Top 20 Trails of the United Kingdom & Ireland

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Here in the United Kingdom we are blessed with some incredible trails, be it one day hikes or a long distance trail, in England and wales there are 15 National Trails, Hundreds of unofficial trails that boast some of the finest scenery the world has to offer, in Scotland they are called 'Great Trails' here are our top 20 trails in the United Kingdom....

20: Viking Coast Trail

The Viking Coastal Trail is a 25-mile multi-user route around the Isle of Thanet, the point where Vikings first landed in Britain, keeping as close as is possible to the coast from Reculver, passing through Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate to reach Pegwell Bay where the Trail uses an inland loop on quiet lanes through pretty Kentish villages with ancient churches and passes Minster Abbey, one of England's oldest inhabited buildings founded in 670.

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Otherwise known as the Thanet Coastal Path (20 miles and on OS mapping) is an often coincident linear route on the coastal section between the Thanet boundary near Reculver and Pegwell Bay that winds its way past sandy beaches and bays, often against a backdrop of spectacular chalk cliffs. Ramsgate and Margate are lively seaside resorts and Broadstairs has nostalgic charm. For walkers the obvious inland return is on the Saxon Shore Way but the nearest footpath link to Pegwell Bay is at Sandwich, making a much longer route: both the Trail and Path link with the Saxon Shore Way (and Wantsum Walks) at Reculver, there are plenty of options for accomodation and food.

More information about the trail can be found here

The Route can also be found and downloaded here 

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19: The Ridgeway

The Ridgeway is a ridgeway or ainchent road that claims to be the oldest in Britain. A National Trail;The section clearly identified as an ancient trackway extends from Wiltshire along the chalk ridge of the Berkshire Downs to the River Thames at the Goring Gap, part of the Icknield Way which ran, not always on the ridge, from Salisbury Plain to East Anglia. The route was adapted and extended as a National Trail, created in 1972. The Ridgeway National Trail follows the ancient Ridgeway from Overton Hill, near Avebury, to Streatley, then follows footpaths and parts of the ancient Icknield Way through the Chiltern Hills to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire. The National Trail is 87 miles (140 km) long.

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For at least 5,000 years travellers have used the Ridgeway. The Ridgeway provided a reliable trading route to the Dorset coast and to the Wash in Norfolk. The high dry ground made travel easy and provided a measure of protection by giving traders a commanding view, warning against potential attacks. The Bronze Age saw the development of Uffington White Horse and the stone circle at Avebury. During the Iron Age, inhabitants took advantage of the high ground by building hillforts along the Ridgeway to help defend the trading route. Following the collapse of Roman authority in Western Europe, invading Saxon and Viking armies used it. In medieval times and later, the Ridgeway found use by drovers, moving their livestock from the West Country and Wales to markets in the Home Counties and London. Before the Enclosure Acts of 1750, the Ridgeway existed as an informal series of tracks across the chalk downs, chosen by travellers based on path conditions. Once enclosures started, the current path developed through the building of earth banks and the planting of hedges.

more information on the trail can be found here

18: Glyndwrs Way

Launched in 2002, Glyndŵr's Way forms a satisfying circuit with the Offa’s Dyke Path and jigsaws between the holiday playgrounds of south Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons. Despite this, most walkers haven’t caught on to this 135-mile tour through Mid Wales.

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The Glyndŵr's Way National Trail is all about getting off the beaten track. Its nine-day route visits many of the sites connected with Wales' historic past. The trail is anchored by the trail heads of Welshpool, Knighton and Machynlleth, then midway it loops largely through Mid Wales.

On the complete route, you’ll walk through rolling farmland, open moor and heather-clad hills, and discover exhilarating views of Cader Idris and Plynlimon mountains. There are overnight stops in small towns such as Llanidloes, but you can travel for miles and only see the occasional farmer. What you will see, however, are red kites, peregrine falcons and buzzards.

To halve the length of a week's walking, start or finish at Machynlleth. Welshpool and Knighton are on major rail lines, while other sections of the trail are accessible by bus.

You can find or download the route here

16: The Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way stretches for 118.5km from coast to coast across the Highlands, linking the main centres of Fort William and the regional capital of Inverness. The route follows the major natural faultline of the Great Glen which divides Scotland from coast to coast. Most of the route keeps to lower levels and offers a good introduction to the Highlands and to long distance walking; since 2014 there has also been a higher level option between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit which offers more dramatic views at the cost of a little more effort. The Way runs along the complete lengths of Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and the forests above Loch Ness, as well as along the towpath of the Caledonian Canal, an engineering marvel built by Thomas Telford that links these lochs and creates a through route from the western seaboard to the Moray Firth.

