Incredible day hikes in the UK

written by Portia Jones

updated 6.04.2021

Dramatic coastlines, heather-strewn moorlands, steep ridges, plunging river valleys and dense pine forests: Britain has a superb selection of scenery for such a small island. One of the best ways to experience the UK’s varied landscapes is by hiking some of its lovely, well-trodden routes. You’ll find a plethora of incredible day hikes in the UK that can be attempted by walkers of all abilities.

Hikes in the UK range from full-day treks to strolls that take just a few hours, and come in all levels of difficulty. Many take in the superlative scenery of Britain’s 15 national parks, which have a great selection of trails. There’s plenty to delight nature lovers and avid ramblers, but be sure to properly plan for your hike and walk to your ability level.

Well, what are you waiting for? Strap on your hiking boots, fill a flask, pack your favourite snacks and get ready to experience some incredible day hiking routes in the UK.

Wye Valley Walk: Ross on Wye to Hereford, England

Trail length: 17–18 miles

Difficulty level: Moderate

The Wye Valley, stretching along the border of England and Wales, is recognized as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and for good reason too. It's the perfect place for hill and river walks that showcase the UK's lovely rural charms. Plump for the Wye Valley Walk, a long-distance national trail that follows the course of the River Wye.

You can choose various sections of the trail for day hikes and weekend hikes – or opt for a full walking holiday and do the lot. One of the best day hikes on the Wye Valley Walk is the Ross on Wye to Hereford section. It's one of the longer day hikes on the list and you'll need a reasonable level of fitness to tackle some of the scrambling sections. The route combines gentle river walking with woodlands and hilly inclines – a high point of 180m is reached at Capler Camp.

Autumn is the best time to attempt this trail: when the leaves begin to change their colours, it becomes one of the prettiest hiking trails in the UK. Pack a picnic to round out the country experience.

The Wye Valley Walk is a beautiful trail that takes in small orchards, postcard-perfect villages and rolling fields. Finish up at the small city of Hereford and treat yourself to proper pub food at the historic Black Lion Inn.

Hereford Cathedral with the Wye river and bridge © Caron Badkin/Shutterstock

Hereford Cathedral with the Wye river and bridge © Caron Badkin/Shutterstock

Causeway Coast Way: Portballintrae to Portrush, Northern Ireland

Trail length: 6.5 miles

Difficulty level: Easy to moderate

The Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland runs from Belfast to Derry and is consistently rated as one of the top road journeys in the world. This incredibly scenic route also offers great hiking through wild landscapes with sweeping sea views. The diverse terrain features stretches of dreamy, golden sands, dramatic cliff sections and oceans of vivid blue and emerald green.

Enthusiastic ramblers who enjoy multi-day hikes can walk the entire section of the Causeway Coast Way with relative ease. The trail can be broken down into smaller sections for day hikers and there are also several public-transport options to reach the various sections.

If you’re looking for a gentle day hike then opt for the Portballintrae to Portrush section: a 6.5-mile walk suitable for most hiking abilities. It’s a relatively flat trail that starts at the Bayview Hotel and traces the coast. Be aware that sections of the walks are not well marked, so you should carry a map with you. Some of the highlights along the way include sandy beaches, the chalk cliffs of White Rocks, Mermaid's Cave and Dunluce Castle. There are plenty of opportunities to stop at points of interest or to soak up views of the Atlantic swell. When arriving in Port Rush, treat yourself to delicious, post-hike ice cream at the legendary Morelli's Ice Cream Shop.

 Whiterocks Beach Portrush, Northern Ireland © Monicami/Shutterstock

Whiterocks Beach Portrush, Northern Ireland © Monicami/Shutterstock

Teignmouth to Dawlish Warren Railway Walk, Devon

Trail length: 4.7 miles

Difficulty level: Easy

If you're a fan of bracing seaside walks, then the impressive South West Coast Path is the one for you. This picturesque national trail is more than 630 miles long, running from Minehead all the way to Poole Harbour in Dorset, taking in the magnificent coastlines of Devon and Cornwall. Some of the most charming sections of the path are located near Teignmouth in Devon, a traditional seaside town boasting sandy beaches, a classic Victorian Pier, historic Georgian houses and stellar coastal walks.

