Whatever the weather, exploring the UK’s unique coastline is a great way to spend a bank holiday. Here are some routes along the shore to try out
1. Great Orme, Llandudno, Conwy
How hard is it? 5 miles, moderate (some short steep sections)
Walk around the Great Orme’s rugged summit, with heathland flowers and butterflies, and the world’s largest ancient copper mine. The National Trust has just bought the area of Parc Farm, on the plateau, for £1 million, so Great Orme’s rare botanical and archaeological treasures should be secure.
Map: OS Explorer: OL17
Start: Llandudno Pier, Happy Valley Road, Conwy, LL30 2LP (OS ref SH783830)
The walk: Follow Happy Valley Trail (“To Summit/TS” arrows, blue-ringed posts/BP) via Happy Valley Gardens, Penmynydd Isa farmhouse (774834), St Tudno’s Church (770838). Up summit road; in 300m fork right (TS, BP). In 150m (768836) right for 1½ miles beside Parc Farm wall, anticlockwise to SE corner (765831) below summit station. Track past yellow-ringed post to brow of hill. Half right over ridge; half left to post near erratic boulder (769828). Zig Zag Trail (“To Town”, black-ringed posts) back to Llandudno Many thanks for visiting. Before we carry on I want to say thank you to http://www.hotelsintown.co.uk/ for their continued support and the support of their network. Having a company and team like this means a lot to us as we continue to grow our public blog.
Lunch: Haulfre Tea Rooms, Cwlach Road (01492 876731)
Getting there: Rail to Llandudno. Road: Llandudno is signposted off A55 between Colwyn Bay and Conwy
Info: Llandudno TIC 01492 577577; visitllandudno.org.uk;nationaltrust.org.uk. Download trail at thetim.es/orme0815
2. Hartland Quay, Devon
How hard is it? 7 ½ miles; moderate/hard, lots of ups and downs along cliffs
This route follows an isolated and savage stretch of cliffs to Hartland Point, where dozens of ships have been wrecked on the rocks and reefs. Country lanes lead south past farms with Betjemanesque names — Blagdon, Blegberry, Berry and Wargery. St Nectan’s Church at Stoke has a fabulously carved screen; Speke’s Mill Mouth a tremendous waterfall.
Map: OS Explorer: 126
Start: Hartland Quay car park (upper), EX39 6DU approx. (OS ref SS246247)
The walk: South West Coast Path/SWCP (fingerposts, acorn symbols) north to Hartland Point. South along inland paths and lanes via Blagdon, Blegberry and Berry farms to Stoke village. On south via Wargery to road at Kernstone Cross; right (“Kernstone”) to T-junction; left (“Speke’s Mill Mouth”) to cliffs; SWCP north to Hartland Quay Hotel
Lunch: Hartland Quay Hotel (01237 441218;hartlandquayhotel.co.uk)
Getting there: M5 to Jct 27; A361 to Bideford; A39 towards Bude. Quarter of a mile beyond B3237 Clovelly turning, bear right on minor road to Hartland Quay
Info: Bude TIC (01288 354240); visitdevon.co.uk
3. Alnmouth to Warkworth, Northumberland
How hard is it? 7 miles, level underfoot
On a peninsular spit at the wide mouth of the River Aln stands the red-roofed village of Alnmouth, pretty as a picture. Cycle tracks lead you south along the dunes of Buston Links, beautiful with cranesbill and harebells. Walk the beach and admire terns fishing with precision splashdowns; then make inland for Warkworth with its great castle.
