Buachaille Etive Mòr, one of the most iconic mountains in Scotland, found in Glencoe on the West Highland Way - one of the best hikes in the UK
The best hikes in the UK are full of rugged beauty, like the iconic shape of Buachaille Etive Mòr, on the West Highland Way. Photo: Getty

The best hikes in the UK will, of course, differ depending on who you ask - but what every answer will have in common is that the routes selected will show off the best of the British Isles. Sure, Britain and Ireland might not have the highest mountains in the world, but they have got some of the most beautiful scenery – from the rugged wonders of Snowdonia to the famous beauty of the Scottish Highlands.

Every hiker will have their favourite hiking trails in the UK, often for personal reasons. But, if you’re looking for some famous trails to see the country, then these are our picks of the best walks around the United Kingdom - the classics.

We've covered a wide variety of areas, making sure to hit favourites like the Isle of Skye, the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, as well as heading over the water to the beautiful Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland.

The Best UK Hikes

There's nothing quite like acing up your hiking boots and heading into the great outdoors. The mountain climbing in the UK offers a refreshing dose of fresh air, thought-clearing exercise and an unrivalled sense of freedom.

Walking is an excellent way to experience a new place, too – whether you're listening to birdsong, smelling salty sea air or feeling the exhilaration of a bracing wind on your face. The best thing is you don’t have to look far to find a good hiking trail in the United Kingdom. From beautiful Scottish islands to the southernmost tip of England, there’s everything from gentle jaunts to hardcore hikes to choose from. With this list, that's what we've aimed to do - compile a list that has a little bit of everything, across the British Isles, to suit a variety of abilities and interests.

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These aren’t mere walks in the park – they are classic, adventurous hikes that will create some serious memories. If you're after some of our favourite mountains to climb in the UK, we've got a separate list for that, too. Here are the 10 best hikes in the UK:

1. Hadrian’s Wall Path (Chollerford to Birdoswald Fort), Northumberland and Cumbria

The Hadrian's Wall Path near at Walltown, one of the best hikes in the UK
The Hadrian's Wall Path near at Walltown. Photo: iStock / Daverhead

Best for: ancient history

Distance: 73 miles (117km)

Walking time: 6-8 days

Spanning 73 miles in northern England, this enormous wall is one of Britain’s most spectacular ancient monuments. Hadrian’s Wall was named after the Roman emperor who ordered it built (between AD 122 and 128). Its original purpose was to separate the Romans from the “barbarian” Scottish Picts. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The 84-mile path running alongside it is dotted with ancient settlements, forts and fascinating museums.

One of the best sections to walk is the 20-mile stretch between Chollerford (near Hexham station) to Birdoswald Fort (east of Carlisle). This is the highest section of the Wall, offering magnificent views of the Lake District and Pennines. Better still, it can be done over a weekend. Don’t miss the interactive History of the Wall exhibition at the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran.

2. South West Coast Path (The Lizard), Cornwall

The South West Coast Path in Lynton, one of the best hikes in the Uk
Some goat action on the South West Coast Path, Lynton. Photo: Annie Spratt 

Best for: spectacular coastal views

Distance: 630 miles (1,014km)

Walking time: 7-8 weeks

The South West Coast Path is one of the best multi day hikes UK. It twists and turns its way for 630 miles along spectacular coastline, from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. The path gets busy in summer, but you can still find hidden coves to stop for a refreshing dip. There are some excellent circular and day hikes along the path as well.

Cornwall is home to plenty of secluded beaches. If you’re lucky you can have the sea all to yourself, even in peak season. Walk four miles around the rugged tip of The Lizard, the mainland’s most southerly point. Continue to the turquoise water and pale sand of Housel Bay – quieter than most beaches even in summer. The walk offers magnificent sea views and the chance to see everything from wildflowers to dolphins playing in the water below.

3. The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye, known for its lochs and remarkable panoramic views
Hidden lochs and steep cliffs of The Quiraing. Photo: iStock / Hopsalka 

Best for: wild island scenery

Distance: 4 miles (6.4km)

Walking time: 2-3 hours

Quiraing is a landslip in the wild terrain of northern Skye. The bizarre but beautiful rock formations make it popular with everyone, from geologists to photographers. But the best way to appreciate its convoluted landscape is to hike it. Handily, there’s a great four-mile loop that involves a fair bit of climbing, but with views that make the effort worthwhile.

