Best Walking Holidays in the UK for 2023
By Tara Walker-Rose
There’s no better way to see the UK than a walking holiday. The landscapes and history of this ancient island hold secrets for the eye, the mind, and the heart that far outweigh the size of the land itself.
For this holiday, don’t rush, just walk. Walk these self-guided tours, immerse yourself in your surroundings and let the UK reveal its secrets.
Don’t be put off by a lack of knowledge or experience, either. Just because these tours are self-guided doesn’t mean there’s no support or expertise available to you. Mickledore specialises in self-guided tours, and we can help you ensure you have all you need to make the experience the best it can be.
There are many wonderful trips from which to choose, but here are a few favourite regions and trails to whet your appetite and get you dreaming about your next great adventure.
Scotland is a true walker’s paradise offering something for everyone. From the quiet countryside of the Scottish Borders to the dramatic scenery of the Highlands, our hiking tours include the best that Scotland has to offer.
Begin at the Beginning
The West Highland Way was the first long distance footpath to be established in Scotland. It starts at Milngavie, near Glasgow, and ends in Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. The trail passes by the banks of Loch Lomond, and up over Rannoch Moor as you walk from the lowlands to the highlands in the footsteps of many rugged travellers before you.
A lot of invisible history clings to the outstanding natural beauty of the place, as clansmen, drovers, soldiers and pilgrims passed this way centuries ago, treading the same stones you’ll tread, and smiling in appreciation and wonder at the same stunning vistas.
If you’re a more experienced walker, and want to extend your time and distance, you can connect to walking trails that turn eastward and end in Inverness, via the Great Glen Way.
The standard West Highland Way route is 152km (95 miles) long and is usually walked in six to nine days. The difficulty level is considered moderate to challenging, as the trail consists mostly of walkable terrain, but does require some scrambling in parts.
Find out more about the West Highland Way
Follow the Spey
Another excellent choice for a walk through Scotland is the Speyside Way, a well-marked trail that runs alongside one of Scotland’s longest rivers, the Spey.
The route starts from Buckie on the coast and follows the valley upriver, eventually ending in Aviemore. There are several side routes to take in if you like, including spurs to Dufftown and Tomintoul. The tracks follow the river quite closely and afford wonderful views of the water, backed with the soundtrack of occasional rapids and abundant birds and wildlife.
You’ll smell the pine as you walk through the quiet woods toward one (or more) of the malt whiskey distilleries that sit nestled along the river. Don’t worry if you take in a dram or two either, the trail is easy to navigate and is among the easier options for walking in the rugged terrain of Scotland.
The main trail is 147km (93 miles) long and most walkers take between five and seven days to do the length of it. The shortest break length of this trail is not much shorter than the whole thing, at 104km (65 miles), and the overall distance can be increased considerably by taking in each of the optional spurs off of the main trail.
The north of England is not only rich in beauty, but in historical and cultural interest as well. From ancient sites such as Hadrian’s wall, or experiencing the setting of All Creatures Great and Small in the Dales, to the feat of walking from one coast clear across to the other, there will be many things in this area to make your walk both challenging and enjoyable.
Once the northern border of the mighty Roman Empire, this route follows the wall built by Emperor Hadrianus in the second century. It cuts across the island from Newcastle to Carlisle and the Solway Coast, following high ridges and diving into sheltered valleys. Each mile along its length you will find the ruins of a different Roman ‘mile fort,’ with watchtowers in between, making for a lovely variety of natural and historical points of interest – not to mention a ready-made measure of your walking progress.
The trail is easy to follow and the average grade is rated easy to moderate. Because it was built to protect against enemies to the north, it often follows the highest ridges, with the best views over the rolling green hills and patterns of copses that stretch off into the distance.
Accommodations are available all along its length. You can walk with the prevailing winds at your back, west to east, or you can start on the eastern end and get the more built-up areas around Newcastle out of the way first, leaving the long expanse of natural beauty and historical discovery in front of you.
You should make time to visit the Roman fort of Vindolanda where there are extensive remains, a comprehensive museum, and often an archeological dig in progress. Birdoswald, Housesteads and the Roman Army Museum are also close by and well worth a visit. Many people choose a rest day at Twice Brewed to allow time for this.
The full length of the trail covers 143km (89 miles) and the full route is normally walked between six and ten days. It is rated as an easy to moderate grade. You could just walk part of it if you do not have time for the full trail. The shortest break length is a mere 42km (26 miles) on the best part of the trail, so it is also a great option for the beginner.
If you want to be steeped in natural beauty and the soundtrack of wildlife, without ever straying too far from one of the longest archaeological artefacts in the world, this walk is an excellent choice.
Learn more about Hadrian’s Wall walks
The Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales are famous worldwide for rolling hills, limestone formations, and great historical buildings – but they are also famous for the exploits of veterinarian James Herriot, as told in books and television productions such as All Creatures Great and Small. You can visit some of his favourite places –he would know the best ones – and experience first-hand the beauty and rugged charm of the area.
Herriot himself took walking trips through this area, and we have a walk that retraces his very steps – The Herriot Way. It’s a circular walk, bringing you back to the point of origin at the end of your trip, where your transportation sits waiting.
Among the highlights of retracing the steps of one of Herriot’s favourite walks, are Hardraw Force, the highest single-drop waterfall in England, and the triple-drop Aysgarth Falls.
Most walkers take four or five days to cover the 83km (52 miles) of this particular trail, depending on fitness level and the number of miles they want to cover each day. As a moderate grade trail, the route is challenging, but not overwhelming, and breaking it up into more days will make it accessible even to relative beginners.
The Lake District
Since well before the time of the Romantic poets, this region has been famous for its beauty, and of all possible spaces in England and the world, those poets returned to the Lake District for inspiration. You can do the same.
