Exploration

The 10 best one-day hikes in the UK

© Stumayhew; Getty
Written by Tom Ward
Want to become one with the great outdoors? From Yorkshire peaks to Celtic crags, and Scottish volcanos, these testing hikes will help you get to grips with nature, and get a sweat on, too.
This great, sceptered isle offers untold treasures across its 242,495 km² area. For a relatively small country, we can more than hold our own when it comes to stunning scenery, draw-dropping vistas, and punishing adventure trails. In fact, from Wales to Scotland, England to Northern Ireland, there’s almost too much choice when it comes to stepping foot outside.
Which is why we asked some of the country’s foremost hiking authorities to walk us through their favourite single day excursions. Some are fit for beginners, others require a bit more juice in the tank. All will get your heart racing. So read on and remember, once you step out onto the road, you never know where it’s going to take you…
RockRiver Expeditions run everything from rock climbing to orienteering trips across the country. Here, Operations Manager Paula breaks down her favourite UK hikes.

1. Ben Macdui, Cairngorms National Park

Distance: 12 miles
Suggested hiking time: 8 hours 30 mins
Loch Etchachan, Cairngorms
Loch Etchachan, Cairngorms
A roller coaster of a route where you start high, following a series of ascents and descents throughout the day. Start at the car park at Coire Cas and head up alongside the main ski run to the summit of Cairngorm, taking in the views of the Rothiemurchus forest and Aviemore beyond. From here, follow the path that takes you down through Coire Raibeirt to the shores of Loch Avon, and up the other side to meet Loch Etchachan.
Now it’s time to climb again, this time to the massive cairn marking the summit of Ben Macdui, the second highest mountain in Britain. From here you can be rewarded on a clear day with views of the west side of the Lairig Ghru, Carn Toul and Braeriach. To descend, follow the path north which brings you out alongside Coire an Lochain and back to the car park.

2. The Glyders, Snowdonia

Distance: 7 miles
Suggested hiking time: 5hrs
This is a deceptively hard day, but well worth it for the photo opportunities. Leave your car at Ogwen Cottage and head behind the buildings and around the east side of Llyn Idwal. The steep climb up Devil’s Kitchen will take your breath away. Keep climbing up the scree and you’ll be at the top of the highest summit of the day at 1001m. From here you head to The Castle of the Winds rock formation and then onto the boulder collection that makes up the Glyder Fach summit. Just ahead on the plateau is the iconic Cantilever stone - a must for the photo collection.
We suggest avoiding the Bristly Ridge descent, and instead take the right turning down to meet the Miner’s Track and along to Bwlch Tryfan. From here you could follow the miners track back to Ogwen but with Tryfan looking tantalisingly close, we recommend (if you have the energy in your legs) continuing on to the summit for another photo classic – the Adam and Eve twin monoliths – before retracing your steps to Bwlch Tryfan and down to Ogwen. Your Instagram account won’t know what’s hit it!

3. Old Harry Rocks, Isle of Purbeck

Distance: 10 miles
Suggested hiking time: 4hrs
Old Harry Rocks
Old Harry Rocks
The Jurassic Coastline is a World Heritage Site. This walk takes in the most famous landmark on this stretch of Dorset coast – Old Harry Rocks. Starting at Knoll Beach and heading south, follow the coastline and you’ll pass pretty beach huts, features from World War Two and then Old Harry Rocks come into view. The white chalk cliffs are highlighted against the blue sea on a sunny day and if you listen above the breeze you can hear the waves slamming into the caves down below the cliffs.
The walk across Ballard Down can be refreshing on a breezy day, but it’s easy walking. Pass the obelisk, then follow the path down and across the road and up the other side to cross Godlingston Heath passing Agglestone Rock or Devil’s Anvil. This sandstone block weighs 400 tonnes and, according to legend, was thrown there by the devil himself. At the end of the Heath you can pick up the Poole Harbour Trail and head north east to South Haven Point, before turning south again to follow the sandy beach past the lagoons and back down to Knoll Beach.

4. Yorkshire Three Peaks, Pennine Range

Distance: 24 miles
Suggested hiking time: 12 hours
View from Whernside
View from Whernside
Climbing the three highest peaks in Yorkshire is no mean feat, it’s a walk that includes over 1600m of ascent so you will need to be fit. The three peaks form part of the Pennine Range. The usual starting point for this walk is Horton in Ribblesdale but if you want to avoid the crowds, particularly on a weekend, it is a good idea to start at Chapel-le-Dale and proceed in anti-clockwise direction.
We start from Horton in Ribblesdale and tackle Pen y Ghent as our first peak. The walk starts with a gentle uphill as the imposing peak looms ahead, and gradually gets steeper as you get nearer. The final ascent to the summit is steep and may require you to use your hands as you climb up. Enjoy the view from the trig point before heading down again following the path north west across Horton Moor picking up the Ribble Way. Follow the path alongside the viaduct past the Force Gill aqueduct built by the Midland Railway. Take a left turn to pick up the Pennine Journey path to the summit of Whernside.
The downhill here is steep but short, and you’ll have a flat section of walking to relax the legs before getting back onto the Dales High Way to take you up to your final peak. The zig zags of the last steep section might seem endless, but then you’ll top out onto the plateau of Ingleborough with its 360 degree views of the Yorkshire Dales. The important part here is to make sure that you take the right path off the summit – it’s easy to become disorientated in the mist and end up a long way from where you want to be. The path heads east first and then south east down the hill. As it flattens you cross a section of farmland and then the railway line as you head back into Horton in Ribblesdale where a celebratory drink awaits you.