Map: OS Explorer: 332
Start: Alnmouth railway station, NE66 3QF (OS ref NU231111)
Finish: Warkworth. Return to Alnmouth — Bus X18 (Newcastle-Berwick)
The walk: Cross A1068; follow B1338 (take care) to cross Aln estuary and explore Alnmouth. Recross estuary; in 500m, left (239110) on Cycle Path 1 beside A1068. 500m after crossing Waterside House drive (239098), left (“Warkworth Cycle Track”) to dunes (247096). Follow coast track/paths south for 2 miles; 300m past golf clubhouse, right inland (267064) for half a mile to Warkworth village and castle
Lunch: Topsey Turvey café, 1 Dial Place, Warkworth (01665 711338;topseyturvey.co.uk) — closed Mondays except during school holidays
Getting there: Rail to Alnmouth. Bus X18 to Alnwick. Road: A1 to Alnwick; A1068
Info: Alnwick TIC (01670 622152); visitnorthumberland.com
4. Polperro to Looe, Cornwall
How hard is it? 5 ½ miles, moderate (one or two steep climbs)
The old fishing village of Polperro with its steep, narrow streets is beautiful. The ground floors of the harbour-front houses were once fish-salting cellars. Past them you are on the South West Coast Path, which skirts the steep slopes of the Warren before reaching Talland on its lovely bay. On along a cliff walk round Hore Point and Portnadler Bay with great views over St George’s Island, before rounding the rock pools of Hannafore Beach and walking up the Looe River into West Looe.
Map: OS Explorer: 107
Start: Crumplehorn car park, Polperro, PL13 2QR approx. (OS ref SX204515)
Finish: Looe railway station. Bus 72 or 73 back to Crumplehorn
The walk: Walk downhill through Polperro; turn left (east) along the South West Coast Path and follow it to Looe
Lunch: Lots of choice in Looe, including the Smugglers Cott (looerestaurants.co.uk)
Getting there: At Taphouse (A390, Liskeard-Lostwithiel), take B3359 (“Looe, Polperro”); at A387, right to Polperro
Info: Looe TIC (01503 262072); nationaltrust.org.uk
5. Shingle Street, Suffolk
How hard is it? 4 miles; easy (shingle underfoot in places)
The only buildings in Shingle Street are weatherboarded houses and a strip of coastguard cottages at the end of a narrow road. The hamlet looks out to sea across a shingle beach bright with yellow-horned poppy and white-flowered sea kale. This is wonderfully lonely walking country. On the circuit of Oxley Marshes, the flat grazing land north of Shingle Street, the chances are you’ll see nobody. The seawall path passes a row of Martello towers built to deter a Napoleonic invasion.
Map: OS Explorer: 197
Start: Shingle Street, Woodbridge, IP12 3BG (OS ref TM370431)
The walk: Follow Suffolk Coast Path north, then inland to road bridge (368439); cross road and complete anticlockwise circuit of Oxley Marshes. Then follow SCP south to see the Martello towers, and return.
Lunch: Shepherd and Dog, Hollesley (01394 411855,shepndoghollesley.co.uk)
Getting there: From A12 at Woodbridge, A1152; B1083 past Sutton; left through Shottisham to Hollesley; signs to Shingle Street
Info: Felixstowe TIC (01394 276770); visitsuffolk.com
6. Isle of May, Firth of Forth, Fife
How hard is it? Up to 2 miles; easy but rugged underfoot. Bring binoculars
Up to 200,000 seabirds breed on this small isle — arctic skuas, puffins, gulls, guillemots. In August the youngsters have fledged; they are learning to fly and taking wing for their migration journeys. Keep an eye out for minke whales and grey seals prospecting for their own pupping season in October. Don’t miss the baronial Main Light lighthouse (1816) with its cast-iron foghorn pipes.
Map: OS Explorer: 371
Start: Kirkhaven ferry landing (OS ref NT655993)
The walk: Follow path (blue posts) to Main Light, then Holyman’s Road. Pass visitor centre (info, lavatories, picnic area) and on to Lady’s Bed at southeast end for birdwatching. (Visitor map downloadable at snh.org.uk)
Lunch: Bring a picnic (snacks available on ferry)
Getting there: Ferry from Anstruther, Fife (A917), runs between Easter-end Sept (07957 585200, isleofmayferry.com). Booking essential; sailings subject to weather and sea conditions on the day. Ferry timings allow for up to three hours on the island
7. St Aubin to La Corbière, Jersey
How hard is it? 7½ miles, easy/moderate. NB: Le Vaû Varin and Le Vaû ès Fontaines bays are impassable at very high tides. Start the walk an hour after high water.
Pristine rockpooling bays are followed by woodland paths to Noirmont headland with its wartime bunkers and guns, then Portelet Common to see stonechats, linnets and dartford warblers. St Brelade’s Bay, medieval frescoes in St Brelade’s church; then a scrubby cliff path to La Corbière.
