In this article we’ll look at three of the best walks in every nation of the UK and show you why we think are the best day hikes around!
There are four nations offering fantastic options for day walks to contend with, so within each country we will rank them in size order.
A country of vast, untamed wildernesses, Wales has some great mountain and hill walks both at the coast and inland.
We were spoiled for choice when it came to the best walks, and you the reader may have something to say for those we chose.
If you have a suggestion then we’d love to hear from you on our Facebook page!
High Carneddu from Llyn Ogwen
We could have shown you the Snowdon Horseshoe or somewhere that everyone and their grandmother walks…but instead we’ve chosen a route where you can’t get a train back down or a frothy coffee at the top.
The High Carneddau is the biggest area of high ground in both England and Wales.
Your first climb from the A5 takes you up Pen Yr Ole Wen (978 metres) before a ridge walk up to Carnedd Dafydd (1044 metres) and then to the highest point of the walk Carnedd Llewelyn and then a beefy descent back to the road and car.
Part way up the initial ascent there’s the Ffynon Lloer glacial lake that’s a nice spot for a coffee and a chance to slow your heart from a beat that would keep a warehouse raver happy to something reasonable.
From the ridge at different points you can see the Glyders mountains and on a clear day all the way to Anglesea.
Being close to the meteorological rainiest place in the UK this isn’t always the case, and yes, prepare for eventualities like that even in summer!
Pen Y Fan, the second highest mountain in Wales, can be almost as overcrowded at the top as Snowdon.
This route comes at the mountain from the other side to the babbling masses but don’t go dreaming of solitude and just the mountain gods to keep you company.
There will be moments of peace and quiet – the odd half hour here but this is no backcountry walk as treks go. You can take this walk on clockwise or counter-clockwise.
One of the great advantages of this route is that while it can be tough at times, you can almost always see back to the car and make your own assessments as to where and when to do what.
The National Trust suggests a clockwise route from the car and you will climb a steep escarpment onto the ridge, turn right and ascend the two minor summits before hitting Pen Y Fan itself.
You can almost imagine the summit of the mountain to be a helipad, and yes since UK Special Forces are famous for training there, for all we know helicopters may actually use it on a winter’s night…
From the summit you again head rightwards and down to the car park.
The views throughout this walk are quite remarkable, from the steep sides of Pen Y Fan to the overall panorama of the glacial valley itself.
St David’s Peninsula Walk
The western-most tip of West Wales, this is a place of stunning wild landscapes and deep human history.
This is from where St David brought Christianity to Wales, of which he is patron saint.
Other saints including St Patrick of Ireland are supposed to have passed through this area, taking tiny coracles to get across the Irish Sea.
When you see the currents blasting through the strait between St Justinian’s and Ramsey Island you’ll appreciate the saints’ dedication to their faith!
Until recently a family used to swim cows and sheep across this strait to graze the island.
You can also take a high speed jet boat ride through the sea rapids – only for those who don’t get seasick but a real thrill nonetheless!
This stretch of coast path is very beautiful and at times, very hard going with big climbs and descents as you go.
Just inland, in part due to the incessant Atlantic gales that batter the area unstopped all the way from mid-Atlantic, you’ll see stunted bushes and few trees and a genuine coastal wilderness that will keep the aesthete very pleased indeed.
With the highest mountains and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery of all the nations, Scotland might well be the best place for a hike in the UK.
To add to this the country has the Right to Roam enshrined in law so as long as you respect the local landowner and the environment you can stay where you like.
Though not specifically relevant to day hikes, it does mean that the nation recognises the importance of the freedom of those who wish to explore and appreciate the lands, unlike England where large parts are left unexplored thanks to jealous landowners keeping the unwashed off their estates…
Lochinver – Suliven Mountain
The 731 metre high Sulivan Mountain sits in the remote Asynt region of Scotland.
Though hard to get to it is one of those places where you can stand quietly and appreciate the raw beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
The West Coast of Scotland is one of the most beautiful regions in the UK in its own right with high mountains plunging into wild waterways.
