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England: The Best Walks

By Alex Boag-Wyllie
More by Alex

Top Places to Hike in England

The United Kingdom is comprised of rugged Scotland to the north, the magic of Ireland to the west, dragons and folklore thrive in Wales, and then there is England. From afternoon tea to a crystal-cut accent, the stereotypes of England mean it is often the image visitors hold of the UK. Yet it is also the country most overlooked by those seeking adventure.

Look again at these 50301 mi² / 130,279 km² to discover an epic landscape. England ranges from peaks and lakes to a breathtaking coastline and miles upon miles of trails to walk and cycle. England is the largest country in the UK, so it can be challenging to know where to start your walking holiday. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of our favourite trails below. From a few hours strolling along the Norfolk coast to 12 days of walking coast to coast in northern England, discover the best walks in England.

Of course, there are many other walking routes in the country, so be creative and enjoy exploring. If you do go off the beaten path, be mindful that a lot of English land is in private ownership and you do not have the right to roam as you do thanks to the Outdoor Access Code in neighbouring Scotland. Always check that the landowner allows access to their land, including any seasonal restrictions which may be in place, and be respectful of their property. You can find out more about open access routes in England here.

Discover the best walks in England:

The Coast to Coast

The Coast to Coast was devised by renowned fell walker Alfred Wainwright in 1973. Since then, it has become one of England’s best-known long distance trails. In August 2022, it was announced that this route would be recognised as a National Trail. Experience this iconic hike for yourself on our guided walking trip, or follow the route yourself.

Where to Eat

You can work up an appetite with multiple days of walking on the Coast to Coast. Passing through three National Parks and crossing from the Irish Sea to the North Sea, there’s plenty of variety to the cuisine you’ll be able to enjoy. From spiced Grasmere gingerbread to the iconic fish and chips once you reach Robin Hood’s Bay, this is a feast for the tastebuds as much as it is for the soul.

Find out more on our blog:

History & Culture

If you fancy a break from the walk, there is plenty of culture to experience nearby.

Start day 5 of your journey with a trip across Ullswater on a historic steamship. Operating one of the largest heritage boat fleets in the world, Ullswater Steamers offer a beautiful view of the most northeasterly lake. Elsewhere in the Lake District, make time to stop in the charming town of Keswick, and enjoy discovering the local history in Keswick Museum. To the north, enjoy a morning in Georgian Dalemain House, home of the Marmalade Awards.

Just to the east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, you will find Richmond, a historic market town. Here, make time to sample the tasty treats on offer from the local bakeries before visiting Richmond Castle, or discover life in the area since the Stone Age at Richmondshire Museum.

On the western edge of the North York Moors National Park, look out for Mount Grace Priory. Arguably the best preserved Carthusian priory in England, these medieval ruins are a great place for a quiet rest on day 9 of your hike.

Finally, head just up the coast after you finish your epic hike to Whitby. One of England’s prominent shipbuilding ports before becoming a spa town, Whitby is a delightful day trip. Look out for the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, built in the house in which Cook lodged as a young apprentice. James Cook was an 18th century English naval captain, famous for his journeys in the Pacific, especially his journeys to Hawaii and Oceania. Towering above Whitby is Whitby Abbey, a ruined monastery that has inspired many literary greats, including Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Hadrian's Wall

An iconic testament to the Roman invasion of Britain, Hadrian’s Wall was begun in AD 122 to defend the edge of the Roman Empire. Stretching coast to coast across the north of England, the wall is a UNESCO World Heritage Site today, with both a National Trail and Cycleway so you can follow in the footsteps of the Romans. Whether you make your own way or book a self guided walking trip with us, this is an immersive walk through history.

History & Culture

Following in the shadow of a 1,900-year-old Roman frontier, it is hard to miss the culture that surrounds you on this hike. With 15 forts to choose from, and plenty of other remnants from the Romans who made their lives here, take the time to enjoy this fascinating piece of history. Don’t miss Chesters Roman Fort, the most complete Roman cavalry fort in Britain, and make time to stop at the unique Vindolanda Fort and Roman Army Museum. In the middle of the walk, the Sycamore Gap offers an iconic photo opportunity.

Further Reading

With so much to discover, find out more about Things to Do Along Hadrian’s Wall.

Lindisfarne to Bamburgh

Northumberland is an ancient gem and one of only two English counties that share a border with Scotland. This expansive landscape offers breathtaking scenery, unspoilt beaches and much more.

