United Kingdom (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland)

Languages: English

Currencies: GBP · British pound (£)

Capitol: London

Continents: Europe

Borders: Ireland

More useful information

Area: 242,900km2

Population: 67,215,293

Traffic/driving side: left

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +44

Timezones: UTC-08:00, UTC-05:00, UTC-04:00, UTC-03:00, UTC-02:00, UTC, UTC+01:00, UTC+02:00, UTC+06:00

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Last updated on August 11, 2023

UK scenery is nothing short of picturesque, making it a must-visit destination for enthusiastic hikers and nature lovers worldwide. Ben Nevis and Snowdon were my training trails before heading up to Everest Base Camp. I approached both in January and February 2021 in snowy and heavy windy conditions. UK and Irish mountains are very tricky, maybe not the highest but weather conditions can be extremely tough and changable. Check here for all information you need to know and get ready to explore the magnificence of the UK’s most scenic hiking routes.

The United Kingdom, with its vast landscapes of majestic mountains, sweeping moors, postcard-worthy villages, and dramatic coastlines, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to exhilarating nature walks and challenging hiking trails. 

When considering the best hikes in the UK, the country reveals an unsurpassed richness on a global level. Enclosed by vast seascapes, verdant mountain ranges, and scenic rolling hills, the UK’s hiking trails are ready for exploration. 

From easy walks through royal path trails to more challenging hikes up trails featuring the country’s highest peaks, there’s something for every kind of hiker. 

But with an array of trails to choose from, it can get overwhelming to decide where to go. I have compiled a list of the top 10 best hikes in the UK. Factors like scenery, difficulty level, trail length, and any unique attractions the trail offers have been considered.

Key Takeaways

  • The UK boasts an incredible wealth of hiking trails suitable for a range of abilities, from easy walks through royal path trails to challenging hikes up the country’s highest peaks.
  • There are several top-rated trails to explore, including Hadrian’s Wall Path, The Pennine Way, South West Coast Path, West Highland Way, Glyndwr’s Way, Cotswold Way, Cleveland Way, Pembrokeshire Coast Path, North Downs Way, and Thames Path. 
  • The difficulty and lengths of these trails vary widely, offering something suitable for everyone. Beginners or families may enjoy an easy stroll along Thames Path, while experienced hikers might seek the challenge of the Pennine Way or Glyndwr’s Way.
  • These trails offer a variety of experiences, from rugged coastlines and peaceful countryside landscapes to historical sites and villages. 
  • Preparation is key for hiking in the UK, given the country’s unpredictable weather. Essential gear includes sturdy, waterproof hiking boots, layered clothing, and a reliable waterproof jacket and pants. 
  • It’s advisable to have a map and potentially a guide for more challenging hikes. Safety precautions should also be taken, and respect for the environment is paramount, following the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles.
  • Lastly, the best time to hike in the UK is typically between May and September due to more favorable weather and extended daylight hours. However, some trails have a unique beauty in other seasons as well.

Ben Nevis – the highest mountain in the UK

Check my post from Ben Nevis winter climb for all detailed information on the trail, weather and what to expect. https://freestyletraveling.com/ben-nevis-winter-climb/.

HARD: Route: Medium-Hard/depending on the season, winter conditions 8/10, summer 6/10.Starting point: Glen Nevis Youth Hostel, 3 miles south Fort William via C1162.

icy mountain

West Highland Way, Scotland

HARD: West Highland Way – 7/10: Considered a rite of passage for British hikers, this trail offers 96 miles of highland landscapes. Typically completed in seven to eight days, it can provide a challenging but highly rewarding experience.

The West Highland Way, set in the dramatic landscapes of Scotland, epitomizes the timeless charm of Scottish terrains. Starting in the outskirts of Glasgow and ending in Fort William, this trail encompasses a captivating 96-mile-long journey that showcases the diverse beauty of the Scottish Highlands. 

From tranquil lochs and towering munros to deep valleys and magical forests, hikers are treated to a scenic feast. Providing a perfect balance between beauty and adventure, the trail can be completed by average hikers in about seven to eight days, revealing the dramatic beauty of Scotland’s western highlands.

