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15 magical walks on Britain's hidden footpaths to keep you active during the coronavirus outbreak

best walks UK footpaths keep active during the coronavirus outbreak
Wish you were here: a solo walk in Aberlady, Scotland Credit: Getty Images

Many Britons, thanks to the coronavirus, are trying to keep a safe distance from each other. But that doesn't mean we can't go walking, especially if those walks are off the beaten track. In 2019, we rounded up some of Britain's finest lost walks; here we tell the story of the fight to preserve those walks, and present 15 of the best.

L三级成人视频et’s start with a bald fact: if the British public doesn’t register 10,000 miles of ancient paths by Jan 1 2026, most of those paths will be lost forever. Here’s why. They didn’t make it on to the flawed official maps, known as the definitive maps, that were drawn in 1949; they were allocated 26 years’ grace at the turn of the millennium, with the government seeking to find and record those paths within that time frame; the official project collapsed in 2008, four years after its creation; and now, with a little under six years remaining and a new Defra plan yet to be executed, there is a lot of pathway for members of the public to register, and not much time in which to do it. When the deadline passes, those ancient paths will no longer be rights of way, which means that, in most cases, landowners will not be obliged to keep them visible, navigable and safe.

三级成人视频“This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” says Stuart Maconie. He and I are walking one of those paths, now a muddy slip ’n’ slide that is festooned with brambles and obstructed by tree trunks. “If we don’t do this now, they’ll never come back.” 

My boot squelches into ankle-deep mud. Also, my earlobe is bleeding after I had to force my way through a knot of said brambles. Maybe some paths are meant to be lost, I think to myself. But then again, if this path were marked on the map, maybe more people would use it, and maybe the landowner, or even volunteer Ramblers, might be moved to keep it in better condition. Squelch.

Maconie sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity Credit: Andrew Fox

M三级成人视频aconie feels strongly about all this. Alongside his work as a BBC Radio 6 Music presenter and a travel writer, he is president of the Ramblers. This means he is the figurehead of British walking, if there can be such a thing, and represents the charity’s 120,000 members. In the absence of a government initiative to register the lost paths, the Ramblers are encouraging those members to find the routes and flag them to their regional authorities and, in the meantime, are advocating an extension of the deadline. 

It’s Article 50 for cartographers. “As a country, we are very into the idea that ordinary people have freedoms, hard-won freedoms, and this is a case in point,” Maconie explains as we walk. The majority of British land, he says, is privately owned, and “that’s fine. But we do have rights to cross it in order to get to places that we want to be”. 

Getting from A to B, rather than going for a roundabout stroll, was probably the genesis of the path that Maconie and I are following in the West Midlands. It consists of a wet, tree-lined trench between two fields. The trees look deliberately planted, and from time to time we encounter bits of stone and brick laid into the soil, presumably put there decades ago by people who used the path regularly and wanted to improve it. Back then, I’m guessing, the path was a useful thoroughfare between two farms. Sometime in the 20th century, an actual road was built, and the path failed to make it on to the definitive maps, just like so many others. Being unmarked, it seems to have fallen into near-absolute disuse. If a tree falls across an unmarked right of way, does it matter?

S三级成人视频o, do we really need these paths? The deadline wasn’t set out of malice: landowners, quite reasonably, want certainty. After my walk with Maconie, which was muddy, convivial and, to be frank, all the more enjoyable for involving some level of difficulty, I spoke to the , which represents many of the individuals and businesses whose land is crossed by these paths. Christopher Price, who is the association’s director of policy and advice, said many of the lost paths “were created in very different times and for purposes that are not always relevant in the 21st century”.

三级成人视频“There is considerable scaremongering about the proposed 2026 cut-off,” he continued, “but routes that are already in use by the public will be unaffected, whether they have been recorded or not, and significant measures are in place to make sure genuinely useful paths are not accidentally lost.”

For others, however, this is often about something other than genuine usefulness. Mary-Ann Ochota, the documentary presenter, anthropologist and author of , told me “this network of old ways is part of our heritage, just as palaces and castles are. They’re a way of understanding historical landscape that is as important as any building. And when they are lost they are lost forever.”

She said the deadline should be extended and that local councils, which are struggling to keep up with the submissions filed by walkers, should be given more funding. “This isn’t an abstract thing that busybodies are doing, but a practical challenge that has benefit for all of us.”

三级成人视频Romanticism seems to be a powerful motivator. I thought of something else Maconie had said. “We love the secret, the undiscovered, and the forgotten. We like that in our poets and painters. We don’t like brashness in the way that Americans might want to celebrate some huge highway or other countries might celebrate some huge achievement but, in this quiet British way, we like to celebrate the overlooked. And that’s something very important to our national psyche.” 

