Our Favourite UK Summer Walks
Longer days and warmer temperatures make summer a magical time to go walking. Nothing beats taking a stroll on perfect summer’s day, so to help you get the most out of your walks this season, we’ve pulled together some of our favourite spots from around the UK, along with some interesting sights to look out for along the way.
Image: Saltwick Bay
Saltwick Bay, North Yorkshire
Great for the Summer Solstice
The solstice is one of summer’s iconic moments – marking the season’s mid-point and the longest day of the year. A sacred time for many, huge numbers flock to iconic spots like Glastonbury Tor in Somerset or the stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire, or Castlerigg in the Lake District. But for something a bit different, why not head for the rugged charm of Saltwick Bay near Whitby? As well as finding beautifully textured rock formations, spooky shipwrecks and mirror-like rock pools, this photogenic section of the North Yorkshire coast also has the distinction of being one of the few spots in the UK where you can witness both the sunrise and the sunset over the sea.
Get there early to watch as the sun rises in the east, with the Black Nab rock sea stack and twisted shipwreck of the Admiral Von Trump taking centre stage. Then 16 hours, 43 minutes later, as it sets in the west, watch it return into the icy waters like a slow-motion, cosmic magic trick, picking out the whale-shaped silhouette of Saltwick Nab as it sinks. Covering all, or some, of the glorious 7-mile clifftop walk between Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay is the perfect way to pass the time in between. It’s a special way to mark an iconic date in nature’s calendar. Just remember to keep an eye on the tide times if you head down to the beach.
Images: Wembury Beach
Wembury Beach, Devon
Great for Rockpooling
What better time than summer to take a trip to the beach? Not only are our coastlines glorious places to walk, but many of our beaches are great for another favourite summer activity – rockpooling. Wembury Bay, near Plymouth, has some of the best rockpools in the country, with masses of sea creatures and plant life to discover, and the Wembury Marine Centre is the ideal place to learn about this fascinating area. They even run Rockpool Rambles for kids during the school holidays. Once you’re done exploring the rockpools, the beach is also a great starting point for lovely walks into the nearby woodlands and the Yealm Estuary, or around the headland at Wembury Point. Or if you’re thinking of something longer, The Two Moors Way, Devon’s coast to coast long-distance walking route also starts from the beach here, finishing 117 miles away to the north near the glorious Valley of the Rocks at Lynton, on the North Devon coast.
Image: Sharrah Pool
Sharrah Pool, Dartmoor
Great for wild swims
When the summer months start turning up the heat, finding a walk that incorporates a cooling dip along the way makes for the perfect addition to any walking itinerary. Dartmoor has loads of great walks with just such an opportunity. Our favourite is from the small car park at New Bridge to the glorious wild swimming spot of Sharrah Pool. This out and back route leads you through the wonderful oak woodlands of Holne wood, following the banks of the rampaging river Dart, before descending to this well-loved and idyllic spot. Complete with waterfalls, a small sandy beach, natural rocks to sunbathe on, plus a 100-metre stretch of calm, cooling water, arriving here feels like discovering a fantastic secret world – despite its increasing popularity! A gorgeous walk and a beautiful swim spot, you can picnic, play, lounge and splash around here to your heart’s content.
Images: Waterfalls near Bowlees picnic area including High Force waterfall
Great for picnics
Yep, summer means picnic season and finding a walk with a great picnic spot is as good an excuse as any to get out and explore the countryside at this time of year. One of our favourites is the Bowlees picnic area in Durham. Located in a beautiful part of Upper Teesdale, here you’ll look on in awe at four waterfalls, which act as a backdrop to your lunchtime pit stop. Take a walk along the riverside, and you’ll venture the short distance to the unmissable spectacle of High Force waterfall - England’s largest, with a drop of 21 metres. Gibson's Cave is also located nearby, named after an infamous 16th Century outlaw who hid from the law behind the waterfall. Wildlife is in abundance here too. Look out for dippers bobbing in and out of the water, searching for food, and buzzards soaring above your head. There are plenty of places to sit quietly and watch the world go by, surrounded by the soothing sound of cascading water. Summer walks, were made for places like this.
