20 autumn walks: routes to enjoy now

From the Sussex coast to the Isle of Skye, Christopher Somerville chooses some of his favourite walks.

1 Muker and Keld, Swaledale, North Yorkshire
A walled lane led up the sloping fellsides behind the village, the grazing fields dotted with the square-built farmhouses and small stone barns so characteristic of the Yorkshire Dales. Sun splashes and cloud shadows chased across them. It was a joy to be alive and walking up there in the face of the wind, climbing the old stony road to the crest of Kisdon Hill and following it down to Skeb Skeugh ford and the huddle of grey stone houses at Keld, the Norsemen’s well-named “place by the river”.

How hard is it? 6½ miles, moderate/hard
Map OS Explorer OL30
Start and finish Muker Teashop, Muker, Richmond DL11 6QG
Walk Leaving Muker Teashop, left; left again up lane by Literary Institute. Forward; right by Grange Farm, left up its side (“footpath to Keld”). Follow lane; then “Bridleway Keld” (909982) up walled lane for ½ mile. Pennine Way/PW forks right, but continue for 30m, then bear right uphill by wall (903986; “Keld 2 miles”). At top of slope follow wall to left; continue climbing to open hilltop. Follow green road (fingerposts) over hill, down to ford beck, right along road. On left bend, right (“Keld only”) into Keld. Right down gravelled lane (893012 “footpath to Muker”). In 300m, left downhill (“PW”). To return direct to Muker, turn right and follow PW. To continue walk, cross River Swale footbridge; left to reach top of waterfall. Where PW forks left, turn right along track (bridleway fingerpost). In ½ mile pass stone barn; in another 100m pass engine and steering wheel sunk in ground. In 50m fork left (904009) on stony track to Crackpot Hall. Aim for house above; then follow path (progressively narrower) into Swinner Gill. Where path forks opposite ruined lead mine buildings, take lower fork to fingerpost; turn back sharp right (911012; “Muker”) down narrow path to ford beck (911008; NB: if beck too swollen to ford safely, retrace steps to Crackpot Hall and follow main track south towards Muker). Continue along path for ¼ mile to join main track; continue down Swaledale on left (east) bank of river for 1 mile. Cross Swale by footbridge (910986); right (yellow arrow) for 50m, then left along meadow path for ½ mile back to Muker.
Lunch Farmer’s Arms, Muker, Richmond DL11 6QG (01748 886297; farmersarmsmuker.co.uk)
Tea and accommodation Muker Teashop (01748 886409; mukervillage.co.uk) — really warm and welcoming
Getting there Bus (getdown.org.uk): service 30 (Richmond-Muker-Keld, Mon-Sat) or 830/832 (Richmond-Muker-Hawes, Sun and BH). Road: A1; A6108 or A6136 to Richmond; A6108, B6270 to Muker.
More information Richmond Tourist Information Centre (01748 828742)

2 Brandy Pad, Mourne Mountains, Co Down
The hummocks of the Mourne Mountains stood insubstantial under a cloud-blotched sky and a pale sun. Wrens sang in the flowering gorse bushes along the lane from Meelmore Lodge. The western face of the Mournes rose before us, the jagged profile of Slieve Meelmore and the rounder bulk of Slievenaglogh framing the hollow where the Trassey Track snaked in its climb to the Hare’s Gap.

How hard is it? 7 miles, moderate/hard
Map OS of Northern Ireland 1:25 000 Activity Map “The Mournes”
Start Meelmore Lodge, Trassey Road, near Bryansford BT33 0QB
Walk From car park, left up stony lane (“Mountain Walk” sign on wall). Through right-hand of two gates; follow lane to cross field wall (308302). Left (“Mourne Way”) for 500m; right up stony Trassey Track. In 1 mile track crosses river and bears right, but keep ahead here, steeply up to cross Mourne Wall at Hare’s Gap (323287). Left at cairn along Brandy Pad path for 1½ miles to cairn on saddle between Slieve Commedagh and Slieve Beg (342278). Bear left at cairn, under The Castles crags. At end of crags (348277), fork left, up to cross Mourne Wall (350279). Descend beside Glen River. In 1½ miles, pass Ice House (364295). In 200m at dirt road/concrete bridge, descend left bank of river. In 400m, right across bridge (379299); descend right bank. In 350m, left across Donard Bridge (372302). Descend left bank; through Donard Park into Newcastle.
Conditions Some steep parts; slippery underfoot in woods. Walking stick advisable. Dogs on leads.
Lunch Meelmore Lodge café (02843 7256657)
Accommodation Slieve Donard Resort and Spa, Newcastle BT33 0AH (02843 721066; hastingshotels.com), Meelmore Lodge hostel/camping, 52 Trassey Road, Bryansford BT33 0QB (02843 725949; www.meelmorelodge.co.uk)
Getting there Bus: Mourne Rambler bus service in the summer (02843 722222). Road: Meelmore Lodge is signed off B180 Newcastle-Hilltown road. Car park: pay and display.
More information Newcastle TIC (02843 722222)

3 Higher Burwardsley, Cheshire
Walkers exploring this beautifully kept, beautifully ordered corner of Cheshire have a great wooded ridge at their elbow, sheltering a scatter of lovely half-timbered farmhouses, and a view sweeping west into Wales and the distant blue line of the Clwydian mountains.

