There's no shortage of visual reminders to tell you just how old this trail is either: Barbury Castle, Liddington Castle and Uffington Castle all display the classic, hilltop-fort attributes that make 10-year-olds (and grown-ups alike) run around with improvised swords, defending the honour of any fair maiden that might be in need of a passing white knight. Uffington also has a uniquely stylized white horse dug out of the chalk hillside, best viewed from the flat-topped Dragon Hill, itself steeped in the legend of St George.
A final word of warning though - be prepared for punctures. The flint stone found in most chalk hillsides can cut rubber tyres in to ribbons.
See www.nationaltrail.co.uk/ridgeway for more details.
It's not just the accessibility that's inviting; this is a stunning trail along which the landscape changes character continuously as you roll from the sandbanks and rocky shores (Betjeman called the route along the spectacular Camel Estuary "the most beautiful train journey I know"), through wooded valley thickets to granite-studded moorland. Peer out to creeks and sandbanks to see egrets, herons and oystercatchers; wow at water skiers on the Camel Estuary; stop for a Cornish ice cream; and take a detour to Camel Valley Vineyard for an award-winning tipple (a perk for parents).
A map and leaflet of the route can be downloaded from www.visitcornwall.com.
As it's crisscrossed by roads, it's easy to navigate by car; but by far the most rewarding way to enjoy the beautiful, gently undulating landscape and its appealing sounds and smells is to jump on a bike. It's easy to leave the roads behind: a network of way-marked off-road cycle routes totalling over a hundred miles in length weave their way through the most scenic spots.
Brockenhurst, in the heart of the forest, makes an ideal base. It has a friendly and helpful local bike shop, Cyclex, which sells everything you could possibly need. If you're not in the mood for a plain old mountain bike, you could try hiring a variant such as a Yellowbike electric bike - perfect for anyone aged 14 years or over wanting to boost their pedal power a notch or three - or an adult-sized trike or Dawes tandem. There are even some handy extras, such as attachments which allow you to tow babies and children.
Cyclex, Downside Car Park, Brockenhurst Station, Hampshire (www.newforestcyclehire.co.uk.
Coed-y-Brenin's seven routes range from an easy green to difficult reds and severe blacks, six of them demanding a competent level of fitness and ability. The popular Yr Afon is ideal for families and novices. In contrast, the super-technical 30km Dragon's Back is billed for more accomplished riders with steep ascents and ripping descents. If you're a true master of your wheels there's only joy to be had on the burns and rock steps of Temtiwr, the streambeds of the MBR Trail, the single-track racecourse of Tarw, the epic climbs of the Beast of Brenin and the fast-riding Cyflym Coch. Be warned if you're nowt but an average rider that even the red runs will have you quaking in your cycling shorts.
Coed-y-Brenin is near Dolgellau, Gwynedd (www.mbwales.com and www.forestry.gov.uk/wales).
And, with the distinctive, heather-bunched triumvirate of the Eildon Hills as a backcloth, abbeys don't come much more elegantly ruinous than Melrose. Setting out from the abbey car park, the only incursion you're likely to face these days is heavy traffic on the busy A68, though the route quickly shears off on a more bucolic course to nearby Dryburgh Abbey. On atmosphere and location alone Dryburgh has a claim as the most compelling historic monument in the Borders, its intimacy heightened by some unexpectedly well-preserved nooks and crannies. Of more starkly practical purpose is Smailholm Tower, mounted in an unlikely rash of crags just off the B6397 as you flank the Tweed on its northeasterly canter to Kelso. While Smailholm was often visited by a young Walter Scott, nearby Floors Castle was the one-time celluloid abode of Lord Greystoke, making up in pepperpot-turreted whimsy what Kelso's once mighty abbey - abbey no.3 - lost in war.
From here, the route rolls south on a twenty-mile loop, initially tracing the fertile banks of the Teviot before climbing to bisect the old Roman road from York and finally descending into Jedburgh, where the ostentatious Augustinian abbey still holds it church nigh-on intact. This might be the place to beg succour for a final climb back over the Eildons, or at least invoke divine protection against those pesky potholes.
To make the most of the sights, Four Abbeys is best completed over two days, though experienced cyclists could easily do it in one. A full description and route map are available at www.visitscottishborders.com.