The Pennine Way is one of the most famous and best long-distance walks in England. But, if you are already done with it, you might be on the lookout for a new challenge.
Great Britain may not have the epic thousand-mile treks of the US or pilgrimages that are as popular as the Camino de Santiago, but it truly is a world-class destination for walking.
The Pennine Way is one small part of what the UK has to offer to outdoor enthusiasts, so don’t put away your hiking shoes just yet.
Coast to Coast Walk
Back in 1973, fell-walking icon Alfred Wainwright first mapped out this iconic, 192-mile long path. This legendary walk starts on the west coast of Cumbria, runs through three national parks (North York Moors, Yorkshire Dales, and the Lake District), and ends in the old fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay.
The Coast to Coast Walk covers a wide variety of terrain. Even though it passes through only two counties, Cumbria and Yorkshire, the trail encompasses some of the best scenery England has to offer.
You will pass through attractive villages, cross rolling moorland, walk through valley fields, climb mountains, and explore the remnants of Yorkshire’s mining past.
Although most adventurers opt to walk the original route, you can create your own variation. In fact, Wainwright himself encouraged people to do so.
Because this walk is often featured on TV shows and blogs, it’s tempting to think that it’s easy. However, the Coast to Coast walk should not be underestimated.
Navigation is not always straightforward and some sections are exposed and high. Moreover, visibility can be poor when the clouds come down over the hills.
Don’t take on the Coast to Coast walk unless you can handle steep climbs and descents. It’s also important to know a thing or two about back bearing and contours, or to bring along a mate who does.
It takes about two weeks to complete the Coast to Coast walk. If needed, you can break up the longer days.
Late April through September is the best time to walk the Coast to Coast. The weather is generally more settled in spring and summer. But, this is England after all, so a fortnight or rain in June is always a possibility.
John Muir Way
Named after a famous 19th-century Scottish-American naturalist, the John Muir Way is one of the newest long-distance walks in the UK. It is not to be confused with the John Muir Trail, a strenuous long-distance hike in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
The John Muir Way offers a window on Scotland’s ancient landscape, and passes through lovely villages, cities, and coastal towns. The trail is purposefully carved out of easy and moderate terrain, so it’s a great choice for less-experienced hikers.
The trail starts in Helensburgh and ends in Dunbar. The John Muir Way is about 130 miles long and takes between 9 and 11 days to complete. You can walk the trail in both directions, but most people prefer to walk it west to east.
You can wear lightweight hiking shoes given the nature of the route. However, make sure to bring waterproofs. The weather can be changeable, especially in the west.
The West Highland Way
The West Highland Way is the first officially designated long-distance walk in Scotland. After it was officially opened in 1980, the West Highland Way quickly became one of the most popular trails in the country. About 30,000 people complete the WHW each year.
The WHW stretches from Milngavie to Fort William, and it is 96 miles long. Most hikes complete the walk in 6 to 8 days. But you can easily fill a two-week vacation along the trail if you have more time.
There are many beautiful mountains you can climb along the West Highland Way, such as Buachaille Etive Mòr, Ben More, or Ben Lomond.
If you are still hungry for adventure when you reach Fort William, you can climb the nearby Ben Navis. This resort town is also a great base for exploring more of the Highlands by bus, train, or car.
For most of its length, the WHW has a very rich accommodation base—campsites, hotels, B&Bs, etc. Rest assured you can find something that matches your preferences or your budget. Moreover, wild camping is legal in Scotland, so campers can easily make their hikes as short or as long as they want.
Many hikers choose to hike the West Highland Way at the height of summer. However, spring, early summer, and fall are the best times of the year to walk the trail. The trail is less crowded during shoulder seasons, and midges aren’t that big of a nuisance.
The weather in the Highlands can change swiftly, no matter the time of the year. Make sure to bring a backpack rain cover and a rain jacket or poncho. To see what else you might need, check out our WHW packing list.
South West Coast Path
Running for 630 miles along the beautiful coast of southwest England, the SWCP is one of the longest waymarked long-distance walking trails in the UK. The South West Coast Path starts in Minehead, a picturesque coastal town, and runs all the way to Poole, a bustling harbor town in Dorset.
The SWCP offers you an opportunity to enjoy some of the best beaches in England. As you traverse the coast, you will also encounter wonderful wildlife and pass through quaint fishing villages.
The South West Coast Path was named one of the most awe-inspiring trails by the Lonely Planet, thanks to its endless succession of disappearing and reappearing headlands.
It’s best to walk the SWCP from March through September if good weather is your priority.
Understandably, summer is the most popular time to walk the SWCP. The trail is particularly crowded in August due to the school holiday season.
This is a good time to walk the trail if busy promenades, busy ice cream shops, and bustling beaches are your thing, but you will need to book accommodation well in advance.
Quaint ferry journeys required to cross estuaries and rivers are one of the many highlights of the trail. However, many of them stop operating by fall.
The Cotswold Way is a 102-mile walk that follows the western edge of the Cotswold Hills. The trail celebrated its 50th birthday in 2020. However, it was officially inaugurated as a national trail 14 years ago.
The Cotswold Way starts in Chipping Campden, a quintessentially English market town, and ends in Bath, the only World Heritage City in the UK.
The trail journeys through honey-colored villages, beech woodland, and rolling pastures. It will offer you a chance to explore historic battle sites, Neolithic burial barrows, and ancient commons in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Even though there are a few steep climbs on the Cotswold Way, anyone who is reasonably fit can walk the trail. Most people complete the walk in 7 days.
Following the route is easy since it’s well waymarked. Still, it’s always a good idea to bring a map or a guidebook.
Spring and fall are the best times to visit the trail if you want to enjoy clear views from the escarpment. If you want to see the grasslands in all their glory, it’s best to walk the trail in late spring or early summer.
I love hiking, backpacking, and camping. From the Camino de Santiago to the West Highland Way in Scotland or simply a great day hike on the weekend. Hiking refreshes me, my mind, and keeps my body reasonably fit. So far I have walked three Camino routes and many other long distance hikes in the UK, Canada, and around the rest of Europe. One of the best was my hike up Ben Nevis.