More information on the trail can be found here

The route can be found here

15: The Cotswold Way

This trail takes you through some of the most beautiful countryside in England.
It runs for just over 100 miles from Chipping Campden in Gloucestershire to the historic city of Bath in Somerset.
As well as proffering wonderful views of the Cotswold Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty, you can also see the River Severn, the Black Mountains of Wales and the Forest of Dean from the route.
You will pass through or near a series of attractive market towns such as Chipping Sodbury, Wooton-under-Edge, Stroud and Cheltenham before arriving at the splendid Roman city of Bath at the end of the trail.
Highlights on the route include the lovely National Trust owned Woodchester Park and the magnificent Sudeley Castle.
You'll also visit the highest point in the Cotswolds at Cleeve Hill where you will also find the fascinating Belas Knap chambered long barrow.

More information on the trail can be found here

The route can be found and downloaded here

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14: Peddars Way & Norfolk Coast Path

The Peddars Way runs from Knettishall Heath in Suffolk to Holme next the Sea on the Norfolk Coast.

On its route it passes through some of the most diverse countryside in Britain, from the atmospheric landscapes of the Brecks to the rolling farmland of north-west Norfolk to the coastal dunes at Holme, where it meets up with the Norfolk Coast Path.

The Peddars Way & Norfolk Coast Path is of great appeal to walkers of both shorter walks and longer, more challenging treks. Many walkers use the trail for short portions of the walk, lasting four hours or less. For the more keen walker, multi-day trips are possible – with accommodation nearby for overnight stays.

More information can be found here

The route can be found here

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13: Gower Coast Path

The Gower and Swansea Bay Coast Path is part of the Wales Coast Path, an 1,400-kilometre (870 mi) long-distance walking route around the whole coast of Wales that opened in 2012.[1] The Gower and Swansea Bay stretch is 156 kilometres (97 mi) in length, running along the coast of the Gower Peninsula from Loughor, Swansea to Kenfig Dunes near Port Talbot, South Wales. 

The path passes through the first area in Britain to be designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (1956)[3] and is home to 10 nature reserves, 24 Wildlife Trust reserves, 32 Sites of Special Scientific Interest and five Special Areas of Conservation.[4] The path is maintained and administered by two county councils, Swansea and Neath Port Talbot.

More information can be found here

For information on our Gower Hiking weekend click here

The route can be downloaded or found here 

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12: Wainwright's Coast to Coast

The Coast to Coast Walk is a 182-mile unofficial and mostly unsignposted long-distance footpath in Northern England. Devised by Alfred Wainwright,[2] it passes through three contrasting national parks: the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moors National Park.

Wainwright recommends that walkers dip their booted feet in the Irish Sea at St Bees and, at the end of the walk, in the North Sea at Robin Hood's Bay.

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The Coast to Coast was originally described by Alfred Wainwright in his 1973 book A Coast to Coast Walk. Wainwright's book has since been revised a number of times in recent years (most recently in 2003) with updates to the recommended route.

Wainwright's book describes the route in 12 stages, each of which ends at a settlement with at least some overnight accommodation nearby. If one stage is walked per day, with one or two rest days, the route makes a two-week holiday, and web logs of coast-to-coasters seem to indicate that this is the most common way of walking the route. However, Wainwright explicitly states that he did not intend people to necessarily stick to these daily stages, or even to his route. For instance, the majority of Wainwright's stages start and end at low level with a single up-down during the day: many walkers split the Borrowdale–Patterdale stage at Grasmere in order to maintain this pattern and avoid having two major uphill sections in one day. Splitting two or three more of the longer stages, and adding a further one or two rest days, reduces the average day-length to 10 or 12 miles and makes the walk a much easier three-week trip with time to "stand and stare", an activity much approved of by Wainwright.

I want to encourage in others the ambition to devise with the aid of maps their own cross-country marathons and not be merely followers of other people's routes: there is no end to the possibilities for originality and initiative.

— A. Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk

Although unofficial, the Coast to Coast Walk uses public rights of way (public footpaths, tracks, and minor roads), permissive paths and access land; it is one of the most popular of all the long-distance footpaths in the UK. Despite this it does not have National Trail status. In 2004 the walk was named as the second-best walk in the world according to a survey of experts.[3] Harveys publish two dedicated strip maps at 1:40,000 scale.