There are so many ways to enjoy the awesome beauty of this area, there really is no poor choice of where to go. Here are a couple of our favourites.
Lakes Inn Way
If you enjoy a variety of attractions, from the natural beauty of steep-sided valleys, mountain passes and remote corners of the district, to charming tourist towns, the Lakes Inn Way is an excellent choice. It’s a circular walk that combines the best of seclusion and quiet with occasional bustle and amenities. You can see the villages of Ambleside, Coniston, and even visit Dove Cottage, Wordsworth’s one-time home in Grasmere.
It’s a challenging grade, but it has its perks. It is called Lakes Inn Way because you will be passing one of 40 traditional inns or pubs around lunchtime each day, and staying in or near one each night. It’s always easier to push through the effort of a challenging walk, when one knows a pint of your favourite is waiting by a warm fire at the end of it.
Most walkers cover the full 144km (90 mile) route in seven or eight nine days. The shortest break length is 64km (40 miles) which cuts the trip in half and opens up a modified route to intermediate walkers, or very fit beginners with a little experience behind them, or a more experienced walker along on the trip.
North Lakes Traverse
This is a route designed by Mickledore, and takes the walker around the lakes of Ullswater, Thirlmere, and Derwentwater and up and over each of the passes that separates them. Along the route you can stay in gorgeous little villages like Patterdale and Thirlmere. You’ll stroll through secluded woodlands and hillside paths with higher ground rising above you in the sunshine. You can stop to watch dynamic waterfalls and take in the stunning panoramic views while you rest up for the next session.
Most walkers take five days to cover the 68km (42 miles) of the full trip. The shortest break length is 42km (26 miles), making this moderate-grade trip accessible to advanced beginners who are seeking their next challenge.
View all of our Lake District walks
Just off the doorstep of several of England’s urban centres, Wales offers an abrupt change from the populous and bustling rush of city life.
The National Trail along the Pembrokeshire coast boasts almost 300 km of trail, but can easily be experienced in smaller segments.
Few areas of the world are as beautiful as the northern coast of Wales, and the rugged landscape presents some challenging and satisfying walking. Some segments include a lot of vertical ascents and descents, but there are sections suitable for most ability levels. Your tour provider can help you to determine which is best for you.
Whichever area you choose, and at any time of year, you will experience a wide variety of plant and animal wildlife, including an abundance of coastal and sea birds. You’ll traverse dramatic clifftop trails and plunge down onto sandy beaches – the daring may even go in for a refreshing dip.
It’s not all wilderness though, and towns like St Davids and Tenby offer a break from the trail, and a little well-earned refreshment.
The trail is 299km (186 miles) long and most walkers take between thirteen and sixteen days to cover the whole of it. The shortest break length is 77km (48 miles) and overall, the trail is considered moderate to challenging walking.
Take a look at our options on the Pembrokeshire Coast
Perhaps known more for a concentration of population, than for natural walking areas, the south nonetheless holds some gems that warrant high ranking on your walking wish list.
The route from Chipping Campden to Bath is a great way to take in the lovely atmosphere of the Cotswolds. The area is popular for grazing sheep, and you’ll meet many of the woolly residents along the way.
There is plenty of natural beauty to experience, including beech woods, rolling countryside, and an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These features are made lovelier still by medieval wool towns, ancient abbeys and battle grounds, 5500-year-old Neolithic burial sites and, of course, plenty of the famous honey-coloured Cotswold stone, the primary building stone of villages and stately homes along the way. You can even climb to the top of the 34-metre-tall Tyndale Monument tower and gaze out over the land for miles in every direction. Because the path twists and turns along the ridges, you will be treated to varied views of the River Severn and the majestic Malvern Hills.
There are even benches along to the way to provide a comfortable place to sit and take in a hot cup of tea or coffee as you appreciate the scenery.
At the end of the route is the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath. The Georgian and Roman architecture will please your eye and a dip in the baths themselves will be a sweet reward for the many steps you’ve taken to arrive there.
Most walkers cover the 163km (102 miles) of clearly-marked trail in six to eleven days. The shortest break length is 76km (47 miles) and the difficulty level is considered easy to moderate, so this is an accessible and nearby option for the beginner, as well as a quick and convenient option for the more experienced.
Learn more about the Cotswold Way
The South West Coast Path is England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath starting at Minehead in Somerset, covering the whole of the Cornwall coast and finishing at Poole Harbour in Dorset. It passes beside and over some of the most stunning coastal views in the United Kingdom.
You’ll see plants you aren’t likely to see anywhere else in England, and wildlife abounds along the full length of the walk. You may even spot seals or dolphins hunting and playing in the surf below you.
The area is historically interesting as well, as 19th century soldiers followed the paths on the watch for smugglers and other illegal landings. Many historical points of interest are marked along the trail, and there are several museums recounting the events of each area and showing off antiques and artefacts found in the area.
You’ll see unspoilt landscapes made even more spectacular by the crashing seascape they line. Fresh air and cooling winds will help you along your way.
Mickledore has a range of holidays on the Cornwall part of the South West Coastal Path. This covers 507 km (317 miles) of trail in total and can be walked in sections from as little as three to five days, or as one long trip taking up to 33 days. The difficulty of the route as a whole is considered moderate to challenging as there are many ascents and descents.
See all the options we offer for Southern England
Time to Walk
It doesn’t matter which of these stunning trips you decide to experience in 2023, it will only lead to wanting more. The intimacy, emotional ease, and satisfaction of walking through an area is unmatched by any other mode of travel, and will give you memories of a place that can be gained in no other way.
Are you ready? It’s time to walk.
To find out more about any of our walks, speak to one of our self-guided walking holiday experts on 017687 72335 or email [email protected]