Walking in the English countryside is a relaxing and humbling experience. For such a small island, the variety of scenery is astounding. There are marshes, dales, woods and mountains. You can enjoy sunny days in grassy fields, meander up steep hills, climb to snowy peaks, or walk along sandy beaches. In one short holiday you could see numerous different landscapes.
England is known for unpredictable weather. It can be hot and humid one day, and blustery with rain the next. This makes it hard to figure out the best time for hiking in the UK. Indeed, you can enjoy a walking holiday at almost any time of the year if you pack properly and don't mind a little rain.
Popular Hiking Destinations
The UK is a fairly small land mass, so you're not going to see huge variation in the climate, it is generally temperate. However, the south is warmer than the north, and that can make a difference. Let's take a look at the best time for hiking in some of the most common destinations.
The Lake District
Let's take a look at the Lake District, one of the most popular places to go camping and hiking. The Lake District is quite a wet area, and you're going to see some rainfall even during the warmest months, but if you go there in May, June, July or August you should find that it's warm enough that you won't mind the rain.
Even September is decently warm, although you're doing to start to see more rain at that time of year. May through to early July are probably the best time for hiking in the Lake District because the end of July and the whole of August are school holidays so you will find that the main tourist hotspots are over-run with families, so it's a less peaceful experience.
The Cotswolds tends to see far less rain than the Lake District, and it is generally milder all year round. The best time for hiking in the Cotswolds is June, July or August, although if you don't mind it being cooler you could go any time between April and October and still have a good time. In the winter months, however, the Cotswolds can get very cold at night.
Brighton and Sussex
If you wanted to go for a walk along the Brighton and Sussex Coast, then the best time of year is, again, the summer. June, July and August are warmer. It gets cold quite quickly in the autumn and it doesn't warm up again until late spring. Rainfall peaks around October and stays high until the end of January.
When is it Busy?
It's a good idea to look at the calendars of events for the area that you are thinking of visiting so that you can avoid busy times (or go when there's something exciting on if you are looking for a busy and exciting holiday rather than a quiet walking getaway.
Easter at Pilgrim's Trail will be a busier than normal time because of people flocking to Winchester and Canterbury to see the Cathedral. There are food festivals in the Cotswolds in May, June and July that are worth looking out for and the South Downs tends to be incredibly busy during school holidays and on Bank Holidays because it is the closest national park to London - meaning that it attracts the tourists from London as well as those from out of town and internationally.
If you want to go walking in the Winter, then consider heading out to Dartmoor. The cold tens to make the muddier areas harden, which means that you can go a little off the beaten track and still have fun. Alternatively, stay in a city and visit the markets in York. You can walk the historic city walls and enjoy the Christmas markets. It's a short route but it offers stunning views.
If you're heading far north, up to Scotland, then be aware that the winters are much colder there and you're likely to see a lot of snow. Stick to the warmer months for the highlands unless you're well equipped to deal with snow.
Walking the Coast to Coast
There is a popular route known as the Coast to Coast. It's a nice challenge for those who are not afraid of a long walk, and you can either try to do it as quickly as possible or spread it out over several days and enjoy sightseeing.
It's hard to figure out the best time of year to do it because the British weather is so notoriously unreliable. It's a good idea to start at St Bees Head and walk towards Robin Hoods Bay, rather than the opposite direction because you'll have the wind at your back. You'll appreciate this when it's raining.
June is probably the best month to do it since you'll have more daylight hours. That means you'll be able to walk longer or take longer breaks if the weather gets bad. Of course, you'll still need to plan around stops for accommodation. You can do the walk in September, too, and still enjoy good acceptable weather.
Pack for All Seasons
No matter what time of year you decide to go hiking, it's a good idea to pack for all seasons. If you wear layers of clothing and find that you are slightly over-dressed, you can take them off to cool down. If you go out under-dressed for the weather then you will find yourself in trouble quickly.
Make sure that you have a raincoat, even one of those fold-up ponchos is useful, because walking in soggy clothing is not fun, and you will find that you feel a lot colder when it is wet and windy.
If you come prepared, then you'll enjoy the trip, get some great photos, and get to see some amazing sights. Read up on the history of the area you are walking through, and you'll get a new appreciation of this beautiful country.