Spending time a few days a week in the gym is a great way to stay in shape and keep you on top of your training programme, but when you’re away from the gym a good walk is really all you need.
The health benefits of walking are phenomenal but it’s often overlooked as a pastime for elderly ramblers or seen as a cop out to “real exercise”. The facts are that walking just 30 minutes five times a week can prevent illnesses such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Anyone can do it, and it’s a great one to do with all the family. So now we know how great it is, here are some of the top places in the British Isles to get out and about.
Exmoor National Park –Covering 267 square miles, Exmoor incorporates every type of terrain a walker could wish for. Moorland, woodland, valleys and farmland, it offers a unique landscape and plenty of tearooms to stop at and wild spaces to explore.
Richmond Park, London – 2,500 acres of green and pleasant land in the hub of our city means you really can have the best of both worlds. Many city-dwellers perhaps won’t have taken the time out to visit this wonderful space in the capital. Spectacular views across the city meet with sloping parkland boasting fabulous trees, the Thames, and the fallow deer.
The Kerry Way – one of the most popular walks in Ireland, is also known as the Historic Way. It passes the Iveragh Peninsula and the old butter roads which in the 18th century used to ship butter from Kenmare to London.
Some flora and fauna of note is the sub-tropical plants along the way. You will spot giant fern and palms right beside rhododendron bushes and yellow irises.
Snowdon – Anyone with any sort of Welsh walking knowledge will have heard of Snowdon, it boasts big paths which, although can become crowded in summer, has the most spectacular views across the horizon of a hundred hills.
The view from the summit demonstrates beautifully the difference between the north and south faces of the range. Y Lliwedd's north face is hung with cliffs and gullies, but in contrast the south faces of Carnedd Ugain and Crib Goch are pallid and barren, consisting of dusty pink screes and broken rock. These peaks and the ridges are the basis of the range's finest expedition, the Snowdon Horseshoe. An eight-mile walk, with Grade 1 scrambling thrown in for good measure, the Snowdon horseshoe takes around six or seven hours in good conditions.
Portmahomack – in Easter Ross, Scotland, Portmahomack is a small fishing village in the Tarbat Peninsula. Tarbat Ness Lighthouse is about three miles from the village and Ballone Castle lies about a mile from the village. There is evidence of early settlement and the area seems to have been the site of significant activity during the time of the Picts and the Vikings. The village is situated on a sandy bay and has a small harbour designed by Thomas Telford. Portmahomack lies inside the Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation  with the associated dolphin and whale watching activity.
Coast to Coast – Lake District – For those who want to take walking to the next level Alfred Wainwright's "Coast to Coast" is a 190-mile traverse, from St. Bee's head, Cumbria, to Robin Hood's bay, north Yorkshire, offering what could perhaps be described as some of the most dramatic and lush scenery in the country, touching both coastlines and reaching some of the highest ground in England.
Starting in the west, you soon encounter the Lake District's staggering beauty where all doubts over whether this slog might be worthwhile are blown away. There are some central, lower sections that can be a bit of a plod, but there's also the glory of the north York moors. Touching the sea at start and finish makes for emotional brackets of hope and achievement, too. Allow 12 days.
The New Forest - Guaranteed to see an iconic New Forest Pony, the National Park boasts more than1,500 ancient or veteran trees. The park looks beautiful with its wide areas of open land covered in heather which turns a beautiful purple in the autumn. As the most densely populated national park in Britain and most famous for its free-roaming ponies and cattle, the park is home to a huge amount of species and is internationally important for its wildlife.
The very best thing about walking is you can make it up as you go along, or you can plan your own special themed walk – a tea shop tour, a pub to pub (not too much beer though of course!), or a coastal walk. The different types of walking are so varied and exciting that it would be difficult not to find something right up your street.
by Kath Webb
by Laura Briggs
by Kath Webb
by Kath Webb
by Jessica Ambrose