Fowey Harbour to Polkerris Bay, Cornwall
Pack your swimmers, a small towel, a bottle of water and take the coastal walk from Fowey Harbour to Polkerris Bay. It is a moderate to strenuous walk of almost five miles (longer if you choose the circular walk back to Fowey), but you will be rewarded with the discovery of secret beaches en route, where you can stop for a swim and take in the beautiful views. Another highlight is the shipwreck that inspired Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca at Polridmouth cove. End the walk with a seafood lunch at Sam’s on Polkerris beach (booking recommended) or a drink at the Rashleigh Inn next door, and watch the sunset on the beach.
My favourite clifftop walk is in Lerwick, Shetland. If you start along the Knab towards Sound, it is the most relaxing way to start or end the day. There are sheep who bleat like an old man, seals who are curious and playful and even an egg honesty box at a B&B along the way. The colour of both the sea and the sky is grey-blue – sometimes it is hard to tell where the sky ends and the sea begins. If feeling brave, the pebbled beach offers an opportunity for a refreshing swim with the seals.
Elie chain walk, Fife
My tip isn’t so much a walk as a climb: the Elie chain walk. You edge your way along ledges and up and down steps in the cliffs, clinging on to chains anchored in the rock for the more precipitous sections – and there are lots of them. Consider it a via ferrata for beginners. I managed it with five- and eight-year-olds although, in truth, it’s probably unsuitable for most youngsters. But, then again, it’s so refreshing to come across this sort of exploration that hasn’t (yet) been stymied by the health and safety police. You will never forget the experience. Oh, and watch out for the tide times!
Holderness coast, East Yorkshire
Start your walk in Bridlington – parking is free on the south side. The walk begins along Belvedere Parade and continues south along a path, past the hamlet of Wilsthorpe, then opening out on to a cliff edge path (which is sometimes awash with butterflies), eventually coming to an excellent coffee shop, the Cow Shed at Fraisthorpe beach. It’s about three miles to there. After coffee and cake with a superb view of the bay, return on the wide-open beach, easy underfoot and with sightings of seabirds and waders, as well as second world war sea defences. Six miles, great coffee, wide open views, an extensive beach, nature and history – all the ingredients of an excellent walk.
Baggy Point, Devon
When adventuring with my family, access is our first consideration, as our little girl has a disability. My partner and I have always adored coastal walks, so we were blown away by the breathtaking circular walk called Baggy Point, just east of Croyde beach in north Devon. It is largely accessible (with the rare rocky patch) and has no shortage of jaw-dropping scenery.
Hythe to Folkestone, Kent
Expect to see wildlife along the picturesque Royal Military canal before crossing to Hythe seafront and enjoying the boardwalk and dramatic sea towards Sandgate. Check out the village’s short stretch of quirky shops, then cut back to the beach to spot some residual artwork from the Folkestone Triennial. Have a lolly at the beachside Mermaids Cafe when you reach Folkestone, then let the kids go wild in the amazing, free adventure park at the Lower Leas Coastal Park. Don’t miss the fabulous coastal planting, then zigzag your way back up the path for afternoon tea at the Grand. Promenade harbour-wards and take in the Channel views, pass the water lift and memorial arch, then finish at one of the vibrant new pop-up bars on the Harbour Arm.
Isle of Sheppey, Kent
There is an easy five-mile stroll on the Isle of Sheppey, beginning in bustling Leysdown-on-Sea. Heading eastwards, the rows of caravans drop away and the vast expanse of muddy sand is bequeathed to flocks of gulls and oystercatchers. The neat breakwaters of Leysdown give way to lines of jagged wooden posts, sticking up like shipwrecks out of the sand. Take a break at Shellness beach, made up entirely of tiny pastel-coloured shells. Then head through the bleakly beautiful Swale nature reserve, keeping the sparkling Swale estuary in view – a great place to spot seals basking on the sandbanks. After an afternoon of soul-cleansing isolation, finish at the Ferry House Inn for outstanding local fare.
Criccieth to Porthmadog, Gwynedd
I usually catch the train from Porthmadog to Criccieth, it’s only a few pounds. From Criccieth station head to the nearby castle (currently closed) before dropping down on to the beach path and past the glass-fronted, art deco Dylan’s restaurant, which is always worth a visit. The pebbly beach gives way to easier walking underfoot as you circumnavigate the headland, with fantastic views over Blackrock Sands and an easy walk along the beach, picking up the Welsh Coastal Path to the beautiful beaches before Borth-y-Gest (where the Sea View Cafe does great ice-cream) before finishing your walk into Porthmadog. It’s about five miles, three hours maximum, great at any time of year.
The Norfolk Coastal Path is best known for vast sandy beaches, tidal marshland and pine woods. But one outstanding section climbs from the pretty fishing village of Weybourne and stretches along clifftops overlooking the always dramatic North Sea. This walk defies the reputation of “flat Norfolk” with spectacular views across rolling fields, gorse, heather and woodland. Catch glimpses of steam trains puffing along the Poppy Line to Holt. Follow the path up to the lifeguard lookout point before dropping down into Sheringham. Ride the cute little Coasthopper bus back to Weybourne for lunch at the Ship Inn.
Beyond the Lakes, Cumbria
Silecroft, on the Cumbrian coast, has a great beach, and this is a quiet and easy walk – close to the southern fringes of the Lakes, but well away from the tourist crowds. Famous for the opening credits of BBC’s Countryfile, with the horses running through the waves. At high tide there are pebbles but at low tide there’s a flat expanse of sand, as far as the eye can see to the north and south. If you’re lucky, you’ll see no one else. If unlucky you might have to share it with maybe 20 others. Head south for an easy walk on the sand for about four miles, enjoying the views across the sea to the Isle of Man, or inland to the local fells, until you get to the quiet, peaceful village of Haverigg.