The Best Long-Distance Walks In The UK | 9 Backpacking Trails - Outdoors Magic

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The Best Long-Distance Walks In The UK | 9 Backpacking Trails

Make 2023 the year you go on a proper backpacking adventure

You might not have known it yet (apologies if you did) but this is going to be the year that you take on a long-distance walk. You’re going to look through this list, read about just how much adventure opportunity is out there and think, oh yeah, that does look a lot of fun – in fact that looks fun and it could be much cheaper than a normal holiday as well actually.

Whether it’s England, Scotland or Wales, there are long distance trails galore here in Great Britain, not just the well-known national trails, but loads of other lesser and little-know ones as well. All kinds of distances too, from mammoth ones that will keep you occupied for months right down to short and sweet ones that’ll require as little as two days of annual leave from work.


The Pennine Way

Chosen by Becky The Traveller, British Travel Blogger 

The start of the Pennine Way at Edale in the Peak District. Photo: Manuta / iStock

Distance: 268 miles / 431km
Time to walk: 15-20 days
What to expect: high moorland, constant panoramas, quaint villages and pubs

One of my favourite long-distance trails in the UK is the Pennine Way National Trail, which I hiked in June 2019, starting in Edale in the Peak District and finishing approx 268 miles later in Kirk Yetholm. It’s not the longest one the UK has but it’s known as one of the toughest due to how remote some of the stretches are, and this is one of the reasons I loved it.

I was totally blown away by how beautiful the trail was, with stunning and surprising scenery along the way, including waterfalls, hills and lovely little villages where you can resupply. I’d recommend it to anyone who fancies a long-distance challenge, you’ll get to walk through three national parks and one AONB so there’s plenty to love about the walk.



The Cumbria Way

Chosen by James Forrest, author of The Mountain Man (

The Cumbria Way crosses from north to south through the heart of the Lake District. Photo: Shalith / iStock

Distance: 73 miles / 117km
Time to walk: 5 days
What to expect: valley level walking on defined trails, lakes and villages

The 73-mile Cumbria Way – which traverses the country from Ulverston in the south to Carlisle in the north, via Coniston, Langdale, Keswick and Caldbeck – is a stunning low-level trail. The middle section through the heart of the Lake District is superlative.

The jagged skyline of the Langdale Pikes, the achingly pretty Tarn Hows and the charming western shores of Derwentwater are but a few of the many highlights. It’s a walk that proves you don’t have to bag mountains to relish the beauty of the Lakes. 


The West Highland Way

Chosen by Rory Southworth, Ordnance Survey Champion

Following Loch Lomond’s shoreline on the West Highland Way. Photo: Andreas Gerhardinger / iStock

Distance: 96 miles / 154km
Time to walk: 6-8 days
What to expect: mainly low level walking with some climbs, campsites, inns, loch and mountain views

A popular hiking trail, the West Highland Way must be one of the most social routes to hike in the UK, with many common spots to stop along the way and meet fellow hikers.

The West Highland Way an incredibly varied route; starting in the suburbs of Glasgow it then follows right along the length of Loch Lomond before passing through the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’ and finishing with the jaw dropping scenery that leads to Fort William and Ben Nevis. I love the rugged terrain you encounter on this journey and the fact that the trail is well-marked and easy to follow.



The Shropshire Way

Chosen by Matt Jones, outdoors writer

The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Photo: Kim White ? iStock

Distance: 202 miles / 325km
Time to walk: 11-16 days
What to expect: rolling hills, history, villages and pubs

Offering panoramic views, bucolic countryside and some of the most charming little villages in England, Shropshire is a great place to stretch the legs. Walking the Shropshire Way will take you from the iconic Stiperstones in the Shropshire Hills to Wenlock Edge, Ironbridge Gorge and the Wrekin – and that’s just the southern loop. This long, figure-of-eight trail also traverses the great Shropshire plain, a landscape of meres and mosses that are amazing havens for wildlife. I spotted dozens of buzzards overhead in the course of just a few days.

There’s plenty of history and heritage on offer too, from the castles of the Welsh marches to the iron heritage of Coalbrookdale and Ironbridge, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. At nearly 200 miles in total, doing the whole thing is no small undertaking, but it can be split into sections and is easy to follow too – in fact, there’s a great website ( with downloadable route guides.


Related: Best Walks In The Lake District
Related: Best Walks In The Peak District

The Cambrian Way

Chosen by Will Renwick, editor of Outdoors Magic

Distance: 298 miles / 480km
Time to walk: 15-20 days
What to expect: difficult mountain terrain, moorland, large remote sections


They call this the “mountain connoisseur’s walk” and for good reason. It’s a 298-mile route that starts on the south Wales coast and finishes on the north Wales coast, taking in just about all of Wales’s mountains in-between – mountains like Snowdon, Cadair Idris, Pen y Fan, Rhinog Fawr and Pumlumon.

