The best hikes in the UK to challenge you

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and boost your health. Hiking in the UK can take you to some stunning locations while improving mental and physical wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be an epic hike to still deliver a sense of satisfaction and let you enjoy the great outdoors.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, there’s a huge list of hikes across the UK to choose from.

Hiking for beginners

If you’re new to hiking, the key is to pace yourself. It might be tempting to pick that long hike that promises breath-taking views, but start small and slowly build up your level of fitness. It’s not just the distance you should consider either, but also the elevation and terrain. Walking uphill or over uneven surfaces is far more tiring than a gentle path.

You may also want to give yourself a goal to work towards during the hike. For example, by choosing a hike that passes by a local village to stop at, or a picnic spot to relax by, you can help break up your hike.

Finally, before you head out, make sure you’re prepared. You should familiarise yourself with the route, make sure you have good hiking boots and appropriate clothing, as well as a bag containing essentials like water and first aid supplies.

So, where should you plan a beginner’s hike? Here are four to consider.

1. Conic Hill, Loch Lomond

Conic Hill is a challenge without being too much for beginners. Located on the eastern side of Scotland’s Loch Lomond, it has impressive views for you to enjoy as you make the climb to the top of the hill. You’ll start in the village of Balmaha and it’ll take around an hour to reach the top. It can be a steep walk to get to the top of the 361 metre hill, but the path is well-trodden and you’ll be rewarded with views of the loch and its islands.

2. Mam Tor and the Great Ridge, Peak District

This hike is known as one of the best ridge walks in the UK. It’s a 6.5 mile loop and will take you through some of the most admired parts of the Peak District. You should plan for the hike to last around five hours without any breaks. You’ll reach the top of Mam Tor – also known as the “Shivering Mountain” – and pass the Blue John Cavern. The hike starts and ends in Castleton, so it’s ideal for having a pub lunch or visiting a tea room once you’ve finished your hike.

3. Four Waterfalls Walk, Brecon Beacons

This hike will take you through peaceful woodland to four beautiful waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons. It’s a circular route that is just an hour’s drive from Cardiff, so it’s a great option if you want to visit the city too. The trail is 6 miles and takes around 3.5 hours to complete. The paths around the waterfalls can be steep and muddy so make sure you have sturdy footwear to keep you safe and your feet dry when stepping in puddles. If you want to see the falls at their best, plan a trip on a bright autumn day.

4. Ballintoy and Portbraddan, the Causeway Coast

The Causeway Coast is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and boasts sandy beaches, dramatic cliffs, and rocky outcrops to take in, as well as being the backdrop for some Game of Thrones scenes. You can spend days hiking the Causeway Coast and, while parts of it are challenging, the hike between Ballintoy and Portbraddan is a smaller segment that’s perfect for beginners and can be completed in a couple of hours.

Trails for experienced hikers

If you’re an experienced hiker, you might be looking for something a little more adventurous, whether that’s reaching the peak of a mountain or a multi-day hike. You may even be thinking about ticking off a bucket list item with a hike. Here are four options to add to your list.

1. Hadrian’s Wall, northern England

Why not walk coast to coast across Britain? At 84 miles long, Hadrian’s Wall is a great option for a multi-day hike that will take you from one end of Britain to the other as you follow the UNESCO World Heritage Site and pass through some of the most beautiful parts of northern England. Most of the route is relatively gentle but there are sections with climbs and descents, and certain sections can become very busy, especially during the summer months.

2. The Quiraing, Isle of Skye

This hike offers some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland. It’s a relatively short walk but lava and glaciers have sculpted the land, leading to beautiful terrain that can be challenging with its rocky paths and ascents. It won’t be the longest hike you ever do, but the view will ensure it’s one you remember. The walk will take you past distinctive landmarks like The Needle, a jagged pinnacle, and The Prison, a rocky peak that some say looks like a medieval keep.

3. South Downs Way

If you’re looking for a long multi-day hike, heading to the South Downs Way is perfect. At 100 miles long, this National Trail takes you on the old routes and droveways along the chalk escarpments and ridges of the South Downs. You don’t have to venture far to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life. Along the way, you’ll find signs of pre-historic landscapes and pretty villages, and you might be lucky enough to spot wildlife as you pass through five National Nature Reserves. The route is relatively easy, but this is a good option if you’re looking for a distance challenge.

4. Ben Macdui, Cairngorms National Park

The Ben Macdui trail is an 11-mile loop trail that’s rated as “difficult”. Ben Macdui is the highest mountain in the Cairngorm Mountains and the second highest in Britain. Scaling it allows you to take in the Cairngorms plateau. The path comes close to some steep drops, so it’s important you’re steady on your feet. It can also be difficult to navigate the plateau, especially in winter weather. Much of the walk takes you above the treeline for fantastic views and once you reach the top, you’ll be able to look out across the mountain passes.

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