Escapes

Q:

What Are the Best Hikes in Britain?

I’m headed across the pond to Great Britain, and I’d like to do some hiking while I’m there. What are my best best for logging some trail time?

hadrian's wall britain hiking england

Hadrian's Wall at sunset.     Photo: Jimmy McIntyre/Flickr

A:When I studied in England, I joined a hiking group that went out every Saturday. A bus would drop us off by the side of the road in the Lake District, or the Yorkshire Dales, or on the Channel coast, and we’d wander cross-country for the day, navigating by map and compass, going wherever we pleased. Conveniently, our path always seemed to end at a village pub.

While Britain doesn’t exactly conjure up visions of the endless wild, the island is actually home to some incredible hiking. Thanks to a longstanding system of “rights of way,”  England, Scotland, and Wales are  laced with thousands of paths and trails that criss-cross private land, and everyone has the right to use them. In Scotland, there are fewer designated rights of way than in England and Wales; instead, walkers have a “right to roam,” meaning that they can traverse almost any open land, public or private, without the presence of a trail. As of 2000, England and Wales have a limited “right to roam” in some areas, too. (For more information on the subject, the Ramblers maintain a detailed “right to walk” FAQ.)

For longer trips, Britain is also home to a large number of epic, maintained long-distance trails. Here are some of the best.

South West Coast Path
Pennine Way
Hadrian's Wall
Great Glen Way

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