Best walking challenges in the UK

You don’t need to fly around the world to seek adventure with these best walking challenges in the UK.

West Highland Way - Scotland

As wanderlust fills our social media feeds with photos of far-flung peaks, lost cities, and craggy gorges, you’d be forgiven for thinking that hiking in the UK is tame in comparison. But with over 180,000 miles of public footpaths in England and Wales alone, should we be so quick to dismiss our little island?

Though our peaks may not soar to over 8,000m high, anyone who has experienced a sunrise cloud inversion in the Lake District can tell you that UK hiking can leave you feeling on top of the world. Better still, there are trails for every fitness level and timeframe.

Although we walked regularly as a family, and I was an enthusiastic participant in the Duke of Edinburgh programme at school, it wasn’t UK hiking that sparked my love of multi-day plods. I found it abroad, stomping through the mythical-sounding mountain ranges I’d read about in novels and guidebooks: the Himalayas, the Andes, and the Alps.

I fell in love with UK hiking during lockdown. Forced by travel restrictions to swap Patagonian peaks for the rugged, windswept cliffs of my native Cornwall, as constraints on our movements began to lift closer to home, I looked for a way to quench my love for adventure and feel the familiar, dull ache in my legs after a long day on the trail – and discovered I’d underestimated my country. Several years and many blisters later, I can safely say that there are hiking trails in the UK that compare with the best of them. Just never, ever set off without a full set of waterproofs.

Whether your style is Munro-bagging, blustery cliff walks, or just a good stomp to the local pub, there’s a challenge for you in Blighty.

Editor’s notes

We’re so incredibly lucky to live in the UK. National parks, miles of natural coastline and stunning, scalable mountains make for fantastic weekend adventures. But, if you’re looking for a goal to chase down, there’s nothing quite like a walking challenge to really test your limits in the great outdoors.

1. The Three Peaks

It takes roughly two months to summit Everest, but you can summit the three highest peaks in the UK (Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon) in one very long day. Plus, there’s no need for any mountaineering experience here!

Ben Nevis - Scotland

The official challenge

The three peaks challenge is a feat of logistics (and how you perform on little sleep) just as much as it is a physical challenge. The walking distance, just 23 miles, doesn’t sound unfeasible in the space of 24 hours –  but couple that with 3,064m of ascent and enough time for your legs to seize up between each summit and you’ve got yourself a workout.

What you need to know

Split across England, Scotland, and Wales, there’s 462 miles of driving required to cover all three UK peaks. Scafell Pike in the Lake District is the lowest, sitting at 978m. Snowdon is next at 1,085m, and Ben Nevis, the highest peak in the UK, challenges hikers to a 1,345m climb.

People generally take on this challenge as part of a group, and often to raise money for charity. Even if you decide to hike it solo, we recommend enlisting a friend to chauffeur you! For a real buzz, sign up to hike alongside hundreds of like-minded people on one of the official National Three Peaks Challenge days.

Hikers generally start with Ben Nevis, giving most six hours of sleep after the toughest climb, before tackling Scafell Pike next.


  • Fitness level/experience: Intermediate
  • Total distance: 23 miles
  • Time to complete: 24 hours
  • Accommodation options: There’s no time for sleep on this trail – nap in the car!
  • Guided route price: £399pp booked through

2. The Pennine Way

Stretching from the Peak District to the Scottish border, the Pennine Way is among the oldest long-distance trails in the UK. Over the 2 ½ weeks it takes to complete, the trail winds through the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland, displaying some of North England’s most spectacular scenery.

Pennine Way - Hotbank Crags

The official challenge

No small undertaking, the Pennine Way takes over two weeks to complete (although the record is just 58 hours and 4 minutes, set by John Kelly in 2021). Often referred to as the most challenging long-distance trail in the UK, it crosses the wild uplands of North England and crosses Hadrian’s Wall.

What you need to know

The Pennine Way starts at Edale in the Peak District and finishes at Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish Borders. Wild camping will need to be done discreetly as it’s against the law (visit Right to Roam to join the campaign to reinstate our rights to do this in England and Wales), or stay in bunkhouses or official campsites en route. The trail is best hiked between May and September.


  • Fitness level/experience: High
  • Total distance: 260 miles
  • Time to complete: 16-19 days
  • Accommodation options: Check the Independent Hostel Guide for affordable accommodation options along the way
  • Guided route price: Budget for between £31 and £50 per day

3. The Southwest Coastal Path

So close to home, I’ve been unknowingly exploring sections of the Southwest Coastal Path since I was old enough to toddle to the ice cream van. This 630-mile trail hugs the southwest coast, from Somerset to Dorset, and has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to Raynor Winn’s The Salt Path.

Southwest Coastal Path - Cornwall

The official challenge

Even if you’re going at a whack, you’ll still need a good month to complete this trail. Most hikers take roughly two months to tick it off their lists. Starting in Minehead, Somerset and finishing in Poole, Dorset, much of the trail takes in the wild, ruggedly beautiful Cornish coast, past semi-derelict engine houses and the finest beaches in the country.

