Five Alternatives to Popular UK Walking Trails

24/04/19
By Melody Evans

Here at Contours, we love helping walkers from all backgrounds get out onto the trails. The UK’s best-known paths are hugely popular first choices, and for good reason. But what about lesser-known alternatives that offer similar experiences? What if you want to enjoy a walking holiday at your own pace, away from the bustle of tourist hot spots? What if you enjoyed a trail so much that you’re looking for a new adventure with similar themes?

Contours can help. For five of our most popular long-distance walking trails, we’ve put together our recommended alternatives. We offer a range of itineraries for each of these holidays that can be customised to your requirements.

Instead of: Hadrian’s Wall Path

Undoubtedly the UK’s most popular walking trail, Hadrian’s Wall Path runs alongside the longest Roman frontier in northern Europe. This National Trail stretches 84 miles from coast to coast, combining amazing scenery, fascinating history, welcoming towns and clear signposting. It’s the perfect trail for new walkers and veteran hikers alike, making it one of Britain’s busiest footpaths. In summer, thousands of walkers flock to the trail every year.

Try: The Ridgeway

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Quayside Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge

The Ridgeway, by comparison, is a much quieter National Trail. Just as well-waymarked as Hadrian’s Wall Path, the Ridgeway journeys 91 miles through the North Wessex Downs and the Chiltern Hills. This ancient track dates back to the prehistoric era, so there’s no shortage of history to uncover along the way. The terrain and scenery are similar to those found along Hadrian’s Wall Path, so this trail is an ideal option if you want a historic walking holiday free from the crowds.

As we offer dog-friendly holidays along both Hadrian’s Wall Path and the Ridgeway, you can bring your dog with you as well!
 

Instead of: Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk

Created by Alfred Wainwright, the famous Coast to Coast Walk stretches 190 miles from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay across the north of England. This epic hike explores the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks. Due to the amazing variety of landscapes encountered and the absolute achievement of completing this challenging journey, the Coast to Coast is on the bucket list of most long-distance walkers. It’s no surprise the route can get busy, particularly during the summer months.

Try: The Offa’s Dyke Path

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Quayside Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge

The Offa’s Dyke Path in Wales shares plenty with the Coast to Coast Walk. It travels from coast to coast via a mixture of landscapes, taking in the impressive ranges of the Black Mountains, the Shropshire Hills and the Clwydian Hills. The variety of scenery is equal to that on the Coast to Coast Walk, and the difficulty of the trail is very similar. However the Offa’s Dyke Path is usually less busy than Wainwright’s famous route.
 

Instead of: The Cotswold Way

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is what most people picture when they imagine the quintessential English countryside. The green landscapes, quiet villages and peaceful tranquillity of the region are all perfect conditions for walking. For this reason, the Cotswold Way National Trail is one of the most popular trails in the UK. Journeying 103 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath along the Western edge of the Cotswold escarpment, the Cotswold Way proudly showcases the Cotswolds in all of its glory.

Try: The Cross-Cotswold Path

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Quayside Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge

The Cross-Cotswold Path starts in Banbury and runs almost parallel to the Cotswold Way throughout, meandering through the very heart of the Cotswolds as opposed to along the escarpment. This walk travels 85 miles and ends in the city of Bath, the same finishing point (and arguably one of the main highlights) as the Cotswold Way. This route is slightly less demanding than the Cotswold Way and is also less busy, allowing you to soak up the peace and quiet at your own pace.

Both the Cotswold Way and the Cross-Cotswold Path are dog-friendly. The Cross-Cotswold Path is also one of our special charity trails - for every walker who enjoys the Cross-Cotswold Path with Contours, we donate £5 to Macmillan Cancer Support.
 

Instead of: The West Highland Way

The West Highland Way stretches 95 miles from Milngavie up to Fort William. On its northbound journey, the trail encounters an enticing mixture of mountains, lochs, woodland and moorland, taking in some of the most breath-taking scenery the Scottish Highlands have to offer.

As it’s the most popular of Scotland’s Great Trails, this route can get very busy during peak seasons, so much so that booking your West Highland Way holiday early is strongly recommended in order to avoid disappointment.

Try: The Rob Roy Way

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Quayside Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge

In contrast, the Rob Roy Way sets off from Drymen – a town which sits on the West Highland Way – and takes a quieter, north-easterly route through the highlands instead. Another of Scotland’s Great Trails, the Rob Roy Way is a shorter walk at 76 miles, though it is certainly no less scenic than the West Highland Way. This route explores the landscapes frequented by the notorious outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor, so there is no shortage of stories to uncover along the way, too.
 

Instead of: The Pembrokeshire Coast Path

The coastline of the Pembrokeshire National Park in Wales showcases some of Britain’s finest seafront views, including high cliffs, sandy beaches, intriguing stacks and offshore islands, with plenty of opportunity to spot seabirds and other wildlife. Along with a plethora of seafront villages and harbour towns, the coastline also offers many fascinating insights into the local industrial and territorial history. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail takes in 176 miles of this Welsh coastline, and is arguably Wales’ most popular walking path.

Try: The South West Coast Path

Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Quayside Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge Hadrian's Wall Path in Spring: Gateshead Millennium Bridge

The full South West Coast Path National Trail is a staggering 630 miles long, and is one of Britain’s favourite coastal routes. Despite its popularity, the sheer length of the path means that the overall atmosphere is quieter, allowing you space to enjoy the coastline at your own pace.

For a walk that is a close comparison to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, we recommend combining stages two, three and four of the South West Coast Path to form a route from Westward Ho! round to Penzance. This journey along Cornwall’s Atlantic Coast and the Far West of Cornwall takes in 184 miles of rugged coastline, featuring glorious views, beautiful coastal settlements and amazing historic landmarks throughout.
 

Need a little extra help choosing your perfect walking trail? Simply contact our friendly team and we will be more than happy to discuss your needs and organise the perfect holiday for you.





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