You could take almost any section of the 11,073 miles of Britain’s coastline (and that’s not including the islands!) and enjoy a beautiful walk along cliffs, beaches and dunes. The fantastic network of footpaths in Britain means that nearly all of the coastline is accessible to the public and can be walked in linear stretches or enjoyed as part of a circular route, taking in some countryside as well.
Here are some of our favourite stretches around the country, to give you a taste of the Great British Coastline!
1. Around Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire (circular) – 5.6 miles
The North Yorkshire coast has cliffs, bays and wildlife to rival any other part of Britain and this loop takes in arguably the area’s most picturesque fishing village, some wonderful cliff walking, the chance to spot fossils on the beach and a stretch of pretty countryside.
The walk starts in Robin Hood’s Bay – the picture of a smugglers’ cove, with buildings tumbling down the hillside to the sea, and narrow alleyways wriggling through them. The beach here is a great place for spotting fossils and there are plenty of places for refreshment in town (the Old Bakery and Swell café are our favourites).
From the village, the first section of the walk heads north across fields and stiles (lots of them!). After heading east to get back to the coast, the return leg follows the Cleveland away along the cliff tops back to the village. If you need refreshments mid-way the Hare and Hounds at High Hawsker is a short detour off the route.
Full route directions are provided by the AA here.
2. Dartmouth to Brixham, Devon (linear, with a regular bus back to the start) – 11 miles
The South-West Coast Path follows the whole of Devon and Cornwall’s coastline (as well as a lot of Dorset’s) and the whole route is so stunning you can walk any stretch of it and have a fantastic experience.
This section from Dartmouth to Brixton in Devon offers fantastic variety – starting in Dartmouth you are in one of the south-west’s most picturesque (and popular!) towns, with its fantastic setting on the Dart Estuary. From there, you hop on a little tug ferry to the pretty village of Kingswear, with its multi-coloured houses clinging to the hillside, before sweeping up and down the cliff-side, taking in hidden coves, long, sandy beaches, stunning views from the cliff-tops and a wide-variety of seabirds, especially around Berry Head Nature Reserve. You also walk past the back entrance to Coleton Fishacre, a 1920s country retreat with beautiful gardens, maintained by the National Trust, which makes a great stop if you have time.
Brixham itself is a contrast to Dartmouth – rather than a picture-perfect holiday town, Brixham is very much a working harbour town, always bustling and with plenty of places to try the excellent seafood that comes straight off the boats into the huge fish market every morning (an outdoor table at Claws on the harbour front is a great option if you can bag one, or a table at ‘Claws Indoors’ just on the other side of the road if not!).
Regular buses run from Brixham back to Kingswear where you can hop back on the ferry to your starting point.
Full route information is provided on the South West Coast Path website here.
3. Craster to Low Newton via Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland (circular) – 6 miles
Northumberland’s coastline, with its atmospheric castle ruins and vast stretches of empty beach have a wild and windswept charm.
This walk starts from the small village of Craster, at one time a busy fishing harbour but now a peaceful place with only a few boats, although the famous Craster kippers are still smoked here and well worth a try before or after your walk!
The first half of the walk tracks along the coast close to the sea, taking you through woodland, sand dunes and rock pools before reaching the moody ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, looking out to sea.
After exploring the castle ruins, continue along the coast, passing underneath tall cliffs, looking out for a variety of sea birds and along the wide stretch of sandy Embleton Bay.
On reaching the little fishing village of Low Newton, the path turns back south, returning along a higher route, offering good views out to sea and over the cliffs and castle and a visit to Newton Pool Nature Reserve.
Back in Craster, enjoy a well-earned pint with sea views at the Jolly Fisherman or sample some local seafood at L Robson and Sons seafood restaurant (home of the aforementioned kippers!).
Full route information is provided by the National Trust here.
4. St Abb’s Nature Reserve, Scottish Borders (circular) – 4 miles
The Scottish Borders are most well-known for the beautiful abbey ruins that are scattered across the area but head to the coast and you will find fantastic scenery and great wildlife.
Start at the little fishing of St Abb’s from where a four mile loop takes you around the St Abb’s Head Nature Reserve. The walk takes you along cliffs that are filled with nesting seabirds during summer to the lighthouse, from where you circle inland and enjoy a return route through the surrounding grassland filled with wildflowers.
Back in St Abb’s, refuel at little Ebb Carr’s café, right by the harbour, where you can enjoy fresh crab sandwiches, Scotland’s famous Cullen Skink or a homemade scone!
Alternatively you can park in the National Trust car park, which also has an interesting visitors centre.
Full route information has been provided by Countryfile here.
5. Shieldaig Peninsula (circular) – 2.75 miles
Think about walking in the Scottish Highlands and you might be daunted by the idea of needing to be fully kitted out in mountaineering equipment and happy to climb for hours, but Scotland’s west coast offers some of its finest scenery, and often with wonderful views of the mountains without having to be up them!
There are plenty of options for enjoying some of the coastline and we could have chosen many to feature here, but it is hard to beat the gentle circuit of the Shieldaig Peninsula for squeezing gorgeous scenery and huge variety into a reasonably short and easy walk.
Start in little Shieldaig village with its picture-perfect setting on the shores of Loch Shieldaig. A rocky track takes you across moorland and around the little peninsula, giving you wonderful views back over Shieldaig, across Loch Torridon to Inveralligin and the Diabaig peninsula and over the stunning Torridon mountains.
Back in Shieldaig, make sure to pick up some smoked salmon from the fantastic little ‘Loch Torridon Smokehouse’ tucked behind one of the houses on the main street.
Full route information can be found on Walking Highlands here.
6. Marazion to Porthleven, Cornwall (linear, with a regular bus back to the start) – 10.8 miles
Cornwall’s coastline is justifiably popular, with gorgeous beaches, cliffs and coves to be found around the whole county. Walking part of the South West Coast Path is a great way to get away from the crowds that can be found at some of the more popular spots.
This route from Marazion to Porthelven takes in one of Cornwall’s most famous sights – St Michael’s Mount – and a great mixture of flat walking along the beach and the typical roller-coaster up and down the cliff side!
It starts in the charming village of Marazion, where you can stroll across the causeway to explore St Michael’s Mount if the tide is low (or take a boat if not) before enjoying the first fairly flat section of the walk, which offers great views over Mounts Bay and back to St Michael’s Mount.
The second part of the walk takes you up and down the cliffs, providing huge variety – a couple of great sandy beaches at Perranuthnoe and Praa Sands, some of Cornwall’s famous mining ruins at Wheal Prosper (very Poldark!), a smuggler’s cove, beautiful wild flowers in spring and summer and great views from Rinsey Head and Trewavas Head both back over Mounts Bay and ahead to the Lizard Peninsula.
The walk ends in the quintessential fishing town of Porthleven – popular but not overrun, boats bob around in the harbour and you can get a pot of freshly picked crab, only just out of the sea, from the tiny shop on the harbour side! There are lots of great options for refreshments – including the atmospheric Ship Inn – before hopping on the bus back to Marazion.
Full route information is provided on the South West Coast Path website here.
If you would like more information about walking in Britain or would like us to create a tailor-made itinerary for your holiday in Britain, please get in touch.