Hiking (or ‘walking’, as we understated Brits call it) is a national pastime in Britain and we have a unique network of footpaths that criss-cross the country, providing an endless choice of routes through the varied landscape.
As we’ve said before, getting out for a country walk is one of the best ways of getting under the skin of an area and finding out more about the history and personality of the places you visit (in fact, keep an eye out for our specialist walking holidays, coming soon!).
However, we understand that when you only have a short time in an area, there are lots of things to fit in, so here are our top picks for walks in some of Britain’s most beautiful areas, if you only have a couple of hours to spare. Links to full walk descriptions, where available, are included below.
1. The Lake District: Elterwater and Loughrigg Tarn (4 miles)
Taking in some classic Lakeland views, this walk starts from the tiny village of Elterwater, a wonderful spot tucked away from its busier neighbours at the bottom of the Langdale Valley.
The first part of this walk is along the flat, accessible path that runs from the village along Great Langdale Beck and the River Brathay to pretty Skelwith Force and Skelwith Bridge, where popular ‘Chesters by the River’ is a great place to stop for lunch or tea and cake. The accessible nature of this path means you’re not likely to be the only one enjoying it, but the crowds fall away as you veer away from the river to little Loughrigg Tarn.
The steeper section of the walk up to the tarn is well rewarded by stunning views across the tarn to the famous outline of the Langdale Pikes. Circle the tarn, at the bottom of Loughrigg Fell, and drop back towards the lake, through the pretty woodland of ‘Rob Rash’, to follow the level path back along Great Langdale Beck to the village.
Don’t forget to leave time to stop for a pint of local ale in the wonderful Britannia Inn, a traditional Lakeland pub with plenty of outside tables that are a great spot for watching the world go by if the weather is with you!
2. The Yorkshire Dales: Askrigg Waterfalls Walk (3.75 miles)
This walk, for such a short and relatively easy option, offers huge variety – a pretty Yorkshire village, two impressive waterfalls, flower-filled woodland, traditional hay meadows and hillside walking with stunning views across Wensleydale.
The starting point of the walk, the little village of Askrigg, will be familiar to many as it stared as ‘Darrowby’ in the popular 1970s series ‘All Creatures Great and Small’. Several pubs and a couple of cafes offer plenty of options for pre- or post-walk refreshments.
The walk heads out of the western edge of the village, through pretty woodland that is a mass of wild garlic and bluebells in late Spring, to get to two impressive waterfalls; the wonderfully picturesque Mill Gill force, which cascades over large stone steps, and the 25 foot straight drop of Whitfield Gill Force, where the adventurous can walk behind the waterfall or even take a quick dip in the pool at the bottom! (NB: The approach to Whitfield Gill is rocky and can be slippy or even flooded in wet weather).
The return route climbs out of the wooded ravine to follow a broad track back to Askrigg, from which there are fantastic views across Wensleydale. The route is well signed throughout and you can purchase walk leaflets in the village shops in Askrigg.
3. Cornwall: Fowey ‘Hall Walk’ (4 miles)
The Cornish coast is famously beautiful, with its miles and miles of rugged cliff, gorgeous beaches and secret coves, and this short walk manages to take in a wonderful mixture or coastline, riverside, fishing villages and a lively town, as well as the added bonus of a couple of ferry rides!
Start in the hillside village of Bodinnick, complete with traditional Cornish Inn (stop for a drink or lunch on the terrace for wonderful views over the Fowey Estuary). From here, the walk takes you uphill, out of the village above the estuary before turning into the pretty wooded creek of Pont Pill. Drop down to cross the river in the little village of Pont before following the opposite side of the creek through fields and woodland all the way to Polruan.
Polruan is a lovely Cornish village with colourful houses dotting the steep hillside down to the sea. Drop down to the water’s edge to take the passenger ferry to Fowey on the other side of the estuary. The small town of Fowey has a great collection of shops, cafes and restaurants that you can browse as you wander through to the northern end where you can hop on the ferry back to Bodinnick.
4. The Peak District: Ilam and Dovedale (5 miles)
Start at the beautiful country park of Ilam Hall (where you can spend some time wandering through the gardens and grounds at the beginning or end of the walk, but the house itself is now a Youth Hostel and not open to the public).
From here, stroll through the unusual village of Ilam with its Scandinavian style chalets and across farmland into Dovedale, a famous beauty spot where you can snap yourself crossing the picture-perfect stepping stones that you’ll see on postcards all over this area!
Once across the river, head around the conical hill of ‘Thorpe Cloud’, through Lindale, into the little village of Thorpe before crossing Coldwall Bridge to follow the River Manifold back to Ilam.
5. The Cotswolds: Upper and Lower Slaughter from Bourton-on-the-Water (5 miles)
Bourton-on-the-Water, the starting point of this walk, is commonly referred to as ‘the Venice of the Cotswolds’ because of the many mini-bridges spanning the river through the centre. This popular village is undoubtedly beautiful but can become a bit overrun by coach tours in the summer. But don’t worry, you soon lose the crowds once out of the village, as you head across meadowland into the gorgeous village of Lower Slaughter.
This is one of the Cotswolds most beautiful villages (and there are many contenders!), so wander around the houses and consider stopping for an early break in the Slaughters Country Inn or the charming café in the converted mill at the other end of the village.
Cross more meadows and sheep pastures along the River Eye to quickly reach the village of Upper Slaughter, home to the impressive and upmarket Lords of the Manor hotel and restaurant.
The return route crosses pretty farmland, passes Little Aston Mill and Aston Farm before following the River Windrush back to Bourton.
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.