Anywhere but the Beaten Track | 6 UK Hidden Gems for Walkers

Adam Warrington8 min read#EverydayLifeOutdoors

Recent times have highlighted just how lucky we are to have such a vast array of beautiful outdoor space here in the UK. But, as the population continues to fall in love with the great outdoors, many of us are looking for the best secret locations that are yet to be discovered by hoards of tourists. We’ve hand-picked out our favourite hidden gems from across the nation for you to explore this season. Let’s divert from the beaten track…

 

The view of Wast Water, a walking hidden gem in the Western Lake District

1.

The Western Lake District

From the rolling glory of the Lyth Valley to the exciting heights of the Langdale Pikes, many of us will return to the Lake District year after year and never get bored. But what if you venture west of Keswick and Borrowdale? The Western Lake District - the 'other side of the Lakes' - offers up a wealth of new experience stretching from the quiet shores of Bassenthwaite lake to the rugged and wild coast, from the far reaches of Coniston to the looming heights of Black Combe, and from the friendly bar at the world famous Wasdale Head to the wildest picnic in Ennerdale.

Wasdale & Wastwater | Wasdale is where Britain's mountaineering tradition began. The shores of Wastwater are otherworldly, the climb up Scafell Pike exciting to say the least, and the pints and banter at the Wasdale Head Inn are worth the hike.

Ennerdale | Beginning at St. Bees on the Western Lake District coast, the first leg of Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast walking route will take you to Wild Ennerdale - one of the area's most peaceful valleys and where a 'wilderness' scheme is allowing the landscape to return naturally to its wild state.

 

The Coast | Yes, the Lake District has one! From Millom and Black Combe north to the Solway Firth, explore nature reserves, coastal paths and the Lake District's only coastal village, Ravenglass (where you can catch the La'al Ratty steam train through breathtaking scenery to the heart of the Eskdale Valley.

2.

Dartmoor National Park

Praise be for the Dartmoor Commons Act - a legislation allowing solo hikers or small groups to wild camp for up to two nights in this gorgeous area of England. So why not split your holiday in two? Enjoy the fruits of rich agricultural landscape and local produce at farmer’s markets, then pack your solo camping kit and head off for a couple of days of quality escape time.

West Devon Way | Explore the western edge of Dartmoor on this well-marked route, with no need to go home for the night. The West Devon Way in total is 37 miles long and can be divided into 8 stages - all of which can be reached by bus. So just like Wainwright, you won't even need to drive.

If you’re new to wild camping and fancy giving it a try, take a look at our handy wild camping guide for beginners.

The view when hiking on the West Devon Way, one of the UK’s hidden gemsImage credit: VisitDartmoor.co.uk

Image of the sands of Daymer Bay beach near Polzeath, Cornwall. A walking hidden gemImage credit: Latitude50.co.uk

3.

Cornwall

Ever been to Padstow in the height of summer? It's great, but it's busy - just like many of the UK's most attractive coastal destinations. The key is to think outside the honeypot - if you're staying somewhere famous, get out your map and scour your destination's surroundings for interesting features. Grab your daysack, walk or cycle and escape the crowds.

The South West Coast Path | A great way to uncover quiet corners of the coast and hidden beaches is to explore the South West Coast Path. For example, blissful Hawker's Cove is just a 40-minute walk along a section of the South West Coast Path from Padstow, and at low tide reveals 1.5 miles of glorious beach away from the crowds, so you’ll have no trouble securing a prime spot for your beach towel. Daymer Bay (pictured) is just over 2 miles from Polzeath, one of the top surfing destinations on the Cornish coast.

4. The Ribble Valley

Situated in the Forest of Bowland, one of England’s designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Ribble Valley is arguably home to some of the best walking trails in the North of England. A jewel in rural Lancashire’s crown – although its borders spill over into the West Riding of Yorkshire – the borough is home to an abundance of spectacular scenery, incredible wildlife and fascinating cultural landmarks.

The Tolkein Trail | Fans of J.R.R Tolkien don’t need to travel to the lush landscape of Waikato or the rolling hills of Yosemite Valley to experience the inspiration behind the Lord of the Rings. He was said to have been greatly inspired by the natural beauty of the Ribble Valley, and made countless references to the area in his fictional tales – take the River Shirebourn for example. You can follow in his footsteps with a 9km circular walk that starts and ends in Hurst Green.

Ribblehead Viaduct | Take in the breath-taking feat of engineering that is the Ribblehead Viaduct on this 6.5km circular walk. Built in 1870, the Grade II listed structure is still in active use and spans 24 arches across a total of 400 metres. If it looks familiar, you may have seen it on the Harry Potter films as pupils headed to Hogwarts from London. The trail takes in some gorgeous moorland scenery, and if you time it so that the sun is setting as you walk, the viaduct casts a series of impressive shadows that will make you want to get your camera out and capture the view.

hikers walking towards Ribblehead Viaduct near Carnforth, North Yorkshire

Image of calm water over the secret scenery of Cowal Peninsula in Scotland.

5. The Cowal Peninsula

An untouched corner of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, The Cowal Peninsula has a stunning array of scenery including a ‘secret coast’ that’s rarely visited by tourists, who tend to head to the nearby Islay and the southern Hebrides instead. Their loss will be your gain, as you take in some of Scotland’s purest landscapes.

Puck's Glen | Criss-cross your way along the Victorian-built paths that follow the Eas Mòr stream alongside the river Eachaig. Along the way, you’ll see cascading waterfalls and cross historic bridges as you meander through the river-forged ravine. It’s a popular spot with locals, and it’s easy to see why.

Ostel Bay | Looking out onto Argyll’s ‘secret coast’, Ostel Bay is a picturesque beach overlooking the Isle of Arran. It’s a great spot for walking along dunes with the family or setting up for a day of adventure on the beach. It’s hard to believe that such lovely coastline can stay under the radar, but that’s perhaps what you’ll enjoy most about it.

6. The Vale of Glamorgan

At the southern tip of Wales is the Vale of Glamorgan, a wonderous location filled with hidden treasures. Locals spend their weekends enjoying the area’s gardens, parks, beaches and walking trails, but it manages to avoid overcrowding of tourists and remains one of the best undiscovered places in the UK. As well as natural beauty, you’ll also be able to get your fix of history too as you stumble upon castle ruins and the remains of a once booming industrial hub.

Porthcawl | Porthcawl’s Newton Village is the start and endpoint of a fantastic six-mile circular walk. Along the way, you’ll discover the remains of the 14th-century Candleston Castle, as well as stone-age burial grounds. You’ll also slip into the Merthyr Mawr Nature Reserve, home to some of Europe’s highest sand dunes.

Cefn Cribwr to Parc Slip | Now… a former industrial powerhouse might not seem like the best place to take in some beautiful views of the great outdoors but please do bear with us. The land has been spectacularly reclaimed by nature, and the former ironworks and coal mines now serve as interesting landmarks along the way. Tree-lined paths take you from Cefn Bribwr to the Parc Slip Nature Reserve, home to an array of fantastic wildlife.

Image of the Glamorgan Heritage Coast, one of the best secret walks in Wales.

 

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Adam is a lover of the outdoors who’s recently moved back to rural Lancashire after living in the urban confines of Leeds for the past few years. His favourite pastimes include cooking, playing countless sports to a barely acceptable standard and exploring the local countryside with his dog, Chip.

When the weather gets in the way, Adam can be found at home watching films & TV and listening to music. If he’s not there, he’ll be in the pub down the road.  

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