We have long spoken about the benefits of walking, from supporting our heart to boosting our mental health, but did you know that doing it in nature can actually amplify the health benefits? Studies show that walking in a forest, rather than an urban environment, significantly lowers the sympathetic (aka ‘fight-or-flight’) nervous activity in women, meaning that the benefits of our walking are multiplied.
Not just that, but after a long winter, we’ll take any opportunity to soak up some all-important vitamin D we can get. Vitamin D3 in particular plays an important part in maintaining our bone strength, our sense of wellbeing and the treatment and prevention of many health problems.
The great news is that we have so many fantastic hiking options right here on our doorstep. The UK is filled with seaside, hills, valleys and mountains that are perfect for strolling, climbing or rambling, and many aren’t far from your usual city routes. That ought to make the long wait to go on holiday feel less hard, right?
Regardless of whether you decide on a day trip or a long weekend away, we’ve rounded up some of our favourite hiking spots. Here’s where we think you should head…
Of course you already know Cornwall is beautiful. But Salcombe is where to head if you want the best walks, including the challenging eight mile path from Salcombe Harbour Hotel to Soar Mill Cove. With steep and long hills, it’s great for those looking for a proper hiking trip, but also made so worthwhile for the sea views and wildlife (it’s not rare to spot dolphins and seals!).
Sure, Brighton has some great seaside walks, but it’s the city’s South Downs area that we suggest you stop off in for a good hike. The mile long Devil’s Dyke valley is the longest, deepest and widest dry valley in the UK, and offers views of the English channel too.
While Scotland might be famed for the walks through the highlands or into their mountain ranges, you can still get a great walk in some of the more accessible locations of the country (and they might be quieter, too, as Ben Nevis alone attracts 125,000 walkers a year). The 12 mile walk from West Linton to Balerno is part of the Scottish National Trail, a 864 kilometre-long long distance walking route, climbing through North Esk Reservoir and Pentland Hills.
The Leicester 100 Mile Round was devised to linking field paths, green lanes and bridleways around Leicestershire county. Of course, that’s not the job for one day. Instead, you can break that up into easy and accessible walks that are just a few miles long but still just as beautiful.
The Gower Coast Path was the first path to wrap around the coastal border of an entire nation. If it’s just a few miles you fancy, we recommend the hike from Rhossili to Mewslade Bay: a three mile circular walk of coastal landscape. The limestone cliffs also make it a favourite spot for rock climbers, if that’s your thing.
If you want a variety of walks, Norfolk is a great place to be. From 90km trails along the Norfolk Coast Path that will take a few days to complete to seven mile meanders from Norwich to Great Yarmouth, there is something for everyone. A challenge that you can complete in a day is the 12 mile walk along Wensum Way, passing through rivers and rural landscape.
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Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).