The trail starts at either of the villages of Staffin or Uig, and takes in startling vistas of the islands of Raasay and Rona. You can look down on the people below from the top of a cliff. Afterwards, refuel with Scottish chowder and homemade treacle bread at Staffin’s Columba Centre.

4. The Cuillin Traverse, Rùm

Scrambles up the Cuillin, Isle of Rum. Photo: Atlas Mountaineering
Scrambles up the Cuillin. Photo: Atlas Mountaineering

Best for: rocky summit scrambles and wild ocean views

Distance: 8 miles (13km)

Walking time: 7-8 hours

This is a real expedition - a full traverse of the Rùm Cuillin, a ridgeline of rocky peaks across the Isle of Rùm. You’ll take in six peaks with lung-busting climbs, exposed ridges and summit scrambles including to the high point of the island at the top of Askival (812m). You'll be rewarded with 360-degree views back along the Rùm Cuillin, across to the Outer Hebrides and over to the famous Black Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye.

After high-fives on the top of Askival, you'll scramble back down the boulder-strewn peak, along a ridge, up and over Hallival (722m) and down into Kinloch - the only hamlet on the island and home to 29 people, for a well-deserved pint.

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5. South Downs Way, Hampshire to East Sussex

The South Downs Way, just coming into Cuckmere Haven. This is one of the best hikes in the UK.
The South Downs Way, just coming into Cuckmere Haven. Photo: iStock / Kodachrome25

Best for: quintessentially British countryside

Distance: 100 miles (160km)

Walking time: 9 days

With wildlife, white cliffs and watering holes along the way, the 100-mile South Downs Way is a quintessentially British walk. That’s how it’s earned its place on our list of the best hikes in the UK! It’s also on our list of best hikes in London. Which makes sense, if it’s on this one. The route begins in Winchester, the first capital of England, and traverses pretty countryside until you reach the rippling chalk cliffs at Eastbourne. It takes around eight days to hike the entire easy-to-follow route. The hike is best done from west to east, or it can be split into short sections. Just make sure you stay well away from the edges when traversing the cliffs, well away! There are frequent landslips, and no fence.

Highlights along the way include the Seven Sisters Country Park, the Amberley Working Museum and Devil’s Dyke. It is also dotted with some great pubs, such as the Bull at Ditchling, which is a good spot to rest weary feet.

6. Scafell Pike, Lake District

Scafell Pike is the tallest mountain in England and one of the best hikes in the Uk.
On the way up. The grassy slopes of Scafell Pike. Photo: George Bannister

Best for: beginner mountain ascents

Distance: 3 miles (4.8km) one way

Walking time: 4-5 hours

There are several ways to reach Scafell Pike, the tallest mountain in England and one of the best mountains to climb in the UK. In fact, we’ve got our own dedicated guide on the several different routes up Scafell Pike. So maybe it’s a bit cheeky to include it as a best hike in the UK. But whichever way you go up, reaching that summit is an incredible feeling. You’ll be standing on top of England.

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There’s usually a crowd of walkers leaving Wasdale, in the western part of the Lake District, heading for the shortest route to the top. But there’s a lesser-known way to reach the 977 metre-high summit. If you don’t want to follow a line of other people, start from the more scenic and less crowded north side, beginning in Seathwaite (or Borrowdale for a longer hike). Known as the “Corridor Route”, this nine-mile trail winds through the valley beneath rocky walls and crossing ravines before you reach Scafell Pike’s summit boulder field.

7. Aberglaslyn Gorge and Cwm Bychan, Snowdonia

Aberglaslyn Gorge and Cwm Bychan, Snowdonia. The best uk hikes.
Remains of the old pylons that used to carry copper ore. Photo: iStock / Fatmanphotouk

Best for: exploring Snowdonia National Park

Distance: 5.7 miles (9km)

Walking time: 4-5 hours

This is a circular six mile walk, starting and ending at the little footbridge at Beddgelert. It takes in some of Snowdonia’s (Eryri's) most stunning scenery, from the placid waters of Llyn Dinas to the spectacular Aberglaslyn Gorge with the turbulent Glaslyn River raging alongside the path. You’ll pass the rusting pulley systems of the old copper mine working of Sygun and Cwm Bychan.