How hard is it? 6½ miles, moderate
Map OS Explorer 257
Start and finish Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley, Tattenhall CH3 9PF
Walk Right out of Pheasant car park, along lane. In 300m, left down field (524568, fingerpost, yellow arrow/YA) with hedge on left. Over stile (Eddisbury Way/EW); down to road (522571). Right; follow EW round Outlanes Farm, on across fields. Approaching Wood Farm, cross double stile (519577); half-left across stile by gate; right along field edge. Over stile at far end (522578); half-left across field, through boggy dell (YAs). Half-left across field beyond, to fingerpost at far top left corner (527580). Follow lane to join Sandstone Trail/ST (533583). Ahead on ST for 1 mile, crossing road (539588), to reach next road (540590). Ahead to Beeston Castle (537593). Return along ST for 2¼ miles to road just east of Higher Burwardsley (529567). Right to Pheasant Inn.
Lunch/accommodation Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley (01829 770434; thepheasantinn.co.uk) — comfortable and popular. Also, try the Sandstone Café near Beeston Castle gatehouse
Getting there Road: Burwardsley is signed from A534 between Ridley (A49 junction) and Broxton (A41 junction).
More information Chester TIC (0845 6477868)

4 Dock Tarn and Watendlath, Cumbria
From the fellside above Stonethwaite we climbed steeply away through oak woods, the path rising under trees mottled with sunshine. The stream of Willygrass Gill tinkled down a channel of gleaming black rocks, the water falling in a succession of leaps and jumps.

How hard is it? 6 miles, moderate/hard
Map OS Explorer 257
Start and finish Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley, Tattenhall CH3 9PF
Walk Right out of Pheasant car park, along lane. In 300m, left down field (524568, fingerpost, yellow arrow/YA) with hedge on left. Over stile (Eddisbury Way/EW); down to road (522571). Right; follow EW round Outlanes Farm, on across fields. Approaching Wood Farm, cross double stile (519577); half-left across stile by gate; right along field edge. Over stile at far end (522578); half-left across field, through boggy dell (YAs). Half-left across field beyond, to fingerpost at far top left corner (527580). Follow lane to join Sandstone Trail/ST (533583). Ahead on ST for 1 mile, crossing road (539588), to reach next road (540590). Ahead to Beeston Castle (537593). Return along ST for 2¼ miles to road just east of Higher Burwardsley (529567). Right to Pheasant Inn.
Lunch/accommodation Pheasant Inn, Higher Burwardsley (01829 770434; thepheasantinn.co.uk) — comfortable and popular. Also, try the Sandstone Café near Beeston Castle gatehouse
Getting there Road: Burwardsley is signed from A534 between Ridley (A49 junction) and Broxton (A41 junction).
More information Chester TIC (0845 6477868)

5 Malvern Hills, Worcestershire/Herefordshire
We brushed through the corn stubble, walking north with the Malverns on our right. We struck off down a lane towards the ramparts of the British Camp, one of several ancient strongholds, and trod the Worcestershire Way southwards. Following the medieval Shire Ditch up the spine of Broad Down, then on up the magnificent ramparts of the British Camp, I thought of Caractacus defying the Romans from these heights in AD51. Looking away into Wales — a 100-mile view — it seemed a place where old spirits might linger.

How hard is it? 3½ miles, moderate
Map OS Explorer 190
Start and finish British Camp car park, on A449 opposite Malvern Hills Hotel, Jubilee Drive, Malvern WR13 6DW
Walk Cross A449; up B4232 (“West Malvern”). In 10m, by public lavatories on left, are 2 fingerposts; follow right-hand one (past WCs). In 50m, cross stile; keep ahead downhill, across field and over stile with 2 yellow arrows/YA; keep ahead to cross stream and stile (760409); ahead (YAs) to road by Upper House in Evendine (759413). Left for ¼ mile; just past Lower House Farm, left (755412; fingerpost, YA) along lane. In 1/3 mile, left over stile by Oldcastle Farm gates (756406; YA), then 2 more stiles, before aiming diagonally left uphill (757405) to cross stile at corner of Hatfield Coppice (758404; YA). In 30m, right over stile (YA); follow Worcestershire Way/WW through trees to cross A449. Continue south on WW. In 1/3 mile cross steep track (758396); in another 1/3 mile, cross stile with reservoir on right (761392). In 200m, left (YA) off WW up track for 100m to saddle of ground where 5 paths meet (762390). Sharp left uphill on gravelly track; in 30m, at “Hangman’s Hill, Broad Down” marker stone, bear right uphill on track, which swings left to follow Malvern ridge north. In ¼ mile descend left to toposcope on saddle (762395); follow “British Camp Earthworks” sign to summit. Continue on track to second summit (760400) and down to car park.
Lunch Malvern Hills Hotel (01684 540690; malvernhillshotel.co.uk).
Getting there Train: to Colwall (¾ mile from Evendine by footpath). Bus: (herefordshire.gov.uk) 44B or Malvern Hills Hopper. Road: M5, M50 (Jct 1); A38, A4104 via Upton-on-Severn to Little Malvern; A449 towards Ledbury.
More information Malvern TIC (01684 892289)

6 Haweswater and Swindale, Cumbria
Swindale is a lonely dale, where farming is as hard as the landscape is beautiful. Few make their way here, even to walk. A scatter of stone barns and farmhouses, a muck-spreader parked on the verge, Swaledale ewes in the bracken and the chattering rumble of the beck over its dipper-whitened stones, are all enclosed by a mighty half-moon of crags at the dale head.

