Where to go walking in Britain?
August 5, 2018 8:06 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I will be spending about 10 days in Britain at the beginning of September, flying in and out of Heathrow. We’d like to spend ~4 days of that time walking somewhere — ideally, about 10 miles a day, ending each day in an interesting village or town. Where should we go?

So, our criteria are as follows:

* ~8-12 not too strenuous miles per day through pleasant, beautiful countryside. We’re imagining walking mostly in the morning, e.g. 9-12. So perhaps a total of ~40 miles.
* each walk ends in an interesting village, town, or city, which has accommodation, a decent pub, and some interesting sights to poke around in during the afternoon: maybe a nice parish church, a museum, etc.
* luggage service to move our things from each town to the next town

We are attracted to the Cotswold Way, but it looks like the luggage services available are built around walking something like 15-20 miles per day (a little long for us) and I am worried the villages might be cute but not really interesting enough for a full afternoon.

We’re also thinking about some portion of the Thames Path, perhaps something in the stretch from Oxford to Hampton Court, though that might be too urban.

Any ideas?
posted by crazy with stars to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Couple of resources whilst researching are the lovely Ramblings programme with Clare Balding on Radio 4 (also available via podcast) and any of Christopher Somerville's books on walking around the UK — he's the "walking correspondent of The Times", which I want to be when I grow up.

And to combine the two: the Purton, Gloucestershire episode, featuring Christopher. :)
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:17 PM on August 5, 2018

I'm not 100% sure this fits your criteria, but have you considered a short section of Hadrian's Wall?
posted by praemunire at 8:45 PM on August 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

There's the Bronte Way which is a little over 40 miles. Brigantes offers luggage and accommodation service for this trail as well as many others.
posted by gyusan at 9:23 PM on August 5, 2018

How about Great Malvern? Here are some of the walks.

There aren't a lot of places around it, but Worcester isn't far away and it's interesting, and of course, there's Birmingham. It's far away from Heathrow though (that's English far, not say, USA or Canada far).
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 11:41 PM on August 5, 2018

If you come to Scotland, you could try the Fife Coastal Path - it meets your criteria of "not too strenuous", "baggage transfer services" and "interesting places to spend the night". Overall route length is too long for your needs - but you could easily pick a section. - the "Walking Highlands" website that I linked to above - is a great source of other walking suggestions in Scotland.
posted by rongorongo at 12:01 AM on August 6, 2018

I've just come back from Northumberland and strongly recommend the Northumberland Coast Path.

The stages are just the right length for you and pass through not too strenuous but absolutely stunning landscapes. The route is longer than you need (6 days, ~60 miles), but you could skip the first and last stages (the best bits are in the middle).

Along the way, you've got some excellent castles, including Warkworth, Dunstanburgh, Bamburgh and Lindisfarne. You could easily fit in a walk at low tide to Holy Island or take a short boat tour from Seahouses to visit the seals and seabirds on the Farne Islands. There are many wonderful pubs in the area as well.

As it's a popular route, there are numerous baggage services – e.g. here.
posted by cincinnatus c at 2:36 AM on August 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

visit the seals and seabirds on the Farne Islands

Just worth noting that September is out of season for most Farne Island seabirds, i.e. the auks and terns. There would still be seals and a few resident species, like shags, and for proper birders, the possibility of a rare migrant. But the real seabird spectacle would be finished.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 3:50 AM on August 6, 2018

There's the Dorset Jurassic Coast which has a number of great walks along the coastline and surrounding countryside. West Dorset is very rural, with many old and picturesque villages, a fair bit of wildlife sanctuary heathland and iron age forts as well as the cliffs and coastline itself which can be pretty spectacular. It's also usually a bit warmer than much of the UK, which may or may not be a good thing!

It's a very pretty part of the larger South-West coast path, which has various advice for a walking holiday, including luggage services that cover the coast path and surrounding areas - or more full service options such as footscape which would help with a countryside focused walk if you want to avoid other tourists - their particular route hits a lot of really great places I can definitely recommend.

