The UK is blessed with some of the most stunning hiking trails in the world. From the dramatic coastlines of Cornwall to the picturesque Scottish Highlands, there are endless opportunities to explore the country’s natural beauty on foot. While some trails like the South West Coast Path and the West Highland Way are well-known and heavily trodden, there are many lesser-known paths that offer equally breathtaking scenery and a quieter, more intimate experience of the great outdoors. Here are some of the UK’s most underrated hiking trails that are waiting to be discovered.
The Cleveland Way
The Cleveland Way is a 109-mile footpath that follows the North York Moors National Park, the Yorkshire Wolds, and the coast from Helmsley to Filey. While it’s not as famous as the Pennine Way or the Coast to Coast Walk, this trail offers a diverse range of landscapes, from moorland and forests to beaches and cliffs. One of the highlights of the Cleveland Way is the stunning view of Robin Hood’s Bay, a charming fishing village nestled in a steep valley.
The trail is well-signposted and can be walked in about a week. There are plenty of accommodation options along the way, including campsites, B&Bs, and pubs. The best time to hike the Cleveland Way is between April and October, but be prepared for rainy weather and muddy trails, especially in the moorland sections.
The Rhinogydd Range
If you’re looking for a rugged and remote hiking experience, the Rhinogydd Range in Snowdonia might be the perfect destination. This mountain range is often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbour, Snowdon, but it offers some of the wildest and most challenging terrains in Wales.
The Rhinogydd Range is a horseshoe-shaped ridge that can be traversed in a single day, but it’s recommended to split the hike into two days to fully appreciate the views and avoid rushing. The trail starts from the village of Trawsfynydd and climbs steeply up to the ridge, passing cascading waterfalls and craggy rock formations. Once on the ridge, hikers are rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and the Irish Sea.
The Rhinogydd Range requires a good level of fitness and mountain experience, as the path can be muddy, boggy, and rocky. It’s best to attempt the hike in dry and clear weather, as the fog and wind can make navigation difficult. There are no facilities or accommodation options on the ridge, so hikers need to carry all their gear and food.
The Black Mountains
The Black Mountains is a lesser-known mountain range in Wales that offers a tranquil and peaceful hiking experience, away from the crowds of the nearby Brecon Beacons. The range includes ten summits above 2,000 feet, including Waun Fach, the highest peak in the Black Mountains.
The trails in the Black Mountains are varied and cater to different levels of difficulty and length. One of the most popular hikes is the horseshoe-shaped walk around the Grwyne Fawr Reservoir, which offers stunning views of the surrounding peaks and valleys. Another noteworthy trail is the ascent of Pen y Gadair Fawr, which provides a challenging but rewarding climb.
The Black Mountains are best explored in the summer months when the weather is warmer and drier. There are several campsites and B&Bs in the area, as well as a few pubs and cafes, but it’s advisable to carry provisions and camping gear, especially if you plan to hike for several days.
The Fife Coastal Path
The Fife Coastal Path is a 117-mile trail that follows the coastline of Fife, from the Firth of Forth to the Firth of Tay. While it’s not as well-known as other coastal paths like the South West Coast Path, it offers a unique blend of history, culture, and nature.
The Fife Coastal Path passes through charming fishing villages, ancient castles, sandy beaches, and rugged cliffs. One of the highlights of the trail is the crossing of the Forth Road Bridge, which provides dazzling views of Edinburgh and the surrounding hills. Another must-see attraction is the ruined castle of Macduff, which was immortalized by Shakespeare in his play Macbeth.
The Fife Coastal Path can be walked in sections or as a whole, depending on your time and preferences. There are many accommodation options along the way, including campsites, B&Bs, and hotels. The best time to hike the trail is between April and September, but be prepared for windy and rainy conditions, especially on the exposed sections.
The Mawddach Trail
The Mawddach Trail is a 9-mile path that follows the estuary of the River Mawddach in North Wales. While it’s relatively short and easy to walk, it offers some of the most stunning views of the Snowdonia National Park and the sea.
The trail starts from the market town of Dolgellau and follows the meandering river, passing through woodlands, pastures, and marshes. The highlight of the trail is the stunning viaduct that spans the estuary and provides breathtaking views of Cader Idris, one of the most impressive mountains in Wales.
The Mawddach Trail is suitable for all levels of fitness and can be walked in a few hours. There are several car parks and cafes along the way, as well as a few picnic areas and benches. The trail is accessible all year round, but it’s most beautiful in the autumn when the leaves turn golden and the light is soft.
The UK’s most underrated hiking trails offer a unique and authentic experience of the country’s natural and cultural heritage. From the wild mountains of Snowdonia to the gentle coastline of Fife, there is something for every hiker and every season. By exploring these secret gems, you can discover the true beauty and diversity of the UK’s landscape, away from the crowds and the noise.