If you’re itching to get outdoors within the guidance set by the government but want to avoid the crowds, there are many unsung hikes around the country that are likely to stay quiet and calm as people start to venture out again.
The Rocky Valley, Cornwall
Alternative to: Pedn Vounder and busy Cornish coves
Bossiney Cove is a wonderful gem tucked away near Tintagel in the north of Cornwall. In recent years, social media coverage has meant that now Instagram-famous beaches such as Pedn Vounder have become crowded, but walking down to Bossiney Cove is often a joy and is only a mile along the road from the built-up Tintagel area. Make sure you head down there at low tide though, because the beach is totally covered at high tide, and be prepared to face a number of fairly steep steps. Once down there you can walk across the beach to a 60ft high cave to explore.
Fan Llia, Wales. Alternative to: Pen Y Fan across the road
In coming months when we’re out of lockdown and you’d like to venture somewhere with fewer crowds, I’d really recommend heading to the other side of the A470 from the little forest at Plas-y-gors up to the cairn at Fan Dringarth and back down towards the Storey Arms at the bottom of Pen Y Fan. With most people going in the opposite direction, you’ll have huge swathes of the Beacons Way to yourself, even in the height of summer.
Raasay Island, Scotland. Alternative to: Isle of Skye
Hiking in Raasay is a joy due to its diminutive size, lack of roads and an excellent distillery to visit at the end of the day. The lack of accommodation means many people don’t ever get to Raasay, but its towering hills and wild expanses make for some excellent hiking conditions and circular routes, so it’s well worth checking out. To get to Raasay, take the 25-minute Cal-Mac ferry from Skye, and leave the crowds behind.
Connemara National Park, Ireland. Alternative to: Wild Atlantic Way
Although along the west coast of Ireland and technically on the Wild Atlantic Way, there’s definitely a different feeling about the Connemara National Park and it is best visited in spring and early summer, when wild flowers are abundant and there’s very little in the way of visitors. There are over 2,000 hectares to explore here and a number of excellent hiking trails up the 400-metre Diamond Hill, which takes in views of the area and the beautiful distant islands of Inishbofin, Inishturk and Inishshark.
Portheras Cove, Pendeen, Cornwall. Alternative to: Sennen Beach
The hike to Portheras Cove is a lovely one – you park at Pendeen Lighthouse (you can often get a space here, especially during the weekday) and meander down a track that hugs the coast north. For a couple of kilometres along this path, the cove is unseen, leading many people to believe that they’ve gone the wrong way – but keep persevering.
The joy of this hike is not only does it hug some of the best coastline in Britain, it reveals itself to you very slowly – winding around hidden inlets until eventually Portheras Cove appears in the distance as a golden speck on the horizon. It’s probably another twenty minutes of walking until you happen upon the fresh sands – it’s a little scramble down but I think one of the best little coves in Cornwall and perfect for a swim and a rest until you either opt to continue along the coast path towards Gurnard’s Head and Zennor or return the way you came.
Dancing Ledge, Dorset. Alternative to: Lulworth Cove
Dancing Ledge is a quarry on the coast of Dorset offering a plateau to swim and climb right by the sea. It has its fair share of visitors, but many people forget the unspoilt and isolated walks to be had in this area – the walk down to Dancing Ledge itself from Langton Matravers is a joy the summer time, and much of the coastpath along here, with its various rocky outcrops and quarries can often be quiet if you head west towards Winspit, St Alban’s Head and Kimmeridge Bay.
Amble to Bamburgh, Northumberland. Alternative to: Lake District and Dales
If you’re looking for remote places in the UK, Northumberland is one of the best places to head and still to this day remains a place of tranquillity and isolation during busy summer months if you know where to head. Only an hour and a half from the often-packed Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, it’s worth the extra trip north for the peace and quiet and remote North Sea beauty.
I’d recommend strolling along the coast path from Amble to the castle at Bamburgh, through Craster and Seahouses and eventually, if time permits, on slightly further to Holy Island and the famous Lindisfarne.
Hunstanton to Sheringham, Norfolk. Alternative to: Great Yarmouth.
There are some wonderful places to head when out of lockdown in Norfolk, and many of them are far quieter than you’d expect. There is always somewhere to escape the crowds in this part of the world, and a great multi-day hike option is to take the coast path from Hunstanton or Burnham Deepdale to Sheringham, taking in the wild saltmarshes and quiet creeks this part of the world has become famous for.