When I walked the Cambrian Way a few years ago over the course of 18 days, I loved how the route seemed to locate the wildest parts of Wales. At times, I really felt like I was on an expedition. Bear in mind that at the moment, the way-marking along it is basic, so you’ll need to brush up on your nav skills before taking this on.


The London Loop

Chosen by Dee Dee O’Connell owner of The Brokedown Palace outdoor store.

Distance: 150 miles / 242km
Time to walk: 7-14 days
What to expect: urban walking, tow paths, parkland, historic surprises

The London Loop is the walkers’ M25; a trail that circumnavigates the capital in a 150 mile ring divided into 24 sections. One of my favourite things about it is that each section is planned for you to get there and back using public transport – figuring out the TfL routes is almost as fun as navigating the Loop itself. It takes you through a mixture of ancient woodland, bucolic countryside and industrial edgelands. Highlights include London’s longest pier at Erith (the official starting point of the Loop), the ‘Wilberforce Oak’ where William Wilberforce resolved to abolish the slave trade in Britain, several groves of giant sequoia trees, the aptly named ‘Happy Valley’, and the ending point at Rainham Marshes where you’re reunited with the Thames. After doing the Loop I’ll never see London in the same way again. 


Snowdonia Slate Trail

Chosen by Will Renwick, Outdoors Magic editor

The route skirts around the base of Tryfan, one of Britain’s most recognisable mountains. Photo: Will Renwick

Distance: 83 miles / 134km
Time to walk: 5 to 9 days
What to expect: mainly valley level walking with some climbs, riverside walking, plenty of villages and towns

With its wild mountains, deep green valleys and unshakeable mysticism, Snowdonia National Park has to be one of the finest parts of the UK, and this walk – the 83-mile Snowdonia Slate Trail – is the best way to see it.

The Slate Trail is a young path, officially opened as recently as 2017 and it would be fair to say it’s still a little bit under the radar, not yet having managed to build up its own notoriety just yet. I can definitely see it getting very popular though. I walked it over four or five sunny days a couple of years ago and remember swimming in rivers each day and having an idyllic camping spot each night. Don’t be put off by the fact the route is designed to take in the area’s industrial heritage. Think crumbling chapels made from purple stone and rusted antiquarian machinery smothered in green ferns, instead of concrete chimneys or burnt out nuclear reactors behind barbed wire fences. 


The Coast To Coast

Chosen by Abbie Barnes, walking vlogger (

Robin Hood’s Bay on the Coast to Coast’s western terminus. Photo: Khrizmo / iStock

Distance: 182 miles / 293km
Time to walk: 11-15 days
What to expect: moorland and farmland walking, quaint villages and pubs

The Coast to Coast is hands down one of my favourite long distance walks in the UK. I’ve hiked it twice now and every time relished in the feeling of freedom and satisfaction gained from walking from one side of the country to the other.

Starting in St. Bees on the west coast, the route heads into the Lake District National Park then works its way through the Dales and on to the North York Moors, finishing on the east coast at Robin Hood’s Bay. It is a walk of mountains and moors, forest and rivers, coasts and farmland. It is certainly one not to miss for anyone looking to enjoy some of the wilder spaces of our country.

The South West Coast Path

Chosen by Will Renwick, Outdoors Magic editor

Cornwall’s serrated coastline. Photo: istock/william87

Distance: 630 miles / 1014km
Time to walk: 6 to 8 weeks
What to expect: lots of ups and downs, historic villages, excellent waymarking, boat rides across estuaries.

A confession: I’ve not actually walked this trail, but it’s right at the very top of my bucket list. I just need to find a nice chunk of time to be able to commit to the whole thing.

This route that starts in Minehead in Somerset and finishes in Poole in Dorset, takes in the entire coastlines of Devon and Cornwall, along the way visiting every beach, cove and fishing village along the way.

The overall ascent totals 115,000 feet (35,000 m) – the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest four times, so you’ll need good fitness, stamina and technical ability to take on this challenge.

If I’m honest, it’s the prospect of all the old pubs that’s always made me fancy this walk. Reading Raynor Winn describe the incredible scenery in her best-selling book, The Salt Path, really sealed the deal. A whole June and July devoted to this would be a fine way to pass the time.


Finding Other Long Distance Trails

The reality is that those trails mentioned above make up just a snapshot of what’s out there. There are plenty more popular paths that deserve to be mentioned, like the Cape Wrath Trail and Skye Trail in Scotland, for instance, or the Pembrokeshire Coast in Wales and South West Coast Path in England. There are Northern Ireland’s options as well, most notably the 625 mile Ulster Way (time for that sabbatical?).

Don’t forget those tucked away ones either, there are little-known trails all over the UK – hundreds of them.  Komoot is a very handy app for finding trails in your local area, throughout the UK or even globally and you can use their app to navigate each one when you’re out on it as well. You can even use it to make up your own long distance route, as our editor Will did when he ran from one side of the New Forest National Park to the other. You can watch that adventure in the video below.



For More Like This:

Best Walks In The Brecon Beacons

Best Walks In Snowdonia

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