How hard is it? 8½ miles, moderate
Map OS Explorer OL5
Start and finish Burnbanks car park, Haweswater CA10 2RP
Walk From Burnbanks car park, follow footpath (“Naddle Farm”) through woods to road (510160). Right across Naddle Bridge; follow road (“Hawsewater Hotel”) to dam for reservoir views (503155). Return along road; in 250m right up bridleway (506156; fingerpost) through woods to descend to Naddle Farm (509153). Right along house; follow “Swindale” across beck (510152); up fellside on stony track. In ½ mile at ridge, ahead through metal gate at junction of walls (516151); ahead across moor on path, aiming for peak dead ahead. Descend to road in Swindale (521142); right up dale. In ¾ mile pass a dam; in another 100m, left across Swindale Beck (515132). Forward for 100m to turn left up green track. At top, ahead over crossing of tracks (528140); bear right (ENE) across moor to corner of wall (534143). Ahead over moor for ¼ mile to road (537144). Left to Tailbert Farm (534145). Right along back of farmhouse; through gate (yellow arrow); ahead along west rim of Tailbert Gill to meet concrete road (534152). Left for 2¼ miles to road (510159); right across Naddle Bridge; left to car park.
Lunch/accommodation Mardale Inn, Bampton CA10 2RQ (01931 713244; mardaleinn.co.uk) — friendly inn at the heart of its community
Getting there Road: M6 to Jct 39; A6 through Shap; left at north end of Shap through Bampton Grange and Bampton towards Haweswater. At Naddle Gate (510162), road bends left to cross Naddle Bridge; keep ahead here (“no through road”) to car park in Burnbanks (507161).
More information Penrith TIC (01768 867466)

7 Romaldkirk and Cotherstone, Co Durham
The Teesdale Way footpath led me from Romaldkirk over the fields towards the Tees. Near the river I skirted the handsome Dales longhouse of Low Garth. In the woods, the footpath ran carpeted with fallen oak leaves. I walked along, mesmerised by the sigh and rush of the bottle-brown Tees as it crashed down its flights of rapids.

How hard is it? 5 miles, easy
Map OS Explorer OL31
Start and finish Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk DL12 9EB
Walk From Rose & Crown cross road and grass; left along lane. Right by Rose Stile Cottage (TeesdaleWay/TW fingerpost). In ¼ mile, go through left-hand of two gates (998216); path crosses three fields to Low Garth (003216). Cross stile (TW); left down bank, stile into wood. Follow TW beside Tees, then up to gate. Left end of barn; in front of Wodencroft houses (008208), then through gate. Left down fence, through gate (009207); cross field, down to Tees. In ¼ mile pass footbridge over Tees (013202); in 100m cross River Balder; right into Cotherstone. Up lane by left side of Fox & Hounds (011198); cross stile and field; stile on to Tees Railway Walk (009194). Right for 2 miles to Romaldkirk.
Lunch and accommodation Rose & Crown, Romaldkirk (01833 650213; rose-and-crown.co.uk), Fox & Hounds, Cotherstone (01833 650241; cotherstonefox.co.uk)
Getting there Bus (scarletbandbuses.co.uk): services 95/96 from Barnard Castle. Road: A1 to Scotch Corner, A66 to Barnard Castle, B6277.
More information Barnard Castle TIC (01833 690909)

8 Tyneham and the Jurassic Coast, Dorset
We wandered around the village of Tyneham, then made for the grassy track that undulates along the crest of Whiteway Hill, with stunning views west along the chalky, fossil-filled cliffs of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. A breeze rippled the grassheads. We teetered down the steep slope below the ramparts of Flower’s Barrow hillfort, and had a quick, ecstatic plunge in the semicircle of sea under the sloping cliffs of Worbarrow Bay.

How hard is it? 8 miles; moderate/hard
Map OS Explorer OL15
Start and finish Tyneham car park, near East Lulworth
Walk From Tyneham church, track north (yellow markers/YM) to top of down (882810). Left along crest of down (YM) for 1 mile to Flower’s Barrow hillfort. At South West Coast Path marker stone, hairpin left (866805); follow coast path east for 3 miles via Worbarrow Bay and Brandy Bay to Kimmeridge Bay. At “Kimmeridge View Point” board and flagpole on right, turn left (904792), following YMs to top of down (905802); left/west for 1¼ miles. Opposite Tyneham, fork right (883797) and follow YMs back to car park.
Lunch Take a picnic
Getting there Road: Tyneham is signposted from East Lulworth (B3070 from A352 near Wareham; or B3071 from Wool, 4½ miles west of Wareham on A352).
More information Dorchester TIC (01305 267992). Lulworth Range walks and Tyneham are open most weekends and some school holidays/bank holidays (01929 404819)

9 Friston Forest and the Seven Sisters, East Sussex
The immaculately kept East Sussex village of East Dean, beautifully set up for walkers, lies inland of the Seven Sisters cliffs at the heart of a superb coast-and-countryside landscape. This circuit threads woodland, downs and cliffs together.

