The UK’s best walks

The UK’s best walks Helen Hotson
17 Dec
Looking for a long walk for the winter holidays? Geographical has compiled a list of top UK walks

From modernist ruins to moon-like hilltops, Geographical has compiled a list of top places to walk from our series on Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and Discovering Britain.

Malvern Hills, Worcestershire

malvernWinter morning in the Malvern Hills looking towards the Cotswolds Edge (Image: Jan Sedlacek)
An area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), Malvern Hills straddle Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire. At 400 metres high, these crests were created 600 million years ago when a crack in the Earth’s crust allowed magma to surge up onto the surface, cooling into the hills visible today. Their natural springs and high vistas have drawn visitors for centuries.

Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

Old copper mine workings on Caradon Hill on Bodmin Moor, part of the Copper Trail – a long distance hiking path (Image: Helen Hotson)
With tors, stone circles and quarry ruins, Bodmin Moor is a windswept Cornish landscape, pockmarked with human antiquities. Often ignored on the way two and from Cornish beaches, a walk in the moor can bring peace and quiet to those who love high, remote hikes and fresh air. However, plan your walk carefully, the moors are notoriously easy to get lost in.

South Devon Railway, Devon

railwayThe sea wall between Dawlish and Dawlish Warren is battered by a large wave (Image: Paul J Martin)
During the winter storms of 2014, all eyes were on this cliff-hanging railway in South Devon as it was damaged under a torrent of storm waves and high winds. Since repaired, the South Devon Railway makes for a spectacular walk. The route threads along a changing coastline and finishes in the cosy seaside village of Dawlish.

The Cotswolds, Gloucestershire

cotswoldsCotswold village of broadway in the snow (Image: Andrew Roland)
The largest area of outstanding natural beauty in Britain, the Cotswolds are a quintessential slice of rural southern England spread across several counties. Why not try the Cotswold Way, a 164-kilometre footpath that follows the escarpment from Bath up to Chipping Campden. A National Trail since 2007, it’s arguably the best way to see what the Cotswolds has to offer: the folly of Broadway Tower; the Iron Age hill forts of Sodbury Camp and Uley Bury; and 330-metre Cleeve Hill, the highest point of any AONB.

The Sperrins, Northern Ireland

Screen shot 2015 12 10 at 13.32.59The Sperrins of County Tyrone in winter (Image:
Stretching from the Strule Valley to Lough Neagh, the Sperrins encompasses a glaciated landscape that’s rich in history and contains an internationally important blanket bog. At 100 square kilometres, it’s one of the largest, yet least visited, upland areas in Ireland. Before it became enshrined in protection measures, the area owed much of its conservation to fairytales and superstition about its gnarly features.

Elan Valley, Wales

Screen shot 2015 12 11 at 11.57.25Caban Coch (Image: Stephen Clarke)
If you walk to Caban Coch in the Elan Valley – ‘Wales’ lake district’ – you will find a bit of Birmingham between the hills. During the Victorian era, the dam there was built by Birmingham architects to supply clean water to the northern city 100 miles away. The area is now recognised for its biodiversity and hosts 12 Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Expect to see red kites, peregrine falcons, kestrels and sparrow hawks.

‘The Raver's Brigadoon’, St Peter’s Seminary Ruins, Glasgow

church(Image: Tom Hart)
This Discovering Britain walk will take you to an archeological graveyard on the outskirts of Glasgow. In the Kilmahew estate, what seems like native Scottish countryside opens to Monkey Puzzle trees, a swan lake and ruins spanning the medieval to the modern period. The best-known of these is the disused St Peter’s seminary, which was once intended to house theology students. Though there are now plans for its redevelopment, it has been in disrepair since the 1980s and makes for an eerie woodland ramble.

Epping Forest, Essex

treesEpping’s coppiced woodland (Image: David Young)
Less than an hour by tube from central London, Epping Forest is a welcome retreat from the rat race. Once host to ancient highwaymen and thieves, this ancient woodland spreads more than 6,000 acres miles across the border between London and Essex. Bare trees in the winter make it easier to see the forest’s many herds of fallow deer picking their way through the undergrowth.

Dedham Vale, Suffolk

LA misty morning at Dedham Vale (Image: Shutterstock)
A lowland valley straddling the counties of Essex and Suffolk, the Dedham Vale AONB encompasses a rural idyll of sleepy farming villages dotted about a gently rolling landscape either side of the River Stour. Walk in the landscapes that inspired painter John Constable and look out otters in the river, which are making a comeback. A crack in the Earth’s crust allowed magma to surge up onto the surface, which cooled into the hills visible today. Their natural springs and high vistas have drawn visitors for centuries.

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