5. Snowdon horseshoe, Snowdonia

Distance: 7 miles
Suggested hiking time: 6 hours 30 mins
Crib Goch
Crib Goch
There are a number of routes you can choose to climb Snowdon, but we believe the Snowdon horseshoe is the best. You’ll be able to tick off three 3000ers Crib Goch, Garnedd Ugain and Snowdon, as well as three classic scrambles.
Start up the Pyg Track until you reach Bwlch y Moch where you’ll have views of Llyn Llydaw and the miners' causeway. Here there is a steep but short climb up onto the start of your first scramble Crib Goch. The knife-edge crest requires confidence but if you take your time, you’ll find plenty of places for your hands and feet. At the top of the climb the route narrows and the sheer drop each side can be daunting or exhilarating depending on your experience and the weather conditions of the day.
Scramble over or around The Pinnacles and enjoy views over to Snowdon’s peak as you reach a grassy broad area and here you head onwards for your second scramble this time up Garnedd Ugain. This is less exposed than the former as long as you keep to the ridge so take the opportunity to look back at the views of Crib Goch and see where you have come from. The summit of Garnedd Ugain is marked by a trig point where you will have views of the Snowdon mountain railway and Moel Eilio beyond that. From here it’s a straightforward route to the summit of Snowdon itself.
It can be busy and a shock to the system after the concentration of the ridge scrambles. Take in the views, particularly those to the south east of the ridge and twin peaks of Y Lliwedd which make up the second part of the horseshoe, and then move on using the steep scree Watkin Path taking you to the Bwlch y Saethau col. From here you can zigzag up through the scree and boulders to summit Y Lliwedd twice – the first is the highest peak the second is five metres lower. Just after the second peak you should get a true panoramic shot of Crib Goch, so soak in your achievement as you watch tiny people in the distance crossing ‘your’ ridge, before joining up with the Miner’s Track to take you back to the Pen y Pass car park.
You'll find few better places to hike than Northern Ireland. Here, we speak to Beverley of Walk Northern Ireland (Walkni.com; Facebook), who breaks down her favourite routes across green fields and craggy hills.

6. Slieve Binnian, Mourne Mountains, Co. Down

Distance: 7 miles
Suggested hiking time: 12 hours
This fantastic circular walking route is part of the highest and most dramatic mountain range in Northern Ireland, offering walkers the experience of a beautifully wild landscape with breathtaking views. The route follows the distinctive Mourne Wall to the summit of Slieve Binnian (747m), traverses between the spectacular South and North Tors before descending along a track past the stunning Blue Lough, Annalong Forest and back to the car park.

7. Ballintoy to Bushmills, Part of the Causeway Coast Way, Co. Antrim

Distance: 12.4 miles
Suggested hiking time: 8 hours
This trail spans the Causeway Coast, including the coastal towns of Portballintrae and Portbradden, the impressive Dunseverick Castle and Harbour, one of Ireland ancient sites and Northern Ireland's first UNESCO Heritage Site, the Giant's Causeway. This walking route from Ballintoy to Bushmills includes beaches, rocky outcrops, and cliff top paths along the Causeway Coast Way, one of the most spectacular cliff top paths in the UK.
Freshwalks guides invigorating and unexpected walks throughout the UK’s cities and countryside. These are some of founder Michael’s favourites…

8. Ben More, Isle of Mull

Distance: 7.5 miles
Suggested hiking time: 6-7 hours
Often the first or last Munro on many a list, Ben More is Britain’s last active volcano. It blew its top 60 million years ago but still dominates the Isle of Mull, a mere ferry from Oban. Is there anything quite like being at the top of an island? Being an isolated Munro, the views are some of the finest on the west coast. The full panorama takes in Ben Nevis to the North East, the North Atlantic Ocean and the Paps of Jura to the south. Magnificent stuff. There’s no hiding from the challenge here as a typical route starts down starts by Loch na Keal down at sea-level. Aye, it’s a proper ascent is this one.

9. Marsden to Edale

Distance: 22.0 miles
Suggested hiking time: 10-12 hours
Peak District Gritstone Edges
Peak District Gritstone Edges
A lesser known three peaks challenge, but hugely rewarding, this classic Peak District route soars above the high bleak moorland of Black Hill, Bleaklow and Kinder Scout. The names deliberately tell the story. There are many ways to attack this walk but a direct route involving sections of the Pennine Way is the best way to beat sunset in Edale. Up and over. Repeat. Finally, Kinder Scout, a seminal moorland plateau and scene of the famous Mass Trespass of 1932 before the final descent into Edale where the Old Nag’s Head is a popular pub for weary hikers.

10. Coniston loop (via Wetherlam and Swirl How), Lake District

Distance: 11.5 miles 
Suggested hiking time: 8 hours
View from Bowfell, Lake District
View from Bowfell, Lake District
This is a great walk on a good day, and a challenging walk the rest of the time. The rewards? Great views in every direction and some Lakeland history along the way. Start out of Coniston itself and across the Yewdale Fells, before swinging up to Steel Edge for a rock scramble or taking an easier route. Up to Wetherlam as your first ascent and then taking a big loop across Tiberthwaite Fells and ascending along West Side Edge to Swirl How. A good walk down from there, through Coppermines Valley and its attendant ruined mining infrastructure. See where the Big Wheels were housed to drain the mines and shift the ore. Back then into Coniston for food, drink and rest.
Now for some more challenging hikes, take a look at the stunning walks in the link below