5 breathtaking coastal walks you can take this summer in the UK

The UK boasts some of the most spectacular coastlines in the world.

Trails across the country can take you through sleepy fishing villages, tumbling clifftops, and unique natural formations that are the stuff of legends.

Though your adventure may depend upon the whim of the infamously temperamental British climate, there are stretches of the coast so beautiful that, come wind, rain, or shine, simply cannot be missed.

So, with the summer finally here, what better time to discover five of the most breathtaking coastal walks the UK has to offer?

1. The South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is England’s longest formally waymarked footpath and is among the longest coastal paths in the world. It stretches over 630 miles and covers the superb coastlines of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, and Somerset.

The path has won the accolade of “Britain’s Best Walking Route” several times and is a regular feature on lists of the best walks in the world. It includes trails through the Jurassic Coast and the Cornwall and Devon Mining Landscape, both of which are World Heritage Sites.

For intrepid and seasoned hikers, you can do the full path in around seven to eight weeks, and the official site of the South West Coast Path outlines a 52-day itinerary complete with daily highlights and local transport options.

For the regular walker with just a day or two to spare, you can start at any of the numerous gateways to the trail. The paths through Combe Martin in Devon, Port Isaac in Cornwall, and the Exmoor Coastal Heaths in Somerset all offer particularly outstanding views.

2. Marloes Peninsula, Pembrokeshire

A beautiful heathland peninsula with breathtaking scenery and a wealth of wildlife, the Marloes Peninsula is one of the highlights of the longer Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

The route takes you through the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, as well as rolling clifftop pastures, and Iron Age forts.

And, of course, the main stop along the way is Marloes Sands Beach. A picturesque sandy beach that stretches over a mile. On a sunny day you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in the Mediterranean if it weren’t for the distinctly British sight of verdant clifftops towering over the bay.

If you are lucky, you might spot seals or porpoises swimming in the Atlantic Ocean, and on clear days you could encounter all manner of seabirds, including guillemots and razorbills.

Marloes Peninsula is a circular walk around seven miles long and is accessible for most able walkers.

3. Giant’s Causeway Red Trail, County Antrim

There are two versions of how the Giant’s Causeway came about.

The mythic version tells that the Scottish giant Benandonner challenged Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill to a fight. Fionn accepted the challenge and built a causeway into the North Channel so the two of them could meet.

Nowadays, the fighting place of the two is one of Northern Ireland’s best-known landscapes, but the legend lives on and is immortalised in its name: the Giant’s Causeway.

The scientific version explains that the area consists of around 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, created by an ancient volcanic eruption. The tops of the columns form huge hexagonal stepping stones that start from the cliffs and disappear into the sea.

Whichever story you prefer, the Causeway offers some of the best coastal walking in Northern Ireland, and after just a few minutes on the clifftops, you will see why it has inspired such stories and wonder.

The Red Trail is a bracing path that offers incredible views from the cliffs. It is a formally signposted route with a moderate climb that’s well worth it for the unparalleled vistas of a geological marvel.

4. St Abb’s Head, Scotland

St Abb’s Head is a rugged coastal headland surrounded by the dramatic cliffs of the Scottish Borders in Berwickshire.

The headland is near the quiet fishing village of St Abb’s and the surrounding area is a national nature reserve administered by the National Trust for Scotland.

The walk is a circular route of around four miles and takes you past the freshwater Mire Loch and a Victorian-era lighthouse that is still in service.

Both the ocean and the loch waters teem with wildlife, and the area is particularly popular with scuba divers, who you may spot on your journey.

5. The Cleveland Way, North Yorkshire

The Cleveland Way is a 109-mile route that winds through the peaceful North York Moors National Park before reaching the coast at Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

From there on, the trail takes you along the breathtaking North Yorkshire coastline to Filey and runs through Robin Hood’s Bay and the ever-popular seaside resorts of Scarborough and Whitby.

The route is signposted throughout and is accessible to most people with a reasonable level of fitness, though it can be challenging at points.

Although the Cleveland Way is open all year round, the summer months are the best time to visit as you will be welcomed by the sight of the moorland heather in full bloom.