Image: Willy Lott's House and the site of The Hay Wain painting
River Stour, Suffolk
Great for art and history
One of the most iconic evocations of the English countryside in summertime was captured by the great landscape artist John Constable in his famous 1821 painting The Hay Wain. Voted Britain’s second most-loved painting in a recent BBC poll, the scene is based near Constable’s childhood home - an area near Flatford Mill on the River Stour in Suffolk. Now looked after by the National Trust, remarkably, the same scene can be viewed today at the apex of this much-loved river walk. Pick a hot summer’s day, and you’ll lose yourself in a timeless snapshot of England’s past as you wander amongst Dedham Vale’s stout oaks, weeping willows, wildflower meadows and charming villages enroute. If you’ve ever looked at a painting and wanted to feel part of the world it’s depicting, this is the walk for you. It’s like stepping back in time.
Image: Purple heather
Ullapool Hill, Highlands
Great for heather
When you think of walking in summer, one particular image immediately springs to mind – heather. Blanketing the landscape in the prettiest of purples, for a few fleeting weeks in late summer when heather is in full bloom, you can experience one of nature’s most magical sights. You can see heather in lots of different places all over the UK, but it’s perhaps most strongly associated with Scottish landscapes, where it’s become glorified in the country’s folklore, poetry and songs. One of the best places to see it is near Ullapool in the northwestern Highlands. Go anywhere north of here, and heather is ubiquitous and unmissable on the mountains, rolling hills, beaches and farmland. A day out on the Ullapool Hill and The Braes walking trail will take you on a stunning stroll from the harbour in this delightful Scottish town, all the way up to the outcrop of Meall Mòr and around a circular route through the hills and back. Get your timing right (late August is a good bet), and this glorious summer route will be a riotous blaze of purple.
Images: Northumberland Dark Sky Reserve and Perseid Meteor Shower
Steel Rigg / Cawfields Crags, Northumberland
Great for stargazing
Who says summer walks have to take place when the sun is out? Heading out after nightfall also brings its own special sights at this time of year. Between 17th July – 24th August, the Perseid meteor shower takes place each year in the sky above us, offering up one of the most-impressive nighttime spectacles of the year. At peak times and in the right conditions, you may be lucky enough to see between 60 -100 meteors an hour. To catch a glimpse of them at their best though, you’ll need to go somewhere dark, with a clear horizon. The International Dark Sky Park in Northumberland is ideal. Take a walk to places like Steel Rigg or Cawfields crags on the Hadrians Wall Path, and you’ll find a potentially perfect location to see them. Then just sit back, make yourself comfortable (camping chair, flasks, hats, and gloves recommended!) and watch this addictive spectacle play out above you for hours. It’s starlight walking at its best.
Image: Hot air balloons from Bristol International Balloon Fiesta
Dundry to Maes Knoll, Somerset
Great for city views and watching balloons
A walk from the high perched village of Dundry to the Iron age hillfort of Maes Knoll, just south of Bristol, offers spectacular views of both the sprawling cityscape on one side and the Mendip Hills and Chew Valley and its glistening lake on the other. Given its vantage point, it’s a fantastic spot to escape the city and take in the sunset, and when the wind conditions are right, it’s a great place to watch balloons too. Hot air balloons are a popular sight around Bristol in the summer, with many finding themselves drifting serenely southwards over Maes Knoll, making it an ideal spot to watch them. The scene is even more spectacular during Bristol’s International Balloon Fiesta in August, where mass ascents take place in the early mornings and evenings, filling the sky with a wonderful array of colours and shapes. It’s enough to brighten up any walk, and up here, you’re much more likely to witness the spectacle all to yourself.
Images: Land's End, Minack Theatre, Porthcurno Beach and The Green Ray
Land’s End to Porthcurno, Cornwall
Great for coastal views and rare spectacles
At the height of summer, there’s no better place to be than the coast and the walking route between Land’s End, and Porthcurno on the southwest tip of England is one of our finest. As well as beautiful ocean views and dramatic cliffs, you’ll be treated to an award-winning beach when you reach Porthcurno and have the opportunity to take in a show at the renowned Minack Theatre, perched spectacularly on the cliff edge. In summer, if you’re really lucky and conditions are exactly right, you might also catch a glimpse of the elusive green ray – a rare meteorological phenomenon that results in a green flash at the very last moment the setting sun drops below the ocean on the horizon. It's tough to spot, but it’s said that those lucky enough to witness it will never go wrong in matters of the heart.
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