Unveiling the 10 best UK coastal walks for peace, serenity and beauty

Explore the best UK coastal walks. Breathtaking landscapes, dramatic cliffs and sandy shores in six memorable routes for walkers and hikers.
Pittenweem - 10 best UK coastal walks.
The picturesque traditional East Neuk fishing port, Pittenweem.

Explore stunning coastal landscapes across our islands, offering a perfect blend of history, wildlife, and breathtaking views. Our curated list of the top 10 UK coastal walks takes you from Scotland to England’s south coast, ensuring memorable day trips filled with nature’s wonders.

Pittenweem to Elie, Fife

How could you not want to visit a place called Pittenweem? That it’s on the Fife Coastal Path is another good reason why this walk has made our list. The section between the town and Elie includes two ruined castles plus some really good rock pools to explore for mussels, shore and hermit crabs, shrimps, prawns, starfish, sand hoppers, whelks, razor shells – try not to get too distracted or you’ll never reach your goal.

Named as one of the top 50 places to live in the UK in The Sunday Times Best Places to Live guide, the port is compact and well worth the effort of a visit – it’s also a great place to eat. Other notable landmarks along the way are the finely restored windmill and associated saltpans at St Monans and of course Pittenweem.

Distance – Six miles one way.
Transport – Buses hourly.

Dunstanburgh Castle - 10 best UK coastal walks.
Crumbling Dunstanburgh Castle is a landmark of our troubled past.

Craster to Dunstanburgh, Northumberland

Kicking off in Craster where, if you have time, you can treat yourself to arguably the country’s best kippers. As you set off on this six-mile walk you can take in the bracing sea air as the path winds along the rugged shoreline, offering panoramic views of the North Sea and the imposing ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle on the horizon.

Northumberland is marked by our nation’s feudal past, indeed Dunstanburgh and nearby Bamburgh were both besieged and taken during the Wars of the Roses. This area is a haven for birdlife – native and migratory – autumn in particular brings huge numbers of wintering thrushes such as redwing and fieldfare. Head for Newton Beach and Newton Pool nature reserve if you are a keen twitcher.

Distance – Six-mile circuit
Transport – Bus to Craster

Robin Hood's Bay - 10 best UK coastal walks.
Views over Robin Hood’s Bay.

Boggle Hole to Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire

Boggle Hole is a charming and delightfully secluded cove in contrast to the always bustling Baytown located just up the coast. Nestled within a narrow ravine, you’ll find a youth hostel that adds to the allure of this hidden gem. For those seeking an alternative to the crowds, the cliff and beach walk southward towards Ravenscar provides a wonderful option.

If you choose to explore the beach, you must know the tide times, as it offers a fascinating route to reach Robin Hood’s Bay. This stretch of coastline is renowned as one of the UK’s prime locations for fossil hunting, and by gently breaking loose chunks of rock, you may uncover an ammonite, a remarkable relic of the past.

While the cliff-top path may be slightly over-fenced, it remains clearly marked, offering breathtaking views. Alternatively, for a round-trip experience, consider venturing half a mile inland to explore a sedate walk along the disused railway.

Distance – Three miles one way.
Transport – Parking above Boggle Hole, bus to Robin Hood’s Bay
For more information see Cleveland Way

The peaceful open coastal plain at Holkham.

Burnham Overy Staithe to Wells-Next-The-Sea, Norfolk

If the sands of Holkham Beach are good enough for the Royal family, picnicking from nearby Sandringham, then the rest of us should be OK.

This walk begins from the charming old windmill in Burnham, which interestingly once stood at the end in Wells but was relocated in the early 1800s. Stretching for nearly seven miles, the expansive beach is peppered with sea lavender and frequented by captivating dark green fritillary butterflies. As you explore, keep a keen eye out for peregrine falcons soaring overhead. Just inland lies the magnificent Holkham Hall, with 400 years of history to explore.

Remember the end of Shakespeare in Love when Gwyneth Paltrow emerges shipwrecked from the sea? She hadn’t reached the colonies of America – it was Holkham.

Distance – Eight miles
Transport – CoastHopper bus
Find out more about the Norfolk Coast Path at National Trails

Beachy Head -10 best UK coastal walks.
Iconic landmark of the south coast, the white cliffs at Beachy Head.

Seven Sisters & Beachy Head, East Sussex

Such a beautiful walk with the imposing white cliffs as a backdrop. The area around Seven Sisters is well worth a visit with lots of variations, going either way from Birling Gap which lies between the Sisters and the Head. The best start for buses or parking is the Seven Sisters country park at Exceat, then past the Cuckmere Inn – which is ideal with stunning views over Cuckmere Haven – along a footpath across downland to the stunning cliffs.

Turn right at Cuckmere Haven if you fancy a swim, or left for Birling Gap and the trek up to the Belle Tout lighthouse (decommissioned in 1902) at Beachy Head. Don’t stray near the edge for the sake of a selfie, the cliffs from Seaford to the Head are identified as at risk of erosion and have seen major collapses in recent years. Far below, the 108 feet tall modern lighthouse on the rocks is absolutely dwarfed by the chalk wall. 

