People have always been drawn to the coast. Taking long walks to enjoy spectacular scenery, listen to the calming sounds of waves and reaping the health benefits of nature are a few good reasons why coastal walks in Britain are so popular.
But there are other benefits too. Coastal walks help to reduce stress and visit parts of Britain you may not otherwise experience. It’s like yoga for the soul.
Is if you need inspiration for the best British coastlines to go and visit, why not take the opportunity to take in a nature walk as well. Here are some recommendations.
1. Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks
Devon is an absolute joy to explore on foot and it comes as no surprise why it’s very popular with walkers.
The South West Coast Path with Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks, stretch for over 205 miles of the north and south coasts. You’ll find a network of pathways crisscrossing the county where you can explore any number of unspoilt beauty spots and take in the peace and tranquillity.
A favourite coastal walk in south-west Britain is the 5-mile Middle Dart Valley circular walk from Totnes. It’s perfect during wintertime because it only follows surfaced paths and lanes. Even if a little wet the going will still be easy. There’s one gentle climb and no stiles.
This easy graded circular route is suitable for most abilities. When you begin from the medieval town of Totnes, you will pass along the River Dart through the Dartington Hall Estate, with lovely views over the middle Dart Valley.
You could make a day of it and stop off at Dartington Hall or the Dartington Cider Press Centre nearby, where there are crafts, shops, and places to eat. The walk continues along lanes and through woodland, where you’ll see a mill with a working waterwheel before returning to Totnes.
2. South West Coast Path, Dorset
South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and the UK’s longest National Trail. With warmer than average weather, glorious beaches and breath-taking countryside, Dorset is considered as one of the UK’s most popular holiday destinations.
For serious walkers, the nature trail offers a challenging and rewarding hike. It takes around 8 weeks to go the entire course. If you just want a taste, our pick is a moderate, stroll into Swanage.
You can catch a bus back to Langton Matravers.
The South West Coast Path travels along above cliffs carved by man and sea, with some spectacular limestone formations as you approach Swanage.
On this route, you will pass through the Dancing Ledge known for a high-quality building limestone. There is a small swimming pool cut into the rock for the local schoolchildren could swim.
These nationally important wildlife habitats include sea-cliffs, downs, ancient meadows, hedgerows, woodland, and dry-stone walls.
A fascinating number of 570 species of wildflowers, 34 different species of butterflies, 650 species of moth and 250 species of birds have been recorded here too.
3. White Cliffs of Dover Trails, Kent
The famous White Cliffs of Dover boast a 10-mile linear walk and offers some of the most spectacular panoramic views along the English Channel. It’s a wonderful day’s hike for experienced walkers. As long as you keep the sea on your right, you can’t get lost.
Take care on the clifftops and stick to the marked coastal footpath. Some sections of the White Cliffs include very steep drops.
It can take up to 3-4 hours walking time but you can take a full day to allow for visits to the castles, enjoying the views and a lunch stop. The terrain is mostly downhill, but with climbs out of Dover and St Margaret’s Bay.
The White Cliffs of Dover coastal walk begins at the “Key to England”, the medieval fort of Dover Castle.
Leaving Dover Castle you will see the landing point of Louis Blériot when he made the first flight across the English Channel in 1909.
As you continue on the England Coast Path you will pass Dover Coastguard Station. The building is placed within one of the gun emplacements for protection.
Along the way, you will see the South Foreland Lighthouse, St Margaret’s Bay, Dover Patrol Memorial and Kingsdown seafront with Deal Pier, close to the finishing point.
Don’t miss a visit to this fine Tudor artillery fort built by the order of Henry VIII.
4. Walking The Norfolk Trails, Norfolk
The Norfolk Trails offer over 1200 miles of wonderful walks, cycle and bridle routes throughout the county all year round. It boasts coast, country, fen and forest walking, all set within an easy, rolling landscape.
The county’s footpaths are well-maintained, clearly-signed and with lots of pubs, tearooms, guest houses en route for a well-deserved break.
Throughout Norfolk, there are many trails and routes which will challenge and inspire you. Choose a route to suit your energy level and takes you through the type of countryside you enjoy the most.
Our pick is Paston Way route. On this 22-mile walk between Cromer and North Walsham, you will discover the area’s beautiful medieval churches.
One was even moved brick by brick from a clifftop to save it from the sea.
There are also 14 churches along the Paston Way. In travelling church to church, the trail ambles down quiet lanes, through picturesque towns and villages, across vast arable fields, disused railway lines and quiet grazing pastures with views of the North Sea. Keep a lookout for seals along the stretch of beach too.
The Paston Way takes its name from the Paston family who during the Medieval and Tudor periods were the dominant and wealthy landowners in the area through which much of the trail passes.
5. Nature Walks in the Lake District National Park, Cumbria
Cumbria is the third-largest county in England with a total land area of 6,768 sq km. It comprises the Lake District National Park, the Solway Coast and sections of the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines.
It’s rugged landscape of hills, mountains and coastline, perfect for trail lovers. If you’re taking the kids, there’s also plenty to keep them entertained.
You will find some great ideas about what to do with kids on nature walks in this article.
Despite its size, Cumbria has one of the lowest populations in the country, and just one city – Carlisle. Consequently, the countryside prevails here and there’s no better way but to explore it than on foot.
