Winning tip: Llwyngwril to Barmouth train walk, Gwynedd
The scenery is fantastic as you travel by train through mid-Wales and along the coast from Aberdovey to Llwyngwril (a request stop). Then walk straight up the hill from the station and right along the top of the ridge until you are above Barmouth Bridge, which appears to be a rickety old wooden structure but several times a day that train to and from Pwllheli trundles across it. The views all the way are amazing: Cardigan Bay, across to the Ll?n peninsula and Bardsey island, Snowdonia as it begins to rise above Barmouth and beyond, and then up the Mawddach estuary to Dolgellau town and Cader Idris mountain. Walk along lanes which no one ever drives along, with no hedges, just totally open vistas. Walk down the wooded slope, across the bridge to Barmouth, enjoy an ice-cream and hop on the train home again. A day to revive spirits in this muddled world we are living in.
Godrevy to Hell’s Mouth, north-west Cornwall
My favourite Cornish coastal walk: from the National Trust car park on Gwithian Towans alongside the Red river, enjoy breakfast at the local cafe before following the footpath northwards. This easy to moderate coastal walk of five miles (there and back) offers stunning views over rugged cliffs and Gwithian’s long sandy beach towards St Ives bay. Fishing vessels and hardy surfers may be seen in the Atlantic waters as the headland winds past the 158-year-old Godrevy lighthouse. Birdlife abounds and seals bask in the sheltered coves below as you stroll through Knavocks heath towards Hell’s Mouth, where refreshments await.
Fowey to Polkerris, south-east Cornwall
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again”… is one of the most famous opening lines in English literature. This five-mile walk is in Daphne Du Maurier’s footsteps, along the coast that she loved. Start at Readymoney beach and walk up to Henry VIII’s St Catherine’s Castle – this ancient fort was linked under the harbour to the Polruan blockhouse during the second world war. Continue along the coastline but stop at Polridmouth beach – fans of Rebecca will be familiar with this beach and Ben’s boat hut and that famous imposing house Menabilly (the inspiration for Du Maurier’s Manderley), which is private but close by. This is a good place to enjoy a packed lunch and a paddle, then continue up the hill with some simply stunning views of the Cornish coast to local landmark the Gribben Tower. Once past the red and white stripy tower you’ve finished the worst of the hills and continue to Polkerris, which has a stunning beach and the Rashleigh Inn, an old pub full of character. Swimmers can join locals in jumping off the pier as the tide rises. Cornwall at its best, just walking shoes and lunch required!
Reculver to Margate, Kent
My favourite walk starts near Herne Bay and finishes in Margate (about eight miles). It’s a stunning light-filled walk by the sea starting at the Reculver Towers, the remains of a Roman fort and early medieval church. Take binoculars as there are plenty of interesting sea birds to look out for. Watch out for the cormorants perched on poles drying out their wings and keep a close look out for the oyster catchers as they fly overhead. There are loads of places for a dip in the sea en route and a couple of cafes, such as at Minnis Bay. On arrival in Margate, pop into the Turner Contemporary gallery (free admission). Then cross the road to the Old Kent Market for lunch.
Osmington Mills to Ringstead Bay, Dorset
In the morning, I walk along the cliff top and when we get to the wood we follow the stream to the beach and head west. The beach changes from shingle to horizontal shelves that jag out to the sea – with skinny rock pools in between – then come Ringstead Bay’s giant boulders, like burger buns and perfect for a picnic. Further on is a cove where we have a cooling swim. Then it’s back to the Smugglers Inn in Osmington Mills for an early supper and to go through our haul of fossils – often echinoids, gastropods and belemnites. I often pitch a tent at Rosewall Camping.
Fife coastal path
I’ve have been walking day-sized chunks of the 124-mile route over the past couple of years. The path has contrasting views from the slightly industrial southern part, with its proximity to the (soon to be three) magnificent bridges, to the prettier eastern and northern bits. After having passed through some very picturesque villages such as Anstruther and Crail, approaching St Andrews from the south gives you a stunning ancient skyline. The more adventurous can opt for the Chain Walk at Elie – more of a scramble than a walk; the less adventurous can stick to the cliff-top path. There are several gorgeous tea rooms at various points such as West Wemyss and Culross and the jewel that is the Harbour Gallery and Tearoom in Crail. If the weather is clement you can sit out at one of the half dozen tables in the tiny courtyard looking over the Firth of Forth – brilliant.