Try walking from Teignmouth to the seaside resort of Dawlish Warren on an easy railway walk – along a section built by master engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This shorter day hike offers ramblers splendid seaside and country views of Devonshire. Plus, you'll get to see the South Devon Railway Sea Wall, the most photographed stretch of railway line in Britain. This is one of the easier walks on the South West Coast path and is suitable for families with older children.

The start of the walk is near Teignmouth railway station, and there's also a station at Dawlish midway along the walk if you decide you've had enough. Part of this walk also goes underneath the railway and is impassable at high tide, so be sure to check the tide times before you set off. It's also important to check the weather forecast – you shouldn’t attempt this trail in stormy or very windy weather.

Teignmouth - view over the harbour and beach towards Dawlish © bbofdon/Shutterstock

Teignmouth - view over the harbour and beach towards Dawlish © bbofdon/Shutterstock

Pyg Track: Snowdonia National Park, Wales

Trail length: 7 miles

Difficulty level: Moderate

Snowdonia National Park is an incredibly photogenic part of northwest Wales that is characterized by striking mountains and glacial landforms. Sure enough, it’s also home to a wide selection of fabulous hiking tracks and trails.

Snowdonia is the setting for many Welsh-speaking, picturesque villages like Betws y Coed and Beddgelert. It's a living national park that also acts as a tourism hot spot in Wales. The country’s highest mountain, Snowdon, has become massively popular of late and there have been huge selfie-seeking crowds reported along its popular trails and at the summit.

For a more peaceful hike, head up Pyg Track very early in the morning in the shoulder season. It's one of the best hiking trails in Snowdonia National Park for sweeping views and Instagram-worthy shots. This is an incredibly scenic route that's suitable for beginner day hikers as it's not too challenging or technical. There's also plenty of facilities in the surrounding area including cafés, public toilets and parking. For this reason, it's a popular day hike for outdoor-loving families.

The trail starts at the Pen-y-Pass car park and like most trails in Snowdonia, is signposted for ease. Parts of the hike can be steep but – thankfully given the unpredictable Welsh weather – not too exposed. On this route, you'll be treated to panoramic views of the Welsh landscape including Crib Goch and Llyn Llyydaw Lake.

Pyg track leading to the Snowdon summit © Tamas Beck/Shutterstock

Pyg track leading to the Snowdon summit © Tamas Beck/Shutterstock

Scafell Pike Walk: Lake District, Cumbria

Trail length: 7 miles

Difficulty level: Challenging

The Lake District is a staggeringly beautiful unspoilt region and national park in Cumbria that is popular with holidaymakers and outdoor enthusiasts. There's a huge range of lovely walks here, suitable for a variety of experience levels.

Earnest day hikers will love trekking up Scafell Pike, a serious peak in the Lake District that's looked after by the National Trust. The climb is a challenging day hike and should never be underestimated. This is definitely not a route for “have-a-go” hikers, as the steep and rocky terrain will require experience, proper equipment and technical skills. Expect bare rock, stone paths and steep drops on this rather adventurous route.

Planning and preparing for your day hike up Scafell Pike is super important as there are only a few basic facilities here, including temporary toilets that perhaps aren't always as clean as you would like. Also, pay careful attention to the weather reports: you do not want to summit in freezing temperatures or foggy conditions. Map reading and mountain skills are essential for climbing Scafell Pike as the paths are not waymarked or signposted.

There are several routes to Scafell Pike from Eskdale, Wasdale, Borrowdale and Langdale. The easiest route is from the National Trust car park at Wasdale Head. Take this route if you want to reach the summit as quickly as possible for those Instagram bragging rights, as this is the most direct way up.

If you want a longer route that takes in more of the natural scenery and craggy vistas, take the interconnecting, high-shelf route known as the Corridor Route. Expect some serious scrambling, long views and technical sections.

