Which walk should I do?

Published 7 July 2019

Standing in a field, looking at a hill in mist
Because sometimes you look at a hill and have absolutely no idea where you’re going to go next.

Every now and then, someone emails me to ask which walk they should do. Now there’s an open ended question, I think, because it totally depends on who you are and what you like. And if you fall into one these categories, you’ll find your answer here! And if you don’t fall into one of these categories, you might not.

The “I want to meet lots of people!” walk

Ullswater, seen from near Patterdale
Views like this can be found on this particular walk. If you can see them through the crowds, anyway.

The Walk You Should Do: Coast to Coast

Sometimes I wonder what old Alfred Wainwright would think if he saw his creation now. For AW was a solitary walker, not massively keen on company. Yet the walk he created – officially called ‘A Coast to Coast Walk’, with encouragement to create your own – is now one of the most popular walking trails in Britain. People come from across the world to do it. A postmaster who works on the route, told me that he’d had someone in his post office walking it who was from Nepal. Imagine that. People from the country of Everest, coming to walk across the north of England.

The popularity of the Coast to Coast means you’ll never be alone when walking it. Well, okay, you won’t be alone in the evening anyway. Over the course of your two week trek, you’ll keep bumping into familiar faces, and every morning there will be an added frisson of excitement as you approach the B&B breakfast table in the morning, and wonder if anyone you recognise will be there.

To some people this will sound like hell, but on the other hand, when you get to the end at Robin Hood’s Bay you won’t get that feeling of “Oh, is that it?” For there’s one thing that’s for sure. There will be plenty of people you know in the pub who you can celebrate with.

Do it for: the camaraderie, and the fantastic tour of the north of England
Best avoided: if you don’t like to share.

The “There’s No Decent Walking in the South East!” walk

Paraglider in the South Downs, with Truleigh Hill in the background
You don’t have to go paragliding to enjoy the best of this walk.

The Walk You Should Do: South Downs Way

We still here this one far too often. Just because there’s no mountain ranges or massive swathes of rugged moorland, doesn’t mean that the South East is an urban jungle. If it was, there wouldn’t be the South Downs National Park.

The park itself is predated – by some margin – by the South Downs National Trail, which is a beautiful exploration of stunning downsland, and attractive villages. It’s a relatively easy walk, but one which provides stunning views, some stretching out to the Isle of Wight. And the finale is frankly magnificent with a trip to Eastbourne over mighty white chalk cliffs of the Seven Sisters.

I love the South Downs Way. It offers some absolutely amazing walking, and is in the South East of England. And if anyone ever tries to tell you otherwise, you have my permission to slap them with a wet fish.

Do it for: the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head without a doubt, and some fantastic pubs along the way too.
Best avoided: if you can’t cope with the notion that there’s nice places south of Watford.

The “Just Give Me A Good Trudge Over Boggy Moorland!” Walk

Jumping over a stream on Stonesdale Moor
Without doubt, what everyone wants to see on their walk.

The Walk You Should Do: Pennine Way

I’m not entirely sure who would pick this one to be honest. But there’s something rather alluring about the Pennine Way. Perhaps it’s the heather topped moorland. Perhaps it’s the fact that if you put your foot in the wrong place, you can still end up to your waist in peat bog. Ah yes, the old peat bog.

Actually these days the Pennine Way isn’t that boggy. Much of it has been flagged. If you walk in some areas, like on Kinder, you can keep your feet nice and dry whilst looking at the route the Pennine Way used to go. If you need some clues for where to look, just look for a big ditch in the peat, full of water.

There’s probably some purists out there who still insist on walking over it now. For the rest of us, we’ll make do with the thrills of walking through the Pennine Way’s less paved sections, waiting for that special moment where you put your foot in the wrong spot and suddenly find that the ground has gone, and it’s taken you with it.

Ah yes, that’s the Pennine Way for you!Do it for: the chance to explore remote and wild sections of northern England
Best avoided if: you don’t want to know how similar peat bog is to quicksand.

