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West Highland Way
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9 of the best breathtaking UK hikes

Walkers are spoilt for choice when it comes to UK hikes, with something from the amateurs all the way up to the pros

Ellie Walker-Arnott
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Ellie Walker-Arnott
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Dust off the hiking boots because we are going for a walk. Not just any sort of short stroll either, these hikes are serious routes that will amaze and exhaust in equal measure. The benefits of a good walk have long been championed by history’s greats (Nietzsche argued that all truly great thoughts are conceived while walking, after all), and putting one foot in front of the other might be the best way to explore the UK.

The United Kingdom is a treasure trove of natural beauty and history, with many of its finest attractions best discovered while hiking. Sure, the weather in the country might not always seem ideal, but there’s something about a windy walk to an incredible view that sets the heart-a-flutter. Besides, British weather is no longer a surprise; plan accordingly and an incredible experience awaits.

You’ll struggle to find a poor hiking route in the UK, but there is something about this collection that really sings, from 100-mile dashes across the Scottish Highlands to a route that literally runs around the entirety of Wales. Are these the best hikes in the UK? They may well be. Load up your rucksack with a tent and a multipack of plasters (or B&B hop) to tackle the entire length, or choose a smaller section for a day-long leg stretch. We’ll see you at the trailhead.

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South West Coast Path
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1. South West Coast Path

Currently the longest hiking trail in the UK, you’re going to need a fair amount of annual leave to tackle this in one go. The route runs from Minehead in Somerset all the way to Poole in Dorset, via rugged cliffs, cute fishing villages and surfing spots along the Devon and Cornwall coastline. It’s recommended to allow a casual 52 days to walk it start to finish, but you can jump on to the well-signposted coastal path at any point to trek a more managable chunk. Maybe with a pub or three en route.

How far in total? 630 miles

West Highland Way
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2. West Highland Way

Here’s one brave way to explore the mega-landscapes between Glasgow and Fort William in Scotland. The West Highland Way is etched through the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park and beyond, past glassy lochs and heather-covered lowlands to steep mountain paths. Tackling the entire route is certainly a challenge, but if you’re not fazed, know this: you finish right at the foot of Ben Nevis.

How far in total? 96 miles

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Wales Coastal Path
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3. Wales Coastal Path

Wales is unique in that it is the only country in the world that has an official walking path covering the entirety of its borders. Well, that should be two paths, but the point stands that this is a land that offers an accessible yet difficult walking challenge. The Wales Coastal Path is a footpath stretching 870 miles from Chester to Chepstow, while the Offa’s Dyke Path roughly covers the inland stretch between those two spots. Walking the whole thing might be a little excessive, but there are plenty of stretches that can be enjoyed over a day or two. There’s no better way to experience the natural beauty of Wales.

How far in total? Wales Coastal Path 870 miles, Offa's Dyke Path 177 miles

Coast to Coast Walk
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4. Coast to Coast Walk

This long-distance trek isn’t one of the UK’s official trails, but it’s a popular one, taking hikers from the Irish Sea on the sands of St Bees in Cumbria to the North Sea as it rolls into historic Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire. Following local footpaths, the route, which was first published by walker and writer Alfred Wainwright in the 1970s, takes you through three UK National Parks: the Lakes, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Who’s for hill-and-vale bingo?

How far in total? 190 miles

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The Ridgeway
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5. The Ridgeway

Known as Britain’s ‘oldest road’, this trail over high ground has been used since prehistoric times by travellers and traders. It still makes for an awesome walk, with panoramic views of the North Wessex Downs and the Chiltern Hills. Set off at Avebury’s neolithic stone circle and you can put your feet up a few days later beside the Thames in Goring. 

How far in total? 87 miles

Cotswold Way
Photograph: Jo Jones/Shutterstock.com

6. Cotswold Way

All the gear, no idea? You can avoid steep peaks (and guarantee plenty of picturesque stop-offs) by hiking The Cotswold Way. It meanders from bougie Chipping Campden to the honey-coloured city of Bath, taking in rolling valleys, chocolate-box villages and a bunch of historic landmarks. Eleven days should suffice to do all 102 miles, but it’s an ace one to pick up for a gentle afternoon stoll if that’s more your idea of a good time.

How far in total? 102 miles

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South Downs Way
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7. South Downs Way

Running from Eastbourne to Winchester, this trail along the majestic chalk ridges of the South Downs is a tick list of lovely locations. Walkers tackle the Seven Sisters cliffs, photo-ready Cuckmere Haven and Sussex’s wonky medieval villages before heading inland to lush hills and woodland. Pack thick socks and plot a route of around 12 miles a day to complete it in just over a week.

How far in total? 100 miles

Pennine Way
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8. Pennine Way

The Pennine Way is one wild and remote path, connecting northern England to the Scottish borders.Your calves might not thank you for this hilly route (the combined ascent is higher than Mount Everest fyi) but your eyeballs surely will. It’s one epic vista after another, taking you through the Peaks and the Yorkshire Dales, and over Hadrians Wall.

How far in total? 268 miles

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Cleveland Way
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9. Cleveland Way

You’ll want nine days to fully complete this hike, which explores both the North York Moors and the county’s world-famous coastline. Most people walk clockwise from Helmsley to Filey. Just make sure you allow enough time to properly enjoy spots like Roseberry Topping hill and get your goth on at Whitby’s atmospheric clifftop Abbey.

How far in total? 109 miles

Need somewhere to rest those weary legs?

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