Northern Ireland is a hiker’s paradise, with temperate summer breezes making day-long walks comfortable, while heather-tinted mountains and blue loughs rich in history and legend are all accessible within a short drive of Belfast City. A must-see is the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage site with walking options from a two-hour family walk to a two-day coastal hike.
The Mediterranean’s most mountainous island is rugged enough to challenge even experienced hill walkers who attempt to traverse the mountain ridges which cross the island, but more moderate treks are gentler, using in old mule tracks from coast to coast between ancient villages. Expect unspoilt countryside, tumbling rivers and the beautiful scent of the wild maquis shrubs, which gives Corsica its nickname - “the Scented Isle”.
Scotland’s largest city is surrounded by amazing countryside, from the Clyde beaches and the road to the Western Isles, to the bonny banks of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, 40 minutes north of the city. Scale Ben Lomond for unsurpassed views, or take a gentler meander along the Great Trossachs Path, finding sustenance at one of the many tearooms and pubs along the route.
Uniquely British, but with a French coastal climate, the Channel Islands are small, beautiful and perfectly formed. Alderney is a walker’s paradise with wildlife, beaches and heathlands and most of all peace and quiet. Although only 3.5 by 1.5 miles long, Alderney boasts more than 50 miles of winding lanes and country paths. Guernsey and Jersey are more developed, but also packed full of wild flowers in season and historical sites to explore, beaches and pretty ports.
Rugged coastlines, mountains, abandoned copper mines and leisurely country park walks are all within easy reach of Cork, Galway’s capital city. Or, if pilgrimage and contemplation is what you’re looking for, the 37-mile St Finbarr’s Pilgrim Way, steeped in Celtic history and archaeological remains, crosses three mountain and valley systems, ending in a spectacular descent to St Finbarr’s Oratory in Gougane Barra.