St Oswald’s Way is a long distance walking trail stretching 97 miles/156 km from Holy Island to Heavenfield. Oswald was a 7th century AD king of Northumbria. He is credited with the spread of Christianity through the north of England. St Oswald’s Way passes many of the best-known places from his history. This is especially true of the first section of this trail, from Lindisfarne to Bamburgh. On Oswald’s request, monks from the Scottish island of Iona founded Lindisfarne Priory. The Holy Island was near his majestic base at Bamburgh Castle.

Walk in these 1400-year-old footsteps to experience the beauty and power of ancient Northumberland.

History & Culture

Northumberland has a rich and expansive heritage, and it has played host to every major conqueror in British history. This area has one of the oldest houses in Britain, dating to 7800 BC. Yet it also played a pivotal role in the Industrial Revolution more than 9000 years later. When you are in Northumberland, ensure you allow time to experience everything this fascinating area offers.

Along this section of St Oswald’s Way, there are some notable sites to explore. Your route starts on Holy Island, the location of one of the first Viking invasions of Britain. Here you will find both the ancient Lindisfarne Priory and the Tudor-fort-cum-Edwardian-holiday-home of Lindisfarne Castle.

On your walk, look out for St Cuthbert’s Cave, or Cuddy’s Cave, a secluded cave near Belford. Here, the monks from Lindisfarne rested St Cuthbert’s body on the way to the place that would become Durham. Above the cave, the views offered stretch along the Northumberland coast.

No walk ending in Bamburgh would be complete without a visit to Bamburgh Castle. The castle, founded in the middle of the 1st millennium AD, has been home to Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Normans and Victorians. Privately owned but open to the public, Bamburgh offers hours of exploration for even the most reluctant history buff.

Northumberland is an often-overlooked gem in the crown of English counties, and there is plenty to enjoy for everyone here.

Visit Lindisfarne and Bamburgh on separate outings on our walking holiday to Northumberland and the Lake District.

Helvellyn

Located in the heart of the Lake District, Helvellyn is the third highest mountain in England. At 950m / 3,118ft, this is not an easy ascent, and this route via Striding Edge is no exception. If you are going to attempt this summit, we recommend doing it in the summer months when the weather is better. Better still, do this hike with an experienced guide on our High Points of the Lake District trip or Self Drive Trip to the Lake District.

While that all sounds quite serious, the views offered from Helvellyn are breathtaking and more than worth the climb.

Where to Eat

There are few places in the UK with as many fantastic eateries packed into one inspiring region as there are in the Lake District. Fewer still where you’ll be able to choose from such an abundance of the best rustic pub grub alongside inspired, modern dining. Find out more about Where to Eat in the Lake District.

History & Culture

The Lake District is England’s largest National Park and, as such, offers almost endless potential for adventure. Don’t miss the second largest lake, Ullswater, which is very close to the start of this trail. Windermere, the largest lake in England, is just a 30-minute drive away too, and the nearby town of Ambleside is charming.

Other worthwhile stops include Wordsworth Grasmere, the former home of the classic poet, and Wray Castle, the former home of one of the National Trust’s founders. While in Grasmere, make time to sample some Grasmere Gingerbread, made to the same unique recipe for over 170 years. For those travelling with the children, or the young at heart, don’t miss a hop into The World of Beatrix Potter, an immersive journey into her beloved children’s stories.

The Three Peaks of Yorkshire

If the Cotswolds embody quintessential England, Yorkshire certainly isn’t far behind. This green and pleasant land of legends is England’s offering of a slice of heaven – and if you’ve ever met someone from Yorkshire, you’ve probably heard so! Yorkshire, the largest county in the UK, is home to (most of) two national parks; the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.

In the historic Yorkshire Dales, you will find the three peaks challenge of Yorkshire. The three peaks in question are Pen-y-Ghent (694m / 2277ft), Ingleborough (723m / 2372ft) and Whernside (736m / 2415ft). The three peaks are often completed following a 24 mile / 39km route. Reach all three summits within 12 hours to become a member of the exclusive Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club.

If 12 hours of challenging hiking aren’t your cup of tea, each hill makes a lovely walk in its own right. Each summit offers unique views across the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Where to Eat

Yorkshire’s appeal runs far deeper than its many cascading waterfalls and wildflower meadows. It has a rich food heritage, producing many award-winning dishes and delicacies. Discover Famous Yorkshire Food and Drink.