I also personally like the Purbeck Way, which is split up into sections; so you could walk from Weymouth, through Corfe Castle village down to Ballard Down (which is on the Jurassic coast), which covers a number of highlights and could be done in one day or two; though at that time of year there will be a fair number of tourists in the hotspots such as Corfe and Swanage.
posted by Absolutely No You-Know-What at 4:00 AM on August 6, 2018

The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is stunning. Rugged west-coast landscapes, many small sandy bays and inlets - not dissimilar to the Dorset Jurassic Coast, but less well-trodden. The website has a useful planner with pubs/B&Bs marked on it - it's a bit out of the way compared to something like the Cotswolds or the Thames path, but for my money it's many times more beautiful.

Also a +1 for the Northumberland coastal path mentioned above.
posted by parm at 4:05 AM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I worry a little that you're underestimating how strenuous the walking is. The first sentence in my Cleveland Way guide for Sandsend to Robin Hood's Bay (10 miles) is "The greatest interest in this section lies in Whitby and Robin Hood's Bay, separated by an easy clifftop walk." We hit Whitby at lunchtime (having started in Runswick Bay) and staggered into Robin Hood's Bay ready to kill each other at about 4.30 in the afternoon.

If you're aiming for leisurely walking followed by poking about in a village, I'd try to find something with sections that are disused railways (or portions replaceable by disused railway paths) or cycle paths.
posted by hoyland at 4:16 AM on August 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I did a walking holiday on the Isle of Wight, and it was lovely. Easy bus or train connection to London(you can take a hovercraft to the island!), and the buses make it possible to do a mix of bus and walk each day. I actually stayed in one place the whole time, and took busses to the beginning and end each day, but there were several options for luggage moving companies.
posted by rockindata at 6:16 AM on August 6, 2018

We did the Cotswold Round via Contours. We are decent hikers and usually got to our destination around 4 p.m. (just to warn you that noon might be optimistic).
Let me know if you have more questions about it. I've heard great things about the coastal and Lake District walks.
posted by starman at 6:35 AM on August 6, 2018

Ooh ooh! We did four days walking in the Yorkshire Dales that time of year, and it was wonderful!

We booked through these folks, and I highly recommend them.
posted by missrachael at 7:13 AM on August 6, 2018

You might consider a stretch of the Ridgeway.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:19 AM on August 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

We went walking in the Peak District a few years back, in September, and had a somewhat customized walk designed by this lady.
posted by TORunner at 8:55 AM on August 6, 2018

I love the South Downs Way, which goes between Eastbourne and Winchester. I haven't used a luggage service myself, but these people look legit.

The South Downs Way is 100 miles long, so you wouldn't do all of it. I recommend doing the Eastbourne end - the Seven Sisters are lovely.
posted by HoraceH at 9:01 AM on August 6, 2018

Offas Dyke in and around Hay on Wye is where I’d go - England one side, Wales on the other.
posted by Middlemarch at 3:13 PM on August 6, 2018

We ran the Thames Path pre-toddler, and while the section from Oxford to Hampton Court goes through some really interesting places, the actual walking itself is a bit dull (walking through flat pasture next to a fairly placid river).

I’d do the Ridgeway or some of the South Downs Way myself.
posted by tinkletown at 6:30 PM on August 6, 2018

The Lake District is a beautiful part of the country, and very popular with hikers. Alfred Wainwright wrote extensively about it in the 1930s.
posted by mippy at 5:46 AM on August 7, 2018 [1 favorite]

starman: "We did the Cotswold Round via Contours. We are decent hikers and usually got to our destination around 4 p.m. (just to warn you that noon might be optimistic).
Let me know if you have more questions about it. I've heard great things about the coastal and Lake District walks.

This is exactly what we ended up doing -- and it was great! Walking along a small valley with pasture and the River Windrush and crossing fields toward the parish church in Guiting Power was pretty much exactly what I wanted. The walks were a little longer than I wanted, but it turned out ok.
posted by crazy with stars at 9:52 AM on February 12, 2019

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