The best UK hikes: Get outside and challenge yourself

These UK hikes are ideal for 'social distancing' (and a great replacement for a cancelled foreign holiday)

Best UK hikes
(Image credit: Pexels)

Welcome to T3's pick of the best UK hikes. The stress of listening to the news, the boredom of self-isolation and the increased need for 'social distancing’ means many of us are looking for something to do that doesn’t involve large gatherings. The answer is simple: head to the countryside. 

A great way to entertain yourself and the perfect antidote to the disappointment of a cancelled holiday is to get out into the countryside for a long walk, a hike or even an ascent of a mountain. These UK hikes will help you get outdoors, challenge yourself and have fun.

New to hiking? You'll need to kit up first. At a minimum, you'll need a pair of the best hiking boots within your budget, and investing in one of the best hiking backpacks and waterproof jackets will help keep you comfortable out in the countryside. 

Our pick of the best UK hikes ranges from gentle walks to more hardcore hikes, famous routes and UK hikes that are a little more off the beaten track. Ever wanted to get yourself to the top of one of Britain’s three tallest peaks – Ben Nevis is Scotland, Snowdon in Wales and Scafell Pike in England – but never had the time? Or how about Wainwright Hill Bagging in England’s Lake District, Munro Bagging in Scotland, or taking on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge? 

Alternatively, you could attempt a section of some of the UK’s famous long distance national trails such as the South West Coast Path, Hadrian’s Wall Path or the Pembrokeshire Coast Path? Whatever you plan to go, always wear the correct clothing, take the right equipment and check the mountain forecast

Here's our guide to the best UK hikes. This guide will shows you how and where to go on a walk through some of the UK’s most beautiful, rugged and/or challenging environments, complete with links to maps and guides.

1. Snowdon, North Wales

There are six different routes up the highest mountain in Wales. Though lazy day-trippers wanting to ascend Snowdon quickly usually take the mountain railway, intrepid hikers should prepare for a 5-7 hour hike and choose between the Llanberis path, Pyg Track, Miners’ Track, Watkin Path, Rhyd-Ddu Path and the Snowdon Ranger Path. 

As well as magnificent views from the 1,085m/3,560ft. peak you’ll get something not often found on mountain tops; a cafe… and even a pint of beer. However, the Hafod Eryri cafe is only open when the railway is running. Make sure you plan your trip carefully and know which Snowdon route you’re going to take. Snowdon is part of the Three Peaks Challenge.

Best UK hikes

(Image credit: Pexels)

2. South Downs Way, England

What’s the easiest long-distance walk in the UK? A candidate has to be the South Downs Way National Trail, a 100 mile-long route along a chalk range stretching between Winchester in Hampshire – the first capital of England – to Eastbourne in East Sussex. With just 4,150m of ascent throughout the entire trail, it takes between six to 10 days to walk the entire thing, but it’s just as easy to dip in and out of it. 

Also a public bridleway and a cycle trail, the well-signposted South Downs Way takes you through stunning countryside via Bronze Age barrows and Iron Age hillforts to Beachy Head at Eastbourne, the UK's highest chalk sea cliff. There are many circular walks and ways of doing the linear route using buses and trains. Check out the South Downs Discovery Map.

3. Scafell Pike, Lake District, England

There are myriad spectacular walks in the Lake District National Park – now a World Heritage Site – but pride of place goes to the challenging but non-technical five hour ascent and descent of Scafell Pike, the highest peak in England at 978m above sea level. There are a few to choose from, but the easiest route up is from Wasdale Head. To plan a trip see the National Trust website then choose from the five different routes. Scafell Pike is part of the Three Peaks Challenge.

4. West Highland Way, Scotland

Stretching from close to Glasgow to Fort William in the Highlands – home of Ben Nevis, the UK's highest peak – on the way the 96 miles-long West Highland Way hits Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, Glencoe and the Devil’s Staircase. Via countryside parks, loch-shores, open moorlands and hills, this classic linear route is toughest in its northern half, so it’s usually attempted from south-north so walkers can get used to the climbs. There are plenty of circular walks, including one that samples both the West Highland Way and the Rob Roy Way, another classic Scottish linear walking trail. 

Best UK hikes

(Image credit: Pexels)

5. Pen y fan, Brecon Beacons, South Wales

The tallest peak in the southern UK, Pen y fan is the crown jewel of the wild and wonderful Brecon Beacons National Park. There are several ways to get to its Bronze Age cairn via a stunning upland mountain walk, with the easy two hour circular hike from the Storey Arms to the west by far the most popular. There are actually four routes up to Pen y fan, but the most spectacular – and challenging – is to tread the Horseshoe Ridge circular walk that also visits the peaks of Corn Du, Cribyn and Fan-y-Big on a six-hour trail from Taf Fechan car park near Lower Neuadd Reservoir.

6. South West Coast Path, Cornwall, England

It’s a 52-day walk all told, but the UK’s most spectacular coastal path is best tackled slowly. Measuring 630 miles in total, the world-famous South West Coast Path hugs the coast between Minehead in Somerset and Poole Harbour. Travelling via the coastlines of Exmoor, North Devon, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, highlights include Pentire Point, Hartland Quay, the remote moorland of Exmoor and the South Dorset Ridgeway. 

Here are five circular walks and an excellent online itinerary planner, though know that there are actually 82 day walks you can do using public transport to prevent you from retracing your steps.

Best UK hikes

(Image credit: Pixabay)

7. The Pennine Way, England

The first National Trail in the UK and its oldest long-distance footpath, the Pennine Way stretches between Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm just into Scotland, a distance of 268 miles across the "backbone of England". Up and over some of the country’s best upland walking, the Pennine Way crosses the Peak District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Northumberland National Park. It’s mostly through open moorland and pastures. 

Here’s a fabulous interactive map and a huge selection of circular walks along the Pennine Way.