Hadrian’s Wall Path, England

EASY: Hadrian’s Wall Path – 6/10: With moderate difficulty due to its 84 miles stretch, this trail can usually be completed within six to seven days.

Hadrian’s Wall Path, a legendary trail in England, guides hikers through a mesmerizing landscape rich in history and natural beauty. Stretching a mere 84 miles, this trail takes you past ancient Roman fortifications, sweeping moorlands, bustling market towns, and tranquil rivers. 

With an abundance of attractive landscapes complemented by historic UNESCO World Heritage sites, walking this route is an unforgettable experience, marking it among the best hikes in the UK. The Hadrian’s Wall Path truly ignites with attractions such as the Roman forts at Housesteads and Vindolanda, Roman Army Museum and, of course, Birdoswald Roman Fort. 

Though parts of the trail present a moderate challenge, it usually can be completed within six to seven days, making it an ideal option for those seeking a relaxing historical adventure amidst nature’s tranquility.

The Pennine Way, England

HARD: Pennine Way – 8/10: With a length of 268 miles, this is one of the more challenging hikes on the list, requiring good fitness and around 16 to 19 days to complete, while traversing remote landscapes and climbing England’s most iconic peaks.

Running through the wild and rugged heartlands of Northern England, the Pennine Way is one of the longest and most enduring trails and certainly among the best hikes in the UK. Stretching 268 miles, this adventurous route takes you through varied landscapes, including the stunning Yorkshire Dales, the North Pennines, and the beautiful Cheviot Hills. 

From impressive valley views, and rolling moorland to quaint English villages steeped in history, walkers can expect an enthralling journey across the backbone of England. The Pennine Way offers a challenging trail that typically takes around 16 to 19 days to complete and is perfect for experienced walkers looking for a long-distance challenge.

green grass near body of water during daytime

South West Coast Path, England

EASY: South West Coast Path – 5/10: Although lengthy, the South West Coast Path is mostly tackled in sections or as part of a backpacking adventure, making it suitable for hikers of all levels.

Wrapping around the gorgeous Devon and Cornwall coastline, South West Coast Path invites hikers on an unforgettable journey of natural splendor. Covering a staggering 630 miles, every step taken on this route uncovers the true beauty of England’s longest national trail, known for its world-class wildlife, dramatic cliff-tops, and fascinating heritage sites. 

With landmarks such as the ancient Tintagel Castle, associated with the legends of King Arthur, and the picturesque Lizard Point, the southernmost point of mainland Britain, hikers are sure to be enchanted. Offering a potentially challenging hike due to its length, this trail can be completed in sections or conquered in full by more experienced hikers.

person in red jacket walking on brown dirt road during daytime

Glyndwr’s Way, Wales

HARD: Glyndwr’s Way – 8/10: With undulating landscapes across 135 miles of rural Wales, this hike is usually completed in nine to eleven days and requires good fitness due to several steep climbs.

Named after Owain Glyndwr, the Last Prince of Wales, Glyndwr’s Way tempts those seeking history and tranquility in the Welsh countryside. Encompassing around 135 miles of undulating landscapes dotted with small farming communities, destroyed castles, and varied wildlife, walkers are assured an engaging journey on this one of the best hikes in the UK.

Taking roughly nine to eleven days to traverse, the route presents a blend of challenges and stunning encounters, offering awe-inspiring views across the Cambrian Mountains and Cadar Idris and ending at the medieval town of Machynlleth.

Climbing Snowdon – the highest peak of Wales

Everything you need to know before Climbing Snowdon peak in winter!

cloud over mountain

Cotswold Way, England

MEDIUM: Cotswold Way – 6/10: At a length of 102 miles and with varied trail difficulties, this walk involves rolling hills, historic landmarks and takes about seven to ten days to complete.

Capturing the quintessential charm of the English countryside, the Cotswold Way trail is a joy for hikers. This 102-mile trail takes walkers through quaint villages, ancient woodlands, and over rolling hills, offering excellent views over the charming landscape of the Cotswolds. 

It’s a moderate hike, taking about seven to ten days to complete. Along the way, walkers will get to explore iconic sites such as the ancient Sudeley Castle, the Neolithic barrows at Belas Knap, and the historic city of Bath.

