1. Looe to Polperro, Cornwall
The 5.5-mile stretch of coast path between Looe and Polperro is one of Cornwall’s best-loved. Starting at the western end of Looe’s seafront, the route takes in Portnadler Bay’s National Trust-protected beach, the dramatic headland before Talland Bay and the picture-postcard views of Polperro.Polperro’s narrow, winding streets are home to an excellent choice of welcoming pubs – so you’re bound to find somewhere to rest your legs following the walk, which can be completed briskly in a couple of hours or enjoyed more leisurely over half a day. If the weather’s good, many ramblers choose to walk back the way they came to make the most of the excellent views. If not, there are regular bus services from Polperro back to Looe.
2. Stackpole Head, Pembrokeshire
Arguably the most stunning stretch of Pembroke’s coastline – which makes up the UK’s only coastal national park – Stackpole Head is best explored from Stackpole Quay, an old limestone harbour, where a six-mile circular route will take you past Barafundle Bay, one of Wales’s prettiest beaches. Once you’ve dragged yourself away from Barafundle’s sandy splendour, it’s time to take in Stackpole Head’s imposing limestone cliffs, which have been gradually eroded by the occasionally-rough waves of the Atlantic. Contrasting with the cliffs’ rugged beauty are Bosherton Lakes, the beautifully-serene backdrop to Stackpole Court. Since their creation two centuries ago, they’ve grown into a habit for otters, dragonflies and waterbirds. While you’re on the lookout for wildlife, don’t forget to stand back and admire the beautiful reflections, particularly at this time of the year with the colourful autumn leaves.
3. Craster to Dunstanburgh, Northumberland
From Craster – a fishing village famed for its kippers and salmon, which are traditionally prepared using oak smoking – it’s a gorgeous one-and-a-half mile walk north to the magnificent ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. Most people embark on a six-mile circular walk back to Craster, which showcases the best of the Northumberland coast – expect dramatic sea cliffs, heather-covered slopes and a dramatic rocky shoreline. Dunstanburgh is one of northern England’s most iconic castles – managed by English Heritage, it dates back to the 13th century when it was one of the area’s most prominent fortifications. Its ruins – which were painted by Turner – are at their most spectacular in the early morning or evening light. The route to the castle from Craster is generally flat, so it’s perfect for families – and offers a great introduction to the North Sea coast.
4. Bryher, Isles of Scilly
Despite being the smallest of Scilly’s inhabited islands at just half a mile long and one mile wide, Bryher’s landscape is wildly contrasting and wonderfully varied. After landing by boat at the quay or the Anneka Rice-constructed bar on the eastern side of the island, visitors should head south towards the clear, turquoise waters of Green Bay. If you can drag yourself away from the sheltered beach and the views of neighbouring Tresco using your Scilly map, continue around the bottom of Samson Hill towards Rushy Bay. Once you’ve walked around Bryher’s southern tip, it’s time to explore its rugged western coast. Feeling the full effects of the Atlantic, it’s a world away from the eastern coast – and nowhere is this more evident than the aptly-named Hell Bay, which experiences spectacular storms during the winter. On arrival at Shipman Head Down, Bryher’s northernmost point, it’s time to head south along the island’s north-east coast. If you have time, climb Watch Hill – Scilly’s highest point – and enjoy the panoramic views across to the other islands and, on a clear day, Land’s End.
5. Gullane Bay to North Berwick, East Lothian
This gently-undulating six-mile stretch of East Lothian Coastal Path may be famous for its golf courses, but its many sandy beaches, low-rising cliffs and picturesque woodland arguably have more appeal. Starting at Gullane Bay, walkers will cross grassy heathland interspersed by rocky outcrops and sheltered coves, while a splattering of offshore islands adds to the already-impressive views across the Firth of Forth.The abundant birdlife is central to the East Lothian Coastal Path’s appeal, and on the approach to Bass Rock – an island 1.2 miles offshore – one of the UK’s largest colonies of gannets comes into view.While away an hour or two in North Berwick, a fashionable 19th century holiday resort, before catching the bus back to Gullane.