Map Jersey Official Leisure Map 1:25,000
Start North Pier (OS ref 606489)
Finish La Corbière lighthouse (507479)
The walk Cross Le Vaû Varin and Le Vaû ès Fontaines bays to Manoir de Noirmont in Belcroute Bay (607477). Coast paths west via Noirmont headland, Portelet Common, La Cotte headland (593475) and steep path (Ouaisné Beach) to cross St Brelade’s Bay. St Brelade’s Church (582484), Beauport, coast path to La Corbière and lighthouse
Lunch Old Portelet Inn, JE3 8AJ (01534 741899)
Getting there From Jersey airport, A12/A1 to St Aubin Return Bus 12, 12A, La Corbière-St Aubin
Info Visit Jersey (01534 448800, jersey.com)
8. Ainsdale, Southport, Merseyside
How hard is it? 5½ miles, easy
The sandy paths and woodland tracks of Ainsdale Dunes and the neighbouring national nature reserve make for fascinating walking. From the most extensive dune system on England’s northwest coast — a mass of sandhills fortified by marram grass and bright with flowers — you enter pinewoods, before reaching the superb broad beach of Ainsdale Sands.
Map: OS Explorer: 285
Start: Ainsdale Discovery Centre, PR8 2QB (OS ref SD297126).
The walk: Follow waymarked path south through dunes to north boundary of Ainsdale Sand Dunes NNR and start of Pinfold Path (300117, green markers). Follow Pinfold Path, West End Walk (300113, yellow), Woodland Path (301107, white) and Fisherman’s Path (289093, red) clockwise round NNR to beach (280098). Then right along beach or Dune Path North (blue) back to the Discovery Centre
Getting there: Train to Ainsdale; walk down Shore Road to Discovery Centre. Road: A565 to Ainsdale; Shore Road to Discovery Centre
Info: visitlancashire.co.uk; ribblecoastandwetlands.com;inclusivebritain.com
9. St Ives and Zennor, Cornwall
How hard is it? 11 miles, steep climbs/descents on outward leg (short cut back to St Ives by bus)
The outward leg is one of the finest stretches of the South West Coast Path, a beautiful westward run of heath-covered headlands, granite cliffs and rocky coves where seals bob and fulmars wheel. Enjoy lunch in the excellent Tinners Arms at Zennor, and pop into St Senara’s Church to see the 600-year-old carving of the mermaid. Then head back along the Old Coffin Road through the fields and past the hilltop house at Higher Tregerthen, once the home of the occultist Aleister Crowley, the “wickedest man in the world”.
Map: OS Explorer: 102
Start: Porthmeor Beach, St Ives, TR26 1TG (OS ref SW516408)
The walk: SW Coast Path to Zennor; return by field path via Tremedda, Tregerthen and Wicca to Boscubben (473395); then Trevessa (481396), Trevega Wartha, Trevalgan (489402) and Trowan (494403) to Venton Vision Farm (506407) and St Ives
Lunch: Tinners Arms, Zennor (01736 796927, tinnersarms.co.uk)
Getting there: Rail to St Ives; bus 16A, Zennor-St Ives; road — A30, A3074
Info: St Ives TIC (0905 2522250)
10. Tollesbury, Essex
How hard is it? 7 miles, easy. Sea wall paths
Casual visitors don’t tend to penetrate the tangled Essex lanes as far as Tollesbury. Their loss, your gain. East of the village lie salt marshes and muddy creeks; here you’ll find some lovely old wooden sail lofts, and a bright scarlet lightship. The sea wall path skirts lonely, peaceful marshes along the Blackwater Estuary. Pass the remains of Tollesbury Pier, once the terminus of the Kelvedon, Tiptree & Tollesbury Pier Light Railway, and stroll back along a farm lane.
