Walking in the UK | The 8 best hiking routes in the southwest of England

The Southwest of England is a region steeped in history. Blessed with rolling hills and stunning coastline, this area is home to some of the UK’s best beaches, trails, and national parks. We’ve put together a set of 8 stunning walks ranging in difficult from gentle 1 and 2 mile history laden strolls to more challenging hikes along the southwestern coastline and in some of the country’s most famous national parks.

What’s so special about the Southwest of England?

Somerset, Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Devon, and Cornwall all boast breath-taking landscapes that make the southwest the ideal destination for hiking enthusiasts and families during summer. Whether you're a history buff or simply a lover of the great outdoors, the Southwest has something for everyone.

A region steeped in history

From the ancient mysteries of Stonehenge in Wiltshire to the vast maritime heritage of Cornwall, every corner of the southwest holds a key to the past. It was in the southwest that the Celts, Romans, and Saxons left their most notable marks on the country, shaping the cultural and architectural landscapes we take for granted today.

This mark is never more poignant than in Bath. This stunning city is famed for its Roman-built baths and Georgian architecture, standing as a testament to the rich history of the region and the unrivalled access to the past that the southwest offers.

Beautiful beaches and coastline

The southwest is known for its beautiful beaches and summer holidays. If you’re heading to the southwest for a family getaway this summer, be sure to check out some of these stunning beaches:

1. Poet’s Walk, Clevedon

Poet’s Walk boasts an Iron Age fort, a World War II shelter. As you arrive at the lookout which was built in about 1835 by Ferdinand Beeston, you’ll get a stunning view across the Bristol Channel.

For fans of Tennyson, Poet’s Walk has plenty to offer, including a statue of the man himself which was erected in 1994.

Tracing the coastal route that the poet would have walked over 150 years ago gives a unique insight into the subject matter of some of his most famous works.

2. Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail

Great for kids and art enthusiasts alike, the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail is a unique outdoor art installation located in Gloucestershire.

Established in 1986, it is one of the oldest sculpture trails in the UK and has become a popular destination for artists, nature lovers, and tourists.

The trail currently features 18 sculptures and installations, ranging from stained glass windows and rope swings to observatories and wildlife sculptures.

Blending art with the natural beauty of the wider forest, the sculpture trail has become a big draw for the forest over the years. The accessibility of the basic 2-mile trail makes it a great option for families with elderly relatives or young children during the summertime.

3. Stonehenge Walk

No walking guide to the southwest would be complete without Stonehenge.

The mysterious prehistoric collection of standing stones is now an English Heritage site, meaning you must pay for access to the immediate area around the stones.

Our short and sweet route gives an exceptional view of the Salisbury Plains and plots the stones themselves against the beautiful Wiltshire hills that roll into the distance.

Access to the trail is nice and easy, as Stonehenge has its own dedicated car park. If this route isn’t long enough for you, you can extend your walk by joining the Salisbury Country Way path which runs close to the stones.

4. Bath Skyline Walk

Steeped in Roman history, there’s nowhere quite like Bath in the UK. As you look out across this ancient city skyline, you’ll be able to make out the Roman bath’s and the top of the more modern Bath Abbey.

Starting outside the city centre on Bathwick Hill, this National Trust signposted walk takes you past Smallcombe Wood and Prior Park and Garden with its stunning lake and waterway.

As you continue on to Sham Castle, you’ll be able to take in the wonderful skyline view of Bath over the Mendip Hills.

This hike is 6 miles in total, however you can shorten or lengthen it by sticking to either the Kennet and Avon Canal or picking up the Bath to Bradford Upon Avon Canal Walk at Bathampton.

5. Tintagel to Port Isaac Hike

Tintagel to Port Isaac is one of the most beautiful parts of the Southwest Coast Path. Starting at the historic castle at Tintagel, you’ll follow the coastline all the way to the idyllic fishing village of Port Isaac.

On your way, you’ll pass Trebarwith Strand with its beautiful sandy beach. If you head down to the beach, you’ll notice the underground system of caves formed into the cliffs hundreds of thousands of years ago.

As you continue along the coastal path into Port Isaac, be sure to take in the beauty of the village itself. Despite being surrounded by natural splendor, this charming fishing village boasts 18th-century architecture and delightful little cottages that are beautiful in their own right.

6. Valley of the Rocks Coastal Path

Starting in the beautiful town of Lynmouth (worth a visit in its own right), this valley path boasts unrivaled views of the Bristol Channel.

Quiet, peaceful, and serene, you’ll encounter wild mountain goats and spectacular rock formations as you walk along the coastline from Lynmouth before entering the center of the Valley.

The basic version of the walk from Lynmouth is around 4 miles total. If you’re looking for a challenge, you can extend this hike by following the Valley path towards Woody Bay in the North West corner of Exmoor National Park.

7. Dartmoor National Park 

The beauty of a national park is that there’s no one route you can or should take. Dartmoor is no different.

Located in South Devon, Dartmoor was awarded National Park status in 1951. The vast area spanning 368 square miles is home to an extensive array of wildlife, including otters, deer, sheep, horses, and cows.

If you’re headed to Dartmoor and wondering where to start, the Dartmeet Loop is a great place to start. Taking you from the traditional town of Dartmeet, you’ll cross picturesque stepping stones and a medieval bridge before climbing the hill up to Yar Tor.

When you reach the top, you’re rewarded with a spectacular view of the west side of Dartmoor below.

8. Jurassic Coast Path

The Jurassic Coast Path is a single trail that spans multiple counties. Running along the entire south west of England, this 110 mile stretch of coastline provides idyllic views of the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to a number of towns and villages, including Lyme Regis, Weymouth, Seaton, Sidmouth, and West bay.

Traditionally, the Jurassic Coast Path is said to start in Exmouth. Unless you’re an experienced hiker looking to complete the entire stretch over multiple days, we recommend looking into some of the towns and villages mentioned above and creating your own miniature Jurassic Coast hike.

Last updated Friday 1 September 2023

First published on Wednesday 30 August 2023