The Complete List Of Hiking Routes For Beginners
If you’re taking up hiking, welcome to the best community in the country!
Hikers are supportive, always encourage beginners to get the right kit and choose the best routes for them, and they are keen to share the benefit of their experience.
We’ve put together a complete list of hiking routes for beginners with something for everyone, whether you love walking by the sea, need to stick to the flat along the canal for a while, or love to challenge yourself with hills and mountains.
What do you need to do to start hiking?
Buy a good pair of walking boots – Getting them fitted is always worth it and ensure they give you enough ankle and arch support, especially on rough terrain. Good socks are almost as important. Buy walking socks with two layers to reduce friction on your skin, or you could wear two pairs.
Get some trekking poles – They’ll help you balance and take the pressure off your knees, especially when walking downhill. Ensure they’re light and retractable so they fit in your backpack. Find out about more useful hiking gear here.
Join a group – There are lots of informal groups on social media where members swap knowledge and tips and arrange group walks. This will be especially useful for a beginner and give you the confidence to get out into the countryside.
Research your routes – Look for the mileage covered, the elevation you’ll walk, and what the ground conditions will be like. Very importantly, where will you be able to stop for drinks, food, and comfort breaks. Take a printed map on walks. Your phone may lose service, stop working if it’s cold, or your battery may fail, so don’t rely totally on apps.
Our list of hiking routes for beginners
These are the prefect walks for absolute novices and people building up their fitness. Canals also give you bags of wildlife, interesting stopping off points, an insight into industrial history, and plenty of pubs and cafes along the way.
The Regent’s Canal, London – Walk a10-mile stretch from Paddington station to Little Venice to Limehouse, past waterside cafes, a floating art gallery, and London Zoo. You’ll be rewarded with buzzards, bats, and kingfishers.
The Kennet & Avon Canal – A 4.8-mile circular route starts at Sydney Gardens in Bath and follows the canal past the Holbourne Museum over Pulteney Bridge, and back to Sydney Gardens. This charming walk starts and ends in the city’s 18th Century pleasure gardens.
The Coalisland Canal – Starting at the Cornmill near the centre of Coalisland in County Tyrone, this 4-mile walk follows the canal to the Blackwater River, taking in seven locks including a staircase lock at Macks Bridge. Watch out for wildlife like herons and kingfishers.
The Llangollen Canal – Beautiful countryside and impressive engineering meet in this 6-mike hike from the Horseshoe Falls to the 126ft high Pontcysyllte aqueduct in the Vale of Llangollen. Watch out for amazing wildlife including otters!
The Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal – There are a variety of walks of different lengths along this stunning 36-mile canal running from the Brecon Beacons down the Vale of Usk to Cwmbran. There is a 2-mile walk starting and ending at Brecon Canal Basin, where you’ll take in the 200-year-old Brynich Lock and Grade II-listed Brynich Aqueduct or get beautiful views of Abergavenny and its surrounding mountains on the 3-mile Llanfoist to Govilon circular canal walk. Stitch shorter walks together for a more challenging hike.
Other canal walks to try include an 8-mile walk between Edinburgh Quay and the village of Ratho on the Union Canal, a 5.5-mile stretch of canal between Nantwich and Acton, and the 5.5-mile Coventry Art Trail between the canal basin in the city centre and Hawkesbury Junction
Hills and Mountains Routes
If you’re a hill walking beginner, remember to always respect the hill or mountain even if it doesn’t seem remarkably high or steep. Wear walking boots with good ankle support for rough terrain, make sure you carry waterproofs and warm clothing even in summer, and ensure you have a map of the trail, a whistle to raise the alarm if necessary, and a torch in case the light fades.
Mam Tor – Situated in the scenic Hope Valley in Derbyshire, Mam Tor is one of the most popular attractions for walkers in the Peak District. There is a 3-mile circular walk that starts at the Mam Nick car park and goes to the summit of the tor with spectacular panoramic views where you’ll be able to see Kinder Scout then down the track to Blue John Cavern, up to windy Knoll, and back to the starting point. It’s a moderate walk and you’ll need a decent level of fitness.
