The Only Guide To Hiking In The UK You’ll Ever Need!



What You Need

The Best Places To Go Hiking In The UK

  • Plan A Route On 91,000 Miles Of Footpaths
  • Discover 15 Waymarked Long-Distance National Trails
  • Explore 15 National Parks
  • The Best Of Both: Hike A Long-Distance Trail Through A National Park

The Best Maps And Guides

  • Maps
  • Apps
  • Guides

Places To Stay

  • Camping (including wild camping)
  • Hostels, Bunkhouses And Camping Barns
  • B&Bs

Hiking Challenges And Events

Useful Info

  • Hiking And Walking Organisations

Explore More UK Hiking On 10 Mile Hike

  • Trail Guides
  • Hiking And Backpacking


From where to go to what to wear and challenge events to walking campaigns this guide has got you covered! Discover useful information for beginners and seasoned hikers alike – it’s a hiking guide to come back to again and again. Let’s dive in!

Hiking in the rain - crossing a river on stepping stones

What’s The Difference Between A Walk And A Hike?

The simple answer is that a hike’s more difficult than a walk! But we all know things are never that simple, and where walking’s concerned there’s a lot of cross over.

Think of a hike as a walk with a more challenging element – whether it’s the terrain, the altitude or the distance. Hiking also refers to mult-day walks carrying your home on your back – aka backpacking! Confused yet? No? Well you soon will be – have a look at the terms below!

What’s In A Name?

Which ones have you heard of?

  • Fell walking: walking in the hills and mountains of northern England
  • Hill walking: hills, mountains and moorland
  • Lowland walking: walking on lower ground
  • Trekking: usually a big multi-day walk overseas
  • Backpacking: a multi-day walk carrying everything you need, including camping and cooking gear (also called hiking!)
  • Strolls: short leisurely walks, including dog walks
  • Rambles: genearlly easy walks in woodlands and countryside

And there are far more…including ‘stank’ here in Cornwall!

You might have also heard terms like ‘day-hike’, and ‘thru-hike’ which are US terms that are gradually being adopted here, especially on social media. A thru-hike refers to a long-distance walk of several hundred (if not thousands) of miles in one go. In the US it typically refers to trails through wilderness areas like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, and here it could apply to trails like The South West Coast Path (630 miles) or the Lands-End to John O’Groats hike (Land’s End to John O’Groats is 1000+ miles if you walk footpaths and trails – but !it’s a flexible route). And a day-hike? It’s just a long day on the trail!

Whichever terms you use though, and however much you associate the cultural history of Britain with walking, access to our landscape has been hard-won.

Right To Roam

There’s been a long tradition of walking in the UK, but it’s only relatively recently that some access to wild, open, and common land has been enshrined in law as a right for everyone (CRoW 2000 in England and Wales and the Land Reform Act 2003 in Scotland).

The Mass Trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932 in the Peak District (a violent dispute between around 400 walkers and game-keepers) arguably heralded the formation of our National Parks and the first of our long-distance trails (The Peak District National Park in 1951 and the Pennine Way long-distance trail in 1965). And it was shortly after, in 1935, that the Ramblers Association was created to campaign for walkers’ rights.

Even today, after the CRoW act (which gives substantially less access to open-country than the Land Reform Act) access is a highly contentious issue in England, with well-founded cause for concern – and action. If you’re interested in the issues surrounding walking and hiking this book review might interest you The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes review – a trespasser’s radical manifesto (The Guardian) and check out the links to find out more and get inolved.

Walking Campaigns And Organisations

The Countryside Code

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I'm smiling at the camera with my tent and the sea behind me on a bright, sunny morning

Leave No Trace

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What To Wear On A Day Hike

(And The Essentials You Need To Take)

Most people’s hiking gear is dictated by 2 things: the weather and budget, but within that comes a lot of confusing choice!

