The Ramblers' Top 6 Stunning National Trails
These long-distance walking routes showcase the very best of Britain's outdoor, taking you across mountains, along beaches and through our wonderful countryside.
Start: Quay Street Green at Minehead
End: South Haven Point, Poole Harbour
Distance: 630 miles (1014 km)
Location: South West England
This incredible trail is the longest of the National Trails, spanning a staggering 630 miles. Rich in wildlife, geology, scenery and heritage, it has something for everyone.
Those out for a leisurely stroll can take their pick of scenic spots – a beach stroll at Durdle Door, Rick Stein cuisine overlooking Padstow harbour, sea views out to Bishop’s Rock Lighthouse or scrambling at Dancing Ledge on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.
Long-distance hikers can take on the ultimate challenge of completing the full trail: starting at Minehead in Somerset, the route goes down to Land’s End before coming back east along the coast to Poole Harbour. No mean feat.
Start: The Nags Head pub in Edale
End: The Border Inn, Kirk Yethol
Distance: 268 miles (429km)
Location: East Midlands, North East England and North West England
It’s hard not to eulogise about this iconic path, said to be a “walk that everyone should do once in their lifetime”. Completing the full Pennine Way is a demanding undertaking that requires preparation and navigation expertise.
However, don’t let that dissuade you - you don’t need to do the full stretch. Day and weekend trippers can walk smaller sections near some unbeatable sights, such as High Force, England’s biggest waterfall; Stoodley Pike, a 121ft high monument with a viewing platform out over the West Yorkshire moors; and High Cup Nick, a dramatic U-shaped valley sitting in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Start: City Mill, Water Lane, Winchester
End: The Western End of Eastbourne Promenade
Distance: 100 miles (160km)
Location: South East England
This beautiful, accessible path, described as the ideal introduction to long distance walking, is along the rolling chalk downs of Sussex and Hampshire. If you make it here on a clear day you’ll be rewarded with stunning views in all directions – across the English Channel to France, over the green landscapes of the Weald or the valleys of the South Downs.
On average, the 100-mile trail takes eight days to complete, but it can easily be split into a dozen leisurely days of walking. The trail passes through, or by five National Nature Reserves and dozens of Sites of Special Scientific Interest where you can enjoy stunning wildlife at close hand.
Start: The Town Clock at Knighton
End: The public park next to the canal in Welshpool
Distance: 135 miles (217km)
Situated in mid-Wales, this scenic path visits many sights associated with the 15th century hero Owain Glyndwr, leader of the Welsh Revolt against Henry IV.
The trail boasts some of the finest landscapes in Wales including the peaceful Radnorshire Hills, the shores of the Clywedog Reservoir and the heather-clad Plynlimon (the highest point of the Cambrian Mountains).
If that wasn’t enough to have you reaching for your walking boots, you can also enjoy spectacular views over the Cadair Idris and Y Golfa peaks, Lake Vymwy and the Cambrian Mountains. On a clear day you can see the stretch along the Dulas Valley to Machynlleth and the sea from the trail’s highest point, Foel Fadian (510m/1,673ft).
Start: The slipway north of St Dogmaels, near Cardigan
End: The bridge east of Amroth Castle, near Tenby
Distance: 186 miles (299km)
Location: South West Wales
If a proper ‘blow away the cobwebs’ type walk is needed, look no further than the Pembrokeshire Coast Path – an imposing 186-mile route along the cliff tops of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
Walking this entire trail requires mastering 35,000 feet of ascents and descents – said to be the equivalent of climbing Everest. But if that sounds daunting to leisure walkers, fear not, as the many coastal villages, beaches and coves along the way will encourage a gentler pace.
Situated almost entirely within the National Park and taking in Fishguard, Pembroke and Tenby, it has challenging and easy sections to suit walkers of all abilities.
Start: Segedenum Roman fort at Wallsend on Tyne
End: The Banks Promenade, Bowness-on-Solway
Distance: 84 miles (140km)
Location: North East England and North West England
Hadrian’s Wall National Trail is a 84-mile signposted route that stretches from Wallsend in North Tyneside in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in Cumbria to the west, taking in beautiful countryside, vibrant cities and coastal views, not to mention fascinating archaeological sites.
It was built under the orders of the Emperor Hadrian to mark the northern limit of the Roman Empire. Much of the wall has since disappeared, but the trail is rich in earthworks and historic masonry and was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1987.
The route also features riverside walking alongside the Tyne at its start as well as pasture land in Cumbria and the open salt marsh of the Solway Estuary.