Walking is a fantastic hobby not to mention a brilliant way to keep fit. Living in the UK means that you have instant access to some amazing walking trails. Some are pretty challenging but we’re sure you’re up to it. If you want to explore everything the UK has to offer in terms of long distance walks, you’re in the right place.
Getting Ready To Go The Distance
Before we dive into the best walking challenges in the UK, it’s imperative to understand the importance of being prepared. The challenges we are going to discuss in this guide aren’t designed to be tackled without any prior experience so you need to spend some time getting ready beforehand.
Check Out The Route
Before you go anywhere or commit to doing one of the UK’s best walking challenges, you must be aware of what to expect on the route. This includes researching how long the route is as well as how long it may take to walk. You’ll also want to check how far the ascent is since this will tell you a lot about how physically fit you’ll need to be.
It’s also worth checking out local accommodation so you don’t need to travel to the route on the morning of the challenge. From your accommodation, you can arrange any necessary transport from there.
Since a lot of these challenges are exactly that; challenging, it’s vital that you know what you’re up against before you start.
Choosing The Right Gear
An inexperienced walker might think that all you need is your legs and a good pair of hiking boots to complete these long distance walks. While you certainly do need those two things, there are other bits of equipment you’ll need to get hold of before you start.
Things like a good set of walking poles can be indispensable as well as a high quality backpack for your essential items. If you’re going to be walking in low light then a flashlight is a must and we’d also recommend things like a compass, First Aid kit and other safety items.
One of the most important things to take with you when going on a long distance walk is water. You need to make sure that you have more than enough. You’ll also need to carry food with you and again, there needs to be plenty to see you through the challenge and keep your energy levels up. If you don’t, you’ll find that your performance wanes and you aren’t able to complete the challenge.
We all have different fitness levels and this will determine which long distance walks you will be able to participate in. If you’re going to be doing a challenge that involves a lot of climbing then doing this without any previous experience is not a good idea. It’s worth spending some time gaining experience and training before you commit.
Each of these challenges will require different levels of fitness and specific skills. If you don’t feel you’re 100% ready, it’s important not to push yourself. It’s much better to take the time to train than to tackle something you can’t manage which could potentially result in an injury. There’s no rush; these aren’t races!
The Best Walking Challenges In The UK
Once you have properly prepared yourself to take on a challenge, you’ll be spoiled for choice in the UK. There are so many excellent long distance walks to take part in but this list talks about some of the most famous!
1. The Three Peaks
Even if you’re totally new to walking, you’ll probably have heard about the Three Peaks Challenge. People are forever showing off their achievements with this one on social media and a lot of walkers do this to raise money for charity.
The idea of the challenge is to climb to the top of the three biggest mountains across England, Scotland and Wales. These are Scafell Pike, Ben Nevis and Snowdon respectively. But you should be aware that this isn’t something you’ll want to take on as a first challenge, the Three Peaks should be reserved for those with a little more experience as not only will you climb more than 3064 feet, this challenge involves a lot of planning.
It is possible to complete the Three Peaks Challenge in 24 hours but since there are 450 miles of driving or train travel involved to get between the three mountains, this can be a bit of a slog. Moreover, there’s so much stunning scenery to take in that rushing the challenge can see you missing out on this.
Surprisingly, you’ll only actually walk around 23 miles which doesn’t seem like much but we will reiterate that you’ll want to train for this one before you start.
2. The Lakes 3000s
The Lakes 3000s challenge involves all of England’s tallest mountains, each of which exceeds 3000 feet. What’s great about the Lakes 3000s is that you don’t need to travel between locations like the Three Peaks and the entire thing can be done as one long hike that covers around 45 miles.
This is a good one for those preparing for the Three Peaks as Scafell Pike is included. You’ll also scale Skiddaw, Scafell and Helvellyn and from the tops of these mountains, you’ll be rewarded with some breathtaking views.
In total, the Lakes 3000s will see you ascend a total of more than 12,500 feet. It is highly recommended to get some climbing experience before you take on this challenge as it can be quite difficult for those without any previous experience.
3. The Welsh 3000s
Just like in England, Wales has some impressive 3000 + feet mountains and there is, of course, a walking challenge to explore them. But be warned, even the most experienced walkers will tell you that this is one of the most demanding walking challenges in the United Kingdom so it isn’t for the inexperienced.
The Wales 3000s sees you walking up not one, not two, not even three but fifteen mountains that all exceed 3000 feet. It’s a long route and if you want to play by the official rules then you’ll need to climb all fifteen mountains in 24 hours or less. Are you starting to see why this isn’t for the faint hearted? But, there is some light at the end of the tunnel; while there are a lot of peaks to climb, the total distance is only 24 miles!
Be mindful that there are a lot of steep slopes to get up and the terrain can be very challenging in certain areas. But even if you don’t want to ‘officially’ complete the Wales 3000s, you could still walk all of the peaks in your own time and simply enjoy the view
4. The Yorkshire Three Peaks
Have you got your sights set on one of the more difficult challenges but know that you’ll need to prepare yourself first? If that’s the case then the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge might be for you. It is certainly one of the easiest on this list but that doesn’t mean that it’s not rewarding. For most people, they’ll complete this challenge in a 12 hour period and that’s no mean feat!