Redpoint to Craig river bothy, Wester Ross
Park up at the end of the road at Redpoint, near Gairloch. Through the farm gate and down to the beach, heading south. Eight miles of sand, cliff and moorland all within sight of the sea. Watch out for feral goats, red deer and otters. Eventually you’ll arrive at the bothy at the Craig river. A former youth hostel, there’s usually loads of room – I have never had to share the place. Former uses include a sheperds’ cottage and a refuge for soldiers suffering from shell shock after the first world war. En route, search out a neolithic cave. All with views towards the Isle of Skye. Spend the night then head back. A shorter route comes in from the south from the village of Diabaig. Absolute bliss!
Seaham to Crimdon, Durham
As a boy, my grandfather remembers picking coal from the beach at Seaham. Since the final decline of the mining industry in the 1990s, the 11-mile stretch of Durham Heritage Coast between Seaham and Crimdon, once blighted by black spoil, has been wonderfully restored. I regularly walk or cycle stretches of the coastal path with my sons, where we’ve been lucky enough to spot one of the UK’s rarest migratory seabirds, the little tern. Stunning sculptures remind visitors of the area’s industrial past, but now our family is involved in litter picks, to help maintain the beauty, flora and fauna of this unique heritage coast.
Three Cliffs Bay walk, Gower, Glamorgan
Stroll along the cliff top, from the NT car park at Southgate, through coconut-scented gorse, to the lookout point over the limestone prominences of Three Cliffs Bay with views of Devon and Lundy Island. You may spy wild Gower ponies paddling in the stream which meanders from the valley out to sea, as gulls wheel in the thermals below you. Climb down through the dunes to Pobbles beach, cross the stepping stones, then gently ascend the track to the ruins of the 13th-century Pennard Castle. Return to the village via the public footpath across Pennard golf course. A glorious, four-mile circular walk.
Unspoiled and spectacular, a walk along the dramatic coastline at Pakefield, just south of Lowestoft, offers an awe-inspiring array of breathtaking scenery and is the perfect location to admire uninterrupted views of the sunrise. Designated a site of archaeological importance, coastal erosion has unearthed many treasures along this part of the Suffolk coast; fossils and flint can be found in abundance. The former lighthouse, currently in use as the Coast Guard watch tower, looks down on two fallen second world war Royal Naval gun platforms which lie exposed on the beach below. The impressive pebble beach provides a stunning backdrop to the quaint and colourful beach huts and fishing boats. Steeped in history, the picturesque All Saints and St Margaret’s church is perfectly positioned on the cliff’s edge. For wildlife lovers, there is a little tern colony and the occasional glimpse of a seal. It is possible to walk all the way to Southwold (10 miles) using beaches (at low tide – check the tide tables) and cliff tops.
North Berwick to Tantallon, East Lothian
From the twee seaside resort of North Berwick (which is half an hour by train from Edinburgh), walk east along the coast to cliff-tops for 3½ miles to Tantallon Castle. The walk isn’t all above the beach though – it’s only navigable there and back around low tide, when you can explore a transient seashore world of rock pools, raised beaches, mini-coves and sand/shingle bars. In summer, spot creches of eider ducklings, and watch for wayward shots from spectacularly situated Glen Golf Club. Offshore is the volcanic lump of Bass Rock, erupting in a white cloud of 150,000 nesting gannets. Reward yourself with slap-up fish and chips, or seafood alfresco at the quayside Lobster Shack in North Berwick harbour.
Crosby to Formby, Merseyside
If you like variety while you walk, take the 21-mile (there and back) Sefton Coastal Path from Crosby to Southport via Formby, where every 20 minutes there is a new experience. Start at the site of Antony Gormley’s Another Place, where his lonely iron men await yet another tide; then take in Hightown Beach (it’s barrier of broken bricks salvaged from the Liverpool blitz), the river Alt, a military rifle range and a National Trust red squirrel reserve before arriving at Formby; here you may be lucky enough to see 7,000-year-old footprints that are exposed (and eroded) daily.
The final section passes the Ainsdale Sands nature reserve and the famous Royal Birkdale golf course before arriving in Southport.
Wells-next-the-Sea to Stiffkey, Norfolk
The North Norfolk coast possess a wild beauty, dominated by the salt marshes that stretch out to the distant sea. Walking along the Norfolk Coast Path from Stiffkey to Wells-next-the-Sea is a chance to fill your lungs with sea air, on a gentle three-mile amble suitable for all the family. There’s plenty of wildlife to spot as it passes by creeks that are home to an incredible array of wading birds, and further out you may even see some basking seals. Either end in the seaside town of Wells – where you can queue up for fish and chips from French’s – or in the pretty village of Stiffkey, where the excellent Red Lion pub has open fires, local beers and a decent menu. Then either walk back, or jump on the handy Coasthopper bus.