How hard is it? 8 miles; easy/moderate
Map OS Explorer 123
Start and finish Tiger Inn, East Dean, near Eastbourne BN20 0DA
Walk Footpath from East Dean (556979) to Friston church (551982); cross A259; footpath (yellow arrow) into trees; right through trees, across field, lane and next field, to lane round Friston Place (550989). Left to corner (548990); left for 100m; right (opposite entrance) on bridleway through woods for 1½ miles to West Dean. Pass church (525997) to T-junction; left along South Downs Way (SDW). Follow SDW south and east along cliffs for 2¾ miles. By NT “Crowlink” sign (538968) inland to pass Crowlink hamlet. Right here (545975) on footpath east for 600m, to go through kissing gate (551976). Pass right side of triangular woodland; cross stone wall stile (554977, ahead, not right); downhill to East Dean.
Lunch Tiger Inn, East Dean; The Cuckmere Inn, Exceat Bridge, Seaford BN25 4AB (01323 892247)
Accommodation Tiger Inn (01323 423209) or Beachy Head Cottages (01323 423878)
Getting there Bus: Services 12, 12A (buses.co.uk), Eastbourne-Brighton. Road: East Dean village is signposted off A259 Eastbourne-Seaford.
More information Eastbourne TIC (01323 415450)

10 Camasunary Bay, Isle of Skye, Highlands
Strathaird is one of the least-known peninsulas on the Isle of Skye, shorter and more slender than its big southerly twin of Sleat, less dramatic in its geology than the basalt masterpiece of northerly Trotternish. Yet it has one advantage that the others lack: Strathaird is rooted at the foot of the mighty Black Cuillin, so walking north from its tip, one has those tall and savage mountains, the pride and heart of Skye, constantly in view.

How hard is it? 9 miles, moderate/hard
Map OS Explorer 411
Start and finish Car parking bay opposite Cuillin View Gallery and Coffee Shop, Elgol IV49 9BJ
Walk From parking bay, walk back uphill to start of Camasunary path on left (OS ref: 520139). Walk north for 3 miles to Camasunary Bay (518137); bear right up stony track to B8083 (545172); turn right to return to Elgol
Lunch Cuillin View Gallery & Coffee Shop, Elgol (01471 866223) — friendly folk, home baking, great coffee, stunning views
Accommodation Hotel Eilean Iarmain, Sleat, Isle of Skye (01471 833332; eileaniarmain.co.uk) — traditional, welcoming atmosphere; next to the sea
Getting there Train: to Kyle of Lochalsh, bus service 55 via Broadford to Elgol. Road: A87 via Skye Bridge to Broadford; B8083 to Elgol.
More information Portree TIC (01478 612992)

11 Yeavering Bell and Akeld, Northumberland
We sat at the summit of Yeavering Bell, catching our breath and savouring the view. The chequerboard plain stretched north at our feet, a steel-blue crescent of North Sea, and the rolling heights of the Cheviots billowed away south into the heart of the range.

How hard is it? 6 miles; moderate
Map OS Explorer OL16
Start and finish Akeld, near Wooler; nearest postcode NE71 6TA
Walk Walk through farmyard; up track (blue arrow/BA). Pass to right of Gleadscleugh cottage (952290); through next gate; in 100m, right over stile (950288; yellow arrow/YA). Follow path, bearing right up left rim of stony Gleadscleugh. Follow YAs on posts for 1¼ miles over White Law (943290) and down to stile and gate in fence under Yeavering Bell (932290). Path up to saddle to right of summit; at wooden pallet marker (931294), left on path to summit cairn (929293). Follow path half-left off summit, through scattered stone wall (928292); here fork right (YAs, “Hill Fort Trail”) to St Cuthbert’s Way/SCW at stile (923287). Left, following SCW for 1 mile. Pass Tom Tallon’s Crag; through gate in wall (933278); in 300m, at near corner of conifer plantation, turn left off SCW through gate (935277); follow track to Gleadscleugh cottage. Right (951289, BA) on track to right of house; zigzag across burn; on by wall; follow YAs to Akeld, passing bastle (958294) on your left.
Lunch Take a picnic
Accommodation Red Lion Inn, Milfield NE71 6JD (01668 216224; redlionmilfield.co.uk) — cheerful village pub with rooms
Getting there Bus: service 267 (glenvalley.co.uk), Wooler-Berwick. Road: Akeld is on the A697, 2½ miles west of Wooler. Park carefully beside green.
More information Wooler TIC (01668 282123)

12 Skirmett and Hambleden, Buckinghamshire
The long, narrow valley of the Hamble Brook, running north to south to meet the River Thames near Henley, is thick with mature Buckinghamshire woodland, easy to get lost in. Roe deer haunted the trackways of Great Wood, slipping away into the shadows as soon as glimpsed. Between beech trunks we caught glimpses of the crossed sails of Turville Windmill on a sharp-cut ridge.