The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge covers 24 miles and involves getting to the summit of Yorkshire’s three tallest mountains. These include Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-ghent. You’ll start your journey in a quaint little village called Horton in Ribblesdale in the Yorkshire Dales where you’ll begin to really appreciate the type and quality of the scenery you’re about to discover.
What’s great about the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is that it takes you in a full circle so you can book accommodation for a couple of nights at the start/finish point and make a weekend of it.
5. The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path
Pembrokeshire is a stunning area at the best of times but when you take the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path challenge, you’ll truly see the beauty of this part of the UK. The scenery here is unlike anything else and you’ll be able to explore this for a whopping 186 miles. Now that really is a long distance walk!
Your journey begins at St Dogmaels and you’ll move through lots of towns and villages including Fishguard, Tenby and Newport. The end of your journey will see you in Amroth and you’ll have become an expert on Pembrokeshire beaches and coastline by this point.
While this is a very long walking challenge, there’s no rush to complete it in any given time. It’s a great opportunity to book several accommodations along the way and take your time exploring this area on foot. Some people even like to take the chance to indulge in some wild camping and go for a full outdoors experience.
6. Circumnavigation Of The Isle Of Wight
One of the great things about going around the Isle of Wight is that you have a clear start and finish point. What’s more, this isn’t a hugely difficult challenge as you can do it in your own time which makes it perfect for beginners.
The route spans 70 miles and some people will do this as a race but of course, that isn’t necessary if you prefer to take things slowly and appreciate the scenery. There are the beautiful chalk cliffs and dramatic coastline to take in; there really is no rush.
Going at an average pace, you can expect to complete the circumnavigation of the Isle of Wight in around one week which is ideal if you’re looking for a walking holiday.
7. The Cairngorms 4000s
If you want to get out there and explore some of the most unique terrain in the UK then the Cairngorms are the place to be. Home to the highest plateau in the United Kingdom and with a whopping five out the six highest peaks in Scotland, it’s something of a record breaking location.
If you’ve done the Wales 3000s then you’ll be ready for this one as the Cairngorms 4000s is another of the most challenging long distance walks in the UK. While it only covers a distance of around 21 miles, it involves 4000+ feet mountains that aren’t for the inexperienced climber. What’s more, you’ll be scaling six mountains in total including Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul, Braeriach, Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Cairngorm.
8. Walking The Thames Path
When you think about the river Thames, you’ll probably imagine the portion that runs through London. I know I’m guilty of that. But since this is the UK’s second longest river, there’s so much more of it to discover. In fact, with more than 215 miles to explore, the Thames Path is well worth checking out if you’re looking for a good walking challenge.
The River Thames begins in Gloucestershire and runs all the way to Southend on Sea where it heads out into the North Sea. While the river runs for 215 miles, the path itself is only 184 miles in length but that’s still plenty of terrain to discover. You’ll begin in the Cotswolds before making your way to Woolwich and the Thames Barrier.
This is great for people without a lot of experience as the walk is very commercial and heavily signposted so you won’t need a lot of previous navigation knowledge. Although it is a skill that always comes in handy. Moreover, there aren’t a lot of ups and downs or difficult terrain; the real task is how far you’ll have to walk. But as with many other challenges, there’s no rush.
9. The Edinburgh Seven Summits Challenge
The Edinburgh Seven Summits Challenge is based around seven hills; Calton, Castle Rock, Craiglockhart, Westerly Corstorphine, Blackford, Braid and Arthur’s Seat. These hills are said to be the basis of the Scottish capital which was built in much the same way as Rome.
You could be led to believe that this is one of the easier UK walking challenges owing to its very short distance of just 14 miles. But when you consider that there is a total ascent of more than 2200 feet, you’ll begin to see why you will need some training before you start.
What’s great is that you’ll get to see a lot of the city as well as stunning views from the tops of the hills. You will begin at the lowest point on Calton and if you want to, you could do this as a race which takes place as an annual event. Some people can get it done in as little as a couple of hours but as with anything else, you’re free to explore at your leisure.
10. The Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Challenge
Let’s finish with one of the least challenging long distance walks in the UK that’s ideal for beginners. If you want something much shorter but still just as enjoyable then the ten mile Brecon Beacons horseshoe is going to be right up your street.
You should keep in mind that you will need to get to the top of South Wales’ biggest peak; Pen-Y-Fan which can be something of a challenge but manageable for most healthy adults. Once you’re at the top, you’ll then go around the horseshoe ridge and get to the top of several other mountains including Fan-Y-Big, Cribyn and Corn Du. What’s more, the scenery at the Brecon Beacon is unlike anything else in the UK so this is a great challenge for people who are walking for the view just as much as for fitness.
The UK is packed with amazing walking trails. Whether you’re totally new to walking and need something to break you in or are an experienced hiker looking to challenge themselves, there will be something for you.