Your Guide To Coastal Walking In The UK
The United Kingdom has a whopping 7,723 miles of coastline – and much of that stunning coast is accessible for walkers.
So, it’s not surprising that coastal walking is hugely popular in the UK, whether the trail leads past the stone stacks and arches of Scotland, along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland, on the beautiful South West Coast Path in Devon and Cornwall, past mountains and cliffs in Wales, along the North Sea beaches of Northumberland and Yorkshire, near the White Cliffs of Dover, or along the stunning Norfolk and Suffolk beaches.
Here’s our handy guide to coastal walking in the UK and why you should go out and enjoy it!
Why should you go coastal walking in the UK regularly?
- The sea air – Scientists have found that people who visit the coast regularly have better health, and even the Victorians knew that sea air was good for us. The air at the coast is charged with negative ions which helps us to absorb oxygen more easily and increases the amount of the hormone stabiliser serotonin in our bodies. These ions also help to promote deep sleep and healthy digestion.
- The marine wildlife – From puffins to guillemots, grey seals to bottlenose dolphins, orca to sea otters, there is so much to see in the waters around the UK, and walking the coast is an excellent way to see it. Remember to pack your binoculars!
- The coastal flora – There are so many beautiful coastal flowers to be seen in summer, including thrift, sea campion, sea holly, golden samphire, and sea asters.
- The beautiful sunrises and sunsets – If you’re on the east coast, expect some stunning sunrises, while in Wales and the west of England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, there’ll be amazing golden sunsets over the sea.
- The stars over the sea – Several coastal areas are also excellent places to do some star spotting, especially if the coastal path runs through a dark skies reserve. You’ll get breath-taking views of your favourite constellations over the water.
- The succulent seafood – From Whitstable oysters to Gower cockles, Cornish sardines to Dover sole, Oban lobsters to Fleetwood fish and chips, there is wonderful fish and seafood to be had around the country, and you’ll be walking up an appetite for it!
- The sheer variety of trails – Because the UK has so many wonderful coastal walks, you’ll never tire of them! There are just so many paths to choose from.
How can you find a good coastal walk near you?
- We regularly publish useful articles giving you coastal walk inspiration. Take a look at some of our recent recommendations for coastal walks that will blow your mind!
- Join a walking group or an organisation like Ramblers UK where you’ll find lots of great coastal walking ideas.
- Join walking groups on Facebook and ask members for their recommendations.
- Look on the National Trust website – this organisation manages many sites around the UK and often has recommendations for walks with links to maps.
Your guide to coastal walking in England
England has 2,748 miles of coastline, from Cumbria and Lancashire in the northwest to Northumberland and Yorkshire in the northeast, Cornwall and Devon in the West Country to Norfolk and Suffolk in East Anglia, much of it now linking up in the England Coast Path. There are thousands of coastal walks in England to suit all abilities, from complete beginners to seasoned hikers.
In the north east of England, the 62-mile Northumberland Coast Path offers some of the best coastal walking in Europe, running between Berwick upon Tweed and Cresswell. It takes in pretty coastal villages like Warkworth, Craster, Alnmouth, Seahouses, and Bamburgh, with iconic landmarks like Bamburgh Castle and Lindisfarne.
There is also good walking to be had around cities like Newcastle and Sunderland. For example, beginners can take the Souter Saunter 2-mile circular walk from the Foghorn House at Souter near Sunderland past the famous red and white-striped lighthouse and into the nearby nature reserve at Whitburn coastal park, picking up the coastal path again and back to the start.
The 11-mile Durham Coastal Footpath from Seaham to Crimdon has spectacular grasslands and sand dunes, orchids, skylarks, and lapwings, an excellent day walk for those used to a hike.
Yorkshire has a beautiful coastline.
The 109-mile Cleveland Way runs from Helmsley to Filey, passing through the North York Moors National Park near landmarks the White Horse, Kilburn, Roseberry Topping, and The Wainstones. The route also takes in beautiful Runswick Bay and lovely Robin Hood’s Bay, with the quirky town of Whitby along the way.