The “I have a week and I want to see something utterly gorgeous!” Walk

The River Wharf, on the Dales Way near Drebley
A nice river, and some sun. What more could you ask for?

The Walk You Should Do: The Dales Way

You’d might expect me to talk about the Cumbria Way here. After all, it goes through the Lake District, and that’s lovely. And to be fair, I did almost pick it. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew I had to go with the Dales Way.

Given it starts in a park in a commuter town in West Yorkshire, you’d be forgiven for not having massively high expectations. But just walking a mile would prove you so wrong. The Dales Way traverses the Yorkshire Dales, through a number of quiet dales. It’s a walk that takes you along rivers, through valleys, and even across a bit of moorland too. You might, if you’re lucky, get to see a steam train crossing over the famous Ribblehead Viaduct, although you’re far more likely to see a diesel hauled goods train.

Whatever. The fact is that the Dales Way is just stunning. But not in a showy, fancy way like the Lakes. You don’t suddenly look around you and go “WOW! THIS IS AMAZING!” No. The Yorkshire Dales grow on you instead. You wander along for several hours and suddenly it dawns on you. The picturesque villages. The bustling streams. The sheep, everywhere.

Yes, it’s a cracker all right. A walk that just makes you glad to be there, and to be getting away from it all.

Do it for: the chance to explore a relatively hidden but stunning part of Britain
Best avoided if: at the end of a week’s tranquillity, you can’t cope with arriving in the mega crowds of Bowness-on-Windermere.

The “I want to do a walk that’s great, but which no one has ever heard of” Walk

Glyndŵr's Way signpost covered in lichen
So few people that the signposts are covered in lichen. That’s how it works, isn’t it?

The Walk You Should Do: Glyndŵr’s Way

Finally, we get to the walk that everyone will want to do. You could, of course, follow the crowds and do a walk everyone’s heard of. A walk like the Coast to Coast, or West Highland Way. But true trendsetters go off the beaten track. They explore somewhere different.

They go to Wales.

The Glyndŵr’s Way is a lovely walk through Powys in Wales. Never heard of it? Nor have lots of people

I know this from book sales. I write about walks on this website, and for most of the big ones, I publish digital book versions for reading using for e-readers like Kindles. Some I even make available in paperback format. I charge a small fee for them. It helps to fund my future walking trips.

Some of these books sell more than others. But none of them sell quite as badly as my book, Walking with the Last Prince, about my walk on the Glyndŵr’s Way. I don’t normally mention sales figures here. But in 2018 that particular book sold a whopping six copies.

Yet here’s the thing. The Glyndŵr’s Way is a brilliant walk. You will never regret doing it because it’s a wonderful adventure, going through a beautiful part of Wales that’s off the beaten track. This is a walk everyone should know about. One that hopefully one day, everyone WILL know about. But you can get in there first. You can be a trendsetter. And when everyone’s walking it, you can nod wisely and say things like “ah yes, I was doing that when no one else was.”

And I’m not just saying that to try and boost my book sales. Although, that would be nice…

Do it for: the chance to get away from the clouds and relax in a beautiful part of the country mostly avoided by tourists
Best avoided if: you don’t like hills and sheep. Cos there’s lots of them.


Emily Collins

12 July 2020 at 4:37 pm

Thank you for your website…. its a gem. In a week or so, I am walking the Dales Way……
I had been planning to walk Offas Dyke but Covid 19 seems to have closed lots of the campsites and hostels…. disheartened I started to fish around the internet and came across your site. Brilliant! It helped me decide on the Dales Way.
I have just come back from doing some of the Shropshire Loop…. have you done any of that? Shropshire is wonderful and I am planning on doing the whole thing in 3/4 day sections over the next year or so.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

13 July 2020 at 8:15 am

Hi Emily – Offa’s Dyke is on my list to do one day. Have seen a little of it and it looks excellent. Thankfully it will still be there when all this is over!

As for the Shropshire Loop, I’ve not done that. Don’t really know Shropshire at all, which is quite remiss of me!

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