History & Culture

The Yorkshire Dales sit near the very centre of the mainland of the United Kingdom. As such, there is evidence of humans living there for over 12,000 years! From prehistoric farming to more recent evidence of the Industrial Revolution, look beyond the rolling green hills of this national park to uncover more of its history.

The Nidderdale Museum offers a fascinating insight into life in the Dales through history. While you are in Kendal picking up some famous Kendal Mint Cake, make time to stop by the Quaker Tapestry Museum. This interesting museum illustrates the history of Quakerism over almost 400 years through a series of tapestries.

Outside, the Ribblehead Viaduct spans an impressive 24 stone arches, rising 32 m/104 ft above the land. However, this building work came at the cost of the loss of hundreds of lives, and it is a hauntingly beautiful place to visit. If you take the time to see the viaduct, remember that it is still an active part of the rail network and cannot be crossed on foot. There are many other heritage sites to also make time to stop by and enjoy in the Yorkshire Dales.

Highlights in the natural landscape include Ingleborough Cave, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove, among others. The fascinating limestone geology of the Dales helped establish its foundation as a national park in the 1950s.

Stanage Edge

The Peak District became the first National Park in Great Britain in 1951. Here, the limestone valleys of White Peak meet the moorland and gritstone of Dark Peak. A national park of two halves, there is an adventure for everyone here. From the heights of Kinder Scout to the babbling brook through Padley Gorge, many of England’s natural highlights can be found in these 555 miles² / 1,437km².

With so much to discover, knowing where to begin can be challenging. With breathtaking views across Hope Valley and the moorlands, Stanage Edge offers the perfect route. This short circular route from Hathersage is also ideal if you don’t have much time in the Peak District.

You might recognise Stanage Edge from the 2005 dramatisation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Feel free to take a moment to dream of your Mr Darcy while you enjoy the views.

History & Culture

Upon visiting the Peak District, you might immediately be struck by the natural beauty. Look beyond this, and you’ll discover this is a landscape shaped by human activity.

Archaeological evidence reveals that farming occurred in the Peak District around 6,000 years ago. Discover more about the ancient history of this area at Weston Park Museum in Sheffield or Bakewell Old House Museum. For more recent history, go back 500 years to experience Eyam Museum. This museum tells the remarkable story of the Black Death in the village that chose to isolate itself to contain the spread of the plague.

The Pride & Prejudice connections in the Peak District continue with the magnificent Chatsworth House. The house is best known in popular culture for its use as the Darcy residence, Pemberley, in the 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s beloved novel. Elsewhere in great British literature, look out for North Lees Hall. Just 1 mile from Stanage Edge, this tower house is a holiday cottage and private residence today but was visited by Charlotte Bronte several times and is believed to have inspired Thornfield Hall in her novel Jane Eyre.

The Peak District was the first national park in the United Kingdom and has close ties with its foundation and hiking in England as we know it today. On 24th April 1932, the highest point in the Peak District, Kinder Scout, became the site of a mass protest. The aftereffects of this ultimately led to a ‘Code for Courtesy for the Countryside’, a forerunner of The Countryside Code.

Weybourne to Cromer

Less than 100 miles from the City of London, Norfolk is a hidden gem within southern England. Overlooked by those heading up to the North or down south, this section of the country offers plenty for those who prefer their hikes a little flatter. Norfolk’s highest point is Beacon Hill, just 103m / 344ft above sea level. What it lacks in elevation, Norfolk more than makes up for elsewhere. With expansive countryside, the iconic Norfolk Broads and around 90 miles / 145km of coastline, this is the perfect place to feel the sand between your toes.

Starting in the coastal village of Hopton-on-Sea, the Norfolk Coast Path follows the picturesque rim of the county. For a sample of this section of the Peddlars Way and Norfolk Coast Path National Trail, enjoy a gentle walk along the northern section. Start in the pretty village of Weybourne by mid-morning to enjoy delicious, fresh Cromer crab for lunch.

History & Culture

Norfolk offers a delightful variety of history and culture to discover, from a 630 year old pier to a country estate today aspiring to be the most sustainable rural estate in the UK.

Before you start your walk, visit the Muckleburgh Military Collection. This museum houses one of the largest privately owned military collections in the UK and is a must-see for any military enthusiast. Once you arrive in Cromer, enjoy exploring this traditional seaside destination. In Cromer, see Banksy’s Great British Spraycation artwork and enjoy a wander along Cromer Pier. This traditional pier has a history of storm damage and rebuilding as far back as 1391 AD. It is also a great spot to enjoy sandy beaches and surfing.