More Information on the trail can be found here

The route can be found here

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11: The Pennine Way

The Pennine Way is a National Trail in England, with a small section in Scotland. The trail stretches for 268 miles (431 km)[1] from Edale, in the northern Derbyshire Peak District, north through the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Park and ends at Kirk Yetholm, just inside the Scottish border. The path runs along the Pennine hills, sometimes described as the "backbone of England".[2] Although not the United Kingdom's longest National Trail (this distinction belongs to the 630-mile (1,014 km) South West Coast Path),[3] it is according to The Ramblers "one of Britain's best known and toughest".[4]

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The path was the idea of the journalist and rambler Tom Stephenson, inspired by similar trails in the United States of America, particularly the Appalachian Trail. Stephenson proposed the concept in an article for the Daily Herald in 1935, and lobbied Parliament for the creation of an official trail. The walk was planned to end at Wooler but it was decided that Kirk Yetholm would be the finishing point. The final section was declared open in a ceremony held on Malham Moor on 24 April 1965. Before the official opening of the Pennine Way the British Army was invited to test the route, a task that was accomplished in one day. Junior soldiers from the Junior Tradesman's Regiment of the Army Catering Corps, based in Aldershot, were split into patrols of four or five and each was allocated an approximately 15-mile (25 km) section of the walk. A report was then provided on the signage and route feasibility.

More information can be found here

The route can be found here

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10: The North Downs Way

The North Downs Way is a designated National Trail passing through 153 miles of countryside between Farnham in Surrey to Dover on the Kent coast. Following the route of the historic Pilgrims Way the trail passes through the protected landscapes of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Kent Downs AONB. The trail makes for a great place for a family day out, a short walk and a rustic pub lunch or a life-changing long distance challenge. Along the way you will find chalk grassland, ancient woodland and heritage coastline providing a diverse range of habitats for wildlife such as orchids, bees and butterflies during the summer.

More information on the trail can be found here

The route can be found and downloaded here

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9: Offas Dyke Path

The Trail, which was opened in the summer of 1971, links Sedbury Cliffs near Chepstow on the banks of the Severn estuary with the coastal town of Prestatyn on the shores of the Irish Sea. It passes through no less than eight different counties and crosses the border between England and Wales over 20 times. The Trail explores the tranquil Marches (as the border region is known) and passes through the Brecon Beacons National Park on the spectacular Hatterrall Ridge, in addition it links no less than three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The whole route is waymarked with the National Trail acorn which is standard to all National Trails in England and Wales.

There are three sections of the Offa’s Dyke Path running through Shropshire, from Knighton through the Shropshire Hills AONB to the Kerry Ridgeway near Bishops Castle, a short section, mostly in Shropshire, that passes by the old County Town of Montgomery and from Llanymynech crossing Oswestry Old Racecourse to Chirk Mill. The sections through Shropshire include some of the best preserved and impressive sections of the Offa’s Dyke monument.

more information on the trail can be found here

The route can be found here

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8: The Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Pembrokeshire is home to the only coastal national park in the UK, most of which includes the world-renowned, long-distance Pembrokeshire Coast Path. That’s 186 miles of some of the most spectacular scenery and coastline in the world! Opened in 1970, The Pembrokeshire Coast Path was Wales’s first National Trail. 

Discover an invigorating mix of terrains with rugged cliffs, volcanic headlands, sheltered coves, hidden bays and over 50 beautiful Pembrokeshire beaches along this incredible journey - and lookout for a fantastic array of flowers and wildlife along the way.

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It takes on average between 10 to 15 days to complete the whole Pembrokeshire Coast Path on foot, with some impressive descents and ascents to get those legs working! The total rise of the whole path is around 35,000 feet, which is as high as Mount Everest!

More information on this iconic trail can be found here

The route can be found here

7: Isle of Man Coast Path

The Raad ny Foillan, Manx Gaelic for ‘The Way of the Gull’, is the Isle of Man’s premier long distance footpath. At almost 160 km / 100 miles in length it provides the perfect opportunity to walk around a complete Nation!

Explore some of the best coastal walking in the British Isles on cliff footpaths, quiet sandy beaches, wooded glens and farmland as you travel through a whole variety of landscapes. Each part of the Island has its own character as you move from one landscape to another in what is sometimes called ‘Britain in miniature’.

