience the beauty of nature!
This is what puts Yellowcraig Beach among some of the more popular hikes in the UK. In fact, you can also take your dog along with you to this exotic beach, as it is known to be an ideal destination for dog walks.
4. Arrochar Alps
The south offers some of the best hikes in the UK and Arrochar Alps is one of them. These are a group of rugged mountains overlooking the western shores of Loch Lomond. You can find plenty of trails that you can take up in the region with varying levels of difficulty and requiring different levels of fitness and skill. From short 20-minute walks to 90km and 7-stage hikes there’s plenty of options for everyone.
5. Ben Lomond
Ben Lomond is one of the most popular mountains that treats its devoted hikers to spectacular panoramic views of the picturesque Mountains Earnslaw and Aspiring. The hiking trails that climb Ben Lomond are as long as they are steep, thus the climb may not be as easy.
However, those who do manage to make it to the top are rewarded with fantastic views of the complete length of Loch Lomond. The complete hike in summer conditions can easily take around 5 hours. This place undoubtedly offers the best hiking in Scotland you can get with some of the most scenic views.
6. Kintyre Peninsula
Also known as Mainland Island, Kintyre is a narrow peninsula located in Western Scotland offering some great hiking possibilities in the country. This beautiful peninsula stretches to about 30 miles, leading towards the East Loch Tarbert in the north. There’s so much to do in the region that hiking enthusiasts can choose from a huge variety of challenging trails.
You might even spot a critter or two on one of your hikes, as the region is home to these charming animals. For the best hikes in the UK, look no further than the Kintyre Peninsula.
7. Arthur’s Seat
One of the four hill forts that date back to as long as 2000 years ago, Arthur’s Seat is for those who want to experience an exhilarating climb through the rocky summits towering over Edinburgh.
With spectacular views all around and a moderate difficulty level, the hike is recommended for everyone looking to enjoy a retreat from the busy city life. As the hike isn’t all that difficult, this makes it one of the more accessible hiking trails in Scotland.
The Best Hiking Regions in Wales
1. Pembrokeshire Coast Path
As the name suggests, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is one that twists and turns for 186 miles (almost 300km) along the mesmerizing British coastline, which is termed as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the entire country.
Regarded as one of the most picturesque hiking trails in Wales, the National Geographic has ranked it second in the world’s top 10 long distance trails. The full walk passes 58 beaches and 14 harbors, and covers a wide variety of beautiful landscapes ranging from jagged cliff tops to convoluted estuaries. You will find some of the UK’s finest beaches here, including Broad Haven and Barafundle Bay.
2. Snowdonia National Park
One of the best national parks in the UK, the Snowdonia National Park offers numerous walking and hiking trails for those looking to experience some thrill while also enjoying the breathtaking beauty of nature.
The national park covers 838 square miles of distance and boasts spectacular views of the glorious Snowdonia Mountains. It offers some of the most enjoyable hikes in Wales. Apart from that, it hosts beautiful forests that are filled with oak and hazel trees. The Snowdonia National Park offers so much diversity that you will never run out of options!
3. Brecon Beacons National Park
The Brecon Beacons National Park is another entry on this list of locations that has so much to offer when it comes to hiking and walking trails. Choose paths and hikes going up into the high country carved by ice or explore the deep, wooded gorges of the park where the rivers form spectacular waterfalls.
With beautiful lakes, forests, pubs and beautiful hiking trails, the Brecon Beacons National Park has something for everyone!
4. Offa’s Dyke Path
The Offa’s Dyke Path in the UK is a 177 mile (285km) long-distance footpath that closely follows the Wales-England border. The trail draws walkers from around the world and takes the average walker around 12 days to complete. The route crosses many different landscapes, offering scenic views to those who decide to tread it.
The complete hike can be a little demanding so it might not be recommended for everyone, however, it is certainly one of the most popular hikes in the UK.
5. Three Cliffs Bay
Located in the city of Swansea in Wales, the Three Cliffs Bay is a popular bay on the south coast of the Gower Peninsula. There’s plenty of walking and hiking trails you can find in the region and most of them aren’t even that demanding, making them suitable for beginners as well.
The views of the bay itself are quite spectacular, but watch out for the strong tides! All in all, it is a great choice for the whole family, as it offers spectacular views and an abundance of activities to engage in.
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