It’s easy to see why people enjoy rambling. The British countryside is beautiful, and it’s a good excuse to get out and about, take in some fresh air and get some exercise at the same time. We spend so much time at home, in the car or in the office nowadays, that it’s easy to forget how stunning the UK actually is. And walking is the perfect way to see it. Exploring on foot is a fun way to see little places we may not normally get to see. But we don’t want to run before we can walk. Unless you research properly, you could find yourself struggling on steep rocky descents and feeling much out of your depth.
Unlike walking on a paved path, rambling can be much more challenging (which is also part of the appeal). If you’re looking to get into hiking as a beginner, you’ll want to start with a few nice short hikes to test out your new kit and build your confidence. Look for relatively flat rocky trails, and get a map of the area beforehand so you know how far it is, and if the path is a loop or if you’ll have to backtrack (you can find lots of paths and detailed information about them online). Make sure you check the weather leading up to your hike (and just before you go) so you know how to dress and what to pack. It’s recommended to hike with someone, especially if you’re just starting out. But if you are going it alone, make sure you share your itinerary with someone so they can call for help if need be.
When you first get on the trail, you may feel full of energy and want to power forward. But you will need to pace yourself, otherwise you might not have the energy to take on the full trail. Start slow and pick a pace you can maintain all day, you’ll be glad you saved your energy later.
Most importantly, plan ahead and stay safe, and you’ll soon catch the rambling bug.
Here are just a few of the great hills and trails for beginners to get you started:
- Mam Tor, Peak District: Set in the stunning Peak District National Park, this circular walk is one of the best ridge walks in the country. A steady walk from Mam Nick car park follows pleasant grassy ridge paths up and down stone steps with stunning views over the beautiful Hope and Edale valleys. This is a moderate, dog-friendly walk of 3 miles which will take an estimated 2 hours. See detailed route information from the National Trust.
- Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire: A fascinating place to explore for its human and geological history, as well as its abundant wildlife. Enjoy panoramic views from the summit and look out for Captain Cook's Monument at Easby Moor and the monument at Eston Nab, which was previously a beacon. This is a short but challenging, dog-friendly walk of 2 miles which will take an estimated 1 hour. See detailed route information from the National Trust.
- Pen y Fan, Brecon Beacons: This is actually the highest hill in southern Britain, so it isn’t going to be an easy walk, and the altitude can bring extremely changeable weather. However a circular walk starting at Storey Arms Outdoor Education Centre is within the grasp of beginner as the wide, well-made footpaths are easy to follow. This is a moderate, dog-friendly walk of 4 miles which will take an estimated 2 hours and 30 minutes. See detailed route information from the National Trust.
If you fancy escaping the UK for a little hiking holiday, Europe’s varied and beautiful countries offer unforgettable experiences, for beginner hikers through to seasoned pros looking for a challenge. Here are some of the top hiking spots in Europe:
- Croatia: Plitvice Lakes National Park attracts nature lovers from all over the world. Its gentle terrain makes it the perfect hiking spot for beginners, and its extraordinary natural beauty sees interconnected lakes coloured every shade of blue and turquoise.
- Greece: The Samaria Gorge is one of Europe’s longest canyons, and a must-do for anyone visiting Crete. The six hour walk begins at an elevation of 1230m, and there will be some challenging terrain so you will need a good level of fitness before you start. But the views and wildlife make it well worthwhile. The terrain includes rivers, so don’t forget your waterproofs!
- Portugal: If you fancy a bit of a longer trek that offers breathtaking scenery, then popular Fisherman’s Trail in Portugal is the perfect route. You’ll walk over cliftops, take in crystal clear waters and see some amazing wildlife during this four day hike. Make sure you have your heavy duty backpacking boots at the ready.