Is it safe to walk alone? (The answer is yes!)

Published 21 September 2016

A walker strolls down a path in the Lake District

A walker strolls down a path in the Lake District

One of the things about having walked lots of walking trails, and having written some pages helping people to plan their own trip, is that you get asked questions. And one of the questions I get asked a lot is, is it safe to go walking alone?

Safety is something people worry about a lot. Not long after leaving university, I moved to London and for the first few years living there my mym was forever telling me to be careful; to watch where I went at night, to make sure I didn’t get attacked or mugged. Now I’m happy to report in the seventeen years since I arrived in the capital, I have yet to be attacked, mugged or threatened in London. But still, you hear a lot in the news about bad things happening across this fair land, and that makes people nervous. And they want some reassurance. Reassurance I’m happy to give.

It is safe to walk almost every walking trail in the United Kingdom, and it’s perfectly safe to walk by yourself. In all my years walking, I have never felt unsafe walking alone, not once. And I’ve done it a lot, be it walking the Wainwrights in the Lake District, the rural delights of the South Downs, or the remote Scottish Borders. Even meeting a man with a loaded rifle felt absolutely fine (he was hunting rabbits on the Dales Way.) Indeed the countryside is full of the nicest people you can meet. Where else will you bump into a random stranger holding a rifle, and end up having a conversations about butterflies, for example?

Of course walking as an activity has its risks. A sudden change in weather that you’re not equipped for, can cause problems, as can getting lost in mist, but these things can happen when you’re alone, or when you’re with someone.

As whilst I type this, I am extremely aware that I’m a large white man weighing 14 stones whose hair, whilst not a skinhead, is rather on the short-side. I totally get that I’m not representative of everyone. And I also understand that if you’re a woman (and the vast majority of people who ask me the question are women), you might want some additional little reassurance.

But it so happens that my partner, Catherine, is a woman, and she’s done lots of walks as well. Indeed she started walking solo before I did, and even walked the Dales Way alone whilst five months pregnant. And over on her website she wrote an article on this very subject and said this:

I have felt very safe walking alone in the countryside, much more so in fact than in suburban areas and down dark streets.

I have been harassed on busy streets in London with hundreds of people around on several occasions, but never whilst out walking.

Tell yourself logically, what is the likelihood that someone is going to be waiting behind a hedge on a remote hillside where hardly anyone goes for hours and hours just on the small chance that someone might pass by to attack?

The risk is greater when you leave your house in the morning and walk down the street, but you don’t stop doing that, and quite right too.

London Hiker: Why you CAN (and should) go hiking on your own

She even did an extensive video on the subject to.

Walking by yourself is a great thing to do, be it for a day hike or a fortnight doing a trail. It gives you a chance to enjoy the peace and tranquility of the world. You can go at your own pace and do your own thing. You can empty your mind, relax and unwind.

And with that said, I’ll leave you with this thought: the best question is not to ask is walking by yourself unsafe, but to ask instead, “when am I going?!”

See you out there.

Your Comments

Chris Hunt

26 September 2016 at 1:33 pm

The only safety concern I have about walking alone has nothing to do with being physically attacked on the hills (the possibility of which, to be honest, hadn’t even occurred to me), but that if I were to have an accident there would be nobody to go for help.

That wouldn’t be a problem in well travelled areas like the Lakes, but it would give me pause in, say, remote parts of Scotland with no mobile reception.

That said, speaking as somebody who typically leads groups of a dozen or more walkers, it’s nice to go on a walk on your own from time to time, and have nobody to please or worry about but yourself!

bill

20 May 2017 at 9:23 am

walking on my own is what I love, I am 68 and have just finished the pennine journery . I have walked on my own for years but have just invested in a spot so that takes away all worries. I use a Sat Map so in the fog it like having a friend with you.

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