How hard is it? 9 miles; moderate
Map OS Explorer 171
Start and finish Frog Inn, Skirmett, Henley-on-Thames RG9 6TG (please ask permission to park)
Walk From Frog PH, right along road (take care). Round right bend (776899; “Hambleden”), then left bend. In 30m, right (775898) over stile, up hill path. At top of rise, follow path to right along ridge. In ¾ mile it curves right to top of ridge (766897), then begins to descend (footpath sign on tree). In 200m, at fork with footpath sign, keep downhill. In 200m path forks (766900); keep ahead (not left downhill). In 150m, where track bends sharp left along bottom of wood (766901) keep ahead, forking immediately left (yellow arrow/ YA) across field. Through woodland to road (765905). Left for 100m to bend, left (“bridleway”) along wood bottom. In 1¼ miles, just before green “Bridleway Users” notice and wooden railings (757891), left uphill (YA) through Gussetts Wood. Cross stile (758889) and field to road junction (758887). Ahead downhill for ¼ mile. At Upper Woodend Farm, left (578883; bridleway fingerpost) up driveway (ignore “Private Road” notices). In 150m, before gate, right (759882; bridleway blue arrow/BA) down hedged green lane between fields. In 150m, cross footpath (760881); continue on bridleway. In ¼ mile it re-enters wood (762878); follow it as a hollow way, then a path, close to wood edge. Follow path and hollow way down to significant track crossing in wood bottom (767877). Go over crossing (uphill) on path, which bends right. Now follow “Shakespeare’s Way”/SW arrows. In 500m pass yew grove and fork right (772875; white arrow/WA on tree). In 100m fork left (SW). In 300m, reach crossing (773872); turn left out of wood, on path across field and down left side of wood (SW) to track at bottom (778871). SW crosses it, but turn right (WA on tree) on bridleway, which bends immediately left to run inside wood edge. Follow BAs. In ¾ mile path bends right (782860); go left (bent BA) on bridleway. In 50m, left (YA) on path. Descend to cross road (783864) into Hambleden. Cross churchyard; leave by far left (NW) corner; follow road. In 100m, right through kissing gate/KG (783867; fingerpost). Cross three fields (KGs), then hedged path past Pheasant’s Hill, then four fields (KGs) to road at Colstrope Farm (782881). Forward to bend; forward along Chiltern Way/CW (782882; “bridleway”). Cross road at The Hyde (781887); forward on CW (YA) for five fields (KGs) to road (777899). Left, then right to Frog Inn. NB: unmarked paths in woods.
Lunch Stag & Huntsman Inn, Hambleden RG9 6RP (01491 571227; thestagandhuntsman.co.uk)
Getting there Road: M40 Jct 5, and minor roads via Ibstone; or A4155 (Henley-on-Thames to Marlow) to Mill End, then minor road to Skirmett.
More information Henley-on-Thames TIC (01491 578034)

13 Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire
A windy sky streamed south over the North York Moors. We followed the lane to Aireyholme Farm. Cows lowed and barn doors banged. Captain James Cook would have recognised the sounds; it was here that the farm foreman’s son spent his boyhood in the late 1730s.

How hard is it? 5½ miles; hard; a short, steep climb
Map OS Explorer OL26
Start and finish Great Ayton station, TS9 6HR
Walk From station, cross bridge; on up road. Left at White House Farm down lane (577110); in 1⁄3 mile, nearing Aireyholme Farm, left over stile (578115; “footpath”); over next stile; ahead with wood on left. Ignore stile on left; over stile in corner of field (576115); right on path towards, then up Roseberry Topping. From summit (579126) follow Cleveland Way (CW) pitched path east, down and up to gate at edge of plantation (588127); right (blue, yellow arrows) on CW for 1¾ miles to Captain Cook monument. Face back the way you came up CW and take next path to left, aiming to go between two prominent gateposts. Follow path (yellow arrows) through Ayton Banks wood; cross track near bottom (585104); continue down out of trees to angle of wall on right (584104). Right along sunken lane. In ½ mile, nearing Dikes Lane, left down stony track (578108; “Fir-Brook”); in 200m, right through gate; cross field to farm track (576107); left to station.
Conditions Steep climb to Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook monument. Steep descent through Ayton Banks wood.
Lunch Take a picnic
Accommodation Chapters Hotel, Stokesley TS9 5AD (01642 711888; chaptershotel.co.uk)
Getting there Rail to Great Ayton. Road: Great Ayton is on A172 between Gainsborough and Stokesley.
More information Great Ayton TIC (01642 722835)

14 Flash and Dane Valley, Derbyshire
Where Cheshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire meet another, it’s beautiful walking country. Wild moors, steep little valleys, sparkling rivers, lonely sheep farms and villages; the western edge of the Peak District has them all. The views from Flash across the Staffordshire moors are immense, a curve of green meadows rising to uplands of bracken and heather, their skyline broken by jagged, wind-sculpted sandstone tors.