History buffs should also stop by Blickling Estate. This historic house was the birthplace of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of Henry VII. In the 20th century, this was the home of Lord Lothian, a pivotal figure during the Second World War and a significant influence on Churchill.

Other historic sites worth taking the time to visit include the 15th century manor house of Baconsthorpe Castle and the 18th century Holkham Hall. Holkam is a charming house and the estate offers plenty to explore, but it is also aspiring to be the UK most pioneering rural estate. East Ruston Old Vicarge is a charming 32 acre garden that is 50 years in the making,  owned by Alan Gray and his partner. You might know Alan from BBC Radio Norfolk’s ‘Garden Party’ and the gardening podcast “Talking Dirty” with Thordis Fridriksson Alan.

Finally, head west along the coast from Weybourne to find Blakeney National Nature Reserve. This delightful nature reserve is a lovely place to enjoy a moment of peace, as well as offering a great spot to see seals. Hop in the water on your kayak, canoe or paddleboard to enjoy this coastline, just watch out for other traffic on the waters and a quickly changing tide.

The Cotswold Way

The Cotswolds are England’s largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and are often described as the embodiment of quintessential England. This area spans five diverse counties; Wiltshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

At 102 miles / 164km long, the Cotswold Way is a great way to experience this beautiful pocket of the country. Starting in the charming sandstone village of Chipping Camden, this National Trail spends around 7 days weaving its way over undulating green hills and through a fairytale of quaint villages before arriving in the Georgian city of Bath.

History & Culture

The city of Bath was established by the Romans in the 1st century AD, and the Cotswolds have been inhabited for over 6,000 years. With such a long history, including the prosperous wool trade in the Middle Ages, there is so much culture to enjoy and experience in the Cotswolds.

Historic sites to look out for across history include the iconic Broadway Tower, the ancient Rollright Stones, Chedworth Roman Villa and much more.

In more recent events, don’t miss the chocolate box villages of the area, including Bourton-on-the-water, Lower Slaughter, Bibury and Castle Combe. These picture-perfect villages also boast a range of lovely local shops and tearooms.

It is well worth spending an extra day or two in Bath once you have finished your hike to enjoy the city. Key cultural sites include the Roman Baths and the neighbouring Bath Abbey. Bath itself is charming so do enjoy exploring the gems this city has to offer, including Pultney Bridge and the iconic Royal Crescent.

St Ives to Penzance

Trailing out to sea at the very southwest of England, Cornwall is synonymous with beautiful beaches, delicious pasties and British surf culture. With the longest coastline of any English county, it’s no surprise that so much of Cornwall’s reputation is tied to the sea. Dive deeper, however, and you’ll discover there is so much more to enjoy about this historic mining county. Explore the best of Cornwall on our guided Coast of Cornwall holiday.

A great way to discover Cornwall is by following the South West Coast Path, the longest National Trail in the UK. One of our favourite sections is around the very tip of England, from Penzance, made famous by Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic opera, to the popular holiday town of St Ives.

History & Culture

St Ives is popular as a holiday destination, with charming houses and expansive beaches, but it is also a very artistic community. Make time to visit Tate St Ives, the Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden and the New Craftsman Gallery.

Nearby, there are a number of well-known sites to enjoy. St Michael’s Mount is a tidal island, the castle on which has been home to the St Aubyn family for over 350 years. This is Cornwall’s counterpart to Mont-Saint-Michel in northern France. Tintagel Castle is the legendary birthplace and home of King Arthur. Visit the historic halves of this castle, today joined by a bridge, to discover the factual past of this fascinating structure. Of course, no trip to Cornwall would be complete without visiting The Eden Project. An eco attraction built into an old clay pit, this site includes two biomes, one of the Mediterranean and the other is the largest indoor rainforest in the world.

Meet the Author: Alex Boag-Wyllie

Born in the Scottish Highlands, I was lucky enough to spend my early childhood playing on beautiful, sweeping beaches and learning to ski (or, more often, fall over). My father’s job kept us on the move through, and I was soon just as at home amidst the rolling Wiltshire downs, the dramatic Yorkshire Dales and the expansive East Anglian coast. I’ve had almost 40 bedrooms to date across the UK, so I’m your gal if you need a good cafe recommendation (almost) anywhere in the country; if I haven’t been there yet, you can be sure it’s on my trip list…

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