Pen y Fan and Corn Du – Many people begin their hill walking journey at the Pont ar Daf car park following the path up the ridge to Windy Gap and around the base of Corn Du to the summit of Pen y Fan where you’ll be rewarded with glorious views of the Brecon Beacons. Some choose to take the circular route over nearby Corn Du and back down to the nearby Storey Arms outdoor centre where you can walk the short distance alongside the main road back to the car park (a 4-mile walk). Others retrace their steps back down the main path to Pont ar Daf.
The Sugarloaf – This distinctive peak near Abergavenny has well-maintained paths to its summit and you’ll get amazing views of another of Monmouthshire’s most popular hills for walkers, the Skirrid. Ascending the summit takes between 45 minutes and an hour from the Llanwenarth mountain car park, and you can descend on the south westerly path and have a circular walk around Llanwenarth mountain itself. This route is 5.2 miles.
Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire – Starting from Newton-under-Roseberry, there is a challenging but short 2-mile hike up Clevelenad’s most famous hill and a landscape packed full of geological and historical interest. The walk back takes you through Newtown Wood.
Slemish, County Antrim – You’ll be rewarded with a 360-degree view of County Antrim after ascending Slemish on an easy, 1.2-mile walk. Start at the Slemish car park near the village of Broughshane, then follow the grassy track. You’ll then have a short but strenuous ascent over rocks to the top and can descend the south face back to the car park, watching out for Irish hares along the way!
There are other excellent hill walks for beginners at Yes Tor, Devon, the Skirrid mountain near Abergavenny, The Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye, and Catbells in the Lake District.
From seals and puffins to rare orchids and dolphins, there’s so much to see when you’re on a coastal walk in the UK. The scenery is always spectacular, from the chalk cliffs of the south coast of England to the soaring rocky outcrops of Cornwall, the beauty of Lindisfarne of the Northumberland close to the rugged splendour of the Northern Irish coast and Scottish islands.
The Lizard Peninsula – This 7-mile circular walk where the rugged Cornish rocks meet the beautiful blue sea is one of Britain’s most spectacular hikes. The walk starts at Kynance Cove car park, and the path passes above Pentreath Beach on towards Lizard Point and the lighthouse there. Continue to the Old Station at Bass Point, into Lizard Village, and back to the car park. Watch out for guillemots, shearwaters, and gannets!
Horsey Windpump to Waxham – There’s so much wildlife to see on this stunning, 7-mile Norfolk fenlands walk, including bitterns, marsh harriers, and swallowtail butterflies. Start at the National trust car park in Horsey Windpump then head to Staithe and follow the path around the edge of Horsey Mere towards Waxham Cut, spotting a derelict windmill, and then on to Horsey Corner. Go into Horsey and then back to the beautiful windmill at Horsey Windpump. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot the seal colony at Horsey Beach.
St David’s Circular Walk – If you’re fit enough to complete a 10.5-mile walk, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking scenery and Celtic history on this Pembrokeshire coastal path walk. Starting in the UK’s smallest city, you’ll walk to Non’s Bay and pick up the coastal path there. Pass picturesque Porthclais Harbour, walk around the Treginnis peninsula, and up towards Whitesands Bay. An unmarked lane takes you back to St David’s. Watch out for puffins and a carpet of flowers on the cliffs in summer.
Eshaness Circular Walk, Shetland – This 3.7-mile walk starts at Eshaness Lighthouse car park and the path travels north to the sea cliffs and Calder’s Geo. You’ll see impressive stone stacks, caves, and arches, and you might spot some puffins. Walk on to Grind o da Navir where the force of the sea has smashed through rock and created a giant storm beach. Walk on the bay of The Burr, turn at Croo Loch, and go south to the Loch of Houlland. Walk along the loch shore and over the stone wall to the starting point.
Dunserverick Castle to the Giant’s Causeway – A 5-mile linear walk along some of the most stunning scenery in Northern Ireland, in an area rich in biodiversity. Perfect for wildlife spotters! You’ll take in the historic castle, spectacular cliffs, and The Amphitheatre – a beautiful bay only accessible to birds like the fulmars and guillemots. From the headland at the Weir’s Snout you’ll get a breathtaking, panoramic view of Northern Ireland’s iconic Giant’s Causeway.
Other spectacular coastal walks include the Wales Coastal Path between Llangrannog and New Quay and the Ardnish Peninsula on the west coast of Scotland.