Winding roads towards Wasdale head and Scafell Pike © Phil Macdocks/Shutterstock

Winding roads towards Wasdale head and Scafell Pike © Phil Macdocks/Shutterstock

Quiraing Loop Walk: Isle of Skye, Scotland

Trail length: 4 miles

Difficulty level: Moderate

The Isle of Skye is a dreamy Scottish island with an otherworldly appearance, with a smorgasbord of pretty fishing villages, rugged landscapes and enchanting castles. It's becoming increasingly popular with visitors looking for unspoiled landscapes and unique outdoor experiences. Thankfully there are many day hikes on the Isle of Skye that offer spectacular views and challenging terrains.

A popular walk is the Quiraing Loop, a circular hike with some pretty ethereal views. The route is of moderate difficulty with some rough and rocky terrain to scramble over. Make sure you’re properly prepared for this walk with hiking equipment, maps and water.

Reach the trail by parking at the summit of the minor road linking Staffin and Uig. The walk begins on the north side of the road and is rather handily marked by a footpath sign to Flodigarry. The trail twists and turns through ebbing and flowing landscapes that herald cliffs, rock pinnacles, plateaus and overhangs. Once you reach the higher parts of the trail, you are treated to stunning views across the surreal landscape. The higher you go, the better the views are of the ridges, wide-open plateaus and the ocean beyond. For this reason, this hike is very popular with landscape photographers.

Highlights of the route include tremendous ocean views, grassy domes and peculiar rock towers. It's one of the best day hikes in Scotland for awe-inspiring landscapes.

The Quiraing, Skye, Scotland © orxy/Shutterstock

The Quiraing, Skye, Scotland © orxy/Shutterstock

Worm’s Head Walk: Wales Coast Path

Trail length: 6 miles

Difficulty level: Easy to Moderate

For the most gorgeous coastal views in Wales, you’ll want to hike along the Wales Coast Path – a 870-mile long, designated footpath that hugs the shoreline around Wales. This long-distance route can be broken up into smaller sections that make for ideal day hikes and family walks in Wales.

The Gower Peninsula section of the Wales Coast Path has a series of easy, moderate and difficult walks to suit every ability. Several popular walks in this area include Oxwich to Pennard Cliffs, Rhossili to Port Eynon, Langland Bay to Caswell Bay and Worm’s Head Walk. The gorgeous scenery takes in unspoilt coastline, limestone cliffs, beautiful headlands and golden beaches.

The Worms Head Walk is a family-friendly trail that starts near the National Trust Shop. This route allows you to take in the stunning views across Rhossili Bay and also venture out to Worm's Head – two small and pretty islands off the headland of Rhossili that are joined to the coast at low tide by a causeway. Route highlights include beach views, wildlife spotting and a pub lunch opportunity at the Worm's Head Hotel.

This walk really consists of two parts: a gentle headland hike followed by a slightly more challenging tidal walk. The first part of the route is around the Rhossili headland and the second is out to the Worm's Head. The two parts can be done together, and both are suitable for families with older children. The walk to Worm's Head is possible only 2.5 hours either side of low tide. This means you have to plan your walk in advance and consult the tide timetables so that you don't get stranded. Make sure you have proper walking attire for the Worm’s Head section, as the walk involves a bit of scrambling and is rocky in parts.

Sunflowers at Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsular with the Worm's Head © jax10289/Shutterstock

Sunflowers at Rhossili Bay on the Gower Peninsular with the Worm's Head © jax10289/Shutterstock

Portia Jones

written by Portia Jones

updated 6.04.2021

Portia is a freelance travel writer, podcaster and radio presenter, with her own travel websites. She also writes for a range of travel websites and outlets including the Travel Magazine, Culture Trip, Rough Guides, Insight Guides and Bradt Guides. She also has a weekly travel podcast - Travel Goals, that provides actionable travel tips and advice to listeners and she also presents 'Travel Zone' on Travel Radio every week. Follow her on Twitter @pip_says and Instagram @pipsays

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