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Plus, you will get a broad view of Yr Aran, Lliwedd, Siabod and Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) on your descent – if the weather’s fair. Back in Beddgelert, celebrate your completed walk with a pint of real ale at the Tanronnen Inn.

8. Coast to Coast, Cumbria to North Yorkshire

Coast to Coast path, Cumbria to North Yorkshire. The best walks in the UK.
The North York Moors National Park. Photo: Ethan Ridd

Best for: three national parks in one route

Distance: 192 miles (309km)

Walking time: 14-16 days

This 192-mile walking route runs from one coast of England to the other. It was devised by British fellwalker and writer Alfred Wainwright in 1973, most famous for his Lake District guides. He put a tab behind the bar in Whitby for people who completed his walk. Needless to say, this is long used up.

The trail picks its way from St Bees Head on the Irish Sea to Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea. Along the way, you will cross the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Three national parks in one walking route! You also watch the geology change as you walk, switching from red sandstone at St Bees to green slate at Honister. Other highlights include the pretty Lakeland village of Grasmere with its Wordsworth Museum and the 12th century Shap Abbey.

9. West Highland Way, Glasgow to the Highlands

The West Highland Way, at Glencoe, one of the best and most beautiful hikes in the UK.
Buachaille Etive Mor on the West Highland Way, Scotland. Photo: Getty

Best for: iconic Scottish scenery

Distance: 96 miles (154km)

Walking time: 7-8 days

There’s a reason this is one of the best long distance walks in the UK and one of UK’s most popular walking routes. The beauty of the West Highland Way is off the scale. It runs from Milngavie, north of Glasgow, to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. The whole route is a momentous 96 miles and takes in the country’s biggest loch (Lomond) and grandest moor (Rannoch).

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Most walkers take around a week to walk it, though you can do it in shorter sections, too. One of the toughest – but most rewarding – sections is from Kingshouse to Fort William, 22 miles culminating in long slog towards Ben Nevis, dominating the skyline in front of you. If you’re interested in just doing certain sections, or checking out other treks in the area, have a look at our guides to hiking in Glasgow and Scotland.

10. Causeway Coast Way, County Antrim

Causeway Coast Way, County Antrim. A beautiful UK hike along the coast.
The Giant's Causeway, close to Bushmills (more importantly!). Photo: Dimitry Anikin

Best for: rugged clifftop scenery

Distance: 33 miles (53km)

Walking time: 2-3 days

This dramatic, sea-sprayed walk has some of the finest cliff scenery in Europe. You will see sweeping vistas of the Giant’s Causeway with its ancient basalt columns, said to be the remains of a causeway built by a mythical Irish giant. The 33-mile trail from Portstewart to Ballycastle runs through the seaside towns of Coleraine, Portstewart and Portrush, and passes the famous Irish whiskey distillery at Bushmills – perfect for a pitstop. The terrain ranges from grassy cliff edge paths to causeway stone, mottled with lichens, plus some stiles.

11. Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge, Yorkshire

A snowy Pen-y-Ghent, in the Yorkshire Dales, home to some of the UK's best hiking
A snowy Pen-y-Ghent. Photo: iStock / Erikv

Best for: exploring the Yorkshire Dales

Distance: 23 miles (37km)

Walking time: 1-2 days

The Yorkshire Dales are home to some of the best walking in the UK. Ticking off the area’s three highest mountains is a great achievement that can be done in just one day. The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is no mean feat – it involves hiking a 24-mile loop with more than 1,600m of climbing as you go up and over Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough in under 12 hours. There are spectacular views from all three hills and fascinating geology, too, such as Pen-y-Ghent’s two distinct sills – the lower is limestone, the upper gritstone. If you’re keen for a challenge but are time poor, this is the walk for you.

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