Come Jan 1 2026, we’ll know whether he’s right.

15 of Britain's not-so-lost walks

Walks selected by the Ramblers; you may need to pay to access further details on .

England

1. Constable Country, Essex

Length: 7.1 miles

Walking time:三级成人视频 3 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Leisurely

Starting point: Dedham car park

Description: 三级成人视频This is a circular walk through the beautiful countryside of Essex, otherwise known as Constable Country. Its picturesque water meadows and gentle rolling hills have been a magnet for artists over the centuries, and little seems to have changed since the days of locally born painter John Constable. Crossing water meadows, babbling brooks and meandering along the river, this is the definition of a traditional lowland walk. (See the walk's Ramblers profile .)

Flatford Mill, by John Constable Credit: Alamy/Lebrecht Collection

2. The Great Wall of the North, Northumberland – Hadrian’s Wall

Length:5.2 miles

Walking time:三级成人视频 3 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Strenuous

Starting point: Housesteads National Trust visitor centre

Description: This route takes you along the most dramatic stretch of Hadrian’s Wall, which offers stunning views. This is country ideally seen under a dusting of snow, or just after dawn, with shreds of mist trailing from the hills, and the ancient stonework lit up by early morning sunlight. Allow plenty of time to look around Housesteads Roman Fort. More details .

Visitors at Housesteads Fort Credit: National Trust/ John Millar

3. Pendle Hill, Lancashire – Big End

Length:5.9 miles

Walking time: 三级成人视频2 hours 55 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point: Barley car park

Description: Steeped in the intriguing history of the Pendle witches, this route between Burnley and Clitheroe in north-east Lancashire will reward you with extraordinary views. Pendle Hill is Lancashire’s answer to Uluru. Not as red, nor nearly as large, but a wonderfully imposing lump none the less, whose summit – “Big End” – provides an unrivalled viewpoint over Yorkshire’s Three Peaks to the distant fells of the Lake District, and across the coastal plain to Blackpool and the Irish Sea. More details .

Pendle Hill Credit: Phoebe Smith

4. The Roaches, Staffordshire – On the Trail of the Green Knight 

Length:8.6 miles

Walking time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Leisurely

Starting point: Roaches Gate car park, 1 mile west of Upper Hulme

Description: 三级成人视频The rock formations of Staffordshire’s Peak District form an eerie backdrop for potential sightings of peregrine falcons on this walk, which passes through the unmissable Lud’s Church, an atmospheric hidden cleft with its own microclimate.  Details .

Walkers celebrate reaching the Roaches Credit: Adrian Myers

5. The Kent Coastline Walk – Margate to Broadstairs 

Length:6.7 miles

Walking time: 3 hours 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Starting point: Margate station

Description: 三级成人视频This delightful stretch of the Kent Coastline Walk, along the white cliffs, takes you past the scenery that inspired the paintings of Turner. Take in the Dreamland theme park, the Turner Contemporary gallery and sandy Botany Bay with its white cliffs and striking chalk stacks. There are also plentiful opportunities for beachcombing and cream teas. Details . 

The view across Margate's harbour Credit: Handout

6. Handfast Point, Dorset – Around the Devil’s Rocks 

Length:6.9 miles

Walking time:三级成人视频 3 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point: National Trust information centre, Knoll Beach

Description: Each stretch of this wonderfully varied walk along the eastern rim of the Isle of Purbeck is dominated by contrasting colours – from the blue seawater and golden sand lining Studland Beach, to the yellow spring gorse and purple heather on Godlingston Heath. Overlooking it, Ballard Down’s ridgeway falls away to a vertical wall of vivid white cliffs, with views over Studland beach and Poole Harbour that grow steadily more impressive as the route progresses. Details .

Old Harry Rocks at Handfast Point Credit: Getty Images Contributor/James Osmond

7. Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire 

Length: 9.3 miles

Walking time:4 hours 45 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point: Nidd Bridge, Pateley Bridge

Description:三级成人视频 This route approaches the Brimham Rocks, an amazing collection of weird rock formations, by way of a most delightful waterside path. Delving into the thickly wooded tributary valley of Fell Beck, it then winds towards the hill’s base over land inhabited since Neolithic times. Having crested Brimham Moor and explored the famous boulders, you’ll then descend back to Pateley Bridge along a bracken-covered hillside, followed by an enjoyable ramble over farmland that is criss-crossed with ancient drystone walls. Details . 

