The UK’s long-distance trails are a diverse bunch of characters – some snaking along beside rivers, others skirting Atlantic shores, one or two striding heroically across the glens of Scotland, a few pottering sedately through the downland of southern England. Wherever you may be hiking, there is no sight more welcome than a country pub at the end of a day on the trail: a place in which to unlace your boots, refill your stomach and feel the redemption of a warm shower and a soft bed. The following walking holidays offer ways to combine a hefty march with some of the country’s best hotels, pubs and restaurants with rooms – just remember to pack a clean set of clothes for dinner.
TWO DAY TRAILS
THE MENAI STRAITS VIA THE ANGLESEY COASTAL PATH, WALES
Beaumaris – Menai Bridge – Newborough/Niwbwrch
Two days: 18.6 miles
Beaumaris to Llanfair PG, 6.8miles
Book your pre-hike stay at The Bull, a well-bred coaching inn in Beaumaris with a sunny courtyard, a magnificently old-school bar and dapper rooms watching over the pastel-hued seaside town. From here, trace the Anglesey Coastal Path south-west to Llanfair PG, following quiet lanes and woodland paths, with views to the summits of Snowdonia rising over the strait. For dinner, catch a bus back to Menai Bridge, where the Michelin-starred Sosban and the Old Butchers serves expansive tasting menus in a tiny dining room.
Llanfair PG to Newborough/Niwbwrch, 11.8 miles
Departing Llanfair PG, the Anglesey Coastal Path first veers through farmland – passing the Neolithic chamber at Bryn Celli Ddu – before skirting pebbly shores and rolling dunes, and crossing the stepping stones over the river of Afon Braint. Just before you hit Newborough you’ll pass The Marram Grass – formerly a potting shed, now a much-lauded restaurant making the most of Anglesey seafood and pork reared on the premises. Accommodation takes the form of whitewashed rooms spread across a timber-clad cottage.
THE WEST HIGHLAND WAY, SCOTLAND
Bridge of Orchy – Kingshouse – Kinlochleven
Two days: 21.1 miles
Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse, 11.8 miles
Reached by its very own station on the West Highland Line, the Bridge of Orchy Hotel guards a lonely river crossing amid dark forests and brooding munros. After breakfast, race the trains northbound along the West Highland Way. You’ll soon pass Rannoch Moor – a forbidding, boggy expanse stretching to the eastern horizon – and eventually reach the Kingshouse Hotel marking the gates of Glencoe. One of Scotland’s oldest inns, it’s recently had a modern revamp.
Kingshouse to Kinlochleven, 9.3 miles
From Kingshouse, the West Highland Way clambers up the so-called Devil’s Staircase – a zig-zagging path ascending to 1,850ft. Pause for breath to take in views of Glencoe and the pyramidal peak of Buachaille Etive Mòr, before coming back down to earth in Kinlochleven. Here, catch the 44 bus for a 30-minute ride to Glencoe House, a palatial Highland hotel built by an architect who worked on Balmoral Castle.
THREE DAY TRAILS
THE NORTH OF THE COTSWOLD WAY, ENGLAND
Broadway – Winchcombe – Cheltenham – Painswick
Three days: 41.5 miles
Broadway to Winchcombe, 11.8 miles
Rest ahead of a walk at Broadway’s The Lygon Arms, a coaching inn once frequented by Charles I. Keep a cool head on your shoulders to navigate your way to Winchcombe, following the escarpment south and passing the Broadway Tower – from whose turrets you can allegedly see as far away as Worcester Cathedral. The honey-hued village of Winchcombe is where a small meteorite landed in February 2021 – hikers are guaranteed comfortable landings at The Lion Inn, a 15th-century pub with ancient fireplaces and snug nooks.
Winchcombe to Leckhampton Hill (Cheltenham), 15.5 miles
From Winchcombe amble past the battlements of Sudeley Castle and plod on to the highest point in the Cotswold Hills, Cleeve Hill (measuring a giddy 1,083ft ). Carry on to Leckhampton Hill before catching a cab (or walking a teeny bit further) into the genteel terraces of Cheltenham – No 38 The Park has rooms spread about a grand Georgian townhouse.
