The large European islands of Britain and Ireland have long been well-known as popular destinations for travelers looking to experience the long history, rich and diverse culture, and cosmopolitan cities of these storied isles. But the natural beauty of these islands, which include Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and over six thousand smaller islands, is often overlooked in favor of the bright lights, pubs, and attractions of cities like London, Manchester, Dublin, and Edinburgh. Luckily, there are countless walking tours and holidays available to visitors who choose to look beyond the big metropolitan centers and explore the untamed, rugged, and beautiful landscapes that make the wilds of Britain and Ireland some of the most picturesque in the world. Let’s explore some of the best walking tours and walking holidays you can enjoy in Britain and Ireland!
South Downs Way – England
Hands down, one of the best walking tours you can experience is Britain and Ireland is a South Downs Way walking holiday in England, which begins in the ancient and historic town of Winchester southwest of London, continues southeast, following the northern crest of the South Downs chalk escarpment, and ends at the English Channel in Eastbourne.
This well-marked trail, which winds through vast fields, pleasant woodlands, quaint villages, stunning river valleys, and more, is well-marked, easy to follow, and has almost no stiles. One of the easiest National Trails, South Downs Way has very few steep sections and is known for the sense of solitude and the feeling of being on top of the world that its participants often feel as they pass Iron Age hill forts and view the breathtaking chalk formations of the Devil’s Dyke and the Seven Sisters.
Several options are offered to those who wish to explore this scenic route through rural England, depending on which part or parts of the trail you want to walk, how many miles you choose to walk in a day, and how much money you’re willing to spend. The shortest and least expensive option is the two-day Seven Sisters and the Long Man – South Downs Short Break, a 19-mile circular excursion beginning and ending at Alfriston that gives walkers the opportunity to enjoy the Long Man of Wilmington (Britain’s largest chalk figure), a night in Eastbourne, and a walk along the top of the Seven Sisters before returning to Alfriston. Walks along both the western and eastern sections of South Downs Way, both of which are roughly 50 miles long and range from 3 to 5 days long depending on the number of miles walked per day, are also available. The final walk that is offered encompasses the entire, 104-mile route and takes between 6 and 9 days to complete.
Regardless of which walk or walks you choose, an excursion along South Downs Way is a fulfilling and life-changing experience you will never forget.
The Best of Pembrokeshire – Wales
For a walking holiday in Wales that contains a bit of everything for nearly every kind of traveler, look no further than a Pembrokeshire coast walking tour. Located in southwestern Wales, Pembrokeshire is a county that is known for its diverse geography, which includes several bays, sandy beaches, ancient woodlands, estuaries, quarries, hills, moorland, and farmlands.
A walking tour through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park allows walkers to enjoy some of the most scenic landscapes and birdwatching opportunities in all of Wales.
Popular points of interest in the area include the beach village of Dale, roughly six hours from London and four hours from Cardiff. From there, walkers can make stops in the village of Marloes, Skomer Island (which is home to thousands of marine birds such as puffins, razorbills, and kittiwakes as well as mammals like seals and dolphins), the beautiful village of Solva, St. David’s (the smallest city in Britain and the home of the historic St. David’s Cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century), and either Whitesands Bay or Ramsey Island, depending on the route you take.
Never fear, there are routes in the area that are clearly marked with finger posts and acorn symbols, but it is strongly advised that walkers be able to read a map and use a compass. It is also recommended that participants who choose to walk the Pembrokeshire coast have a good level of walking fitness, as the walk is moderately difficult to navigate and contains some steep ascents and descents. It is suggested that people wishing to participate in any walk, but aren’t currently engaged in an active lifestyle visit a good gym and begin a fitness regimen, draw up a training program with a personal trainer, or begin walking in hilly terrain regularly to prepare for the more challenging areas that may arise during their walking tour.
Several different bed & breakfasts are available in Pembrokeshire. Many of the accommodations in the area will be more than happy to supply breakfast, a packed lunch, and dinner, which is also available at local restaurants and pubs.
