Thinking about taking a trip to the United Kingdom? Make sure to save some time for a good walk. Although relatively small I feel lucky to live in a very green and lovely island. Here are my suggestions for making the best of your time for hiking in the UK:
Having walked in the United Kingdom for over 30 years I would say the best months to visit are middle of May or September. The days are long enough for a good walk and sunset/sunrise times aren’t too far apart to catch. The weather tends to be more settled and an added bonus is that the ‘Scottish midge' has died off around these dates.
I’m lucky to live in South Lakes which is just a 30 minute drive from the Lake District in the Northwest of England, but have travelled the length and breadth of Scotland over 25 years peakbagging the fabled “Munros”. Munro is the name given to a mountain in Scotland that is over 3000 feet in height .They are named after Sir Hugh Munro who collated the list for Scottish Mountain Club in 1890. Most believed there were only 30-40 peaks of that height, but there are 282 peaks over 3000 feet and including other hills over that height “tops” the real total comes in at around 523. I’m proud to say that in September 2013 I climbed my last Munro “Am Bodach” and became the 5348th person to register this completion.
The Lake District has rail and public transport links and lots of lovely hills. For a day walk I would first choose Hellvelyn, one of lake lands only four peaks over 3000 feet. This day hike is 10 miles long and gains 3400 feet of elevation. It typically takes 4-6 hours depending on your fitness.
The best approach is from Patterdale and approaches the hill from the east side by the “Hole in the wall” path! A nice steady climb on a big path once crossing the wall, the mighty Hellvelyn can been seen in all its glory joined back to where you stand by two ridges. You can view Striding edge on your left and Swirral edge on your right.
For most walkers these are fairly standard ridges. They are often narrow in places but a great hike on a fine day. On the way across striding edge (which can be bypassed by a much tamer path on the right) you reach a place called the “Bad step” nothing to worry about, it’s a very short scramble of about 8 feet, my Labrador often jumps down, though I would rather he didn’t! The last climb is straight in front and is soon over, putting you only a few minutes from the summit shelter and a vista covering the whole Lake District! On a clear day a view of the Pennines and even South Scotland can be seen. Just before the summit shelter, there is a nice plaque called the “Gouph”with a poem by Wordsworth about a dog who stayed with his master who had fallen near here, erected in 1890.
After a snack you walk 'round Hellvelyn to Swirral Edge: a steeper but much shorter ridge down again to the tarn and back to your ascent path back down to the valley. There are a few pubs and hotels in Patterdale village to stay, but for a great snack nip into the Post-office and have a Cumberland sausage baguette or the equally tasty bacon bun, highly recommended!
A longer walk taking 5 days is the Cumbria Way and starts just up the road at Ulverston, the birth place of Stan Laurel (One half of the famous Laurel and Hardy). The walk is easy to follow and a nice steady route to backpack having both hotels/campsites and if you stay high, lots of wild camping spots at the end of each day. Your Gossamer Gear rucksack will of course carry your gear with great ease. The Mariposa Lightweight Backpack is ideal for this trek.
I did this walk a few years ago with my 12 year old son who loved every minute of it, apart from a wet walk to Keswick on day 3 . It is around 75 miles and can be easily broken into 15 mile sections:
Section 1: Ulverston to Coniston (15 miles)
Section 2: Coniston to Langdale (12 miles)
Section 3: Langdale to Keswick (16 miles)
Section 4: Keswick to Caldbeck (16 miles)
Section 5: Caldbeck to the finish at Carisle (17 miles)
Both the start and finish are near to train stations. This trek has roughly 10,000 ft of ascent in all.
There are many more great places to visit in the United Kingdom, but these are some of my favorite hikes. Get out there!
This post was contributed by Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador Peter Dixon, more commonly known as Munro277.