If you’re just starting out I recommend you read my Absolute Beginners Guide To Day Hiking And Walking Gear, which focuses on how to get the best value clothing and make the most of your budget. (If you’re planning a backpacking trip take a look at this guide to wild camping for a detailed guide to what you’ll need.)

The bare minimum you should consider is:

  • Hiking boots, shoes or ‘trail runners’ (personal choice – I prefer trail runners)
  • Hiking socks (avoid cotton at all costs as they don’t dry out)
  • Waterproof coat and over-trousers (you could also consider gaiters for muddy walking)
  • Sports Bra
  • Quick-dry trousers or shorts
  • Long or short sleeve quick-dry top (base layer)
  • Warm mid-layer (fleece or insulated jacket)
  • Hat, gloves, buff

Other essentials for a day hike include:

  • rucksack (up to 30L depending on what you like to carry)
  • water bottles/bladder
  • Head torch (it’s better to carry one than be caught out)
  • Small first aid kit (this article will help you decide what to include)
  • Waterproof bag or rain cover for either inside or outside your rucksack
  • Mobile phone, waterproof cover and emergency contacts
  • Map and compass (and a guidebook if you want one)
  • Tide table
  • Walking poles

Do some research before you invest in anything to make sure it’s suitable for your needs, and the best you can afford within your budget. Talk to retailers, hiking and walking friends and check out plenty of gear reviews. You can start your research right here with some of mine!

The Best Places To Go Hiking In The UK

Section Contents


There are 15 long-distance national trails (including the Pennine Bridleway, which was designed for horse riders and mountain bikers, but is also open to walkers), excluding the as yet unfinished England Coast Path. But that’s just in England and Wales. Add in the 29 Great Scottish Trails and you’ve got a treasure trove of varied landscapes to explore.

Then of course there are 15 stunningly beautiful national parks, which means that combined with the national trails there’s likely to be somewhere extraordinary to go hiking or walking wherever you are.

But why not make the most of both and hike a long-distance trail that goes through a national park or two en route? I’ve done the research so you don’t have to: find out which trails cross national parks below.

Plan A Route On 91,000 Miles Of Footpaths

Guide To Hiking In The UK. Hiking in the UK offers a spectacular range of trails whether it's on our thousands of miles of public rights of way, our national trails or 15 long-distance trails... just follow the arrow! Image: blue arrow symbol for a public bridleway attached to a wooden post covered in lichen.
Public Bridleways are marked with a blue arrow and are open to walkers, cyclists, and horse riders.

With such an incredible amount of public rights of way, it’s easy to put together your own long-distance walk or hike and explore an area you’re particularly interested in. You can do it by studying the rights of way on a 1:25,000 OS map or checking out local council websites for paths in a given area (you can report blocked rights of way to local councils too).

Public rights of way are indicated on maps in various ways according to type and who or what they’re open to (footpaths are open to walkers and bridleways are open to walkers, cyclists, horses, etc) and you’ll find which are which in the map legend. However, a word of warning!

A public right of way doesn’t mean there’s actually a path on the ground!
It’s a common mistake – paths are marked with a black dashed line on OS 1:25,000 maps, but it doesn’t mean you have a legal right to use them. Instead, look for a black dashed line with a green dashed line over it, then you know there’s a path that you have a legal right to use.

A public right of way simply means you have a legal right to walk on the ‘the green dashed line’ (as it’s shown on and OS 1:25,000 map) and no-one can stop you (but you might find yourself pushing through thickets of undergrowth!). There are often footpaths along public rights of way though, and when you’re out walking you’ll notice they’re usually marked with signposts: some are simple yellow or blue arrows (pedestrian paths and bridleways respectively) and some may be finger posts with destinations, even miles written on them.

Connecting rights of way with a national trail is a popular way of hiking the ‘end to end’ Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge. LEJoG, as it’s also known, means you hike from the farthest west in England to the farthest east in mainland Scotland, but how you do it is up to you (and it’ll be over 1000 miles). Perhaps some of the best hiking though is on the UK’s long-distance trails (usually well maintained and way-marked) and national parks.

