When it comes to finding out where the best running trails in the UK are, there's no better authority than Elise Downing. Not only has she been on countless trail running adventures in the UK's hills and lowlands, but she's run an entire lap of the coast – solo, self supported and in one continuous journey. We're pleased to say, she'll be one of the runners taking part in the OutdoorsMagic Trail Race on May 5 in the Forest of Dean. 


It’s cresting a peak, legs and lungs burning, and watching a view you have never seen before open up in front of you. It’s the magic of flying back down the other side of that hill you’ve just slogged up. It’s the sheer joy of a hot cup of tea and a dry pair of socks after a long day outside. These are the best feelings I know and the pursuit of them is why I run trails. Plus it’s a great excuse to go and explore somewhere new – you go a little faster and so get to see a little more than you can by walking.

The UK has a seemingly infinite number of trails to explore and I seem to have found myself on a mission to run as many of them as possible. I know Britain’s coastal trails especially well after running a 5000-mile loop of the coast in 2016 but I still have a long list of places further inland to go and discover.

I’m excited to tick off the Forest of Dean from my list this May when I'll be running the Outdoors Magic Trail Race. Rumour has it that area is pretty special…

[1] Coed y Brenin

What to expect: Four fully-waymarked trails that delve into deep woodland.

Coed y Brenin, Snowdonia

Coed y Brenin is the UK’s first bespoke trail running centre and is the perfect solution for days when you want to run some great trails but aren’t in the mood to battle the elements somewhere more remote. Nestled towards the south of Snowdonia National Park the running trails there ascend and descend the forest’s three river valleys. These trails are marked and vary from just one mile up to half marathon distance. You can stick a few together if you are after a long run but equally each has an escape route, offering low level shortcuts back to the visitor centre.

Looking for a race? Try the Buff Winter Trail Wales

[1] Isle of Arran and the Arran Coastal Way

What to expect: Wild and windy beaches all to yourself

Arran has been referred to as Scotland in miniature, where a rugged landscape of mountains and moorland in the north contrasts against the lush lowlands of the south. If you are looking for utter tranquility alongside your trails then it’s the place for you. The 65-mile Arran Coastal Way circumnavigates the island and allows you to see everything Arran has to offer, including an optional ascent of Goatfell (Arran’s highest mountain) if you are feeling brave. The island offers a true Scottish adventure but, being a few hundred miles south of the northern highlands, is a little more accessible too.

Try the Ultra Tour of Arran

Date: 14-15 April

[2] Jurassic Coast and the South West Coast Path

What to expect: Lots of ascent and descent, plus plenty of places to stop for ice cream.

Durdle Door on the Dorset Coast. Photo: Matt Holland

The UK has thousands of miles of incredible coastline but not all of it has the advantage of being hugged by a fully marked and impressively well maintained coast path. Enter the Jurassic Coast. Forming part of the South West Coast Path, it’s a 96 mile stretch that will take you from Dorset through to East Devon. Don’t expect an easy ride - the hills are monstrous, the steps are brutal and if you’re out on a stormy day the wind will threaten to whip you off the cliff tops. It’s worth it though. This is Britain at its wild and wonderful best.

Looking for a race? Try the Jurassic Trail

Date: 22 April

[4] The Surrey Hills and the North Downs Way

What to expect: Short and sharp climbs, well maintained trails and country pubs.

With sections of the North Downs Way taking only 45 minutes to get to from central London, it’s perfect for city dwellers in need of a trail fix but short on time. Stretching from Farnham down to Dover on the south coast, you’ll find yourself running through a constantly changing landscape, from enclosed woodland paths to vast open views like those of St Martha’s Hill. It’s a great place to go bluebell hunting if you head out in the spring but perhaps even more special if you manage to time your trip with snowfall, when it’ll be hard to believe you aren’t in Narnia. Give the Guilford to Dorking stretch a go. It’s a 15 mile route with both ends easily accessible by train. You’ll take in St Martha’s Hill along the way and have the option of finishing at Denbies Wine Estate for some post-run refreshment.

Looking for a race? Try the Surrey Hills Challenge

Date: 23 September

Elise Downing on the Wales Coast Path

[5] Suffolk Coast Path

What to expect: Mostly flat running, sand dunes, flora and fauna, and long beaches.

The Suffolk Coast Path was made for those sunny summer days when you want to go on a run that feels like a holiday too. The Suffolk Coast Path is 50 miles long and runs from Lowestoft to Felixstowe, through the Suffolk Coast AONB and with plenty of opportunities to pick up an ice cream en route. For 18 miles of seaside fun, try the stretch between Aldeburgh to Southwold. Starting alongside the picturesque beach huts of Aldeburgh, you’ll see the ruins of Greyfriars priory as you pass through Dunwich and finish in Southwold ready for fish and chips.

Looking for a race? Try the EnduranceLife Suffolk 10K Half, Full or Ultra Marathon.

[6] High Peak Trail

What to expect: Flat and steady running on wide gravel tracks with stunning views either side.

The 17.5 mile High Peak Trail in the Peak District National Park follows a former railway route and offers very runnable terrain. Following the full length of the trail will take you from High Peak Junction, near Cromford, to Dowlow, near Buxton. This route is less technical underfoot but that doesn’t mean you miss out on scenery as you pass through the Derbyshire Dales. If you’re interested in taking in a little history on your run, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for the chambered tomb as you head over Minninglow. The High Peak Trail is little tamer perhaps than some of the other suggestions on this list but no less beautiful.