How hard is it? 8½ miles; moderate
Map OS Explorer OL24
Start and finish New Inn, Flash, Staffordshire SK17 0SW
Walk With your back to the church, take the lane that forks right past New Inn. In 150m, right (fingerpost, yellow arrow/YA) to pass houses; right (YA) up field, aiming for post. Continue over wall stiles (YAs). In ¼ mile, left (024676; YA) past stone outcrop and over Wolf Edge. Aim for fence; follow it down to road (020681). Left; in 100m, right up farm lane. Opposite Knotbury farm, right through gate (017682; fingerpost) on gravel track that bears left over Knotbury Common, down to road (015689). Left over cattle grid; up road past Blackclough farm. Follow track north beside wall for ½ mile to walk through Reeve-Edge and Danebower quarries. Descend to cross stream by stepping stones (014699; YA). Up bank and turn left (fingerpost, “Dane Valley Way”/DVW). Follow track nearly to road, then slant left downhill by chimney (010700). Path by River Dane (stiles, YAs, DVW) for ¾ mile to the two bridges at Pannier’s Pool (009685). Here DVW crosses bridge; but you keep ahead on right bank of river on permissive path under Three Shires Head. In 1⁄3 mile ignore YA pointing left; continue uphill on main track to road at Cut-thorn (002681). Forward past house; left over stile (“Access Land”). Follow wall, then path over moor. In ¼ mile, just short of gate in wall ahead, fork left to cross stile (998683). Follow left-hand of two YAs by fence, following track as it curves left across Robin’s Clough stream and runs south over moor. In ¾ mile follow track past house and down to road at Hole-edge (001671). Right past Bennettshitch house. In 100m, left off road (fingerpost), steeply down to road by Methodist chapel (001664). Left across River Dane; round left bend; immediately left (fingerpost) past Dane View House. Through gate (fingerpost) and follow path with
wall on left for ¾ mile through six walls. Just before corner of seventh wall, by a “Peak & Northern Footpath Society” notice on pole (009671), turn right downhill. In 200m, left at another PNFS notice (“Flash”); aim across fields to pass Wicken Walls farm (014672). Ahead with wall on left; down across stile; steeply down rocks to river (016672). Cross footbridge (“Flash”); steeply up bank, over stile; bear right up path, which curves to left with wall on right (YAs). Follow path to drive of Axe Edge Green farm (020672). Right for 100m; left up to road (021671); left to Flash.
Lunch The New Inn, Flash (01298 22941; no food, BYO sandwiches) or picnic by Pannier’s Pool
Getting there Road: At Rose & Crown, Allgreave (on A54 Buxton-Congleton), take side road (“Quarnford”) to Flash.
More information Staffordshire Moorlands TIC (01538 483741)

15 Naunton and Slaughters, Gloucestershire
Upper Slaughter is everyone’s Cotswold dream — a gorgeous manor house, a church high on a bank, the whole village scented with applewood smoke. In Lower Slaughter, the River Eye runs under a small stone footbridge.

How hard is it? 9 miles; easy/moderate
Map OS Explorer OL45
How hard is it? 9 miles; easy/moderate
Start and finish Black Horse Inn, Naunton GL54 3AD
Walk From Black Horse Inn follow well-signposted Wardens’ Way for 4½ miles via Hill Barn (126239), Brockhill Farm drive (131242), B4068 (148241-152242), to Upper Slaughter and Lower Slaughter. Follow Macmillan Way for 1¼ miles into Windrush Valley (151213). Follow Windrush Way for 1¾ miles via River Windrush crossing (149213) and Aston Farm (147213) to road at Lower Harford Farm (129225). Continue on Windrush Way for nearly 2/3 mile; below Lodge’s Barn, right across river (119226); cross B4068 (17231); return to Naunton.
Lunch Picnic or Black Horse Inn, Naunton (01451 850565; theblackhorsenaunton.co.uk)
Accommodation The Hollow Bottom, Guiting Power GL54 5UX (01451 850392; hollowbottom.com)
Getting there Road: M5, Jct 11a; A40, A436, B4068 towards Stow-on-the-Wold, Naunton signposted on left. Park in village street.
More information Stow-on-the-Wold TIC (01451 870998)

16 Newbridge, Batt’s and Dens Wood, East Sussex
We squelched along a track of sticky Wealden clay into Newbridge Wood, one of the coppice woods that have been tended in these parts since medieval times, when this now all but empty landscape was England’s ironmaking centre.

How hard is it? 6½ miles, easy
Map OS Explorer 136
Start and finish Stonegate station TN5 7ER (OS ref TQ659272). All-day parking £4.70
Walk Stonegate station — left down road — right (655270) to Witherenden Farm. Through farmyard, down track, through metal gate (651271), anticlockwise round field; right to bridleway through Newbridge Wood; past Bivelham Forge Farm (640267) to road (637266). Left; in 80m, right over stile (yellow arrow/YA) across fields to Pound Bridge (633265). Cross road; along track via Gold’s Farm into Batt’s Wood (630274). Follow YAs — left by interpretive board; immediately right; in 50m, left at junction, down to gate near lake (633278). Right for ½ mile, left to cross stream (642278); left at three-finger post beyond. Track up through Dens Wood; down to T-junction (641286, “Weir Cottage”). Right; in 1⁄3 mile, through Dens Farm gate (646283); fork right between sheds, down lane; in 50m, left (YA) across fields. In 350m, cross stream (648279) to gate; don’t go through. Right along hedge, across fields for ½ mile (YAs) to track below Witherenden Farm (651271). Left to station.
Lunch Take a picnic
Getting there Rail: to Stonegate. Road: Stonegate station is off A265 Heathfield-Hurst Green road, just north of Burwash.
More information Hastings TIC (01424 451111)

17 Castle Combe and North Wraxall, Wiltshire
In theory you might find a prettier and cosier spot than Castle Combe as a starting point for a walk on a cold day, but in practice, no chance. Once out under the blue Wiltshire sky, wandering among the gables and tall chimneys, mullioned windows and Cotswold stone roofs of medieval cottages, everything was perfect.

