My 5 UK Hiking Breaks
Updated: Dec 13, 2020
It might be the Pacific Northwest in me, but ever since I was a kid, my idea of a perfect weekend has been a hiking mini-break. When I moved to the UK, I was a little bit upset at the idea of not being surrounded by mountains and lakes, but I quickly discovered that there are plenty of gorgeous places to hike within a few hours of travel from London.
Cornwall is known for its beaches and pasties, but lesser known are the gorgeous walking trails along the coast. We spent a weekend following the Godrevy Heritage Coast just north of St. Ives, spotting the seals at the aptly named Seal Cove by the Godrevy Lighthouse, smelling the salt of the ocean and enjoying the winding trails along the craggy coast.
Stay in or around St. Ives for some really good fish & chips after a long day of hiking. The food is all amazing in the area, but we particularly loved The Seafood Bar in Falmouth; an underground taproom serving up small tapas-style plates that are a perfect combination of creative and indulgent.
When it comes to hiking in the UK, the Lake District is an obvious choice. It boasts the tallest peak in England - Scafell Pike - but also some incredible lakes and arguably some of the best scenery you can find in England. I particularly love the many (many!) stone walls around the valleys, and the sheep with the “you move before I move” attitude. If you're a more seasoned hiker, there are several peaks that are of similar height to Scafell Pike, so you can make a whole weekend of summiting as many mountains as you can. On my bucket list for our next adventure in the area is camping for a night in Priest's Hole Cave on Dove Crag to catch a sunrise view over the Lake District.
Stay near Lake Windermere for a great combination of hiking/water activities, or if you’re keen on camping, we loved the campsite at Wasdale Head - bonus points for being literally at the base of Scafell Pike and the trailhead easily accessible from the campground. Not to mention, there's a tiny nearby village with a pub for those well-deserved post-hike beers.
We headed out to the Peak District in the dead of winter, hoping to fit in a few country walks during the Christmas holidays, and boy were we impressed with the area. We got a last minute hotel stay in Buxton (yes, of the bottled water brand), with the plan to explore some of the nearby estates and local walks. Even in December, when the skies were constantly overcast, the area was stunning. The Peak District is less hilly than the Lake District, but the views just seem to go on forever. Not only this, but the heather on the moors is incredibly beautiful and all feels very Pride & Prejudice. After all, what are men to rocks and mountains?
We loved Buxton as a fairly central location to explore the area - although you'll definitely need a car to get around. If you're staying in this area, make sure you check out the gorgeous Chatsworth House and its grounds, which have been used as a filming location for Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and more. If we were to go again though, I think we might try to stay somewhere a bit further north in the national park, just to be closer to some of the walks in more mountainous terrain and a few of the lakes.
I was skeptical about this location, but if you push past the holiday resort of beach in Norfolk, there are quite a few stretches of beautiful coastal walking in the county. On a blisteringly warm late August bank holiday weekend, we decided to make the most of the relatively short drive from London to Cromer and the Norfolk Coast AONB. Not only were the trails at Sheringham Park gloriously empty of any tourists, but the little coastal towns dotted here and there along the way made great stops for a cold pint or a lunch of the freshest fish & chips while the sea breeze rolls in.
The next day, we headed south and stopped at Dunwich Heath on our way home for another lovely hike - in late August we were surrounded by incredible fields of heather as far as the eye could see. Though you won't find peaks or many difficult inclines in this area, the gorgeous coastline and sea breeze more than make up for it.
The first time I went to Snowdonia, I was six years old. My family did a home exchange in Wales for a month (yeah, my parents are pretty amazing), and I just remember the absolute joy of seeing wildflowers and sheep everywhere. About 20 years later, and I'm still in love with the area.
We camped in a little village called Beddgelert (even more fun to say with a Welsh accent) during a particularly sunny May bank holiday, and it was teeming with tourists. It is possible to take the train up to the summit of Mt. Snowden, but we were determined to hike the Watkin path, which we'd been told was one of the more difficult ways up. The 8 mile trail was perfect for us - following a stream that served as a nice spot to cool off for a bit, and offering some incredible views of the surrounding national park. I would caution to set off early if you can, as the top of the mountain can get fairly crowded (due to the amount of tourists who are able to reach the top by train).
Seven Sisters Cliffs
On the bucket list:
Are any of these locations on your bucket list? What are your favorite hiking locations in the UK? Drop me a note in the comments below!