Discover 15 Waymarked Long-Distance National Trails

Guide to hiking in the UK - the only guide you'll ever need! Image: National Long Distance Trail symbol. Wooden post showing the acorn symbol alongside a metal National Trust sign.
Long-distance national trails in England and Wales are represented by the acorn symbol, and National Trust Land with acorn leaves. In Scotland you follow the thistle, naturally!

Southern England

Cotswold Way

102 miles (164Km) from the beautiful medieval market town of Chipping Campden to the stunning Georgian city of Bath.

South Downs Way

100 miles (160 Km) through the South Downs National Park from Winchester, with its majestic, ancient cathedral, to the seaside town of Eastbourne and the highest chalk cliffs in the UK at Beachy Head.

North Downs Way

153 miles (246 km) from the attractive market town of Farnham in Surrey, through London to Folkstone on the south coast, crossing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the way.

Offa’s Dyke Path along the England/Wales border

177 miles (285 Km). Offa’s Dyke follows the River Wye out of Chepstow in Wales along the England/Wales border to Prestatyn in north Wales. Offas Dyke is a scheduled ancient monument built by the Anglo-Saxon King Offa in the 8th century to protect his Kingdom from rivals in Wales.

Peddars Way And Norfolk Coast Path

93 miles (150km) along Roman roads from Knettishal Heath to Hunstanton and then following the north Norfolk coast to Cromer. Read my guide to the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path – the trail of two halves!

South West Coast Path

630 miles (1014km) of spectacular coastal scenery from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. This is the UK’s longest National Trail and you can read my full Guide To The South West Coast Path for inspiration and information.

[vc_row full_width=”stretch_row”][vc_column width=”1/6″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_empty_space][vc_column_text]Thames Path

184 miles (294 Km) beside the UK’s most famous river: the River Thames. The trail starts at the source near Cirencester in the Cotswolds and finishes at the Thames Barrier in the heart of London, meandering through some of England’s most historic towns and cities along the way.

The Ridgeway

87 miles (139 Km) along Britain’s oldest road from Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon north-west of London. Walk across high chalk downs and discover incredible archaeological sites from neolithic long barrows to the enigmatic Uffington white horse.

Northern England

Cleveland Way

109 miles (175km). The trail begins at Helmsley in Yorkshire and circles the edge of the beautiful North York Moors National Park to the coast. From there you hike south-east along the coast through Whitby and Scarborough to finish at Filey.

Hadrians Wall Path

84 miles (135 km) from the cities of Newcastle on the east coast to Carlisle on the west (or vice versa!) this trail winds its way along the Roman wall, a UNESCO World Heritage site, passing forts, watchtowers and settlements through moorland and rolling countryside.

Pennine Bridleway

205 miles (330 Km). This trail was designed specifically for horse riders and mountain bikers and was completed in 2012. It runs roughly parallel to the southern part of the Pennine Way through the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales National Parks. Start the adventure in Matlock in Derbyshire and finish near Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria. If you’re aiming to join the LDWA’s National Trail Register the Pennine Bridleway can be included – on foot! (And has to be included for the higher level certificates).

Pennine Way

268 miles (435km). Hike the ‘backbone of England’ from Edale to Kirk Yetholm and discover some of northern England’s most spectacular landscapes. Wild and sometimes remote, this was the first of England’s national trails, completed in 1965.

Yorkshire Wolds Way

79 miles (127 km) from the Humber Bridge in Kingston Upon Hull to Filey on the east Yorkshire coast, where you can combine your hike with the Cleveland Way.


Glyndŵr’s Way

135 miles (217 Km) from Knighton to Welshpool in mid-Wales. This National Trail opened relatively recently to mark the new millenium, as well as the 600 year anniversary of an uprising lead by Owain Glyndŵr, the Prince of Wales, against Henry IV, King of England, in 1400. Hike through beautiful countryside, moorland and forests, passing Machynlleth where Glyndŵr’s parliament sat.