Leckhampton Hill (Cheltenham) to Painswick, 14.2 miles
Bearing south you enter one of the loveliest stretches of the Cotswold Way, a swathe of woodlands and upland commons immortalised by Laurie Lee in Cider with Rosie. The Painswick hotel is a worthy finishing line: a former vicarage whose dining room watches out over a divine mosaic of Cotswold farmland.
THREE COUNTIES ON THE THAMES PATH, ENGLAND
Windsor – Maidenhead – Marlow – Lower Shiplake
Three days: 24.3 miles
Windsor to Maidenhead, 6.2 miles
Windsor is a suitably regal starting point for a ramble on the Thames Path – stay at riverside Sir Christopher Wren hotel, from whose terrace you can spy on swans and ducks riding the current. Setting out upstream, you’ll pass Eton College’s Dorney Lake and the Berkshire village of Bray: foodie capital of the Thames Valley, home to The Fat Duck and The Waterside Inn. Push on for a night at the immensely characterful River Arts Club, occupying a Victorian mansion overlooking a river island in Maidenhead.
Maidenhead to Marlow, 7.5 miles
From Maidenhead, the Thames unravels northward beside the wooded banks of Cliveden, before performing a long, stately arc marking the Berkshire-Buckinghamshire border. Marlow’s 19th-century suspension bridge is the day’s end point – itself a scale model for Budapest’s famous Szechenyi Bridge. Persevere a few steps further to Tom Kerridge’s The Hand and Flowers, which serves superior pub fare and rents out rustic rooms in nearby cottages – sore-limbed walkers will find the hot tubs a welcome touch.
Marlow to Lower Shiplake, 10.6 miles
Upstream from Marlow the river takes on a more rural aspect as it nears Oxfordshire, passing locks, weirs and wooded islands. On the approach to Henley, you’ll pass by Fawley Court – supposedly the inspiration for Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows. Even the discerning Toad would approve of a stay at The Baskerville, a sturdy red-brick pub in Lower Shiplake, not far from Henley.
FOUR DAY TRAILS
CORNWALL ON THE SOUTH WEST COAST PATH, ENGLAND
Port Isaac – Padstow – Harlyn Bay – Mawgan Porth – Newquay
Four days: 32.3 miles
Port Isaac to Padstow, 11.8 miles
Not a few adventurers have cast off from Port Isaac’s harbour – launch your own after a night at the Port Gaverne Hotel, a whitewashed building bedecked with flower boxes and offering nautical-accented rooms. After breakfast, it’s a long day’s walk to Padstow – highlights include Polzeath Beach and the secluded inlet at Port Quin – ended by boarding the ferry puttering across the tides of the Camel Estuary. On the far shore, head to Rick Stein’s Seafood Restaurant to feast on bouillabaisse and lobster thermidor downstairs, and afterwards crash upstairs in one of 16 guestrooms.
Padstow to Harlyn Bay, 6.8 miles
From Padstow it’s a brief but bracing walk to Harlyn Bay, passing smugglers’ caves and craggy headlands from which soaring kittiwakes and gannets can be sighted. Here, The Pig has rustic-chic rooms spread about a grand stone building dating to the 15th century, and the Potting Shed treatment rooms will see weary hikers as content as swine in the proverbial. Read our full review here.
Harlyn Bay to Mawgan Porth, 7.5 miles
South from the sandy crescents of Harlyn Bay and Constantine Bay, the Cornish coast is at its most sublime, the shore fracturing into little islets and towering pillars of rock, besieged by surging Atlantic waves. At the end of the day’s march, The Scarlet in Mawgan Porth has a front-row seat on all this geological drama, with full-length windows opening onto little terraces.
Mawgan Porth to Newquay, 6.2 miles
The final stretch of this walk sees the South West Coast Path haul into the surfer’s paradise of Newquay – though hikers could be forgiven for kicking off their boots a little early at the Watergate Bay Hotel, a short amble north of town. Modishly grey and mustard hued rooms watch over the barrelling waves – the spectacular infinity pool makes for a more serene swim with which to mark the end of the trail.
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