Winning trip: Pristine beaches, south-west Crete
The E4 European path cuts across Crete, and we did a few sections while backpacking there last October. One of the most scenic sections is from Krios Beach (you can drive here or take a bus from Paleochora town) to the beautiful pink-sanded beach of Elafonisi. Along the way you walk for about 10km across pristine white sand beaches and get to swim in clear turquoise water. You can get a taxi back to Paleochora from Elafonisi. All Trails has a “there and back” walk mostly following the same path, but there are plenty of descriptions of the route online.
Guided walk across Morecambe Bay, Cumbria
Morecambe Bay is one of England’s loveliest beauty spots, and the best way to experience it is with a walk across the sands at low tide. Led by the official guide (first appointed in the 16th century, and essential for safety reasons), the serpentine seven-mile stroll between Arnside and Grange-over-Sands is unique in Britain and absolutely unforgettable, whatever the weather. Costs are typically £15 for adults and £10 for children, which goes entirely to a different charity for each outing. The walk conveniently ends at Kents Bank railway station, for trains back over the bay.
On the Sheep’s Head Way, Ireland
The Sheep’s Head Way of West Cork has a wild, at times stark, beauty that its more famous cousin, the Kerry Way, does not. Often grassy and indistinct, this 58-mile circular route traces the coast of the Sheep’s Head peninsula, the slimmest and boniest of the fingers that Ireland juts into the Atlantic at its extreme south-west. Expect kind locals, many sheep and views over the blue of Bantry Bay. The walk, when my mother and I did it in 2016, was lonelier than I expected given its loveliness. Ruined villages and neolithic stone circles came slowly into focus over many miles as we picked our way towards them with bog-dampened feet, past holy wells. We loved it, despite being harassed by horse flies at one point.
Amber on the Baltic coast
The European long distance hiking route E9 is now complete, with a route along the coast of the Baltic States – Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. The Latvian portion is referred to as Jūrtaka and boasts sandy beaches, green fairytale forests stretching along the coastline, blue skies and the brackish water of the Baltic Sea with its unique freshwater wildlife. And if you’re into beachcombing, the Kurzeme (Courland) coast and Cape Kolka are brilliant places to look for amber.
Laura Vabis Knight
Fancy some Quiddles? Dorset
We had an unexpectedly beautiful, family-friendly walk on the Isle of Portland. We started at the delightful Quiddles cafe – which advertises itself as serving “seafood that’s off the wall” – at the very end of the esplanade with stunning views looking back along Chesil Beach. Here you are encouraged to borrow a picker and a carrier bag, and collect a bagful of litter from the beach while walking.
Setting off along the seawall, heading south towards Blacknor Fort, we soon found ourselves winding along sandy paths, clambering up huge slabs of Portland stone from the Tout Quarry on the cliffs above, and through stunning coastal flora and fauna. Who could ask for a more memorable and dramatic coastline?
High on the Amalfi coast, Italy
The name Sentiero degli Dei, Path of the Gods, sets up this 8km walk to be something special and it does not disappoint. This stretch of the Amalfi Coast, south of Naples, was once dotted with Roman temples, and strolling along it is celestial in more ways than one. From Bomerano, a hamlet in Agerola, it’s about 10km to Nocelle, near Positano. The path emerges on to craggy clifftops with views of the Med fizzing around the shoreline below and at points there are matchbox multicoloured houses tumbling down the hillsides towards the beaches. At Nocelle you can catch a bus to Positano or walk down more than 1,000 steps to the sea. Our experience was capped off by meeting some strolling monks who offered us a refreshing glass of limoncello – heavenly!
Harbouring bliss, Pembrokeshire
An ancient gateway, Porth Clais Harbour outside St David’s once served as a transport hub for vital materials (the old harbour wall is thought to have been built by the Romans), today it’s primarily frequented for leisure. My boots are bound for the steady dirt track that quickly opens up to panoramic views of the furthest horizon, and the striking Solva coastline. Muted tones underfoot, I’m suddenly surrounded by verdant yellow scrub, awash with the sound of crashing waves in rocky inlets below, gulls crying above. Transfixed by the ageless beauty of ancient hamlets and home farms of the adjacent countryside, I’m transported in time, my vision flooded, I’ve never felt more alive.
Unassuming charm on the Fife Coastal Path
A 16-mile portion of the Fife Coastal Path from North Queensferry to Kinghorn is a surprisingly beautiful walk. Starting under the bold Forth Rail Bridge, the path climbs through woodland to a flat, easygoing path. Industry looms large for part of the walk between Inverkeithing and Dalgety Bay, before passing an old chapel ruin on the way to Aberdour. At Silver Sands beach you can pick up an ice-cream or chips for sustenance. Keep an eye out for seals lazing in the sun on the way to Burntisland and walk along the sand when the tide is out to Kinghorn. It’s an underrated part of Scotland in comparison with the grander cities and scenic Highlands, but has an unassuming charm of its own.
To Wales’ most northerly point
For two undulating miles between Eglwys Llanbadrig church and the abandoned Porth Wen brickworks you feel the surveyor of civilisations past. Llanberig’s 12th-century stonework foundations were laid by a shipwrecked Saint Patrick, but it is Demi Moore who comes to mind in the churchyard, where scenes from 2005’s Half Light was filmed. Further on, a Victorian porcelain works half stands in a stony cove, and up steep headland steps waits Edward VII’s Coronation Tower, built in 1902: Wales’ northernmost point. Sit on the pocked concrete and scan the sea for dolphins. At Porth Wen, sunset glows off the chimneys, kilns, and rusted machinery as the harbour walls erode away.
Lycian Way, Turkey
I love the walk from Gokceoren to Saribelen – a 14km-section of Turkey’s amazing Lycian Way (from Fethiye to Antalya). Parts of the path are formed from a Roman aqueduct, and the route passes through pretty pastures and rocky outcrops, with lots of inquisitive goats and a few even-more-inquisitive farmers for company. The beautifully turquoise Med is over your left shoulder for most of the way and you can even see the tiny sloping airport on the Greek island of Kastellorizo from one of the path’s vantage points. End the walk in the tiny village of Saribelen and perhaps reward yourself with an ice-cream or a cold Efes beer. The path is clearly waymarked and not at all difficult.