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

186 miles (299 km) (alternative routes can make this over 193 miles) along the spectacular coastline of South West Wales, from Cardigan to Amroth Castle. Most of the trail is within the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park ensuring a magnificent and challenging hike.

Great Scottish Trails

Scotland’s Great Trails (29 in total – follow the link to the official website to find out about them all)

These are the 3 Great Scottish Trails you need to complete for the LDWA’s national trail register:

The West Highland Way

96 miles (154km) from Milngavie (Glasgow) to Fort William, through some of Scotland’s most iconic scenery.

The Rob Roy Way

79 miles (127km) From Drymen to Pitlochry, passing lochs, impressive falls, and finishing at a stone circle, this trail can be combined with the West Highland Way.

The Speyside Way

65 miles (107km). Begin on the coast at Buckie and hike into the Cairngorms national park to Aviemore. Highlights include Caledonian pine forest and wild moorland, as well as wildlife including deer and red squirrels.

Explore 15 National Parks

Guide To Hiking In The UK - the only guide you'll ever need! Image: a beautiful Dartmoor National Park hexagonal sign with a pony in the centre, fixed to a granite stone.
National Park signs are as beautiful as the National Parks themselves.

With 15 National Parks in the UK, you’re guaranteed a choice of landscapes to explore, from the mountains of Scotland to the watery marshes of the Broads in East Anglia. Check out this short guide to help you decide where to go hiking next.

Northern England

Lake District National Park

The UK’s most visited national park boasts 14 major lakes over half a km square, with Windermere being the largest at 14.8 square km. The Lake District also lays claim to England’s highest mountain: Scafell Pike (978m/3210 feet). It’s a breathtaking mountain landscape that offers open, wild and unspoilt upland walking and hiking that should be on every hiker’s bucket-list (here’s my bucket list).

Northumberland National Park 

Northumberland National Park, famous for moorlands and castles, extends from Hadrian’s Wall to the borders of Scotland in the far north-east of England. It’s our least populated national park, which no doubt contributes to its status as a Dark Sky Reserve – the perfect place for star-gazing.

North York Moors National Park 

The spectacular heather moorland and coast of the North York Moors provide habitat for a rich range of wildlife, from the UK’s smallest bird of prey (the merlin) to the golden plover. But as well as moorland you can hike places like the popular Roseberry Topping, “Yorkshire’s Matterhorn”, or explore Robin Hood’s Bay.

Peak District National Park 

The UK’s first National Park was opened in 1951, preserving this upland environment for everyone. Explore the White Peak area, a limestone plateau famous for gorges and dry valleys, or the higher, boggy ground of the Dark Park moorland.

Yorkshire Dales National Park

This landscape is rich with dry stone walls and waterfalls, sheep farming and limestone scars such as Malham Cove. The National Park is also home to the popular challenge walk the Yorkshire 3 Peaks Challenge – a challenge to walk 3 peaks across 24 miles in under 12 hours.

Southern England

Broads National Park

The Broads man-made landscape is the largest protected wetland in Britain. Traditional white windmills and the craft of reed and sedge cutting (for thatched roofs) bustle side by side with an incredibly diverse range of wildlife and flora.

Dartmoor National Park

Think of Dartmoor and you probably think of wild open moorland, bog, fog, and stark granite tors. And that’s because these are the features that give Dartmoor its unique atmosphere, but there’s more to discover. Hikers can also enjoy the sparkling rivers, woodland valleys and old stone villages with their welcoming pubs on cold, dark nights. It’s also worth noting that Dartmoor is also the only National Park outside of Scotland where the right to wild camp is written into law.

