When you have the urge to escape city life but are pushed for time, these walks offer the perfect compromise.
Despite how much we may crave it, heading out to the hills or for a remote walk isn’t always possible. Perhaps it’s work, study or family commitments, but spare time is one thing many of us lack these days. The following spectacular places are surprisingly close to cities and offer excellent routes for urbanites looking to swap the polluted air for something a little fresher when they’re pressed for time.
1. Stanage Edge (Sheffield)
A hotspot for rock climbers, Stanage Edge offers stunning views of the Dark Peak moorlands and the Hope Valley. For those looking for walks on the literary side this is the perfect location: the vast gritstone edge is featured in the 2005 film adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, while near the Hollin Bank car park is North Lees Hall, which is thought to have been the inspiration for the Rochester home in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre.
2. Bleaklow (Manchester)
Bleaklow is a dramatic, peat-covered gritstone moorland known for its boggy terrain and challenging conditions in bad weather. It is also home to the poignant exposed wreckage site of a Boeing RB-29A Superfortress, which crashed in 1948. You can reach this site, situated south of Bleaklow Head near Higher Shelf Stones, from the Snake Pass.
3. Cavehill (Belfast)
Situated just at the outer edges of Belfast, this is an incredibly refreshing country park with lots of trails on offer, panoramic views of the city, and caves to explore. Belfast Castle is nestled at the bottom and makes for a wonderfully scenic beginning of your route when exploring this area. Following the waymarked path from the castle will lead you to the Devil’s Punchbowl, which passes below the largest cave on the hill. Keep following this path to reach the summit and the magnificent McArt’s Fort.
4. Conic Hill (Stirling)
Less than an hour from Glasgow as well as Stirling, this popular hill is a literal breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of the Central Belt. On a short and sweet walk that’s great for families, you’ll experience spectacular views of Loch Lomond during the climb. Start from the car park in the centre of Balmaha and follow the waymarked path to the start of the moderate ascent. Be wary in wet weather, though – the lower parts of the walk can be quite boggy.
5. Campsie Fells (Glasgow)
Glasgow is arguably Britain’s most well-positioned big city for mountains, with Loch Lomond and the hills around it famously on the ‘doorstep’, and the endless possibilities of the Highlands beyond it. But there are great hills even closer to hand – the Campsie Fells. The walk to Cort-ma Law from Clachan of Campsie gives spectacular lofty views over the sprawl of Glasgow, while the volcanic plug of Dumgoyne is a great miniature mountain.
6. Threecliff Bay (Swansea)
Perhaps one of the most picturesque places on the Gower Peninsula, it’s easy to forget you’re still in the UK when faced with these golden beaches and striking limestone cliffs. Starting from Southgate (easily accessible via bus or car from Swansea) you can embark on a pleasant 7-mile walk from Threecliff Bay to Oxwich Bay, both beaches offering perfect swimming spots. The remains of Pennard Castle are close to Pobbles Beach at the start of the trail and are well worth a visit.
7. Pentland Hills (Edinburgh)
South of Scotland’s capital lies this wonderful range of hills that are easy to access and offer plenty of variety. For a sweeping view of Edinburgh head to Allermuir Hill. If you fancy something a little trickier head further into the range to tackle ridge-walking on Carnethy Hill. Or, if you’d prefer a gentle, family-friendly route then the Capital View Walk is a suitable option, offering a 2-mile ramble that explores the Hillend Country Park and Hillend Hill.
8. Ilkley Moor (Bradford)
Showered with heather in the summer and home to fascinating Neolithic sites, Ilkley Moor has a whole lot to offer for those seeking the wonders of the outdoors in a hurry. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding where to start, but visiting the Twelve Apostles will ensure an unforgettable trip. Begin your walk at the Cow and Calf car park, pass the nearby rock formation before heading to the Whetstone Gate. You’ll soon come across the striking Bronze Age stone circle.
9. Vale of Glamorgan coast (Cardiff)
This rugged and charming coast in South Wales has a lot to offer in the way of heritage and awesome sites. From the Haunted Field Walk featuring the striking Tinkinswood Burial Chamber to the last manned lighthouse in Wales, there’s something to suit everyone. If you’re tight for time and starting from Cardiff, why not try the walk to Penarth from Cardiff Bay. This walk, at just over 6 miles, is a quick way to experience the the coast and stretch your legs.
10. North Downs Way (London)
With a vast array of train stations along the North Downs Way, escaping ‘the Smoke’ isn’t just for those who have access to a car. The North Downs Way encompasses the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is particularly close to London. A popular trail for those arriving via rail is between Dorking and Gomshall train stations, which take you through 7 miles of Surrey’s pleasant chalk grassland.