With the freedom to wander further afield once more, it’s time to appreciate the unrivalled beauty of the glorious English countryside and explore some of the best nature walks in the UK. It’s clear that during lockdown walking has increased in popularity as more people discovered its wellbeing benefits. Continue your new-found passion for walking or discover new routes with our handy guide to some of the best nature walks in the UK.
The Cumbria Way
Extending for 73 miles through the varied terrains of the Lake District, The Cumbria Way is a popular long-distance walk. The trail begins in Ulverston and takes in breathtaking views of towering fells, glistening lakes, and curving cottage-lined lanes as it travels through Coniston, Keswick, Langdale and Borrowdale before ending at Carlisle. Rather than attempt the entire route over several days, select a picturesque route such as the Coniston to Great Langdale track which takes in Colwith Force and Skelwith Force waterfalls. During this 12-mile walk in the Lake District you’ll also benefit from views of the Langdale Pikes and Helvellyn from the beautiful Tarn Hows.
Monarch’s Way, Cotswolds
The Monarch’s Way is so called as it was reported to be King Charles II escape route after defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. The 625-mile trail begins at Worcester and ends at Shoreham-by-Sea. As well as being one of the best nature walks in the UK, this is also one of the most historic UK walking trails. You can explore verdant landscapes, nature reserves, and wildlife-filled woodlands and meadows en route. Country walks in the Cotswolds aren’t complete without a visit to one of the many quintessentially English pubs where you can tuck into local dishes and sample locally brewed beers and ales. The Monarch’s Way extends throughout the Cotswolds and on to Bristol, allowing for plenty of options if you prefer shorter country walks.
South West Coast Path, Cornwall
The South West Coast Path boasts the title of England’s longest National Trail, stretching for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. The path was initially a route to catch smugglers as they hid their wares in caves along the coastline. In 1978 it was given National Trail status and has been enjoyed by walkers from all over the world. A particularly attractive portion of the walk concentrates on the path travelling from Padstow to St. Ives. The path is clearly signposted and includes spectacular views of the Atlantic, cliff-side trails, and walks via estuaries teeming with flora and fauna.
Darwen Tower Walk, Lancashire
A favourite Lancashire walk is the Darwen Tower Walk. Also known as Jubilee Tower, the octagonal structure was built in 1898 in celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. The tower was also a symbol of the locals’ right to freely roam the moors. As any Darrener will tell you, a walk to the tower is rewarded with fantastic views over Darwen and the West Pennine Moors, and on a clear day, views of Yorkshire, Cumbria, and even North Wales. Begin the walk at Sunnyhurst Woods Visitor Centre on Earnsdale Road, and follow the signposted path through the woodlands towards the tower.
The Pennine Way
The Pennine Way is referred to as a walk through the backbone of England and is a 268-mile mountain trail through rugged countryside from Edale to Kirk Yetholm. This is a walk preferred by the more experienced hiker as you’ll encounter many steep ascents as well as boggy terrain. Tradition dictates that you begin the walk at The Nag’s Head in Edale before tackling the steep ascents of Kinder Scout, Mill Hill and Bleaklow Head. If the initiation of such a steep start doesn’t deter you, continue and discover the peaks of Pen-y-ghent, Cam High Fell, Great Shunner Fell, and Cross Fell. During the walk you’ll encounter waterfalls, historic villages and Roman ruins and walls. It’s believed that only 2,000 people complete the challenging walk each year, but there are also plenty of short walk options along the route.
Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove Walk, Yorkshire
This 7.6-mile circular walk is one of the best walks in the UK for beginners and intermediate walkers and is perfect for those looking for spring walks in England. Starting at Malham, the walk passes the tumbling waters of Janet’s Foss waterfall and through a burgeoning wood of wild garlic and bluebells. When reaching Gordale Scar you can either scramble up the waterfall or follow the sign for Malham Cove and take the track across the field then follow the path by the wall. The 2-mile detour will rejoin the route towards Malham Tarn. The route continues through The Dry Valley of the Watlowes and across the distinctive limestone pavement above Malham Cove. Birdwatchers in particular will enjoy this walk as peregrine falcons are often seen perching on the cliffs above the cove.
Felpham to Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve, West Sussex
A walk from the village of Felpham to the nature reserve at Pagham Harbour is a must for any bird enthusiast and is one of the best nature walks in the UK. Follow the 6-mile trail along the south coast on a journey across the promenade at Bognor Regis, into Aldwick, and finally around the coastal nature reserve at Pagham. The reserve offers a variety of habitats for wading birds including mudflats, lagoons, shingle beaches and reed beds, which are home to thousands of birds including the black-tailed godwit, plovers, pintail, and egrets.