God's Own Country to those who live there, the North of England is the jewel in the country's crown, home to no less than four national parks and some of England's most spectacular walking country. So buff up your boots and dig out your day-packs with our pick of the 5 best walks in the North of England, just in time for National Walking Month but quite frankly terrific at any time of year. The North is also home to great places to stay, eat and of course drink – browse our guides to the Lake District, North Yorkshire, Durham and Northumberland for the best places to do all three!
William Wordsworth, as we all know, wandered lonely as a cloud – he also tramped up hill and down dale almost every day of his life from his cosy cottage in Grasmere, seeking inspiration in the wild places in the lakeland fells. He could see Helm Crag each time he stepped from his door, with the summit rocks – known as the Lion and the Lamb – a brooding presence above the stone-grey village. Leg it up and down in an hour or two, or include it in a full day’s walk high along the ridges – composing poetry as you go, purely optional.
Stay overnight at The Yan – a superb family owned and run boutique hotel that just happens to also serve great food.
Everyone knows about the fabulous Northumberland coast, but – whisper it gently – neighbouring Durham’s is no slouch either. True, a century of coal mining and heavy industry has made its mark, but the clean-up has been remarkable and on the 11-mile Durham Coastal Footpath from Seaham you’ll see the Heritage Coast at its best. There are magnificent views, wooded valleys, sweeping grasslands filled with wild flowers and duned beaches – all just 15 miles from the city centre of Durham.
Treat yourself to an overnight stay at Seaham Hall, whose spa is the perfect antidote to a long day's hike.
There are three famous ‘peaks’ in the Dales (Whernside and Ingleborough are the other two), but we plump for Pen-y-Ghent, the Sphinx-like 2,273-foot Yorkshire mountain that everyone should climb before they die. Why? Well, partly because it’s there, and partly because you get to have a pint of tea afterwards in the excellent walkers’ haunt of the Pen-y-Ghent Café, where they’ve been nursing blisters and offering advice for years to Three-Peak novices and fell-runners alike. Six miles, three to four hours up and down, and a ride on the Settle to Carlisle Railway if you fancy it, what more could you want?
Stay overnight at Low Mill Guesthouse – a unique and very comfortable B&B whose serious breakfasts are the ideal start to the day's walking.
Heather moorland is a rare thing – there’s probably less of it than tropical rainforest in the world, and 70 percent of what there is can be found in the UK. True fact. So the 5-mile moorland walk around the extraordinary natural amphitheatre of the Hole of Horcum is one for anyone fascinated by moorland nature, heritage and wildlife. You’ll pass Bronze Age barrows and ditches, and hear the call of moorland birds such as the curlew and lapwing. You can ponder the geological ‘spring-sapping’ that has eaten away at the cauldron over millennia (or did a giant scoop out the earth?). And if you come in late summer, you’ll understand why the iconic heather has such a hold on the local psyche, as it bursts into a purple blaze as far as the eye can see.
Stay overnight in Whitby, where Jet Black Jewel offers a warm welcome and beautiful boutique rooms in the heart of this historic seaside town.
England and Wales have 15 long-distance footpaths known as National Trails, and we’re picking out one of the least-known and, frankly, one of the best darned walks in the whole of Europe. In 79 miles – from the Humber estuary to the seaside at Filey – you’ll amble through some of the most quintessential English countryside imaginable, from chocolate-box villages with Michelin-starred pubs to dramatic poppy-strewn slopes and rolling chalky Wolds farmland. It’s not hard-going – no back-breaking Pennine Way-style commitment required – but even if you’re not up for the full 6 days, you can duck in and out on a selection of lovely circular walks that take just a few hours.
The wonderful cabins at Kingfisher Lakes are a perfect place for an overnight stop on the Yorkshire Wolds Way.