What you need to know

The southwest may not have mountains, but this is a trail constantly undulating, and shouldn’t be underestimated. Many people choose to walk shorter sections—my personal favourite is the 3/4-day section from St. Ives to Penzance (40 miles).


  • Fitness level/experience: High
  • Total distance: 630 miles
  • Time to complete: 2 months
  • Accommodation options: campsites, hotels and B&Bs
  • Guided route price: Thru-hikers report spending around £2,500 for the total route.

4. Helvellyn

A short climb easily achieved in a day, it takes roughly three hours (one way) to summit Helvellyn, but the panoramic views from the ridge and the scrambling required will give both your legs and your spirits a workout.

Helvellyn - Striding Edge

The official challenge

Helvellyn may not reach lofty heights, but it’s still the third-highest peak in England and the views are something special. To reach the top, you’ll need to scramble along the narrow Striding Edge Ridge, with a bird’s eye view over the Red Tarn Lake as you go.

What you need to know

In the heart of the Lake District, a circular route to summit Helvellyn via Striding Edge and Swirral Edge takes between five and seven hours. It’s best attempted between April and October, and grade-one scrambling is required. There have been fatalities on this trail, so don’t underestimate it – especially in bad weather.


  • Fitness level/experience: Intermediate, with a head for heights
  • Total distance: 8 miles
  • Time to complete: 5-7 hours
  • Accommodation options: Fisher-Gill Camping Barn is inexpensive and conveniently located

5. The West Highland Way

Encompassing the finest Scottish scenery and with bedding down in bothies as part of the experience, the West Highland Way deserves a spot on the podium with the UK’s best hikes. This linear route runs from Glasgow to Fort William.

West Highland Way - Scotland

The official challenge

While not the most difficult long-distance trail in the UK, the West Highland Way certainly requires stamina and takes roughly a week to complete. Following cattle paths, hugging lochs and winding through the mountains, it’s a trail that delivers spectacular views with every step.

What you need to know

A sociable trail, the West Highland Way’s popularity and abundance of signage means it’s a great long-distance trail for beginners looking to tackle their first thru-hike. Scotland’s weather is notoriously changeable – pack for the possibility of experiencing all four seasons in one day.


  • Fitness level/experience: Intermediate
  • Total distance: 96 miles
  • Time to complete: 5-7 days
  • Accommodation options: Research bothies along the route via the Mountain Bothy Association.
  • Route price: £10-60 per day for accommodation depending on your preferences

6: The Brecon Beacons Horseshoe Ridge

A challenging loop taking in the highest peaks in the Brecon Beacons, this route hugs a ridge. It’s not recommended in bad weather, but on a clear day, you’ll feel as though you have the whole of Wales at your feet.

Pen y Fan - Brecon Beacons

The official challenge

A climb with epic views and achievable in just one day, this loop walk takes in Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big, four peaks which all stand at over 700m high. Park up at the Forestry Commission car park (grid ref. SO038169) and take food and drink for the day, as well as all-weather clothing.

What you need to know

The Brecon Beacons National Park is one of the most spectacular in the UK, covering moorland, standing stones, mountains and castles. A ridge walk gives stunning views over the park’s highest peaks. We recommend taking a map and/or trail planning application in case the weather turns, and the trail becomes hard to follow.


  • Fitness level/experience: Intermediate
  • Total distance: 10 miles
  • Time to complete: 5-6 hours
  • Accommodation options: Penrhadw Farm is one of the closest options to the trail start.

FAQ: Best Walking Challenges in the UK

Have a question about one of the best walking challenges in the UK? Check out our FAQ below where we aim to answer some of the most popular UK hiking questions. 

From Hadrian’s Wall to the Thames Path, to Ben Nevis, the UK isn’t short of bucket list trails. 

However, the one which attracts the highest participation is probably the Three Peaks Challenge (undertaken by an estimated 100,000 per year), or the slightly easier Yorkshire equivalent, the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. The latter takes roughly 12 hours to complete and covers 26 miles.

We recommend the Jurassic Coast. A 4-mile there-and-back walk from Bowleaze Cove to Smuggler’s Inn takes in Dorset’s spectacular, chalky cliffs, with plenty of pub stops and beaches to break up the journey.

Much of the southern UK can be hiked at any time of year, you just need to be prepared for wetter, boggier conditions and cooler temperatures during the winter. If attempting to bag Munros or summit peaks in Scotland, Wales or the Lake District, the summer (May to September) is best, when the higher levels are free of snow.

It depends on the walking challenge you’re taking on. Many UK walks are suitable for beginners, and the best way to train for a hike is to walk the walk. 

If attempting long, difficult or remote trails (for example the 205-mile Cape Wrath Trail through the Scottish Highlands and west coast), make sure you’re clued up on map-reading, that you know how to be self-sufficient, and that you’ve got a good fitness level.

Although the Pennine Way is often considered the UK’s most challenging trail, our vote is for the Cape Wrath Trail.

Sparsely signposted with little-to-no phone reception and with sections where you’ll need to be self-sufficient for several days at a time, it’s as wild as hiking gets on home soil.

Still searching for the answer to your question? Reach out to the Adventure Pending team over on our socials and we’ll do our best to get to the bottom of our problems!

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