Exmoor National Park 

Exmoor National Park offers the hiker a variety of walks across wild moorland, through woodlands and valleys as well as the dramatic cliffs of north Devon. Explore rolling farmland, quintessentially English villages, and quench your thirst in old characterful pubs. Check out these Short Walks For Fantastic Photography on Exmoor for a flavour of this magnificent national park.

The Only Guide To Hiking In The UK You'll Ever Need! Image: Far reaching views over heath and rolling hills from Dunkery Beacon, Exmoor National Park - one of 15 Nationals In England and wales.
Far-reaching views from Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in Exmoor National Park

South Downs National Park

The South Downs is the UK’s newest and most populated national park, boasting rolling green hills, chalk grasslands that are alive with wildflowers and butterflies in summer, and lowland heaths. It also boasts its very own national trail: the 100 mile South Downs Way.

New Forest Naitonal Park

This national park is a thriving landscape of ancient woodland, forestry, heathland, bog, and 40 miles of coastline from Barton on Sea almost to Southampton. There are also two longer distance trails to walk: the Avon Valley Walk (34 miles) and the Solent Way Walk (60 miles).


Cairngorms National Park

The Cairngorms is a diverse landscape from wild and remote mountains to heather moorlands and forests. Hikers and walkers will enjoy spotting the incredible wildlife including wildcats, osprey, and Britain’s largest native land mammal, the magnificent red deer.

Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

Some of Scotland’s most iconic scenery can be found in this glorious national park, including Loch Lomand and Glen Coe. You can also start your Munro bagging adventure here and bag Ben More, the national park’s highest mountain at 3,852 feet (higher than Mount Snowdon).


Brecon Beacons National Park

Pen y Fan is the highest peak in southern Britain and is situated in the centre of the Brecon Beacons, a national park which is as famous for its waterfalls and moorland as it is for its mountains.

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Hike through this national park on the Pembrokeshire Coast National Trail or head further inland and discover estuaries, waterways and heaths. And don’t forget to explore the Preseli Hills with its burial cairns, hill forts and 360 degree views.

Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia is perhaps our most well known national park outside of the Lake District. The landscape is wild and varied with nine mountain ranges, river gorges, waterfalls and woodlands across the park’s 823 square miles. It even boasts 23 miles of coastline!

Useful Info

National Parks UK (official site)

The Best Of Both: Hike A Long Distance Trail Through A National Park

The Only Guide To Hiking In The UK You'll Ever Need! Discover the best places trails and national parks including The Valley of the Rocks, South West Coast Path, Exmoor, UK. Image: View of high dramatic cliffs with a moody sky and a patch of sea lit up by the sun behind the clouds.
Valley of the Rocks – part of the South West Coast Path in Exmoor National Park

Why not explore the ultimate scenery the UK has to offer and take a long-distance hike that crosses a national park: explore the best of both worlds!

England And Wales

The South West Coast Path
Hadrian’s Wall
South Downs Way
Offas Dyke Path
Cleveland Way
Pennine Way


Pembrokeshire Coast Path

There is a good choice of trails through Loch Lomand and The Trossachs National Park, but you’re more limited in the Cairngorms:

Loch Lomond And The Trossachs National Park
Cairngorms National Park
Useful Info

Official websites:

Your Guide To Hiking In The UK

Part 4: The Best Maps, Apps And Guides For Hiking In The UK


  1. Maps
  2. Apps
  3. Guides

Walking and hiking maps are usually very detailed, often showing points of interest as well as public rights of way and areas of open access. With all this information at your fingertips it’s easy to plan a circular walk from a car-park, or a day hike that has a pub at the end. National trails are generally marked too and you can even find hostels and campsites marked along the route (it’s best to check the date of publication and check they’re still open though!). These are some of the best maps, apps and guides for hiking and walking in the UK:

  • OS Maps 1:25,000 Explorer maps for the most detail; 1:50,000 for planning long routes
  • AZ For Walkers (published by Collins) – Offical National Trail maps in booklet form with 1:25,000 OS mapping
  • Harveys – Including walks on one map, maps of the Scottish Munros, area map collections, etc
  • Yellow Publications – Pocket size maps for walkers including local trails and footpaths. They also publish small tide tables for the UK
Guide Books