The 21-mile Cinder Track between Scarborough and Whitby follows the line of the old railway between the resorts and the spectacular chalk cliffs and teeming seabird colonies make the 3-mile Flamborough Head Circular Walk a joy, too!
Lincolnshire has its own Lincolnshire Coastal Country Park and fine coastal walks along the coast at Mablethorpe, Skegness, Anderby Creek, Cleethorpes, and Chapel St Leonards. The 5-mile walk around Chapel St Leonards takes in the North Sea Observatory at Chapel Point, beautiful beaches, and quaint country churches.
In East Anglia, the Norfolk Coast Path runs for 87 miles from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea, with fabulous coastal walking around Blakeney, Brancaster, Cromer, Holkham, Sheringham, and Weybourne.
Suffolk has 50 miles of coastal path from Felixstowe to Lowestoft. Try the 5-mile Oulton Broad to Ness Point linear walk along Lake Lothing and Lowestoft seafront, or 10.5-mile Southwold to Covehithe, from bright beach huts to a village slowly being taken back by the sea and there are huge trees submerged in the sand.
Essex has 350 miles of coastline and wonderful walks around Frinton-on-Sea, Brightlingsea, Burnham-on-Crouch, Jaywick, and Clacton-on-Sea. Try the 6-mile walk around picturesque Frinton-on-Sea along the beach and into the countryside, or the 10-mile circular walk starting and ending at Jaywick and taking in the villages of Lee-over-Sands and St Osyth.
In Kent, you’ll love coastal walks on the England Coast Path, including those between the buzzy art town of Margate and historic Broadstairs, following in the footsteps of iconic author Charles Dickens and ending at the Dickens Museum in Broadstairs, Folkestone to Sandgate, Walmer Castle to Sandown Castle, and Whitstable to Herne Bay. You’ll also be able to explore the iconic White Cliffs of Dover on a 4-mile roundtrip from the edge of the town to the South Foreland lighthouse.
Sussex has scenic coastal walks around West Wittering, Chichester, Bognor Regis, Worthing, Seaford, Camber Sands, Eastbourne, Littlehampton, and, of course, Brighton and Hove. Try the circular 10-mile Six Harbour Villages Walk between Fishbourne and Bosham near Chichester.
Mix the coast and forest with New Forest coastal walks in Hampshire from Barton-on-Sea to Southampton Water. There are glorious beaches, nature reserves full of wildlife, and salt marshes, so try the 6-mile Exbury Village and Lepe Walk along beaches used in the build-up to D-Day or the 4-mile Lymington Marshes Trail.
Join the 630-mile South West Coast Path which runs from Poole Harbour to Minehead with costal walks on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset. There are breath taking walks between West Bay and Eype, around Burton Bradstock and West Bay, and at Chesil Beach.
In Devon, there are two sections of the path – the 104 miles on the south coast from Plymouth to Starcross and the 90 miles on the north coast from Combe Martin to Marsland.
In the south, you’ll find fine walking around Bigbury-on-Sea, Bantham, Hope Cove, Salcombe, Dartmouth, and the English Riviera at Torbay. Look out for Burgh Island, famed for its role in an Agatha Christie mystery, and Christie’s home Greenway at Brixham.
In north Devon, you’ll find beautiful villages like Clovelly, wonderful beaches at Woolacombe and Saunton Sands, and inspiring views at Ilfracombe, Lee Bay, and Morthoe.
Cornwall has some of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Britain and some of the country’s best walking on its 286 miles of coastal path. There are stunning cliff views at St Austell Bay, the Rame Peninsula, Newquay, and Boscastle, and lovely sandy beaches at Carbis Bay, Perranporth, Polzeath, and Newquay. And there are delightful towns and villages like Mevagissey, Fowey, St Ives, Marazion, Newlyn, Bude, and Padstow. Try the one-mile stroll around the Camel Estuary at Lundy Bay for magnificent views or the 3-mile Penzance to Marazion Walk with amazing views of St Michael’s Mount.
