Discovering the Hidden Corners of the UK

By Sally Phillips

Ribbleshead Viaduct as seen on a walking holidayWhether a longstanding resident of the Isles or just visiting from the continent or, indeed, from “across the pond”, you may be surprised to find just how much history is packed in from Northumberland to Scilly. In every one of the 93,628 square miles of the country, you can find a story or two, if you’re willing to look.

But with so many years of war and peace, quiet and tumult, you’d be forgiven for missing even some of the most magnificent and monumental pages of the United Kingdom’s ongoing epic. Still, there’s no time like the present to take yourself on a walking tour and fill in some of the blanks in your geographical and historical understanding — as you explore the memories of a great and proud country, with any luck you’ll make some memories of your own.

Castles, crypts, and more

Laugharne Castles Sudeley Castle Castlerigg Stone Circle

But where to begin? First, it may be helpful to peer over a map of the United Kingdom and determine which regions you’re most unfamiliar with. It can be exciting to go somewhere you’ve never gone before, so don’t be afraid to head in the direction of what catches your eye, even if you don’t know many of the specifics of what the adventure might entail.

Since so many of the landmarks here have a larger-than-life presence, one can generally get a sense of their atmospheric connotations and choose an appropriate excursion.

For lovers of drama and intrigue, there are numerous castles to explore, each with a bloodier or stranger history than the last — and if contemporary intrigue appeals, head over to Urquhart Castle, where the search for the Loch Ness Monster yet continues.

For those interested in the quieter sides of history, the barrows and monoliths of Stanton Moor provide a somber reminder of the passage of time. And are you familiar with Britain’s longest lake? At 10.5 miles, Lake Windermere commands the scenery magnificently, and as an added bonus, the author Beatrix Potter’s Hilltop Farm is situated only a short distance away.

The search for solitude

View of Coniston Old Man on the Cumbria Way A farmstead near Blawith Knott, part of a hidden England Lake Vyrnway in Wales

One more variable to keep in mind when planning your walking tour is how far off the beaten path you want to find yourself, and if a lack of interaction or contact with other travelers is desirable for you. You may wish to forgo the more famous destinations for a quieter, but no less fulfilling walk through the Yorkshire or Cumbrian countryside, for example.

While all of the United Kingdom has seen its share of national history, in the sleepier reaches of the country you may find more interest in speaking with the occasional farmer, pubkeeper, or town historian and educate yourself on the more intimate details of small-town communities.

Or just keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on the horizon. Sometimes the most rewarding part of a trek like this isn’t the destination, it’s the journey.

Originally published 28/09/18

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