Woodland Hiking Routes
Walking in the woods is wonderful at any time of year, but it is especially breath taking in the autumn. The UK has many acres of woodlands and forests that are open to the public for walking, and hiking trails through the trees that are perfect for beginners.
Grizedale, Cumbria – This impressive landscape dotted with ancient trees has several walking trails for every level of ability, from complete beginners to seasoned hikers. For example, there’s the 1.5-mile Millwood Trail, the 1.5-mile Machell’s Coppice Trail with views over Coniston Water, the 4-mile Grizedale Tarn Trail, and the ultimate Grizedale grand tour, the 10-mile Silurian Way.
Kielder Forest, Northumberland – If you’re just starting out, try the 2-mile Duchess Trail following the course of Kielder Burn, or, if you’re looking for more of a challenge, take the 8-mile Deadwater Trail that takes you to the summit of Deadwater Fell. Watch out for red squirrels, stunning views out onto the North Sea coast, and, of you’re there at night, amazingly dark skies perfect for star spotting!
Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail – This 4.5-mile hike takes in a series of sculptures in the forest, wonderful wildlife, and the area’s industrial past. Add another mile’s walk around nearby Puzzlewood, the magical landscape of gullies, mossy rocks, and ancient trees inspired Tolkien when he created Middle Earth, and it was used as a location for The Force Awakens.
Ashdown Forest – The real Five Hundred Acre Wood of A.A. Milne’s Winnie The Pooh, this forest has ten 3-mile walks and a 14-mile circular walk through its beautiful trees. It’s wide-open spaces and spectacular views make the Sussex woodland a huge hit with walkers.
Glen Finglas – From easy walks along the Glen Finglas reservoir to the challenging 16-mile Mell Circuit, there’s a trail for every level of walking ability in this beautiful Scottish estate in the heart of the Trossachs National Park. You’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for red squirrels and majestic red deer, ospreys, golden eagles, and pine martens. The Great Trossachs Path crosses the estate and its routes vary from 1.2 miles to 12 miles.
There are more wooded walks for beginners at Ankerwycke, Surrey, Hatfield Forest, Essex, and Hackfall Wood, in North Yorkshire.
Spectacular falls that take your breath away are in every corner of the UK, in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Many of the trails to reach them are suitable walks for beginners, too. Remember to wear walking boots with ankle support and take trekking poles for balance as the rocks nearby can be very slippery.
Ingleton Falls, North Yorkshire – With a 4-mile circular trail, you’ll walk through ancient rocks and woodland to Pecca Falls, then on to Thornton Force, before joining the old Roman road with wonderful views of the Yorkshire Three Peaks.
Waterfall Country, Brecon Beacons – Follow the 4.5-mile Four Falls Trail starting at Cwm Porth car park and visit Sgwd Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd Isaf Clun-Gwyn, Sgwd y Pannwr, and Sgwd-yr-Eira. Each of the falls is impressive, but at Sgwd-yr-Eira, you can walk carefully over the rocks and walk behind the waterfall. What an amazing experience!
Pistyll Rhaeadr – There are several routes around this stunning waterfall, including a 3-mile hike taking in the old lead and silver mines and a 7-mile walk along the Berwyn Ridge, though this is an energetic hill climb.
Glenoe Waterfall, County Antrim – There’s just a short, half-mile walk to see one of the most picturesque spots in Northern Ireland, but it is over uneven terrain in a steep gorge, and it can be slippery under foot. There are also many steps, so what this walk lacks in length it makes up for in hiking challenges.
The Falls of Clyde – This 3.75-mile linear walk starts in the World Heritage Site of New Lanark and passes a series of waterfalls in a beautiful, wooded gorge including the horseshoe falls at Bonnington Lin. Watch out for birdlife as there are more than 100 species of birds in the area.
Other waterfall walks to try include trails at St Nectan’s Falls, Cornwall, Steall Falls near Ben Nevis, Hadraw Falls in Yorkshire, and Aira Force in the Lake District.
Now you’ve done your research, it’s time to lace up your boots, fill that backpack, and get out there!
Wherever you choose to start, you’ll have a wonderful experience drinking in nature, getting fitter, and exploring new parts of Britain.