The Raad ny Foillan can be split into as many stages as walkers like so as to match their preferences and style of walking - from a 4-day very strenuous challenge right through to a more gently-paced 12-day walk. Download the Raad ny Foillan Coastal Footpath Guide which splits the 100 mile walk into 12 manageable sections. 

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You don’t need to be a committed walker to enjoy the Raad ny Foillan, making the challenge fun for all the family. As the path winds its way along the Island’s coastline you will find a wealth of places to go and things to see and do; discover castles, enjoy unexpected encounters with local wildlife, take part in the many activities or explore the beaches you will find along the way.

If you are a keen Geocacher, why not try finding the 230 caches hidden along the route. To find our more, click here.

When walking the Raad ny Foillan, it is useful to remember that there are plenty of accommodation providers and eateries that you can visit as you make your way around the Island. Take a look at the Raad ny Foillan Where to Stay and Eating Out pages for more information.

More information on the trail can be found here

the route can be found here

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5: The West Highland Way

The West Highland Way or Slighe na Gàidhealtachd an Iar is a linear long-distance route in Scotland. It is 154 km (96 miles) long, running from Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, with an element of hill walking in the route. The trail, which opened in 1980, was Scotland's first officially designated Long Distance Route, and is now designated by NatureScot as one of Scotland's Great Trails. It is primarily intended as a long distance walking route, and whilst many sections are suitable for mountain biking and horseriding there are obstacles and surfaces that will require these users to dismount in places.

It is managed by the West Highland Way Management Group (WHWMG) consisting of the local authorities for East Dunbartonshire, Stirling, Argyll and Bute and Highland, alongside the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority and NatureScot. About 120,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 36,000 walk the entire route.

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There were no trails of this kind in Scotland until the Way was opened. After the Second World War ex-RAF man Tom Hunter from Glasgow conceived of the idea of an official footpath, partly to protect the eastern shore of Loch Lomond from development. The route, with some challenging terrain, had to be worked out, and landowners negotiated with. Significant in the development of the Way was geographer Fiona Rose who surveyed the route over a year in the early 1970s, covering some 1,000 miles on foot.

The trail was approved for development in 1974, and after completion was opened on 6 October 1980 by Lord Mansfield so becoming the first officially designated long-distance footpath in Scotland.

In June 2010, the West Highland Way was co-designated as part of the International Appalachian Trail.

In 2020 plans to celebrate the Way's 40th birthday were interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. A virtual exhibition was set up to showcase the history, memories and highlights of the first 40 years. A special video welcome was recorded by Jimmie Macgregor, whose radio and TV programmes helped popularise the Way in the 1980s.

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6: The South Downs Way

The South Downs Way is a long distance footpath and bridleway running along the South Downs in southern England. It is one of 16 National Trails in England and Wales. The trail runs for 160 km (100 mi) from Winchester in Hampshire to Eastbourne in East Sussex, with about 4,150 m (13,620 ft) of ascent and descent.

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People have been using the paths and tracks that have been linked to form the South Downs Way for approximately 8000 years. They were a safer and drier alternative to those in the wetter lowlands throughout the mesolithic era. Early occupation in the area began 2000 years after that in the neolithic era.[3] Early inhabitants built tumuli in places on the hills and hill forts later, once tribal fighting became more common. Old Winchester Hill is an example of one of these hill forts along the path.[4] The trail was probably used by the Romans, despite the fact that they built one of their roads across the path at Stane Street (Chichester), this use possibly evidenced by the existence of Bignor Roman Villa[5] near Bury, nearby the path.

The South Downs Way was approved as a National Trail in March 1963 and opened in July 1972. It was the UK's fifth national trail to be established and its first long-distance bridleway.[6] It initially ran almost entirely in Sussex, from Buriton, on the Hampshire–Sussex border, to Beachy Head, near Eastbourne. In 1987 it was decided to extend the route westwards through Hampshire to Winchester.[7]

You can find the route here: https://fatmap.com/routeid/748129/south-downs-way-hampshire-to-east-sussex