This is an absolute gem of a walk, especially in spring and summer.

Distance – Eight miles
Transport – Buses and parking

Durdle Door
The picture postcard beauty of Durdle Door in Dorset.

Durdle Door & White Nothe Circular, Dorset

This walk begins and concludes at Lulworth Cove, which though it can be busy in the summer months is well-organised enough to meet your needs, complete with charming cafes and a captivating castle. Take your time on this route and savour every moment.

The switchback path leads you to the stunning arch of Durdle Door, which contrary to the 2023 April Fools’ joke has not collapsed. If you choose to descend to the beach just remember that you’ll need to come back up the same way – but the effort is rewarding for the views from the shoreline.

Continuing along the trail, you’ll encounter the aptly named Scratchy Bottom, followed by a more exhilarating section that resembles a rollercoaster ride. There are more famous vistas around the world but sometimes we undersell the beauty of what we have on our own doorstep and the stretch from Swyre Head, Batis Head to the imposing obelisk navigation beacon is as pretty and calming as you will find. Take a moment to appreciate the charming coastguard cottages at White Nothe, whose name fittingly translates to ‘white nose’.

To complete your journey, you have the option to circle back through the gentle countryside, passing by Dagger’s Gate and Newlands Farm.

Distance – Seven miles
Transport – Bus and parking
Find out more about the South West Coast Path

Hartland Point
Hartland Point on the north Devon coast.

Hartland Quay – Hartland Point, Devon

This wild stretch of the South West Coastal Path can be enjoyable even when the weather is not at its best. Starting at Hartland Quay, a pretty little spot, follow the well-marked trail as it winds along the rugged coastline.

The spectacular rock formations in the cliff faces along this stretch of coastline are the result of immense tectonic activity over millions of years. Nature’s violent past is now its beauty with sedimentary layers thrust vertically in jagged patterns. Atmospheric and eerie in rain and cloud while magnificent and striking in sunlight.

Then it’s all up and down along a three-mile switchback journey to the lighthouse at Hartland Point, with magnificent views of Lundy Island. After reaching the Point, you can meander back inland through Titchberry and Hartland village, exploring their picturesque charm and savouring delightful cream teas, adding an extra touch of indulgence to your day.

If you have more time on your hands, perhaps take a more leisurely stroll around Hartland Abbey which dates back to 1157 and opens its house and gardens to the public.

Distance – Six-mile circular walk
Transport – Bus at Hartland, parking near the Quay.

Barafundle Bay
Beautiful Barafundle Bay.

Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire

The path to Stackpole Head is among the finest stretches of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, taking in the spectacular eroded limestone cliffs and the tranquility of Barafundle Bay.

Bosherston Lily ponds, which are at their best in June, are a welcome extra and the wild flora and fauna en route are terrific throughout. Start at Stackpole Quay, once a limestone harbour, now National Trust, and simply follow the cliffs south to the Head. It’s back the way you came where you can enjoy a dip in the inviting water at Barafundle?

Distance – Six-mile circular walk
Transport – Coastal Cruiser bus, parking

Hilbre Island
Make sure you check tide times before setting off for Hilbre Island.

Hilbre Island, Wirral

An exciting venture into the world of migrating birds and grey seals, with strict adherence to waymarking and tidal times essential.

Hilbre Island is the biggest of three islets at the tip of the Wirral peninsular, reached from Dee Lane slipway in West Kirby when the tide is out. Times are clearly posted here with details of when you must leave Hilbre to get back safe and dry.

You can stay on the island over high water, but that means being marooned for five hours with little shelter. Apart from abundant birdlife, the Hilbre Telegraph lookout station has been renovated by the Friends of Hilbre and is open on selected dates – which are good to choose, to benefit from the volunteers’ knowledge and enthusiasm.

Always keep to the marked route via Little Eye and Little Hilbre.

Distance – Three-mile circular walk
Transport – Train, bus, parking

Elgol on Isle of Skye
Sunset in Elgol on the Isle of Skye.

Elgol – Loch Coruisk, Isle of Skye

Gear up for a spectacular walk through the heart of the Cuillin mountains, where jaw-dropping scenery surrounds a secluded sea loch. This is quite a challenging route and if you’re up for a round trip, this one’s in the Iron Man league.

To get there: hop on a boat from Elgol and make your way back via Camasunary. Keep an eye on the weather; the stream at Camasunary can rise too high to ford and force you to take a long detour.

The “bad step”, a slanting slab above Loch Coruisk, is intimidating to some. Parts of the trail can be rough on your feet, so this route is unsuitable for beginners. If some of your party aren’t used to covering distance, they can catch a ride back on the boat while you march on to join ’em on solid ground.

Distance – 15 miles
Transport – Parking, bus and boat
For more information see Visit Scotland.

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Tags: , Last modified: June 12, 2023

Written by 9:45 pm Around The UK, Outdoor leisure