Seaside Strolls: Seven UK Coastal Trails to Explore

We’ve stomped along the UK’s coastline to bring you the most breathtaking trails to hike. From Shetland’s craggy shores to Cornwall’s sandy stretches, these seven showstoppers should be on every outdoor enthusiast’s radar

Nothing says "blowing the cobwebs away" like a good old-fashioned ramble along the coast. The distant crashing of white-capped waves combined with crisp salty air is enough to make us download the Rightmove app - we can dream, okay. With a coastline that measures 17,819km, the UK hardly falls short when it comes to stunning seaside trails, but it can be hard to know where to find one that suits both your stamina and style. Whether you're seeking a slower, scenic stroll or are hoping to smash your daily step count with a proper off-grid hike, these are the routes that should be on your radar. Plus, we deliver the inside scoop on those all-important pit stops, including an artisanal distillery and top-notch beach café.

Craggy cliffs and sandy shores: our favourite coastal walks

The Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall

The Lizard Peninsula Circular Walk, Cornwall

Best for: cake breaks

Starting from Kynance Cove, the Lizard coastal trail takes you on a ramble to the most southerly tip of mainland Britain. Passing wildflower meadows, dramatic rock formations and secluded bays, this route might seem like a somewhat leisurely one, but don't be fooled: there are plenty of challenging climbs throughout. For that reason, we strongly suggest attempting it with an experienced mate - and by that we mean someone who's ventured further than their local common. Enjoy a picnic pit stop at Polpeor Cove, or opt for a seafood lunch or snack break at the water-facing Wavecrest Café, whose Cornish cream teas and delightful sponge cakes make every step worthwhile.

Distance: 11.2km
Duration: three to three-and-a-half hours
Porthdinllaen Walk, Wales

Porthdinllaen Walk, Wales

Best for: those who don't want to break a sweat

Swerve the Lycra-clad crowds of Snowdonia by taking an hour's drive east from its shrubby foothills to North Wales' quieter, heather-blanketed paths. A relatively easy route, thanks to its mostly flat terrain, this is the sort of stomp to savour on a slower-paced Sunday afternoon. Lace up your hiking boots at Morfa Nefyn, set off in the direction of Trefor, and you will soon arrive in the sleepy fishing village of Porthdinllaen. Don't miss the legendary landmark that is Ty Coch Inn. An old-school watering hole renowned among locals for serving the best craft beers around, make it your choice for sweeping coastal views. Feeling brave? Pack a cossie and dive into the Irish Sea for a postprandial dip.

Distance: 4km
Duration: one to two hours
Eshaness Circular Walk, Shetland

Eshaness Circular Walk, Shetland

Best for: geological wonders

Those who have followed the gripping BBC crime drama Shetland will no doubt be familiar with this rural and rugged landscape. Located on Shetland's Mainland, the Eshaness Circular Walk covers the west coast of Northmavine. Setting off at the very point where the remnants of the Eshaness volcano can be found, stride out north along the weather-beaten clifftops to the Grind o' da Navir - the gateway in the cliff where the powerful action of storm waves forces out huge rocks and deposits them in large heaps on the beach below. Continue around the headland to the bay of The Burr, where you'll be rewarded with exceptional views of Ronas Hill, Shetland's highest summit, and the remote islet of Muckle Ossa. Follow signs towards the Loch of Houlland, passing collapsed sea caves, subterranean passages and the occasional herd of sheep. While this walk doesn't require expertise, it pays to check the weather forecast before attempting it.

Distance: 6km
Duration: three hours
Seven Sisters, Eastbourne

Seaford to Eastbourne, East Sussex

Best for: budding paleontologists

Walking along the whole of the 160km South Downs Way from Winchester to Eastbourne would be a week-long undertaking, but a couple of days spent meandering through the surrounding national park makes for a restorative weekend away. This route takes you up and over (and up and over, again and again) the chalky white cliffs of the Seven Sisters to the seaside town of Eastbourne. Wander through Cuckmere Haven flood plains, hunt for fossils at the Birling Gap and stop for a photo op of the candy-striped lighthouse at Beachy Head. For a longer, all-day trek, try the route in reverse and continue along the coast to Brighton.

Distance: 21km
Duration: six hours
Humphrey Head Circular, Cumbria

Humphrey Head Circular, Cumbria

Best for: quintessential Lake District views

Few places in England are as green and pleasant as the Lake District. Soaring mountains such as the 978m Scafell Pike - England's highest - are mirrored in glassy lakes. Fells are scored by valleys decorated with dense woodland. We're swinging by Morecambe Bay, the largest area of intertidal mudflats and sands in the UK, just south of the Lake District National Park, to try the Humphrey Head Circular trail. The stroll begins in the dinky village of Allithwaite, skipping through mudflats and pockets of white-sand beaches, before ending at Kents Bank railway station. Extend your go-slow getaway with a restorative retreat at Another Place. Having recently welcomed six new fully furnished shepherd huts, it's our favourite spot at which to defrost by the fire with an extra-large mug of hot chocolate.

Distance: 6.8km
Duration: one-and-a-half to two hours
Dugeness, Kent

Dungeness Coastal Walk, Kent

Best for: haunting landscapes

There's an almost post-apocalyptic feel to Britain's only desert. Threaded by boardwalks, Dungeness's vast expanse of shingle is decorated with more than 600 rare plant species, the rusting ribcages of old boats strung with fishing nets, and railway carriages repurposed as homes. All overlooked by two lighthouses and a nuclear power station, it makes for a bleakly beautiful landscape. You can pick up the trail at any point, but we're starting at Dungeness Light Railway Station car park. From there, it's a pebble's throw to Denge Beach - the rest is, quite literally, straightforward. Make The Gallivant boutique hotel your base for its nautical-style rooms, complimentary yoga classes and brilliant farm-to-fork restaurant.

Distance: 13.5km
Duration: four hours
Northumberland Coast

Bamburgh Castle to Budle Bay, Northumberland

Best for: artisanal spirits aficionados

We've got a major soft spot for Northumberland. Taking you from Bamburgh Castle to the beautiful Budle Bay, this sprawling stretch of unspoilt coastline is dotted with sandstone bluffs, rolling sand dunes and all sorts of sea animals and birdlife. Break up your hike with a trip across to the ancient Holy Island of Lindisfarne - only reachable by traversing the causeway or via boat - whose new-fangled 793 Spirits distillery makes for a top-notch afternoon tipple. Think small-batch gins and wildflower honey vodka. Insider tip: you don't need us to tell you how fast swirls and currents can form, so make sure to take tide times into account when planning your walk.

Distance: 7.3km
Duration: two hours
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