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2: The South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is England's longest waymarked long-distance footpath and a National Trail. It stretches for 630 miles (1,014 km), running from Minehead in Somerset, along the coasts of Devon and Cornwall, to Poole Harbour in Dorset. Because it rises and falls with every river mouth, it is also one of the more challenging trails. The total height climbed has been calculated to be 114,931 ft (35,031 m), almost four times the height of Mount Everest.[1] It has been voted 'Britain's Best Walking route'[2] twice in a row by readers of The Ramblers' Walk magazine, and regularly features in lists of the world's best walks.[3]

The final section of the path was designated as a National Trail in 1978.[4] Many of the landscapes which the South West Coast Path crosses have special status, either as a national park or one of the heritage coasts. The path passes through two World Heritage Sites: the Dorset and East Devon Coast, known as the Jurassic Coast, was designated in 2001,[5] and the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape in 2007.[6]

In the 1990s it was thought that the path brought £150 million into the area each year,[7] but new research in 2003 indicated that it generated around £300 million a year in total, which could support more than 7,500 jobs.[4] This research also recorded that 27.6% of visitors to the region came because of the Path, and they spent £136 million in a year. Local people took 23 million walks on the Path and spent a further £116 million, and other visitors contributed the remainder. A further study in 2005 estimated this figure to have risen to around £300 million.[8] Following investment through the Rural Development Programme for England, more detailed research was undertaken in 2012, and this found the annual spend by walkers to have risen to £439 million which sustains 9771 full-time equivalent jobs 

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The path originated as a route for the Coastguard to walk from lighthouse to lighthouse patrolling for smugglers. They needed to be able to look down into every bay and cove: as a result, the path closely hugs the coast providing excellent views but rarely the most direct path between two points.[10] The South West Coast Path is no longer used by the Coastguard but it has been transformed from a practical defence system into a resource for recreational walkers. The path is covered by England's right-of-way laws, as amended by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, which keep historic footpaths open to the public even when they pass through private property. Sections of the path are maintained by the National Trust, which owns parts of the coast.

The path is a designated National Trail, largely funded by Natural England. It was created in stages, with its final section, Somerset and North Devon, opening in 1978.[4] It is maintained by a dedicated South West Coast Path Team.

The South West Coast Path Association, a registered charity, exists to support the interests of users of the path. The Association was formed in 1973 and since then it has campaigned for improvements to the path and undertakes considerable fundraising to help care for and improve the path. Its services include accommodation guides and completion certificates.

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1: The Cambrian Way

The Cambrian Way is a mountain walking route from Cardiff to Conwy traversing much of the highest, wildest and most scenically beautiful parts of Wales. At the present time, it is an unofficial walk that was pioneered by the late Anthony John Drake MBE (Tony Drake) (25 January 1925 – 7 March 2012). Originally conceived in 1967 with the intention of becoming a National Trail, the proposals floundered because of insurmountable opposition from landowners, farmers, county councils, national park authorities and the British Mountaineering Council. Rather than abandoning the project altogether, Drake realised that the route could be promoted as an unofficial walk provided that it followed a route along established rights of way or where the public had traditionally been allowed access, so in 1984 he published the first edition of his guidebook Cambrian Way - A Mountain Connoisseur's Walk. Further updated editions of the guidebook continued to be published, his last one being the 6th edition published in 2008. He continued unsuccessfully to campaign for official recognition of the walk throughout the rest of his life until ill health intervened a few years prior to his death in 2012. The 7th edition of the guide, updated by the newly formed Cambrian Way Trust, was in 2016. The route is only partially waymarked and requires advanced map reading and navigational experience in certain sections. The route is wholly within Wales, unlike the Offa's Dyke Path which follows the Wales-England border. Accommodation is scarce along some parts of the walk, so diversions, some quite long, are needed unless a tent and provisions are carried.

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In 2015, at the time that the Cambrian Way Trust was formed, working groups from Ramblers Cymru were in the process of surveying the whole of the route and throughout this process a number of route changes were agreed between the Trust and working groups to avoid some road walking and to take advantage of the most scenic routes. This was done in collaboration with the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority and the Snowdonia National Park Authority who made a number of suggestions of their own, in particular regarding bad weather alternative routes over the Rhinog Mountains. These changes were then incorporated in a new guidebook 'Walking The Cambrian Way' published in July 2019 by Cicerone.

It traverses Wales from Cardiff Castle near the south coast to Conwy Castle on the north coast and is purposely routed over the highest upland and mountainous terrain including the Black MountainsCentral Beacons and Black Mountain (all within the Brecon Beacons National Park), the Cambrian MountainsCadair Idris, and Snowdon.

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