Walking is the perfect way to do something healthy, have some fun and explore the natural beauty of Britain at the same time. Plus if you have kids (and you might want to keep this bit quiet) maybe they could even learn something new too!
We’re lucky that in this country you’re never too far from the countryside, and there are hundreds of amazing walks for you to discover. But there are some amazing walks that you may not even know existed, which is why we’ve put together a quick guide to four of the best secret walks in Britain.
You can’t beat a good coastal walk – the sound of gulls circling overhead, the spray of the sea on your face, the sun shining down, the dinosaur fossils underfoot… Yes, the 95 miles of Dorset and East Devon’s spectacular Jurassic Coast provide a beach walk like no other.
This dramatic route truly is a walk through time, spanning the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods which cover a mind boggling 185 million years of the area’s history. And in fact the red cliffs of East Devon date back an incredible 240 million years to when vast deserts covered the area. Little wonder this truly stunning area was made England’s first World Heritage Site.
Parts of the walk are world famous for fossils and new discoveries are constantly uncovered, including exceptionally well preserved dinosaur footprints and even dinosaur skeletons.
The path is part of the South West Coast Path, a 630-mile National Trail of superb coastal walking. It extends from the shores of Poole Harbour in Dorset to Minehead on the edge of the Exmoor National Park. But for a shorter trek you might want to start off in Studland Bay and make your way to Exmouth.
You’ll pass by some extraordinary sights. Like the fossil forest of Lulworth Cove, and the fossilised ripple marks from when Dorset was once a tropical paradise. And at Budleigh Salterton you can pick up a 400-million year old pebble, which would have originated as sandstone in what we now call Brittany.
There are plenty of places to stay along the Jurassic Coast. From bustling larger towns like Exeter, Weymouth, or Poole to smaller, picturesque villages such as: Beer, Seaton, and Lyme Regis.
Guided walks run throughout the year and programmes are available in local tourist information centres. These guided walks normally take about two hours, but you can of course choose your own guide-free walk. The suggested routes for self-guided trails usually range from about six to ten miles a day.
For more information visit the official Dorset and East Devon Jurassic Coast website.
The Tamar Valley in Cornwall is another World Heritage Site. The reason for this accolade is not geological but industrial, with the valley boasting outstanding buildings from its industrial past, with limekilns, mines, a boatyard and mills. Mining thrived here from medieval times, with rich silver and tin reserves to exploit - but it was copper in the 1800's which made the greatest impact. The area is so picturesque and tranquil today that it’s almost impossible to imagine there were once over 100 mines here.
And while that industrial heritage has left a clear footprint, the valley is also one of the most naturally beautiful areas of Britain – rich in wildlife, secluded, magical forests, stunning views and of course magnificent walks.
The valley features four ancient towns: Launceston, Tavistock, Callington and Saltash - best known for Brunel's Royal Albert Bridge. There is an excellent and varied selection of exquisite hotels, family-run bed and breakfasts, self-catering cottages and caravan/camp sites in the area.
Many of the villages also have their own guides and walking trails. Over 25km of brand new trails have recently been created as part of the Tamar Valley Mining Heritage Project, so there are plenty of routes to explore!
Further details are available from the Tamar Valley Centre.
It’s only a mile and half long but The Chain Walk is definitely one of the most unique, unusual and thrilling walks in the UK. And when we say, “walk” we’re not quite sure that does justice to this seemingly mad scramble across hazardous coastal terrain…
It’s part of the otherwise tranquil, 90-mile Fife Coastal Path, which runs from North Queensferry to the Tay Bridge. The chained section hugs the cliffs from Elie village, around Kincraig Point to Shell Bay. The route involves walking/scrambling with the aid of footholds and a series of eight fixed chains which are 10 to 50 feet long. The chains were originally put in place about 1920, possibly by local fishermen. You’ll be pleased to learn that most of the current chains are new, having been replaced in 2010. And you’ll need them as you negotiate the rather treacherous looking slippery rocks underfoot – so wearing sensible footwear is a must.
This truly is an amazing, breathtaking experience that the whole family can enjoy. Children aged nine are permitted to walk the cliff making this walk perfect for a family adventure day out.
This walk is best attempted about an hour after high tide, when the tide is on its way out. When the tide is at its lowest, you won’t even need the chains, and can then explore the many caves along the way.
If this adrenaline filled walk has got your blood pumping visit the official Scottish tourist board website which has all the details you will need to plan your adventure.
For a longer, more serene walk, start off in the nearby conservation village Lower Largo. There is a 12-mile route to Pittenweem which takes you through an area rich in wildlife, history and local culture.
High up in the Berwyn Mountains is one of the true wonders of Wales – a country in no short supply of stunning natural sights. Pistyll Rhaeadr is a captivating, enchanting waterfall that at 240ft high (80m) is the UK’s tallest single drop waterfall and a truly awe-inspiring sight.
The water tumbles down in two great sections, separated by a natural arch known as the Fairy Bridge, and the best way to see the falls is by setting off on foot.
There are several walks, of varying degrees of difficulty and length that you can embark on to reach the falls. You can even drive up to the carpark and just do the last bit, which takes about 20 minutes to reach the top of the falls. Alternatively you can use the falls as your starting point: a great place to explore the Berwyn Mountains and surrounding hills.
As you’d expect, there are plenty of great walks in the area. If you fancy something a little more testing, you could try the 8-mile route from the charming village of Llangynog to Pistyll Rhaeadr. This is an energetic, challenging walk for those who enjoy high level rambles, and it does contain several steep climbs and descents so you’ll need to make sure you’re wearing suitable footwear and clothing. Pay attention to the weather conditions before you set off, as the route is much harder in the rain!
But the effort is well worth it. The surrounding scenery is beautiful, especially the views across the county of Powys – and you can reward yourself with a trip to the tearoom at the waterfall when you arrive!
Pistyll Rhaeadr is open to the public throughout the year and there is no charge for access to the falls.
Visit the Pistyll Rhaeadr website for more details.
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