How hard is it? 7½ miles; moderate
Map OS Explorer 156
Start and finish Castle Inn Hotel, Castle Combe, Chippenham SN14 7HN
Walk South down village street; past South Cottage, left over footbridge (841768); follow Macmillan Way (MW arrows) for 1¾ miles via Long Dean mill (851756) to A420 at Ford (843748). Right; past church, right (841749) along Old Coach Road for 1¼ miles to road (822747). Right through North Wraxall. Pass church; right (818750; “Castle Combe”). In 1/3 mile, left (817757), following yellow arrows/YA across two roads, then fields for ¾ mile to road (812770). Right along bridleway to road (813771). Right; in 150m left (fingerpost) along bridleway through Broadmead Brook valley via road (823769) for 1 mile to go through gate (829773) by brook. Don’t cross clapper bridge; in 30m, right (YA) for ¼ mile to Nettleton Mill (833775). Right through tall iron gate; continue to golf course. Right; left across bridge (838776); right to Castle Combe.
Lunch Castle Inn Hotel, Castle Combe (01249 783030; castle-inn.info)
Getting there Bus: Service 35 (wiltshire.gov.uk) from Chippenham. Road: M4 (Jct 18); signed from B4039 to village car park.
More information Chippenham TIC (01249 665970)

18 Loch Trool, Dumfries and Galloway
The Galloway hills hold many secret places, especially in these foothills of the wonderfully named Range of the Awful Hand. You would never suspect it from down in Glen Trool, but a string of beautiful peat-dark lochs with white quartzite-sand beaches lies above the Gairland’s glen.

How hard is it? 5½ miles circuit of Loch Trool, or 10 miles including upper lochs; moderate
Map OS Explorer 318
Start and finish Car park at foot of Loch Trool; nearest postcode DG8 6SU
Walk Follow woodland path past “green waymarks”/GW sign. NB: GWs are posts with green bands; they carry white waymark arrows (on their reverse sides) for clockwise walkers. In ½ mile enter conifer forest; in 200m, look for GW on left; climb track to road (402799). Right past Bruce’s Stone car park (416804); descend rough road to cross Buchan Bridge (418804); fork left and continue (GW; “Gairland Burn”). In 200m, at right bend (420805), Loch Trool Trail continues along road. For Gairland Burn and upper lochs extension, go through gate and up hillside path (“Loch Valley, Gairland Burn”). Follow track to Gairland Burn; continue up left bank. Near top, cross side burns (436818); keep near Gairland Burn to Loch Valley. Keep left of loch, then follow stone wall by burn up to Loch Neldricken. Return to gate near Buchan Bridge; rejoin Loch Trool Trail by turning left along road (GW). In 1/3 mile cross Gairland Burn and continue; go through gate, and in 150m bear right off road (430801; “National Cycle Network 7”). Follow path to cross burn (430800); forward up side of forestry (“Southern Upland Way/SUW”); left along SUW beside Loch Trool for 1¾ miles, to cross Caldons Burn footbridge and reach T-junction (399789) with SUW post, GW post and a blue post marked “7 Stones”. Bear right to footbridge and car park.
Lunch Take a picnic
Accommodation Creebridge House Hotel, Newton Stewart DG8 6NP (01671 402121; creebridge.co.uk)
Getting there Bus: Service 359 (Newton Stewart-Ayr) to Glentrool village (dumgal.gov.uk). Road: A714 Newton Stewart-Girvan. In 8 miles, right to Glentrool Visitor Centre. Follow “Bruce’s Stone”; in 1½ miles, right (“Start of Loch Trool Trail”) to car park.
More information Glentrool Visitor Centre (01671 840302)

19 Caradoc and Hope Bowdler, Shropshire
The ancient volcanic upthrust of the Caradoc Hills, with its naked rock outcrops, stretches north like a recumbent dinosaur, the double-humped back of Caer Caradoc and Little Caradoc dropping to a low neck before rising again northward into the long domed head of The Lawley.