Those looking for a beautiful coastal walk with dramatic natural scenery, terrific birdwatching, and excellent accommodations and food options, should look no further than a Pembrokeshire walking tour. You won’t regret it!
Loch Ness Circular – Scotland
Perhaps the most famous lake in Great Britain, Loch Ness is a large and extremely deep freshwater lake, or loch, in the Scottish Highlands, with a surface area of 22 square miles and a maximum depth of 755 feet. Of course, this loch isn’t just famous because of its size; it’s also the reported home of the alleged Loch Ness Monster, a large, likely mythical serpent- or plesiosaur-like animal that has been occasionally sighted in the loch’s waters and along its banks since the sixth century A.D. But while the “monster” that makes this loch a source of fascination by many the world over may not be real, exciting and thrilling walking tours of the Loch Ness area very much exist.
One of these is a roughly 80-mile-long walking holiday in the Great Glen area of the Scottish Highlands that can be completed within five to seven days. One of the best places to begin a walking tour in this area is Inverness, a city on Scotland’s northeast coast. From there, tours follow forest tracks and other paths and make a complete circuit around the loch. Walkers can trek through several quaint and friendly villages on their way around the large lake, including Dores, Inverfarigaig, Drumnadrochit, Fort Augustus, Invermoriston, and Foyers. Other points of interest that can be seen around the loch include the ruins of Urquhart Castle, a former royal castle overlooking the loch that was founded in the 13th century and played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence, and Inverness Castle.
While there probably won’t be any monster sightings on your walk, there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife enthusiasts to view much more common animals, including grouse, golden eagles, kites, goshawks, red deer, roe deer, otters, and red squirrels. Walkers interested in photography also have the opportunity to capture the wild beauty of the Scottish Highlands, whose dramatic landscape creates striking light and shadows.
This unique trip around one of the world’s most fabled lakes offers something for just about everyone, making a Loch Ness walking tour one that should not be missed.
Connemara Ramble – Ireland
The emerald isle of Ireland has long been steeped in myths and legends involving ghosts, fairies, and magic. Once you experience a walking holiday here, it won’t be hard to see why this lush and mysterious island has captured the imaginations of locals and travelers for millennia.
Walks through the Connemara area offer a wide variety of natural environments to explore, including forests, beaches, mountains, and more. History lovers will delight in stops at ancient churches, abbeys, and forts that tell the story of this gorgeous area of the Irish coast.
Points of interest in the surrounding area include Galway, a harbor city that is also known as the City of the Tribes, and Brigit’s Gardens (a beautiful, award-winning botanical garden that takes visitors into the heart of Celtic mythology and heritage). The Connemara area includes mountains, rocky coastlines, beaches, archaeological sites, and picturesque lakes. Notable locations such as Kylemore Abbey, Letterfrack National Park, the historical town of Westport (which was named the best place to live in Ireland in 2017), the small fishing village of Roundstone, and Gurteen Beach and Dog’s Bay (two of Ireland’s best beaches) are must visits. The area around the beaches contains ecological, geological, and archaeological features of international importance. Another must-visit location for history lovers is Dún Aonghasa, a mysterious, prehistoric ring fort on the Aran Islands that is also an important archaeological site.
With so many sites to see and activities to take part in, a walk through Connemara for you if you want to experience the very best of the wilds of Ireland. After your walk ends, it wouldn’t be surprising at all if this rich, green island seems even more magical and mysterious to you than it did before you started.
And there you have it! These are four of the best walking holiday options money can buy in Britain and Ireland, but there are many more to choose from. Each area is unique in its own right and offers several opportunities nearly all travelers and explorers will enjoy. Find the walking holiday that’s right for you, make the adequate preparations for it, and then pack your bags to go on the expedition of a lifetime! Just don’t forget your quality outerwear, and you’re all set!