Zoe Kirkbride February 10 2024

With a big challenge comes a vast sense of achievement.

The UK is home to numerous long-distance walking trails which wind their way through the varied landscapes. Many pose a greater challenge than you may think!

Completing a long-distance walking trail allows you to escape the crowds and immerse yourself in some of the wildest parts of the UK. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of our top 5 most challenging walking trails in the UK to inspire your future adventures.


Skye Trail

The Isle of Skye is steeped in myth and legend, and is home to a range of peculiar and spectacular landscapes unique to this island. 

Crossing the entire length of the island, the Skye Trail is an unofficial trail which requires excellent navigational skills. It isn’t for the faint of heart. The route traverses the iconic Trotternish Ridge, before diving into the heart of the Cuillin mountains, over very rugged terrain with no waymarking whatsoever, and often no clear path to follow. The trail can be tough and requires competency using a map and compass, as well as the ability to judge the ever-changing conditions.

The reward, however, is a journey through some of the most famous, awe-inspiring scenery Scotland has to offer. Another bonus is that many parts of it are off the beaten track and rarely encountered by the thousands of tourists that visit Skye each year.


Pennine Way

Without a doubt, one of the best-known long-distance walks in the UK is the Pennine Way. Spanning 268 miles from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders, the Pennine Way has long since been an essential trail for keen walkers to tick off their list.

The Pennine Way is both the oldest and second-longest National Trail. It covers three National Parks and a variety of famous landmarks such as Malham Cove, Pen-y-Ghent, High Cup Nick, Cross Fell, Hadrian’s Wall and The Cheviot.

The terrain can be difficult, but you are in turn rewarded with days spent walking over rolling hilltops with impressive views all around. In fact, the combined ascent of the whole of the Pennine Way exceeds that of Mount Everest! Nowadays, much of the boggier sections have been paved over, which helps to keep you on track – although this can be tough underfoot when wearing walking boots for many days in a row. Two footwear options are highly recommended.

Much of the trail is very remote, so it is very important to plan ahead and stock up on provisions where possible. You can go days without passing a town, but you are not alone as you are likely to meet other walkers and share interesting stories of your adventures. It is wonderfully fulfilling to be able to share this fantastic achievement with the friendly people you meet.

Because the Pennine Way is so long, we offer three manageable sections, making it doable for all walkers, even those looking for just a week away on the trail!


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Coast to Coast

The Coast to Coast is often considered one of the best long-distance walks in the world, stretching across Northern England from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. The route passes through three National Parks, and plenty of varied scenery such as lakes, valleys, and open moorland. There are also many points of historical interest along the way, from medieval abbeys and castles, to quaint little English villages.

The sheer length of the route poses a challenge for many – it takes between 2 and 3 weeks to complete and the days can be long. In the section that winds its way through the Lake District, the rougher terrain is juxtaposed with stunning views of the surrounding hills.

The length of the Coast to Coast should not put you off, however, as there are plenty of ways to split up the walk. We recommend adding rest days to give your legs a break and allow you to further explore your surroundings. The pretty lakeside village of Grasmere or the Yorkshire market town of Richmond are excellent options for rest days.


Southern Upland Way

If you wish to walk on roads less travelled, the Southern Upland Way is a great way to escape the fast pace of everyday life and the crowds of the city. Venture through some of Scotland’s most remote, undiscovered areas, especially on the western end of the trail. You could go days without meeting any other walkers, and with mobile signal being scarce in places, you can really disconnect from the modern world. The route is waymarked, but we still recommend brushing up on your navigation skills, as difficult weather conditions can make the markers hard to spot in some places.

The Southern Upland Way passes through the Galloway Forest Park, which is home to the largest forest in the UK. You certainly don’t want to get lost here! This is a dark-sky park, meaning there is limited light pollution from artificial sources, thus offering excellent star-gazing opportunities. 

The peaceful solitude of the trail is a contrast to the lovely, genuine hospitality provided by accommodation providers along the way. You will be sure to receive a warm Scottish welcome after a long day’s walk.


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Offa’s Dyke Path

Why not take on the challenge of walking the entire length of Wales? From the south coast by the Severn Estuary, all the way to the sweeping beaches of the northern coastline, Offa’s Dyke Path covers 177 miles, roughly following the original Offa’s Dyke which was built in the 8th century by the Anglo-Saxon king Offa of Mercia. Scenic highlights include the Wye Valley, Brecon Beacons National Park, the Shropshire Hills and the Clwydian Hills. There are also many castles and other fascinating historical sites along the way.

The route is very well-waymarked. However, the main challenge lies in the diversity of the landscapes you pass through, with hilly, undulating sections making way for some steep climbs, especially towards the northern end. This results in varied, interesting scenery which is certainly a good distraction from the difficulty of some of the terrain. The good waymarking should keep you on track and allow you to focus more on the surrounding views!


Looking for a challenge?

We are here to help you plan your next big adventure. We offer a range of walking trails and itineraries across the UK, which can be tailored to suit your preferences and needs.

Completing a long-distance walking trail is a great achievement, and you will likely end up asking yourself – when is the next one?

Zoe Kirkbride

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