How hard is it? 6 miles; hard
Map OS Explorer 217
Start and finish St Andrew’s Church, Hope Bowdler, near Church Stretton SY6 7EN
Walk Right along B4371; in 100m, left up driveway (475925; yellow arrow/YA). In 30m, bear left (“Church Stretton, Gaerstones”) on path under trees and through fields for 2⁄3 mile, to kissing gate on left on to B4371 (468932). Right for 40m; right up farm track (“Hope Bowdler, Gaerstones Farm”) past Gaerstones Farm. In 1⁄3 mile cross stile (472937; blue/orange arrow); in 50m, left over stile (YA), left along fence, then down track through wood for 1⁄3 mile. At bottom, right along track (471943). In 50m, bear left up green track; immediately sharp left, and straight up steep slope, crossing kissing gate (471944) to reach Three Fingers Rock (471947). On along spine of hills for 2⁄3 mile to Caer Caradoc summit (478954). Steeply down, on over Little Caradoc (481960) and down to turn right along fence (483963). In ¼ mile, where it doglegs right and left (484960), cross stile (YA); ahead through bracken, aiming halfway down fence on far side of field, past YA post. Turn left past ruined Hill House (484957) to roadway below. Just before reaching it, turn right past “footpath” post; on along grass path with hedge on right. In ¼ mile, over stile (484953; YA) and on with fence on left. At cross fence, over stile (483951; YA) and cross track, aiming towards Battle Stones rocky peak ahead. Descend with fence on left; at bottom, cross stile (484948; YA); down through trees and over stream. Up path, then over brackeny wet hillside, aiming for Battle Stones. Cross wired-up stile (485946; YA, “Access Land”); turn right along grass track, with hedge on right and brackeny Willstone Hill on left. In ¼ mile, cross stile (481945); in 200m, sharp left at “Ride UK1” post, diagonally left up hillside, aiming for rock outcrops. At saddle (482942) don’t go left, but keep ahead on grassy bridleway through bracken across Hope Bowdler Hill for 1 mile, down to B4371 in Hope Bowdler (478927). Right to church.
Lunch Royal Oak, Cardington SY6 7JZ (01694 771266; at-the-oak.com, closed Mondays)
Accommodation Raven Hotel, Much Wenlock TF13 6EN (01952 727251)
Getting there Train: to Church Stretton. Road: A49 to Church Stretton; B4371 to Hope Bowdler. Park near church.
More information Shrewsbury TIC (01743 258888)

20 Laugharne, Carmarthenshire
Along the edge of the Taf estuary we found the Boathouse, where Dylan Thomas lived for the last four years of his life, and the shed where he wrote.

How hard is it? 6½ miles, easy
OS Explorer 177
Start and finish Church car park, Laugharne SA33 4QD (OS ref SN301114)
Walk From the car park, left through Laugharne. By castle (302107) right, following Wales Coast Path (WCP) and Dylan’s Birthday Walk (DBW) along shore, then up cliff path. In ½ mile WCP, DBW fork left by bench (306100). Leave WCP/DBW here, ahead along cliff path. In 1/3 mile at fork (301097), right up steps on WCP for 50m; don’t cross stiles; left through fence gap. Cliff path for 350m; stile (297098, yellow arrow); field path to A4066 in Broadway (294101). Right; left by Carpenter’s Arms; across stile at lane end (294103); right to hedge corner; right along path/lane for 700m to road (297108). Right; left at “30” sign; in 150m, left along Holloway Lane, then field path to Horsepool Road (300114). Right to A4066. Up cobbled lane by church car park; on via Hillside (302117) to Delacorse (308122). WCP to Boathouse (306110), then road (304109). Right on bridleway to church.
Lunch Dylan Thomas Boathouse, Laugharne SA33 4SD (01994 427420; open 10.30am-2.45pm)
Accommodation Browns Hotel, Laugharne SA33 4RY (01994 427688; browns-hotel.co.uk)
Getting there Bus: Service 222 (tafvalleycoaches.co.uk), Carmarthen-Pendine. Road: A4066 to Laugharne.
More information Carmarthen TIC (01267 231557)

My favourite walk: Famous walkers describe the routes they love

Bill Bryson, author
“My favourite walk will always be through Malhamdale in the Yorkshire Dales. There’s a particular farm gate on the hill above Kirkby Malham that offers one of the loveliest views I know.”

Julia Bradbury, TV presenter
“I love walking in rugged landscapes like the Peak District and the Lake District, but more recently I’ve become a fan of hiking in Devon. There is a fantastic river walk from Lynmouth along the banks of the East Lyn River that takes you past probably one of the most picturesque riverside café locations in the world — the National Trust Watersmeet Café — through woodlands and stunning Exmoor National Park scenery.”

Ben Fogle, adventurer
“The walk along the beach of Luskentyre on Harris in the Outer Hebrides is beautiful enough to make you weep. The white sand is as powdery as talc, and the water is turquoise, with mile upon mile of deserted beach. Zero flotsam and jetsam. It is one of the most hauntingly beautiful, dramatic wildernesses. It’s not just one of the best beach walks in the UK — it’s one of the best in the world.”

Alan Titchmarsh, TV presenter
“My favourite walk is the part of the South West Coast Path from Sennen Cove to Porthcurno Beach, which winds its way around Land’s End and finishes at the spectacular Minack Theatre and its wonderful subtropical garden, which is carved out of the cliffs. It is a wonderful journey through sea pink and vetch flowers. Every now and then I sit down and take in the view of crashing waves and turquoise coves.”

Anita Rani, Countryfile presenter
“I love walking to Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales, a huge limestone rock which dates back to the Ice Age. It’s so dramatic and beautiful. Drive to the little village of Malham, then walk up the road, through the fields and you’ll see Malham Cove in the distance. You pass a stream and lots of sheep — and then you reach the huge, beautiful rock itself. You can climb to the top of it where there’s a huge limestone pavement. It’s as if you’re on an alien planet.”