The UK is blessed with thousands of miles of scenic coastline where you can experience stunning views, secret coves and wide, sandy beaches. Now that summer is nearly upon us, there’s no better time to pull on your trusty boots and walk the great British coast. From the Cornwall’s craggy coves to the towering chalk cliffs of the South Downs, there are plenty of places to explore next to the sea. Take a look at some of our favourite coastal walks to inspire you on your next walking break.
South West Coastal Path – Ilfracombe to Hangman’s Cliffs
England’s longest national trail runs from Minehead all the way around the coast of Devon and Cornwall to Poole in Dorset. It stretches for 630 miles in total but we’re not expecting you to cover the whole distance! Wherever you decide to walk along this path you’re guaranteed to find spectacular scenery and the soundtrack to your walk will be the Atlantic Ocean crashing into the cliffs beneath your feet. We’ll concentrate on the stretch of the path along the North Devon Coast between Ilfracombe and Combe Martin, a relatively short walk of five to six miles.
Start your walk in the pretty seaside resort of Ilfracombe where the coastal path climbs away from the harbour towards Hillsborough Hill. It’s a steep climb but you’ll get great views back towards the town once you reach the top. There’s the remains of an Iron Age fort at the top to explore before continuing your journey towards Hele Bay. Now just follow the coast past Samson’s Bay and Watermouth enjoying the craggy cliffs and views across the Bristol Channel; looking inland you may be able to see as far as Exmoor National Park. Continue through Combe Martin town and onto the ascent of the dramatically named Hangman Cliffs. Consisting of Great Hangman and Little Hangman, this is the highest point of the whole of the South West Coastal Path and are sure to provide the best views of the day.
Cleveland Way – Filey to Scarborough
The Cleveland Way is another long-distance trail which skirts the North York Moors from Helmsley to Filey. It first meets the coast at Saltburn before continuing south towards Whitby and Scarborough. A particularly nice section lies between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay but we will concentrate on the stretch between Scarborough and Filey. You can join the trail at either end, let’s start at Filey. You can walk along the beach towards Filey Brigg before climbing the steep steps to Filey Brigg Country Park where you’ll find the trailhead and a standing stone marking the beginning (or end) of the trail. From here it’s relatively simple; keep the sea on your right hand side and follow the path! There’s a lot of ups and downs along the way with the steepest section coming as you leave Cayton Bay. Keep an eye out here for some World War Two Pillboxes, there are several in this area, some on the beach and some tucked away beneath the cliffs.
Above Cayton Bay the path moves away from the coast due to erosion. Follow the road as far as Knipe Point then take the narrow path back towards the sea. Continue to follow the path along the cliffs to Scarborough. You’ll descend towards the Spa complex which then takes you round to South Bay for some well-deserved fish and chips!
Liverpool Bay – Formby Point to Crosby
Start at Freshfield station which is on the Northern Line between Liverpool and Southport. Head down Victoria Road through the pine woods until you reach the coast at the car park. Keeping Liverpool Bay to your right, head through the sand dunes or follow the beach south around Formby Point. Once you round the point you should be able to see across the bay to the Wirral Peninsula and maybe even North Wales on a clear day. The UK’s largest windfarm has recently opened in Liverpool Bay; the windmills out at sea are larger than the London Eye!
Turn inland to cross the River Alt at Hightown, alternatively, if you’re looking for a short walk you can get off the train at Hightown station and join the route here. The wide sandy beaches of Formby Point give way to a rocky shoreline south of Hightown so you may need to scramble over the stones as you go but keep your eye out for any interesting flotsam and jetsam along the beach. As you reach the Coastguard station look out for Anthony Gormley’s art installation “Another Place”. Known locally as the iron men, the work consists of life size replicas of the artist’s own body in cast iron, facing out to sea. Previously exhibited on the beach of Cuxhaven, Germany followed by Stavanger in Norway and De Panne in Belgium, “Another Place” has now found a permanent home on the Crosby foreshore. As you approach Crosby Coastal Park and the Marine Lake, turn inland to re-join the Northern Line at Waterloo for the journey back to Liverpool.