Map: OS Explorer: 176
Start: Tollesbury village square, CM9 8RG (OS ref TL956104)
The walk: East along B1023; Woodrolfe Road to sail lofts (966107). Pass marina; sea wall path clockwise round Tollesbury Wick Marshes for 4½ miles. Pass Left Decoy (961084); in a quarter of a mile, right inland (958083) along farm track past Bohuns Hall (956099) to Tollesbury
Lunch: The Loft, Tea by the Sea, in the sail lofts, CM9 8SE (01621 869063, t-bythesea.blogspot.co.uk)
Getting there: Bus 92 from Colchester. Road: A12 to Kelvedon, B1023
11. Ravenglass and the River Esk, Cumbria
How hard is it? 3½ miles, easy. NB check tides (thebeachguide.co.uk); beach path liable to flooding on very high tides of 7-plus metres.
From Ravenglass with its miniature steam railway, head south past the remarkable remains of a Roman bath house to reach the widening estuary of the River Esk. A riverside stretch leads to a great view of Eskmeals Viaduct, then a beach walk back to Ravenglass.
Map: OS Explorer: OL6
Start: Ravenglass car park, CA18 1SQ (OS ref SD085965)
The walk: Cross main railway; past playground, turn right along path past camping site. Beyond Roman bath house, fork left (089958, “Newtown, Knott View”). At Newtown (093956), ahead on track/path to River Esk (097950). Right on Cumbria Coastal Way, under railway to shore (087948), then north (tide permitting) back to Ravenglass
Lunch: Ratty Arms pub, Ravenglass (01229 717676,rattyarms.co.uk)
Getting there: Rail to Ravenglass. Bus: X6, Whitehaven-Barrow-in-Furness. Road: A595 Ulverston-Whitehaven
Info: Ravenglass TIC (01229 717278); golakedistrict.co.uk and select “free walk guides”
12. Hunstanton to Thornham, Norfolk
How hard is it? 4½ miles, flat coast path
Before setting off east, it’s well worth strolling west along the beach to admire the extraordinary geological sandwich of Hunstanton’s cliffs — white chalk on top, brown sandstone below, and a thick filling of crimson Hunstanton red chalk. Eastward, the sandy coast path skirts the dunes, then ventures out through Holme Nature Reserve (where you may see curlew, sandpiper and avocet) to run along the edge of salt marsh and sea before heading inland to Thornham and the bus.
Map: OS Explorer: 250
Start: Car park, Old Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6JH approx (OS ref TF682426)
Finish: Thornham bus shelter on A149 (coasthopper.co.uk/times.aspx)
The walk: Follow waymarked Norfolk Coast Path east to Thornham
Lunch: Orange Tree, Thornham (01485 512213;theorangetreethornham.co.uk) 4½ miles from start and near bus stop
Getting there: Bus: Coasthopper bus to Old Hunstanton; walk down Sea Lane to coast path. Road: A149 from Hunstanton; left down Sea Lane to car park
Info: Hunstanton TIC (01485 532610; visitnorfolk.co.uk),nationaltrail.co.uk/peddars-way-and-norfolk-coast-path
13. Folkestone to Dover, Kent
How hard is it? 8½ miles, easy/moderate, lanes and cliff paths
The wide, ornamental promenade of Folkestone soon gives way to the tangled undercliff of the Warren, above which runs the North Downs Way with wonderful views out to France. On along the White Cliffs above Samphire Hoe, a country park built on Channel Tunnel excavation spoil; over Shakespeare Cliff where the Bard brought King Lear to rant and rave; and down to Dover with a fabulous view over castle and harbour.
Map: OS Explorer: 138
Start: Folkestone Central station, CT19 5HB (OS ref: TR220362)
Finish: Dover Priory station; return to Folkestone by train
The walk: From Folkestone station, south to seafront; left past Folkestone Harbour and along Wear Bay Road, passing Martello tower (240366). At 2nd Martello tower (241372), fork right off Wear Bay Road; continue north to meet North Downs Way/NDW (241378). Follow NDW to Dover
Lunch: Battle of Britain Memorial Café (245381), Clifftop Café (255384), or Lighthouse Inn (257385), all on NDW
Getting there: Rail to Folkestone. Road: M20, Jct 13
Info: Folkestone TIC (01303 257946; discoverfolkestone.co.uk)
14. Cape Wrath, Sutherland
How hard is it? 8 miles, hard. Burns and river mouth to cross (prepare to get wet)
Walking orchid-spattered cliffs, crossing rough moorland and the rushing Kearvaig River, then on to the pristine sands of Kearvaig Bay — this adventure walk in northern Scotland is one of the loneliest, wildest and most beautiful in these islands.