Untamed and un-tameable, you can be lost with the mountain gods for a time, drinking in the views as you go.
The walk itself is not the most challenging and the mountain itself no giant but there will be moments where you are breathing hard, climbing up some steep stretches as you go.
There is a bothy mid-way up and that could be a good spot for a coffee break on the way up or down, or should the ever unpredictable weather decide to get a bit feisty.
As you pant and struggle, remember that the views from the top will make it worth your while!
Ben Macdui is the second highest mountain in Britain.
It is the second summit of what can be a challenging walk, but look on the bright side – it’s all downhill from there to the car!
The walk follows the winter skiing pistes to the top of Cairngorm, and then you descend to the mountain lakes of Loch Avon and Loch Etchachan before the hard ascent to the top of Britain’s second highest mountain.
The views at the tops of the mountains are fantastic.
At the top of Cairngorm you will see Rothiemurchus forest and Aviemore – quite a decent view as things go even for Scotland!
When you reach the huge cairn at the top of Ben Macdui you will see Lairig Ghru, Carn Toul and Braeriach on a clear day.
And yes, in the mountains of Scotland you’re not always guaranteed a clear day thanks to the country catching the brunt of Britain’s foul weather!
Be prepared for a decent hike with all the gear you need for unexpected events and you should at least be able to look after yourself should something go awry.
Glen Nevis Visitor Centre – Ben Nevis via the Tourist Track
This 11 mile linear route is the most popular and easiest ascent of Ben Nevis.
For reasonably obvious reasons Ben Nevis is quite a popular walk as mountain walks go in the UK.
Just because it is popular shouldn’t mean you go unprepared, as a group of idiots found when attempting to summit the mountain in February this year – in a blizzard without the right kit.
It is a high mountain and generates its own weather systems by virtue of it mass. That means a nice sunny day in the car park won’t guarantee the same at the top.
Have wet weather gear, the right boots and some high calorie snacks to hand, not to mention water and perhaps a hot drink at the very least to take on the mountain.
If you take this walk as seriously as you should, and follow the Tourist Track carefully to the top then the mountain will reward you for the effort.
Fought over for Centuries by different kings, it’s no wonder that tourists are fighting to get over to this part of the Emerald Isle these days.
The Troubles are over and what has replaced it is an economy that has been held back for decades that is itching to get moving again.
The natural beauty of Northern Ireland is something to behold, and to give you a taste here are three of what we think are the best places to walk in the country.
Ballintoy to Bush Mills
Arguably the best stretch of the best walk in Northern Ireland, this walk takes in a stretch of the Giants Causeway coast path with its high cliffs and UNESCO protected Giants Causeway itself.
The walk is tough at times but if you love coast paths then this will be in your personal top ten for sure.
High granite cliffs fall onto jagged rocks below for miles on end.
Midway along the walk you can pause at the volcanic cobbles of the Giants Causeway, in local lore placed there by Finn the Giant as he fought the Scottish giants.
While there you can add five more miles to your walk wandering around the National Trust site, perhaps seeing Finn’s ‘boot’, a rock jutting into the sea.
As to whiskey? This isn’t one of those walks where you risk dehydration at multiple points of the walk.
Mercifully the Bush Mills distillery is in the town at the end of the walk where you can take a few hours to forget your weariness and see how this fine nectar is brewed before exploring some of the booze yourself at the end.
Just take care in the malting room as the smell of whiskey is so potent it has turned not a few people green…
The last time this ‘ring dyke volcano’ erupted was 50 million years ago but the vegetation atop of the crater is still extremely lush as the plants and trees enjoy the rich fertile soil from the lava.
Much of the land is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) thanks to the rare flora and fauna that run riot within it.
Slieve Gullion itself is a high hill that is a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) thanks to its upland heather moorland and the geology of the 573 metre high peak.
Elsewhere you will find loughs, fen/bog and woodland.
This area has had human habitation for over 6,000 years, and you will find all sorts of monuments built there over time.
The Dorsey is an Iron Age embankment where the original Celts lived and protected their interests.
