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Whether you’re looking for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, the south west of England offers an enticing variety of walking trails. Expect to discover some of the most stunning spots in England as you take on your chosen hike, from dazzling city skylines to gorgeous coastal backdrops.
In this guide we’ve outlined three of the best short and three of the best long walking trails in the region. More experienced hikers may prefer to take on one of the longer routes, while those on a family day out with smaller children may decide on a shorter trail.
From the Bath skyline to the Avon Valley walk, there’s so much to see, so put on your hiking boots and get ready to be wowed with spectacular scenery. Each location is easy to get to by train, so you can find yourself surrounded by beautiful views in no time at all.
The best short walking trails in the south west
These walking trails are ideal for those who don’t want to be out all day. Ranging from 6 to 11 miles, these trails might only be short, but the incredible views you witness along the way will leave you with lasting memories.
Shalford Three Peaks Circular in Guildford
If you’re a fan of nature, shrubbery, and idyllic stretches of natural beauty, then this is the trail for you. Shalford Three Peaks Circular is an 8 mile loop trail located near Guildford, Surrey, and its breath-taking beauty makes it a favourite amongst visitors and locals alike.
As you meander over the three peaks, expect to see beautiful wildflowers, falcons, and even a llama or two. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, and bird watching, and can be slippery in places, so come equipped with a good pair of walking shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy. This is a moderate trail with a couple of steep hills, so bear this in mind if you’re not looking for a challenge.
Guildford is the closest train station to this trail, and you’ll find frequent trains running from London Waterloo, Farnham, Portsmouth, and other stations operating on our network. From Guildford station, walk for a minute or so to The Friary, then take the number 24 bus to Cranleigh. Ride for six minutes and get off at St Mary’s church, which is the fourth stop.
For a stunning combination of nature and city views, you won’t want to miss the Bath Skyline trail. At six miles long, this circular route won’t take you long to complete, though its uneven terrain and various hills make for a moderately challenging walk.
The Bath Skyline route runs from the centre of Bath through to meadows and woodlands in the surrounding countryside. On your fascinating nature walk, expect to stumble across ancient ruins, storybook forests, and sprawling fields where you can find unmatched views of the town.
The Bath Skyline makes for an unforgettable short hike for people of all ages and abilities. Follow this route clockwise to make the most out of the beautiful views and to follow the signposted directions.
Bath Spa is the closest station, and once there simply take the U1 bus towards University of Bath, getting off at the ‘Youth Hostel’ stop.
Bournemouth, Boscombe & Hengistbury Head Trail
Combining views of the coast with stunning green areas of natural beauty, you don’t want to miss the Bournemouth, Boscombe & Hengistbury Head Trail. This trail is ideal for all skill levels, meaning that the whole family can get involved.
At around 11 miles long, this route is the longest of all the shorter trails, taking between three and four hours to complete depending on your walking pace, but the distance is more than worth it as there’s plenty to see along the way. A highlight of this route is the not-to-be-missed view of The Needles and Hengistbury Head from the south coast path.
Begin your journey in the beautiful coastal town of Bournemouth before heading east towards Boscombe Pier. From there, continue until you reach Hengistbury Head, a gorgeous viewpoint which receives one million visitors annually. Any animal-lovers should keep their eyes peeled for endangered wildlife, as this area is known for sightings of rare species.
The nearest train station to this trail is Bournemouth station, and from there, it’s an 18-minute walk or a short bus journey to the top of Bath Hill in the town centre, where the trail begins. There are many buses running into the town centre.
The best long walking trails in the south west
If you’re committed to more than a few hours of walking, then we’ve got you covered with some of the best of the longer trails in the south west. These trails might be more of a mission, but the sense of achievement you’ll feel as you reach the final point of your hike makes it all worth it. Ranging from 34 to 630 miles (a trek no one is expected to complete in one day) these trails are bound to get your legs moving and your heart pumping.
The South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path covers a staggering 630 miles of jaw-dropping coastal vistas and would take fast walkers around 30 days to complete in full. If you wanted to take the time to enjoy the stunning coastal views, pretty ports and historic county towns at a more leisurely pace, then this route is likely to take between 7 and 8 weeks.
While it’s unlikely that you’ll find the time to complete the whole trail at once, many people choose a certain segment of the route to take on, which gives you the freedom to be completely flexible with how long you’re walking for.
The trail begins in the pretty town of Poole, a pleasant resort on the Dorset coast which features harbours, castles and of course, beaches. Your journey through Poole will take you to Devon, then around the Cornish coast, before finishing up in Minehead in Somerset.
If you’re taking public transport, then Poole is one of the easiest spots to start your journey at, with the station located conveniently close to the beginning of the South West Coast Path.
Solent Way Walk in Hampshire
Coined one of the most picturesque walks in Hampshire, The Solent Way certainly lives up to its title. At 60 miles long, this long-distance walk is perfect for those who want to combine exercise with breath-taking views and tourist hotspots, from the historic Hurst castle in Milford-on-Sea to the famous Netley pier on Southampton Water.
You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook as you take in the sights at the seaside town of Milford-on-Sea and soak up the relaxing atmosphere at the quaint Emsworth Harbour. Along the walking trail, you can enjoy shingle beaches, deserted coastal marshes, and promenades, as well as boarding two ferries. You’ll also pass many riverside pubs for a much-needed bite to eat and energy refresh.
Since this walk is quite a long one, it should take you between 4 and 6 days to complete. It’s completely up to you how much of the trail you choose to take on, and where your start and finish points will be, so this is a walk that can be adapted to suit the needs of your party.
The route begins at Lymington Quay, and to get there, catch the train to Lymingon Pier. From here, walk east along the coast, away from the shops.
Avon Valley Walk in Salisbury
Fans of old English architecture will enjoy the Avon Valley Walk, which begins in one of the most beautiful cathedral cities in England, Salisbury. During your 34-mile walk, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time as you stroll down the riverside pathway that was built back in 1992.
The pathway leads to vibrant meadows buzzing with wildlife, and you might even spot some grazing New Forest Ponies. The route is well signposted so you don’t have to worry about your map-reading skills, and if you’re getting tired, there are plenty of quaint pubs you can stop off at to recharge your batteries along the way.
The Avon Valley route is split into five sections, and it’s best to complete it over several days or even a week so that you can enjoy this walk and all its beautiful scenery without having to rush.
To get here, take a South Western Railway train to Salisbury station. From there, it’s either a 13-minute walk or a short bus or taxi journey to Salisbury cathedral, which is where the route begins.