In the north west of England, there is excellent walking to be had on the coast of Lancashire on the 137-mile Lancashire Coastal Way at Arnside and Silverdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and on the coast near Blackpool, Fylde, and Morecambe.
The 185-mile Cumbria Coastal Way runs from Silverdale to the Scottish border, taking in Seascale, St Bees Head, Whitehaven, Workington, Maryport, Carlisle, and Metal Bridge. For walkers looking for longer hikes, the 28-mile Foodie Peninsula Walk on the Cumbria side of Morecambe Bay will allow you to visit picture postcard seaside towns with top-notch restaurants and stop in at the medieval village of Cartmel.
Your guide to coastal walking in Scotland
Mainland Scotland has 6,160 miles of coastline running from the Lowlands to the Highlands, from cities like Edinburgh, Inverness, Aberdeen, and Glasgow, to scenic towns like Ullapool and Pittenweem, and traditional holiday resort towns like Largs. Plus, there are many coastal walks on Scottish islands. So, whether you want a leisurely walk or a tougher challenge, there’ll ne a route to suit you.
The good news is that Scotland is aiming to follow Wales and England and create an all-Scotland Coastal Way, linking up its various coastal paths.
On the east coast of Scotland, the 30-mile Berwickshire Coastal Path runs from Berwick Upon Tweed to Cockburnspath through a national nature reserve at St Abb’s Head, famed for its seabird colonies, and on to the fishing port of Eyemouth, once a haven for smugglers. This stretch of coast takes in high cliffs and gives you amazing sea views. It joins with John Muir Way running between Helensburgh and Dunbar.
The nearby Fife Coastal Path runs for 117 miles between Kincardine and Newburgh, and it’s a delight for lovers of Scottish history with walks past Macduff’s Castle, Wemyss Castle, and Aberdour Castle. It’s also packed full of pretty villages like Anstruther and stunning seascapes!
The Arbroath Path Network along the Angus coast gives you spectacular rock formations and beautiful beaches, and you can stop off at the Montrose Basin teeming with wildlife. Watch out for the oystercatchers and wild duck.
With 165 miles of craggy cliffs, welcoming beaches, and the wide open skies of the North Sea, the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail is a must for lovers of walking in Scotland. Visit the St Cyrus National Nature Reserve for rare wildflowers and butterflies and peregrine falcons and admire the imposing Slains Castle.
The 100-mile Moray Way circular route follows the coast of the Moray Firth and tracks the River Spey over open moorland. You’ll be walking in the footsteps of the Picts and King Macbeth here and finding out about the history of whisky distillation.
The John O’Groats Trail runs for 147 miles between Inverness and John O’Groats, including wonderful clifftop walks, cascading waterfalls, and hidden harbours. Sections of this trail are still being established, though, so can be challenging. The Whaligoe to Wick section in Sutherland and Caithness is particularly stunning with a magnificent sea arch and breath-taking views.
In Durness and North Sutherland, there are hauntingly beautiful views and wide open, empty spaces. Enjoy the dramatic cliffs at Cape Wrath and the deserted village of Poulouriscaig, and the three bays on the 5-mile Oldshoremore Bay Circuit.
There’s wonderful coastal walking to the had on the Black Isle in Ross & Cromarty, taking in Cluny’s Cave and the gorgeous views at Chanonry Point, complete with a glimpse of wild dolphins!
The 100-mile Kintyre Way runs from Tarbert to Machrinhanish on the Mull of Kintyre peninsula. Walk it to discover deserted beaches on the wild Atlantic coast, castles, forests, and wonderful wildlife.
The 107-mile Ayrshire Coastal Path from Glenapp to Skelmorlie gives you panoramic views, rugged, rocky shores, and seals, otters, foxes, roe deer, and basking sharks, plus historic castles like those as Turnberry and Ardrossan.
In the south-west of Scotland, the Mull of Galloway Trail covers 24 miles between Stranraer and Mull, linking with the Loch Ryan Coastal Path in the north for a total of 37 miles of walking. Keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels, basking grey seals, and red deer.