Index Camping Hostels B&Bs

Multi-day hiking means finding somewhere to stay close to your route – which isn’t always easy! These links should help you out, whether you fancy wild camping or a luxury B&B:


Hiking Challenges In The UK


  1. Guide To Hill Bagging
  2. Hike All Our Long-Distance National Trails
  3. Other Challenge Events

Guide To Hill Bagging

No guide to hiking in the UK would be complete without a mention of hill bagging: the British have some weird pastimes and sometimes ‘hill bagging’ seems right up there! Who wants to tick a whole load of hills off a list for the sake of it, or just to beat your mates! It seems prosaic on the face of it, but there is another way of looking at it.

What if ticking off a hill from an official list means that when you go on to bag the next one you’re actually exploring somewhere new? Again and again. And

Hill bagging can be a real challenge because not all of the hills and mountains on a list are easy to get to or easy to climb.

Of course each list has something unique about it too, so check these out to get you started:

The Wainrights

Follow in the footsteps of Alfred Wainright and explore 214 fells in the Lake District National Park

The Munros

Tick off Scotland’s 283 mountains above 3000 feet. Check out Walk Highlands for a complete list of Monros, routes, and even a guide to the Gaelic pronounciation.

The Marilyns

Discover 600 prominent hills all around Great Britain – there are even a handful of Marilyns in Cornwall (and Cornwall is where I happen to live! Why not discover some walks in Cornwall too?).

County Tops

The name of this list says it all: climb (or walk) to the highest point in every county in the UK.

Guide To Hiking in the UK: All about Trig Bagging: It's a hiking thing! Image: Woman standing beside a white trig point looking at the camera, against a background of fields and sea.
Trig bagging. It’s a hiking thing.

Trig Bagging

What on earth is a trig? You’ll undoubtedly have seen one somewhere on a walk or hike in the UK: it’s a concrete pillar for triangulation (often with a metal plate to fix a theodolite on top) that’s generally found on the highest points in the landscape. Have a look at these two sites: Trigbagging and TrigpointingUK for more trig bagging info, including maps. Trig pillars are also marked on OS 1:25000 maps with a blue triangle.

The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) holds registers of some of the most popular hill bagging lists where you can add your name once you’ve completed it.

Hike All Our Long-Distance National Trails

The Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) defines a long-distance walk as a walk over 20 miles. They hold a National Trails Register and award certificates and badges, from bronze to diamond, depending on the number of trails you hike. Hike 5 long-distance trails and you qualify for the bronze level, 10 for silver, 15 for Gold, and 19 trails to qualify for the diamond award. You can walk them as day hikes and section hikes as well as ‘thru-hikes’, there’s no time limit and you can walk them in any direction you like. It’s free for members and non-members to register.

Other Challenge Events

The LDWA also hold challenge events around the country. These are organised events and the challenge is usually to complete a given distance in a set time, with a flagship annual event of 100 miles in 48 hours.

Other popular hiking challenges include The National Three Peaks Challenge and The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, which you can hike independently or as part of an organised challenge event.

You can find more challenge events for walkers of all abilities (including families) on the walking organisation websites listed below. And don’t forget to check out your favourite charities to see what they have on offer, including the night-time MoonWalk London (15.1 or 26.2 miles), which raises funds for breast cancer charities.

Hiking And Walking Organisations

Thanks for reading The Only Guide To Hiking In The UK You’ll Ever Need!
Now you have everything you need to know from what to wear to where to stay, so the only thing you have to decide is where to go! So what will it be – coast, mountains or moors – or somewhere in between?!

If you’ve enjoyed the guide please share it with your friends on social media, or pin it to your hiking boards on Pinterest. Thank you so much!

See you on the trail

Stephie x

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