Our pick is Holme Wood in Loweswater, not far from the Lake District National Park boundary. Situated on the shores of one of its most idyllic lakes, you will explore this special corner of Britain with a 4-mile walk.
Loweswater lake is only a mile long, and not far from shore the road climbs, passing Thrushbank and High Thrushbank.
Use Maggie’s Bridge to cross over Dub Beck and follow a wide track through the fields to reach Watergate Farm, Holme Wood Bothy, Holme Force waterfall, to Hudson Place with the spectacular views of the lake.
6. Coastal Walks on Holy Island, Northumberland
A nature walk is the only way to fully explore Holy Island’s wilder side.
This moderate to hard 5-miles circular route around Holy Island’s north beach and castle walk take 2-3h to complete.
The coastal walk includes the dune system (known as The Links) and three beaches on the northern side of Holy Island, an area generally missed by day-trippers to the island.
There are great views out to sea for the majority of this walk, but it requires a fairly good level of fitness, surefootedness and good footwear.
It offers a quiet route away from day-trippers and crowds on the island. Some walking on beaches and through, up to and on to dunes are quite steep in places, can be wet from seawater in places.
Mudflats are tempting to walk on but be careful not to get caught out on by the rising tide.
Your route will take you to the Castle Point and Lindisfarne Castle. You also pass several cafés en-route. On the dunes, watch out for sand slippages and be careful not to cut your hands when walking through the marram grass. It’s spiky.
7. Asparagus Walking Trail, Formby, Liverpool
Formby’s spectacular beach, sand dunes and pines perched on the outskirts of Liverpool is an easy, 2.4-miles asparagus walking trail.
The areas of flat land and fields that you see throughout this site aren’t natural but are areas where the land has been levelled in the past for the growing of asparagus.
Since the end of asparagus farming in the 1990s, these fields have been left to grass over. However, the remnants of the cultivation fields can still be seen today as ridges and furrows.
The route will take you into pine woodland, although heather and plants typical of dune heath grow here too.
During the summer months, the fields here are home to a small flock of sheep. The sheep graze these areas for conservation purposes by closely grazing the faster-growing grasses to allow a variety of wildflowers to flourish.
8. Gower Peninsula Coastal Walks, Swansea, Wales
The Gower Coast Path, a short drive from Swansea, is 39-miles long and takes 4-5 days to complete.
Gower Peninsula also has historical significance; it was the first land to be acquired by the National Trust in a National Nature Reserve. The meanders through several nature reserves, Wildlife Trust Reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Special Areas of Conservation.
You can expect a wealth of interesting flora and fauna. From the wild orchids of spring to the droves of wintering waterbirds, on the wetlands of Llanrhidian Sands.
You can also extend the walk to incorporate the Swansea Bay Coast Path, taking the total mileage to 51. For this, you’ll begin at the same start point, but carry on past Mumbles and around to Swansea Bay.
Highlights of the landscape include corrugated sand dunes and their pate of wispy, grassy hair while the skylarks, common blue butterflies and marsh irises are also a joy.
The dunes adjoin the extensive salt marsh of Llanrhidian Marsh and the freshwater marsh of Cwm Ivy Marsh and are still moderately mobile, though the inner system has been planted with conifers. The dune slacks (wet hollows) are particularly rich in flowers and lichens.
9. Coastal Walks in Burg, Isle of Mull, Scotland
Burg on the Isle of Mull is a tough but stunning geological wonder. The pick of several amazing coastal walks is arguably Fossil Tree Walk, a 12-miles long. Expect 5-7 hours of moderate walk.
Burg on Mull’s Ardmeanach Peninsula is home to 200-million-year-old fossils, an Iron Age farm, and volcanic soils that allow rare plants to thrive, and provide grazing lands for red deer and wild goats.
Insect species that might be spotted on this route include rare slender Scotch burnet moth, the chimney sweep moth and the dark green fritillary butterfly. The coastal path offers breathtaking views of Staffa and the Treshnish Isles.
It starts at Tiroran and goes along the remote western tip of the Ardmeanach Peninsula of Mull. The terrain is good but becomes increasingly exposed as it approaches a rusty ladder which you have to climb down. It’s not suited to the faint-hearted or anyone afraid of heights.
10. Trail Walks in Runkerry, Northern Ireland
Runkerry is a mix of land, sea and magic. Not real magic but there are plenty of spellbinding scenery also the coastal trails. Here you will find some of Northern Ireland’s most iconic sights and hidden gems.
This is the perfect walk if you’re after a gentle and mostly flat cliffside stroll with great views. You’ll get to see County Antrim’s unique octagonal basalt columns in relative tranquillity while most visitors head up the coast in the opposite direction.
Standing on the cliff looking down on the amazing rock formations you’ll see right across to Scotland on a clear day. Keep an eye out for dolphins in the bay, and an ear out for breeding stonechats, skylarks and even the odd chough.
The green waymarked trail from the Causeway Hotel is wheels-friendly all the way to Runkerry Head and back and includes an accessible picnic spot.
Other walkers can continue around the headland on the cliff path before joining a track beside the Bushmills Heritage Railway that leads back to the start.
Another tip before you start – don’t forget to download the Sweatcoin app. We’re working towards “a healthier you on a healthier planet”.