Scotland’s islands also have beautiful coastal walks. The 65-mile Arran Coastal Way takes you right around the island packed with fabulous scenery and amazing wildlife, with fine views of Mullach Mor on Holy Island during the Whiting Bay to Lamlash section.
The 30-mile West Island Way on Bute gives you beautiful bays where you might just spot a basking shark, open moorland and forests where red deer roam, deserted villages, and pretty coastal villages.
Your guide to coastal walking in Wales
The whole of Wales’s coastline is walkable thanks to the 870-mile Wales Coast Path which runs around the coast from Queensferry, Deeside, in the north to Chepstow in the south. You’ll find easy, short rambles, harder, longer hikes, and challenging walks, amazing scenery including mountains, waterfalls, and the sea, plus wildlife like peregrine falcons, bottlenose dolphins, and red kites.
Take a 6-mile Dee Estuary Walk in north-east Wales, starting at the 13th century Flint Castle and 12th century Basingwerk Abbey at Greenfield, and enjoy birdwatching at one of Britain’s best areas for wetland and shore birds. Or take a short walk up one of Wales’s most recognisable landmarks, The Great Orme in Llandudno.
There are magnificent views of the town and bay from the top, and rich history including the area’s key role during the Second World War. Make it more challenging with a circular, 14-mile route taking in the ruins of Deganwy Castle.
On Anglesey, the 12-mile Trearddur Bay, Holyhead, and South Stack Walk gives you views of Holyhead Mountain, the sea cliffs at Gogarth Bay, and the scenic lighthouse at South Stack where you’ll be able to take amazing pictures of the waves and stars in the night sky. The walk ends at the wide, sandy beach at Trearddur bay.
On the Llŷn Peninsula, there are several under 5-mile and 10-mile walks to take in the beauty of the countryside and coastline. Try the 9.25-mile walk between the exceptionally pretty beach at Porth Oer (also called Whistling Sands after the sounds the sand makes as you walk on it during a dry spell) and the fishing village of Aberdaron, the last mainland stop for pilgrims going to Bardsey Island. You’ll have wonderful views of the island.
The famous Pembrokeshire Coast Path is 186 miles of spectacular scenery between St Dogmaels and Amroth, with clifftop walks, views of islands like Skomer, and wildlife like puffins, dolphins, and seals. Take in the dramatic sheer cliffs on a 12-mile section between Pwll Deri and the beautiful fishing village of Porthgain, or take a detour into Britain’s smallest city, St David’s, on the trail between Whitesands Bay and the gorgeous village of Solva, famed for its art galleries and gift shops.
On the Gower & Swansea Bay Coast Path, you’ll find lovely views, some of Britain’s best beaches like the one at Three Cliff’s Bay, quaint Victorian beach huts at Langland Bay, and city beachfront walks in Mumbles and Swansea.
There are also beautiful views to be had on the 9-mile Glamorgan Heritage Coast between the beach at Llantwit Major and the village of Marcross, taking in the lighthouse and fog horn at Nash Point. Alongside the Severn Estuary, there are walks taking in the Severn bridges and two castles between Caldicot and Chepstow.
Your guide to coastal walking in Northern Ireland
Follow in the footsteps of mythical giants and take in stunning views of the Atlantic by walking the coast in Northern Ireland.
The 30-mile Causeway Coast has magnificent views, beautiful, sandy beaches, and Northern Ireland’s top tourist attraction, the Giant’s Causeway. Running from Castlerock in the west to Bally Castle in the east, the area is home to stunning beaches at Portstewart Strand, Portrush, Downhill, and Benone Strand.
There are excellent shorter walks on the North Antrim Cliff Path at Bushmills, the Kebble Cliff Walk in County Antrim, and at Dundrum Coastal Path in County Down. Or you could try the 6.5-mile Port Path between Port Stewart and Port Rush, with lovely sea views.
With so much coastline, it’s time to get on the walking boots and make a start on it!
TOP TIP: Wherever you choose to roam, make sure you pack a tide timetable, so you’ll never get trapped by rising tides.