Want to experience the Great British countryside at its most beautiful? Pack your rucksack, tug on your hiking boots and tackle the unspoilt wilderness by foot. From picture-postcard villages, to dramatic sea-torn cliffs, here are five great National Trails just waiting for your footprints and camera snaps. Even better, most of these breathtaking long-distance walks are near us, so you can enjoy a well-deserved rest in friendly surroundings after your trek.
At 50 years old, the first ever National Trail still attracts hundreds of thousands of people every year. As you hike along the rugged backbone of England through three National Parks, you’ll encounter Hadrian’s Wall, formidable mountains, and the moorland that inspired Emily Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’. The variety of landscapes are a once in a lifetime achievement for anyone who isn’t scared of a blister or ten, so make sure you’re prepared for a hard-core hike. YHA has a strong bond with the Pennine Way, so whether you’re tackling the full 268 miles or sampling a small section over the weekend – you’re bound to run into a few hostels along the way.
Explore the coves, caves and golden beaches of Britain’s most beautiful coastline with an epic 628 miles of seaside walking. Voted as Britain’s best route by Walk magazine, the trail is loved for its Cornish sunshine, endless sea views, steep climbs and remarkable marine wildlife. Look out for unspoilt nature reserve, Lundy Island, geological oddities of the Jurassic Coast and King Arthur’s legendary Tintagel Castle. You can tackle a section of this rewarding trail and rest your aching legs at many nearby hostels too. You’ll probably never do it in one go, but it’s a great excuse to return back to the waves and dolphins of Devon and Cornwall.
Stay with us: YHA Minehead, YHA Exford, YHA Tintagel, YHA Boscastle, YHA Treyarnon, YHA Perranporth, YHA Land’s End, YHA Penzance, YHA Lizard, YHA Coverack, YHA Boswinger, YHA Beer, YHA Portland, YHA Litton Cheney, YHA Lulworth Cove and YHA Swanage
Take the ultimate riverside ramble and follow the Thames through some of England’s prettiest countryside, all the way to the bustling heart of London. A gentle and charming walk, this 183 mile route treks from source to estuary and makes a great hike for beginners. Watch the Thames turn from trickling stream to iconic river as you pass the spires of Oxford, complete with genteel rowing clubs and cosy riverside pubs. With good transport for day trips and big city attractions waiting at the end, this easy trail has the perfect mix of walking and culture. Look out for tranquil picnic spots and wildlife hiding amongst the reeds and willows.
Fancy gazing at the beauty of England’s green and pleasant land? Step back in time and discover 102 miles of storybook landscapes, sprawling limestone hills and quaint honey coloured villages. As you hike across the Cotswolds hill range, look out for stunning views of bluebell woods, idyllic pastures and magical chocolate box scenery. History buffs will love the significant historic sites along the route, such as the Roman heritage of Bath, impossibly picturesque Sudeley Castle and numerous stately homes. The varied trail has everything from long stretches of ridge-top hiking to thriving market towns – you’ll need that cream tea afterwards!
Stay with us: YHA Bath
Follow in the footsteps of fierce Welsh warrior Owain Glyndwr and discover the rolling hills and lush green pastures of Wales’ National Trail. With some of the best Welsh walking around, this circular 134 mile route gives hikers over a week’s worth of stunning open moors, remote woodland and challenging hills to explore. There’s nothing artificial about this authentic farming environment, and fans love the joy of rambling through a working landscape. Boasting spectacular views over Lake Vyrnwy, the Cambrian Mountains and some great attractions along the way, this is the ultimate trail to enjoy the peace and quiet of the Welsh countryside.