You will find early Christian relics as you go, as well as 20 stone tombs – all heavily protected by different laws for future generations.
This is a challenging walk for its inclines along the way but in return you’ll see an area quite unlike the rest of Great Britain.
This may be shorter in sheer miles but it’ll make your legs scream and requires not a little thought to get round the different obstacles along the way.
Essentially the walk circuits the Blue Lough but this is no charming little bimble around the lake.
You ascend Slieve Binnian, the third highest mountain in NI at 747 metres, following the 100 year old Mourne Wall to the top.
The views at the top show you much of the Province but from there you traverse between the North and South Tors before heading down around the lough and past the Annalong Forest before returning to the car.
Slieve Binnian is the snowiest place in Northern Ireland and as such many recommend this as a snow trek.
It’s a tough snow trek but you will see the world around you in a different state – even the Irish hares have white coats at that time of year.
Possibly the most tamed of countries in the UK in terms of the proportion of the land turned over to farming, England still has its wildernesses.
We did give in and include a rural farmland walk in this – the Weymouth to Lulworth walk on the Jurassic Coast.
There are literally hundreds to choose from – by all means let us know your top three.
Weymouth – Lulworth Cove
With close to 500 metres of climbs in this 11 mile stretch of the South West Coast Path, it is famous for its brutal climbs and descents just when your legs really don’t need it.
In the last three miles you will do a good 300 of those metres of climbs, sometimes so steep you need the gonads and sure-footedness of a mountain goat to step down!
Starting in the ‘kiss-me-quick’ seaside town you soon get away and into the beautiful rural scenery of South Dorset, perhaps pausing at the Smuggler’s Inn at Osmington Mills for a refill.
A couple of miles later you get to Ringstead, a privately owned beach resort (no arcades here!). Before ascending to the White Nothe where you will get a hint of the abuse your legs are about to get.
When you get to Durdle Door you will have sometimes painful memories of the brutal couple of miles before, and then a big climb to get up and over to Lulworth Cove.
Throughout the year this World Heritage site has a tourist problem but as a result you will be able to get a beer or decent bite to eat.
Just one word of warning – either time the walk to catch one of the few daily buses at the end or arrange transport back to Weymouth!
Helvellyn via Striding and Swirral Edges – Lake District
Coming up from the Ullswater side of the mountain via Striding Edge, this has to be among the best walks in this article.
Helvellyn has astounding views of much of the Lake District and is one of the most popular peaks.
When you add in the narrow Striding edge with its precipices either side and sometimes very challenging sections this makes for a memorable walk even without the sights to be seen around you.
There is a tricky step down from the Edge to the next phase of the walk, the ascent up Helvellyn.
This is a tough climb in part due to the incline but also thanks to much of the ground being eroded and difficult to grip.
Once you have drunk in the views from Helvellyn then you descend again and take on Swirral Edge, another narrow ridge that is nothing as intimidating as Striding Edge.
From there you descend and round back to the finish.
Thanks to the risks associated with Striding Edge, we don’t recommend you do this walk in snow or ice as it’s a nasty fall if you slip!
Hathersage to Stanage Edge, Peak District
Many climbers have cut their teeth on Stanage Edge, a four mile stretch of gritstone cliffs that present a great challenge to those into that discipline.
This walk requires no climbing skills but at the top a head of heights thanks to the sheer drop at one side!
This land has been put to Man’s use for time immemorial and has featured in literature for centuries.
You will find relics from different ages including millstones, drystone dykes and stately homes as you go.
The moorland itself is so thanks to overgrazing and deforestation, so barring the cliffs themselves you cannot get away from the influence of Man no matter where you look.
That said, the landscape on either side of the ridge stretches for miles around and you will be thoroughly rewarded with the views you take in from the top.
They call this ‘God’s own country’ for a reason!
As with so many worldwide influences us Brits have had, trekking and the appreciation of natural beauty are some of those things we can legitimately say we led the way with.
With walks like these above, we’re sure you can understand why!
You may disagree with one or two of these walks being listed – don’t be afraid to say so.
We’d love to know what you think!
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