Night at Brimham Rocks Credit: PA/Danny Lawson

8. Wells-Next-the Sea, Norfolk 

Distance: 8 miles

Walking time: 3 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point: Wells-next-the Sea youth hostel

Description: The magnificent wide, windswept beach of Holkham Bay with its huge expanses of sky is certainly the highlight of this walk on the north Norfolk coast. There’s plenty more to see besides, starting with the traditional fishing port of Wells-next-the-Sea, named after the many springs and wells in the town that supplied fresh water from the underlying chalk, as well as the salt marshes of Holkham National Nature Reserve and a stately home in the shape of 18th-century Holkham Hall.  Details .

Holkham Hall Credit: Tony Buckingham

9. Hawkshead to Tarn Hows, Lake District 

Length:5.3 miles 

Walking time:三级成人视频 2 hours 45 minutes

Difficulty: Leisurely

Starting point:三级成人视频 Hawkshead Centre

Description: A circular walk from the picturesque village of Hawkshead to the popular beauty spot of Tarn Hows, one of the Lake District’s most beautiful landscapes. Tarn Hows is particularly spectacular in winter, when the water is often frozen and the surrounding hills covered in snow. Details . 

Tarn Hows Credit:  photolibrary.com

10. Brockweir and St Briavels, Gloucestershire 

Length: 8.3 miles

Walking time: 4 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point:三级成人视频 Brockweir 

Description: This walk through fields and woodland paths will take you under the canopies of ancient sweet chestnut trees – perfect for some winter foraging. You’ll also be rewarded with fine views, and the historical spots of St Briavels Castle, a couple of medieval churches at Hewelsfield, and sections of Offa’s Dyke. Details . 

St Briavels Castle Credit:  David Burges

11. Salisbury and Stonehenge, Wiltshire 

Length: 12.2 miles

Walking time: 5 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point:三级成人视频 Ashley Road, Salisbury

Description: 三级成人视频A delightful linear walk steeped in history, from Salisbury to Amesbury via Old Sarum hill fort, with fine views over Wiltshire, and Stonehenge. Pass through pretty villages and experience the atmosphere of a prehistoric landscape. Details .

Stonehenge Credit: Jeroen Kramer / EyeEm
Scotland

12. The Eildon Hills, Scottish Borders

Length:5.6 miles

Walking time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point: Market Square, Melrose

Description: The Eildon Hills may not be the highest in the Scottish Borders, but they are steep – the walk is made slightly easier, however, by the excellent paths and tracks that criss-cross this wonderful little range. And any exertion is richly rewarded, as the vistas from each of the Eildon’s three summits are truly exceptional, spanning much of the region and beyond to the Lake District.  Details .

Melrose is idyllic Credit:  Stuart Nicol

13. Gullane and Aberlady Bay, East Lothian 

Distance:5.6 miles

Walking time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Leisurely

Starting point: Main Street, Gullane

Description: A quick hop on the bus from Edinburgh, this walk between Gullane and Aberlady takes in one of the finest stretches of coast in Scotland. Climbing Gullane Hill will reward you with a breathtaking outlook over the Pentland Hills and Edinburgh. As you continue along the gorgeous, golden Gullane Sands among huge dunes, the wonderful views extend along the coast. Heading over the dunes in the Aberlady Local Nature Reserve, pink-footed geese, whitethroat, blackcap, redshank and lapwing can all be spotted at various times of the year. Details .

Credit: EduardoRM
Wales

14. Llyn peninsula, Gwynedd 

Distance: 11.6 miles

Walking time: 6 hours

Difficulty: Leisurely

Starting point: Aberdaron, Gwynedd

Description: 三级成人视频Starting at the picturesque village of Aberdaron, with its whitewashed cottages and wide sandy beaches, this walk takes you along a splendid stretch of the Wales Coast Path, around the tip of the Llyn Peninsula – known as the “Land’s End of North Wales” – with fine views across to Bardsey. From the summit of Mynydd Mawr, you’ll be able to view the whole peninsula and the mountains of Snowdonia. Details .

The Llyn Peninsula Credit: Photodisc/ Alan Novelli

15. Nant Gwynant Valley, Gwynedd 

Distance: 10.5 miles

Walking time:三级成人视频 5 hours 30 minutes

Difficulty: Moderate

Starting point: Beddgelert Tourist Information Centre

Description:三级成人视频 This is a circular walk with wonderful views along clearly defined paths, passing alongside rivers, through atmospheric woods and – be warned – across some rather exposed hillsides. Start in one of Snowdonia’s prettiest villages and explore dramatic valleys, lakes and woodlands associated with wizards and dragons, warriors and royalty – this is just the walk for anyone with a penchant for spectacular views and landscapes rich in romance, myth and legend. Details .

Snowdonia is full of fine walks Credit: Getty Images Contributor/ Alan Novelli