Famed worldwide for sheer majestic beauty, the UK’s shoreline boasts 8,000 miles of wildly varied terrain. From the undulating rolling hills of the South, the sweeping coastline of the North East and the imposing rocky shores of Wales to the unspoiled Scottish Highlands, there is an astonishing breadth of scenery to be enjoyed.
The counties of Dorset, Devon, Sussex and Cornwall are a veritable walkers’ heaven. The well maintained South Downs Way and South West Costal path are just two of many lovely documented routes that wind their way along the coast.
One of the best highlights is the area around the Seven Sisters, a steady climb from the seaside town of Eastbourne that offers gorgeous sea views and a serious challenge for the legs! Best yet, there’s numerous idyllic country pubs along the way that make excellent stopping off points.
Dorset offers pretty coves and heady rock formations and much more to admire. The Jurassic coastline is fabulous for fossil hunting and the flora is absolutely stunning. Old Harry Rocks, named after a wily local pirate, is truly a sight to behold.
For those wanting a feel for the Dorset of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex, Stonebarrow is a great place to take a rest with fabulous views over the Isle of Portland. A short boat trip across the magnificent Studland Bay is Brownsea Island is also a must! With its own warm microclimate, this is one of the last spots in the UK to find Red Squirrels.
The wealth of beauty encountered when walking across Devon and Cornwall is unrivaled in the United Kingdom. Prawle Point, just a short hop from bustling Salcombe, is particularly delightful, as is the Lizard Peninsula where England melts into the roaring seas.
The beautiful Norfolk and Suffolk coastlines are a particular draw for ornithologists with plentiful bird life visible all along the coast. The skies are big and brooding and evocative salt marshes and quaint seaside towns dot the coast. Blakeley National Nature Reserve is a lesser known gem well worth a visit particularly to view the seals and turns.
Only a short drive from Swansea begins the 19-mile-long Gower Peninsula. This fantastic coastline encompasses swathes of golden sandy beach, lush woodland and impressive limestone cliffs. Not to miss is Whiteford Burrows, a National Nature Reserve and home to stunning sand dunes and beautiful flora and fauna.
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park is also up there with must-see Welsh walking destinations. Make a particular note to explore the Stackpole Estate which boasts the most diverse of landscapes encompassing Cambrian limestone, rolling grassland and water lily covered lakes.
Near the North Western town of Formby sits on some of the most arresting sand dunes that you will find anywhere. Easily accessible from Liverpool and surrounding conurbations, this beautiful stretch of coastline is backed by magical forests and offers sweeping sea views.
For history lovers, a great bet for really satisfying walking is the area around the 16th Century Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island. Entirely majestic from all sides, this entrancing building – currently undergoing much-needed restoration – is dramatically sealed off from the mainland twice a day at high tide. Dolphins and curlews can be spotted from the shore, a true naturalist’s paradise.
Perhaps offering the most variety of the entire UK coastline, Scotland has something for everyone. In Wester Ross in the North East Highlands, the Gulf Stream has allowed the lush, almost tropical, gardens at Inverewe to flourish and they are now one of the most important botanical sites in the UK. A fabulous destination for walkers who enjoy both more formal gardens and majestic coastal views.
For more rugged and challenging hiking, Burg on the Isle of Mull is a wonderful destination. After these demanding climbs, the views are entirely rewarding. From the imposing vistas of the Treshnish Isles and Staffa and you can even spot deer roaming freely along the way. Another location competing for the best views has to be the Torridon Hills, in the shadow of the dramatic Liathach mountain. Again, the terrain is challenging, but the scenery is simply breathtaking.
The Giant’s Causeway by the sea in County Antrim is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and rightly so. Formed by an ancient volcanic eruption this is a spectacular natural landmark and of real interest to the walker. For views over the Causeway, head to Runkerry for a bird’s eye perspective and as a bonus, in milder weather, enjoy the spectacular wildflowers.
There’s just no excuse to leave those hiking boots gathering dust in a corner. There’s the whole of the stunning, spectacular and dramatic UK coastline just waiting to be discovered. The only question is, where would you like to start?