If 2020 was the year more people started walking, then 2021 might be the year of people walking even more. According to government stats, 94% of those who reported an increase in heading out for a stroll since the start of the pandemic thought it likely they’d continue to do so, even after its end. No doubt because it’s a lovely, healthy, mind-and-body healing thing to do. Fortunately, Great Britain has some great walks. Here are some of the best options for a post-April 12 break.
1. Try a new trail taster, Cotswolds
The UK has 15 official National Trails, each a worthy adventure. But if you’ve no time, or stamina, to spend days on end walking the South West Coast Path or Pennine Way, no problem: a new project, England’s Great Walking Trails, has created short tasters on these long routes that combine hikes with other activities. For instance, on a Cotswold Way mini-break, mix bucolic strolls, castles, gardens and steam trains.
2. Stroll and sail, Highlands
For the thrill of walking right across Scotland with the convenience of sleeping in the same bed each night, tackle the Great Glen Way by barge. As you hike 120km from Inverness to Fort William – via Loch Ness and Ben Nevis – your floating hotel will be waiting in a new spot at the end of each day. A guide will also be on hand, to fill you on local legends en route.
A seven-day guided Scotland Coast to Coast Walk & Barge trip costs from £1,150pp including full-board accommodation (0208 004 8886; theadventurepeople.com)
3. Amble economically, Exmoor
Ramblers Walking Holidays’ new exploration of Exmoor packs in plenty of bimbles-for-buck. Costs are kept down by using the Field Studies Council’s Nettlecombe Court as a base, a Tudor-Georgian mansion turned hostel (though no dorm-sharing required). But the walking is still priceless: routes lead over the Quantocks, to Dunster castle, along the Somerset and Devon coast, via the River Barle and up Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor’s highest point.
A seven-night guided Nettlecombe trip costs from £649pp including full-board accommodation; April, June, August 2021 (01707 818984; ramblersholidays.co.uk)
4. Seek out the stones, Pembrokeshire
Recent studies reckon that Stonehenge’s bluestones were first erected in Pembrokeshire’s Preseli Hills before being lugged 200 miles to Wiltshire. Which makes it an interesting time to explore these lesser-tramped uplands of south Wales. A guided hike in the Preselis will reveal the bluestone quarries, plus ancient cairns, stone circles, huge tombs and hill forts scattered across a landscape little changed for 4,000 years.
A six-night guided Preseli trip costs from £520pp including full-board accommodation; April-June, September-October 2021 (01873 810970; dragontrails.com)
5. Sip and saunter, Yorkshire
Missing the mid-walk pub stop? Then this should be the first trip to sign up for once boozers reopen. Macs Adventure’s new Ales and Dales Trail is an intoxicating combination of fresh country air and classic Yorkshire hill walking (including sections of the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast Trail) with plenty of opportunities to rest awhile at country pubs en route – not least the remote Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest watering hole.
A seven-night self-guided Ales & Dales Trail costs from £710pp including B&B accommodation (0141 530 5452; macsadventure.com)
6. Plot a pilgrimage, Kent
Take on a challenge for a nonacentenary. Thomas Becket was murdered in Canterbury Cathedral in December 1170, sparking a pilgrimage craze; a full 220km Pilgrims’ Way hike from Winchester to Canterbury is a fine way to spend two weeks, treading ancient trails through the Wey Valley, Surrey Hills and Kent Downs, via vineyards, orchards and hop fields. Anniversary events planned for 2020 are hoped to be held this summer instead.
A 15-night self-guided Pilgrims’ Way Trekker Plus Challenge costs from £1,569pp including B&B accommodation (01227 752762; walkawhile.co.uk)
7. Go really remote, Highlands
Isolate yourself with ease on Knoydart – this Scottish peninsula, only accessible on foot or by boat, is Britain’s last wilderness. Over a week, you’ll hike into the Black Hills, traverse the peninsula north to south (finishing at the Old Forge, Scotland’s remote pub) and set sail for hikes on Skye, Rum and Eigg. Finish each day at a beach-side lodge, with dinner at the award-winning restaurant next door.
A seven-night guided Wilderness Walking Knoydart trip costs from £1,685pp including full-board accommodation; May-July, September 2021 (01479 420020, www.wildernessscotland.com)
8. Pick off the peaks, Snowdonia
The Snowdonia Way, the only low-level long-distance route through the heart of the national park, was only created in 2017, and remains unwaymarked on the ground. But join HF’s new guided trip and you won’t need to concentrate on directions, just the fine views as you pass falls, forests, gorges, moorland, riversides and Roman roads, and tick-off the summits of Snowdon and Cadair Idris.
An eight-night guided Snowdonia Way trip costs from £1,149pp including full-board accommodation; 18 July, 12 September 2021 (020 3974 8865; hfholidays.co.uk)
9. Explore with an expert, Cumbria & Northumberland
Walking along Hadrian’s Wall is like travelling back in time – and even more so if you do it in expert company. Andante’s hike along the ancient barrier is accompanied by a historian every step of the way. As you hike from the Solway Firth to Wallsend, they will point out every Roman road, fort, milecastles and inscription, and tell you all about Hadrian’s tactics and Roman daily life.
A nine-day guided Walking Hadrian’s Wall trip costs from £2,370pp including full-board accommodation; 6 September 2021 (01722 671081; andantetravels.co.uk)
10. Go on foot with the family, Dorset
The Isle of Purbeck is ideal for families: the walking is relatively gentle; the beaches are glorious; the range of other attractions varied; and the buses handy, if little legs get tired. Over a few days, mix rambling the coast and hills (routes are around five or six miles) with steam train rides and sea swims, playing knights at ruined Corfe Castle and fossil-hunting at Kimmeridge Bay.
A four-night self-guided Purbeck Walk costs from £1,100 for a family of four, including B&B accommodation (01935 817618; footscape.co.uk)
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