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We all know that winter is the hardest time of the year to get out and about. The alluring indoor warmth coupled with seasonal food and drink can leave us with a few extra pounds to shed. As the cold weather subsides and the sun starts to shine, spring is the ideal time for getting active and enjoying the ‘great outdoors’.
The UK is bursting with scenic national parks and nature reserves, all awaiting your discovery, and what better way to indulge your adventurous side than through a walking holiday? Escape the city excitement for a day, find your healthy glow and enjoy the fresh air as you burn any unwanted weight. So stretch those legs, prepare your boots, grab a waterproof (just in case!), and take a look at our top picks of UK walking holidays.
Nottingham - Sherwood Forest
Nottingham is famous for being surrounded by lush greenery and landscapes, and just under an hour’s drive from our city centre hotel (the perfect starting point) is the renowned Sherwood Forest. Famous for its associations with the legend of Robin Hood, the forest is a huge 1,000-acre woodland with a variety of ancient ornate trees and a number of walking paths.
The Birklands Ramble is a popular 3 ½ mile walk that takes around 2 ½ hours and is ideal for those looking for a leisurely challenge! Starting from the park visitor centre, the walk goes past the heathland, through the old oak plantation and around to the partition between Sherwood Forest and the neighbouring Budby South Forest. Following the road, the walk returns to Sherwood Forest near the legendary Major Oak (Robin Hood’s hideout) and finishes back at the centre.
For those seeking a longer walk, this four hour mapped route starts in Edwinstowe village and follows the edge of the Forest most of the way around, completing a loop.
For those not able to reach Sherwood Forest, there are some fantastic walks closer to Nottingham. The 500-acre Wollaton Park is particularly picturesque, with a recommended two hour walk that takes in the sights of the magnificent Wollaton Hall and surrounding ponds. Additionally, every Friday there is a free guided heath walk starting at 10am.
Sheffield - Peak District
Anyone who loves the great outdoors will be right at home in the Peak District. Ordained as the first official national park in the UK in 1951, it is ideally situated between Sheffield and Manchester and attracts millions of visitors to its breath-taking landscapes each year.
Whether you are interested in climbing hills or admiring endless sceneries, the Peak District accommodates for all. For recommended short-distance walks there is a widespread network of public footpaths starting from the villages of Bakewell and Matlock that only take a few hours to complete.
The White Peak area is known for longer walks, such as the legendary 17-mile High Peak Trail. Following a converted, disused railway line, this trail starts from High Peak Junction near Cromford and ends in Dowlow, six miles south of Buxton. Another popular long walk, at 13 miles, is the Tissington Trail. This trail starts from the town of Ashbourne, and joins the High Peak trail at Parsley Hay to also finish in Dowlow.
Whether you opt for a free or guided trail, it’s worth researching Peak District routes beforehand to find a walk suitable to your distance threshold. Situated in Sheffield city centre, Jurys Inn is only a 15 minute drive to Bakewell or 45 minutes to both Matlock and Cromford.
Southampton - New ForestNew Forest Landscape by Davidgsteadman/ CCBY (image and image size have been modified)
If you wish to walk along the coastline, over extensive heathlands and through deep forests to quaint villages and parishes, look no further than the New Forest. Created as a royal hunting ground by William the Conqueror in 1079, the New Forest has a rich history with plenty to explore.
The villages of Lyndhurst or Brockenhurst are perfect places to start your walk, with the National Park Authority offering a range of mapped routes to download and try. A popular choice is the eight mile Lyndhurst Parish Walk which follows the parish boundary through the surrounding wooded areas, past Emery Down, looping back to the start.
The ‘New Forest Access for All’ have also conveniently created a list of the main New Forest walks. Divided by Forest, Coastal and Easy-Access, each walk is mapped out, detailed, and given a difficulty rating. History fans can revel in walks specifically mapped for the Forest’s historical sites and ancient trees, such as The Rufus Stone walk or the Knightwood Oak Trail.
Most of the New Forest trails are easily accessible and way-marked throughout the Forest to assist anyone new to the area. A selection of guided walks are also available for anyone wanting to explore further. The New Forest is an easy drive from Jurys Inn Southampton, taking only a half an hour to Lyndhurst.
Exeter - Dartmoor National Park
Many of the surrounding visitor centres offer leaflets and books with suggested short walks, but there are also free, downloadable audio walks from the Dartmoor National Park website that guide you through the different areas. The Bellever Audio Walk and Princetown Audio Walk, which start from Postbridge Information Centre, are six mile trails recommended to those interested in mixing Dartmoor’s natural beauty with the archaeological sites. The Haytor Audio Walk, starting from Haytor Information Centre, offers spectacular views over the Dartmoor landscape.
For those really wanting to explore as much of Dartmoor as possible, there’s The Dartmoor Way. A 95 mile trek that is usually reserved for cyclists, the route follows the outline of the whole park and consists of five 21 – 27 mile stretches, linking many of the Dartmoor villages and towns along the way. From open fields and wide rivers to thick wooded forests and mountain top views, The Dartmoor Way has everything a dedicated walker wants! For those who don't want to commit to the full length trail, there are smaller milestones within the route, such as the Sharpitor to Two Bridges walk.
Glasgow - Loch Lomond National Park
Looking across Loch Lomond by Andrew Bowden / CCBY (image and image size have been modified)
The first national park in Scotland, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs is a vast, mountainous region with expansive lakes (lochs) and awe-inspiring landscapes, making it the perfect choice for adventurous walkers.
For those seeking a cross country challenge, look no further than the West Highland Way. The 96 mile route runs from Milngavie in north Glasgow all the way up to Fort William, venturing across many of the small towns and villages in the centre of the park. Anyone wanting to complete the West Highland Way at a leisurely pace should use these Loch Lomond communities as reference points to start and finish from each day. A less daring route along the A82 is also accessible and there are a myriad of other trail choices covering almost the entire park.
Take a look at the official Lock Lomond and Trossarchs Park map to properly assess and plan your route. If you’re not sure where to start, there is also the ‘Walk in the Park’ programme that organises group walks through selected park areas.
Adventure out to Loch Lomond National Park from Jurys Inn Glasgow with the West Highland Way starting point, Milngavie, only a 25 minute drive away. The southern park village of Balloch is also only a 34 minute drive from our Glasgow hotel
Intrigued by The Highlands? Take a look at our fantasy style map of the Scottish Highlands to discover all that they have to offer.