Map: OS Explorer: 447
Start: Cape Wrath lighthouse (OS ref NC259748)
The walk: Follow cliffs east (no visible path). In 3 miles, ford burn from Loch na Seamraig (283728); down steep hillside, crossing fences; ford Kearvaig River (290727. NB: if river too high/strong, make inland up west bank to road bridge — OS ref 288717). Cross Kearvaig Bay beach, past house, up track inland to road (298717. Wait for minibus; or turn right for lighthouse
Lunch: Picnic; or Ozone Café, Cape Wrath Lighthouse (01971 511314)
Getting there: NB May-September only: A838 to Durness. Park at Keoldale jetty, IV27 4SW (OS ref NC377661). Ferry (£12 cash) across Kyle of Durness; minibus (£6.50 cash) onward to lighthouse. Booking essential — 01971 511284/ 07742 670196
15. Bempton Cliffs, Flamborough, East Riding
How hard is it? 7 miles, easy (NB unguarded cliff edges)
Walk north to reach the mighty cliffs of Flamborough Head, 300ft ramparts of chalk falling sheer to a milky sea. A clifftop path leads west to Bempton Cliffs where intrepid professional gatherers, swinging in harnesses, once collected seabird eggs. Now the birds nest under RSPB protection — more than 200,000 black-backed and herring gulls, fulmars, puffins, razorbills and kittiwakes.
Map: OS Explorer: 301.
Start: Tower Street, Flamborough, YO15 1PD (TA227706)
The walk: Walk north up Tower Street, Chapel Street, Woodcock Road. Just after Craikewells on left, turn left up track (227709), heading north over fields to North Cliff (224726). Left along cliffs for 2 miles to Bempton Cliffs RSPB Reserve. Return same way
Lunch: Picnic site at Bempton Cliffs; Ship Inn (01262 850454) or Seabirds Inn (01262 850242), Flamborough
Getting there: Bus 510 or 100, Bridlington-Flamborough. Road: B1255 from Bridlington
Info: Bridlington TIC (01482 391634); Bempton Cliffs RSPB (01262 422212); rspb.org.uk; visithullandeastyorkshire.com
16. High Halstow and Hoo Peninsula, Kent
How hard is it? 8 miles, easy paths
From bird-haunted Northward Hill Reserve (where you’ll find nightingales in spring) follow lanes and field paths to the moody Thames Estuary, where Dickens sited the convict hulks in Great Expectations. Along the sea wall to St Mary’s Bay (with oystercatchers, avocets and curlew), then inland and return via pretty St Mary Hoo.
Map: OS Explorer: 163
Start: Car park, Woodside, High Halstow, Kent ME3 8TQ (OS ref TQ781757)
The walk: Return up Woodside; left for 200m: left across field to wood edge (783761). Right along Saxon Shore Way for a quarter of a mile; left (787762; yellow arrow/YA) to Decoy Hill Road (787766). Left past Decoy Farm to Swigshole (788776); Manor Way track for 1 mile to Egypt Bay (778790). East along sea wall to St Mary’s Bay (796788); inland to St Mary Hoo (803766). Right (west) via Newlands Farm to car park
Lunch: Red Dog pub, High Halstow (01634 253001)
Getting there: Bus 191, 796 (Chatham-Grain). Road: High Halstow signed off A228 (Rochester-Grain)
Info: Medway Visitor Centre, Rochester (01634 843666);visitkent.co.uk
17. Whiteford Burrows, Swansea
How hard is it? 4½ miles, easy shore path
The small village of Llanmadoc lies at the outer edge of the Gower peninsula. A lane drops downhill to the shore of the Loughor Estuary, and from here you follow a marsh path north through fields, sand dunes, sallow groves and a whispering pinewood. Wading birds can be seen on the mudflats, dark green fritillary butterflies in the dunes (look for them on purple flowers). The dune gentian may be in flower here, too.