Northumberland Coast and Castles – Craster to Bamburgh
It’s a short bus journey on the 418 from Alnwick to Craster where the walk begins at the village harbour. You can expect dramatic coastlines and historic castles on this walk but also remember to keep an eye out for all kinds of wildlife along the way such as oystercatchers, fulmars and kittiwakes and maybe even the odd seal! Head north towards Dunstanburgh Castle, a ruin overlooking the sea. It’s a National Trust property which is well worth the small entrance fee. Continuing on past the castle the trail takes you down onto the beach at Embleton Bay until you reach Low Newton, pop into The Ship Inn for some refreshment. They brew their own beer on site, try Sea Coal, an unusual dark wheat beer!
Suitably rejuvenated you’ll continue north through the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty as the path passes Beadnell Bay and Seahouses. As you reach the final stretch of beach, look out to sea where you should be able to spot the Farne Islands. Once home to early Christian monks and hermits, you’re now more likely to spot puffins and other seabirds! It is also the site of Grace Darling’s famous exploits where she and her father rescued nine people from a shipwreck in a strong gale and thick fog. As you round the headland you should now be able to spot Bamburgh Castle rising high above the town, marking the end of your journey
One of the most impressive castles anywhere in the country, Bamburgh dates back to before the Norman Conquest and may be familiar as the location for films such as El Cid, Elizabeth and Macbeth (starring Michael Fassbender). When you’re ready to return, head down into the town, take the Max18 bus towards Newcastle and jump off in Alnwick for a well-deserved night’s sleep!
South Downs Way – Beachy Head and Seven Sisters
There’s no more iconic sight in the UK than the chalk cliffs which line the south coast along the English Channel. Forget the White Cliffs of Dover though as all you’ll see from there is the ferry port! Instead head west along the coast to Sussex where the magnificent Seven Sisters are just as striking (and actually more white!) but with the added bonus of stunning views and a more rural setting. Start your walk at the famous Beachy Head, the highest chalk sea cliff in Britain, rising to 162 metres above sea level. From the top you’ll get great views of the South Downs and the English Channel, you may even catch a glimpse of the French coast on a clear day.
The South Downs Way runs along the edge of the cliffs so just follow the path keeping the sea on your left as you head towards Seaford. It’s an undulating route across the Seven Sisters (all of which are named – Haven Brow, Short Brow, Rough Brow, Brass Point, Flagstaff Point, Flat Hill and Baily’s Hill). Cross them off as you go until you reach Seaford Head which overlooks the town. Seaford boasts a wide, shingle beach which is perfect for a spot of paddling to sooth your aching feet!
Lake District Heritage Coast –Whitehaven to St Bees
Cumbria is rightly renowned for its fantastic Lakeland scenery and famous walks across the fells and pikes but if you head to the coast you’ll be rewarded by spectacular sea views, tucked-away coves and secluded beaches. From the higher points you’ll be able to see England, the Isle of Man and even the Scottish lowlands around Dumfries and Galloway. Start your walk at Whitehaven Marina before heading up to the Haig Colliery Mining Museum where you’ll join the wagon track towards Saltom pit. Follow the narrow clifftop path around St Bees Head; this area is the only stretch of Heritage Coast on the English coastline between Wales and Scotland and is where, legend has it, St Bega, an Irish nun was shipwrecked in the ninth century.
Around the headland you can continue on the cliff path or scramble down to spectacular Fleswick Bay and its shingle beach. The path continues into the village of St Bees where the walk ends. The railway station has trains back to Lancaster, Preston and Carlisle or, if you’ve got the walking bug, Alfred Wainwright’s famous Coast to Coast walk starts in St Bees and stretches 192 miles to the North Sea at Robin Hood’s Bay!
If you’re a fan of walking, let us know your favourite UK walking routes in the comments section below…