The best long distance walks in the UK

Are you looking for some walking challenges to test your stamina? Here’s our pick of long distance walks which make the most of the UK countryside.

long distance walks

by Catherine Ball |
Updated on

The British countryside is a fantastic place for long distance walks with an extensive network of paths which are perfect for hiking.

England and Wales have a number of national trails, which vary in length and difficulty. You might choose to just tackle a small part in a single day or complete the whole thing over several days or in stages over weeks, months or even years as part of your wellbeing activities.

If you want to head further north, there are Scotland’s Great Trails – the shortest is 24 miles, while the longest is a challenging 210 miles.

Looking for walking challenges?

If you’re new to long distance walking, 2021 is a great year to get started. Our sister magazine Country Walking is running the Walk 1000 Miles{ =nofollow}challenge to encourage the nation to change their lives, one step at a time.

Walk 1000 Miles is a free honesty-based challenge and you’re free to walk whenever and wherever you like. Sign up online and you’ll get regular newsletters packed with helpful advice and competitions. You can even buy medals to celebrate every time you reach a milestone.

Walking challenges are a great way of boosting your fitness, giving you a goal to focus on which will help you stay motivated.

What walking apps are there to help me?

There are a number of free walking apps which can make long distance walks in the UK easier, allowing you to track how far you have gone and even how many calories you have burned.

MapMyWalk allows you to upload the routes you have taken and share them with others, while Walkmeter allows walkers to transfer maps into the app from an email or website. It also links with Google Maps so you can check out the terrain.

Footpath Route Planner allows users to map out routes, showing all available footpaths and tracks in the area.

The best long distance walks to try in the UK

The Pennine Way

This is one of Britain’s most famous walks and was the very first national trail in England. The entire thing stretches for 268 miles following England’s rocky spine from the Peak District in Derbyshire, across the North Pennines and all the way up to the Scottish borders.

The Peak District is also one of Helen Skelton's favourite places to walk her dogs, so if it's good enough for Helen it's good enough for us.

As far as walking challenges in the UK go, tackling the entire Pennine Trail is one of the most difficult with lots of hills to climb. However, you can just complete chunks of it and take time to appreciate the stunning scenery.

The Cumbria Way

If you fancy exploring the Lake District, the Cumbria Way is a great way to do it. The 70-mile route is marked out from start to finish and passes right through the picturesque market town of Keswick.

The Cumbria Way is broken down into five smaller and more manageable sections, starting in Ulverston and finishing in Carlisle.

The Thames Path

This long distance walk will take you right into the heart of London and follows the path of England's most famous river. A total length of 184 miles, it starts in the Cotswolds and meanders through several counties before finishing at the Thames Barrier in Woolwich.

Ideal for beginners to long distance walking, The Thames Path is clearly marked and easy to reach by public transport.

Coast to Coast Walk

This popular walk goes from St Bees in Cumbria on the west coast all the way across the country to the North Yorkshire fishing village Robin Hood's Bay. Originally devised by the fell walker and author Alfred Wainwright, the walk can also be completed in the opposite direction.

Taking in the sights of both the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks, the complete route is 182 miles.

South West Coast Path

The full stretch of the South West Coast Path is 630 miles so few walkers will complete the whole thing. However, England's longest National Trail is made up of more than 400 shorter and more manageable walks.

The coastal path itself was originally created by coastguards to make it easier for them to spot smugglers. It starts in the Somerset seaside resort Minehead and follows the coastline all the way around to Poole Harbour in Dorset.

Offa's Dyke Path

Offa's Dyke is an ancient 8th century monument constructed along the border between England and Wales. The path is a National Trail, spanning 177 miles, giving walkers spectacular views of the dyke itself.

Starting at Sedbury Cliffs on the Severn Estuary, the trail takes in a number of historic towns before finishing in Prestatyn.

Hadrian's Wall Path

Built by the Romans to keep the barbarians out, Hadrian's Wall is on of the UK's most famous historic landmarks. Although it was constructed in the second century, parts of the wall still remain and it is now a World Heritage Site.

Hadrian's Wall Path is an 84-mile trail following the route of the wall and taking in a number of Roman forts along the way. The walk starts in Wallsend, near Newcastle-upon-Tyne and continues west until you reach Cumbria's Solway Coast.

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