Map: OS Explorer: 164
Start: Llanmadoc car park, SA3 1DG (OS ref. SS439936)
The walk: Walk downhill to Cwm Ivy (438937); follow path northeast along edge of saltmarsh to the end near Whiteford Point
Lunch: The Light House Coffee Shop, Llanmadoc; Britannia Inn, Llanmadoc (01792 386624; britanniainngower.co.uk)
Getting there: Bus: Gower Explorer 115, 116, 119 from/to Swansea. Road: B4295 (Swansea to north Gower) to Llanrhidian; minor roads to Llanmadoc
Info: visitwales.com; nationaltrust.org.uk
18. Abbotsbury and the Fleet, Dorset
How hard is it? 9½ miles, easy
Abbotsbury is full of attractions — thatched stone cottages, a 14th-century tithe barn, abbey ruins and the Swannery. Climb Chapel Hill for the view from St Catherine’s Chapel: the Dorset Downs, Isle of Portland and Chesil Beach. Follow the South West Coast Path to the shore of the Fleet and walk east along this brackish waterway, looking across at the mighty shingle bank of Chesil Beach. Return through Langton Herring and Rodden across sheep meadows and a ridge of breezy downland.
Map: OS Explorer: OL15
Start: Abbotsbury, DT3 4JL (OS ref SY577854)
The walk: Climb Chapel Hill; then follow South West Coast Path east for 4½ miles. At footbridge south of Under Cross Plantation (616814), left inland to Langton Herring. Road to Rodden Ridge (610832); path north to Rodden, then ridge bridleway west for 2 miles via West Elworth (598847) to B3157 (584851). Left into Abbotsbury
Lunch: Elm Tree Inn, Langton Herring (01305 871257;theelmtreeinn.com) Getting there B3157 from Weymouth
Info: Weymouth TIC (01305 785747)
19. Chichester Harbour and Dell Quay, West Sussex
How hard is it? 4½ miles, easy shore path
Halyards chinking and boats bobbing in Chichester Marina, then a wonderful walk up the side of Chichester Harbour where water glitters at high tide, while low tide reveals gleaming mudbanks picked over by waders and gulls.
Map: OS Explorer: 120
Start: Chichester Marina bus stop on A286, Chichester-Witterings (SU842013), or Marina car park, PO20 7EJ (835010)
The walk: Path along north side of marina into Salterns Copse (829014); fork left along shore to Dell Quay Road (837028 — left to Crown & Anchor pub). Right along Dell Quay Road; in 350m, right (841027) along Salterns Way cycle path to south end of Salterns Wood. Anticlockwise round west/south edge of marina; return to car park/bus stop.
Lunch: Crown & Anchor, Apuldram (01243 781712;crownandanchorchichester.com)
Getting there: Bus 52, 53 from Chichester. Road — marina signed off A286, Chichester-Witterings
Info: Chichester TIC (01243 775888)
20. Rathlin Island, Co AntrimHow hard is it? 6 miles, easy
Rathlin Island lies off Antrim, an island of great charm, friendly folk and huge colonies of seabirds. Stroll past lakelets and wildflower meadows to Ushet Port with its seals and incomparable views.
Map: OS of Northern Ireland Discoverer 5
Start: The Harbour, Rathlin Island, BT54 6RT (OSNI ref D146510)
The walk: Right past Boathouse Visitor Centre. Pass Kelp House ruin on shore road; then right along main road for 1¾ miles to end of road at Ushet Port. Returning, in 200 yards left through gate into RSPB Roonivoolin reserve. Left along fence (Roonivoolin Walk, Coastal Walk, black/orange arrows). Where fence ends at cliff, right inland along fence (arrows). Follow waymarks left of Ushet Lough, to road. Left to harbour
Lunch: The Water Shed Café (07738 388986), McCuaíg’s Bar (028 2076 0011)
Getting there: Bus 172, Coleraine-Ballycastle. Road — A2 to Ballycastle. Rathlin Island ferry from Ballycastle (booking essential — 028 2076 9299; rathlinballycastleferry.com)
Info: walkni.com; rathlin-island.co.uk; Ballycastle TIC (028 2076 2024)