UK a haven for serious walkers

Sun lovers, skiers and cruise fans might all need to vacate these shores to discover their ideal holiday, but what the UK has in abundance are opportunities for the serious walker.

A serious walker is someone who rises early and, after a hearty breakfast in a local hostelry, sets off to walk until early evening, stopping only to eat their packed lunch and to admire the view. Undeterred by inclement weather or an arduous path, the serious walker lives for the wide-open spaces and the anticipation of the panorama that awaits them over the next rise.

A must have notch on the walking stick of any serious walker is the coast to coast walk from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Northumberland. There are 191 picturesque miles between the start point on the Irish Sea and the finish point on the North Sea, including vistas in the Lake District national park, Swaledale, the North Yorkshire Moors and the Eskdale and Goathland Valleys. The route is peppered with villages that have long catered for coast-to-coast walkers, with bed and breakfast accommodation widely available, but best booked beforehand. So popular is the route that other services have sprung up to help the walkers on their way, with companies ready to book accommodation on route and even provide a bag transportation service to lighten the load.

Further north, the West Highland Way in Scotland might appear a comparative stroll at  a mere 95 miles in length, but the route takes the walker through some of the most wild and awe inspiring landscape that the Scottish Highlands has to offer. Starting at a concrete obelisk in Milngavie, just 6 miles northeast of Glasgow city centre, the path meanders past Loch Lomond, continues on to the towns of Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy, with the chance to spy deer around Inveroran, before coming to the path’s end in Fort William.

Possibly too much even for most serious walkers to attempt in one trip, the famous Pennine Way extends to 266 miles, from Edale in the Peak District National Park, to Kirk Yetholm on the northern edge of the Northumberland National Park. It can offer challenging walking, even as smaller segments chosen to suit the time available, with the lengthy section through the Yorkshire Dales being particularly popular.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg, with the likes of the Great Glen Way in Scotland, the Dales Highway in Yorkshire, the Cotswolds Way in the south Midlands and the South Downs Way in the south of England, still not even scratching the surface of the tracks and trails that weave across most of the UK.

For those who like their walks to also be a social occasion, the Ramblers Association in the UK organises a range of walking events and has 500 active local groups all across the country. More information is available on www.ramblers.org.uk.