With mountains, lakes, coastlines and valleys, the diverse landscape of the UK offers ramblers and hikers a nearly inexhaustible choice of challenging routes and paths.
Of course people are free to explore and discover Britain’s beautiful countryside at their own pace, but ambitious ramblers can test their endurance by signing up to take part in gruelling long-distance walking challenges. Often encouraged to raise sponsorship for charities, and taking anywhere from 4 to 48 hours to complete, ramblers have an exciting choice of challenges to choose from, each with their own beautiful scenery to conquer.
Outdoors kit provider Sportsshoes.com rounds-up four of the most popular medium and long-distance walking challenges in the North, South, East and West of the UK:
NB These endurance walks are not suitable for beginners and all require a good level of fitness, experience and training.
NORTH: Lake District 3000 Footers, Cumbria, England
Also known as the Lake District Four Peaks, the comparatively small distance of this challenge is mostly covered by the ascent and descent of four mountains, each over 3,000 feet: Scarfell, Scarfell Pike, Helvellyn and Skiddaw. It’s a demanding and serious challenge, with a variety of undulating terrain – but with glorious views from no less than four summits, the rewards are great.
- Distance: 15 to 21 miles (depending on the route taken).
- Duration: 16 hours of walking (tackled in one long day or split into eight hour walks over two days).
- Getting there: The M6 runs to the east of the Lake District National Park; car journeys from the south east take approx. six hours and journeys from Manchester and York take roughly two hours. Direct trains run from Manchester and Windermere.
- Finding out more: Organise a group trip with Lake District Challenges
WEST: Snowdonia Mountain Challenge, Wales
Although some training is required for this walk, it’s a great challenge for ramblers with little experience. The Llanberis route up Snowdon is a steady ascent but the climb is all on paths (some parts of the path are rougher than others however). The summit commands striking views of Snowdonia National Park with Anglesey and the Irish Sea in the distance.
- Distance: Nine miles.
- Duration: Average completion time is seven hours.
- Getting there: Betws-y-Coed train station is located in the heart of Snowdonia and can be reached from London Euston in four hours and from Manchester in three. To drive from the north west take the M56 and A55; roads M6, M5 and M1 link North Wales with the south east.
- Finding out more: Take part in an organised climb with Marie Curie
SOUTH: South Downs 100km, South Downs National Park, England
Not to be undertaken lightly, the South Downs 100km is a seriously strenuous challenge, with walkers having to endure the high ridges and steep hills of the rolling South Downs of Hampshire and Sussex. The hike takes place over night and day, starting at the historical town of Arundel and finishing at Beachy Head, the UK’s highest white chalk coastal cliffs.
To conquer this challenge walkers have to battle strong fatigue and must be experienced, determined and physically fit. The South Downs is a once-in-a-lifetime challenge and those who complete it will be proud of their achievement for their lifetime.
- Distance: 100km – which is just under 63 miles.
- Duration: 30 to 36 hours of walking (covered over two days).
- Getting there: The start of the challenge, Arundel, can be reached in 90 minutes on train from London and is roughly a two hour car journey from London. The walk finishes in Eastbourne where trains can take you directly back to London (or you can arrange a friend to collect you!)
- Finding out more: Discover Adventure will help you organise your South Downs 100km walk for any charity you wish
EAST: Norfolk Coastal Challenge, Norfolk, England
There are a number of organised challenges along the dramatic Norfolk coast. One of the most ambitious walks sees people complete 47 miles on foot in 24 hours. Starting in Hunstanton and finishing at Cromer Pier, the route takes walkers over field, sand and stony beaches. The event does see a few challengers drop out with injuries; however, the supporting crowds at the finish line make the arduous feat worthwhile. A participant from last year, Tom Bailey, perfectly summed up the experience saying “Pain is temporary, pride is forever. Coastal Walk Challenge was truly memorable and organisation phenomenal.”
- Distance: 47 miles.
- Duration: 24 hours (with overnight stay).
- Getting there: Although possible to reach via train and bus, a car is the simplest way to reach the starting point in Hunstanton.