Cleveland Way, England

MEDIUM: Cleveland Way – 7/10: The 109-mile route between Helmsley and Filey presents varied landscapes and can be tackled comfortably in nine to eleven days.

The Cleveland Way trail offers a journey through exotic heather moorland and dramatic coastline, inviting hikers to an adventure of contrasting landscapes. This trail, just over 109 miles long, begins in the picturesque market town of Helmsley and ends at the seaside town of Filey. 

Ranging from rugged cliff-top walks to forest excursions, it’s a hike that offers something different every day and is generally conquered within nine to eleven days, making it favorable for those looking for intermediate challenges.

yellow flower field near body of water during daytime

Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wales

HARD: Pembrokeshire Coast Path – 7/10: With many climbs and descents, this 186-mile coastal path in Wales is a physically demanding challenge that can be completed in twelve to fifteen days.

Boasting the title of being the first national trail in Wales, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path is a testament to the breathtaking coastal scenery on offer. Comprising a 186-mile coastal path, this trail exposes hikers to soaring cliffs, idyllic beaches, iconic arches, and charming seaside towns. 

Mostly moderate in difficulty, the walk typically takes around twelve to fifteen days to undertake, with impressive locations such as Tenby, St Davids, and Newport adding a mark of culture to the hike.

North Downs Way, England

MEDIUM: North Downs Way – 6/10: With varied landscapes and a good mix of climbs and descents, this 153-mile trail presents moderate challenges and can be completed within eleven to fourteen days.

The North Downs Way paints a captivating route steeped in history and scenic beauty. Tracing a distance of 153 miles, walkers enjoy an elevating journey highlighted by countryside landscapes, vineyards, ancient churches, and fantastic panoramic views.

A significant part of this trail allows hikers to follow the Pilgrims’ Way, a historical route taken by countless pilgrims to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. Taking roughly eleven to fourteen days to traverse at a moderate pace, this is an excellent trail for those interested in English history and heritage.

Thames Path, England

EASY: Thames Path – 3/10: Being mainly flat and features easy terrain, it can usually be completed within twelve to fourteen days, making it ideal for beginners and families.

Representing a relaxing stroll along one of the world’s famous rivers, Thames Path encapsulates the essence of England’s royal and cultural heritage. Stretching a charming 184-mile route, this walk lies at the heart of London. Easily accessible and relatively flat, it offers an excellent option for beginners or families wanting to taste a slice of English trail beauty.

Whether you venture on a part of it or undertake the entire journey, this path unfolds a royal journey featuring sites such as Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle, and the London Eye. Mostly flat and featuring easy terrain, it can usually be completed within twelve to fourteen days.

Tips for Hiking in the UK

Hiking in the UK is the gateway to a world of lush landscapes, panoramic views, and thrilling trails. However, to genuinely savor this natural beauty, it’s essential to be well-prepared. Such preparation involves understanding the UK’s fluctuating weather, necessary gear, and trail navigation.

A. The Weather and The Best Times to Go

The UK’s weather is notoriously changeable, so always check the forecast before setting out, being prepared for all conditions, even in summer.

Generally, the best time to hike is between May and September, with the most favorable weather and extended daylight hours. However, certain trails can reveal their unique beauty in other seasons as well.

B. Necessary Gear You Should Prepare

Given the UK’s unpredictable weather, high-quality waterproof gear is essential. Make sure to invest in sturdy, waterproof hiking boots, multi-layered clothing, and a reliable waterproof jacket and pants.

For longer hikes you need food/high protein snacks, chocolate, navigation tools, first aid kits.

C. Advice on Maps, Guides, and Directions

Many of the UK’s hikes are well signposted but having a map can be extremely helpful, particularly in remote areas. 

You might also consider employing the services of a guide on more challenging hikes. This ensures safety and security while also providing insight into the cultural and natural history of the local area.

D. Safety Precautions and Things to Avoid 

Before starting a hike, ensure you are aware of the trail’s length and difficulty. Always tell someone where you plan to go and when you expect to return. No matter how secure an area appears, never leave valuables unattended. Pay respect to wildlife, maintaining a safe distance. You should also always walk on designated trails to prevent erosion.

Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!