Britain's most beautiful river walks

The British countryside is filled with charming rivers, rich in wildlife and history. Discover a waterway walk near you with our round-up of the UK's most beautiful riverside rambles
19th June 2018
River Brathay

From the chalk streams of Hampshire and the gentle flow of the Coquet in Northumberland to the turbulent torrents of Perthshire's River Bran and the Welsh Wye, Britain's countryside is a mosaic of beautiful waterways.

Here are some of the best, perfect for spring and summer strolls.

England

Smardale Gill, Cumbria
Smardale Gill
In spring and summer, luxuriant grasses flood the verges of Smardale's river ©Getty

This magnificent, relatively unknown limestone landscape became a part of the Dales in the 2016 boundary extension. It oozes the character of a time long-gone. Enjoy a spectacular 7-mile walk through the gorge. Route and map

Distance: 7 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Tarr Steps, Exmoor National Park
Tarr Steps
Tarr Steps in the Somerset countryside ©Getty

Walk alongside a winding river through deep forests on a seven-mile loop from the magical Tarr Steps to the Somerset village of Withypool. Route and map.

Distance: 7 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Chee Dale, Miller's Dale and Wye Dale, Derbyshire

The banks of the River Wye bloom with meadowsweet

This four-mile loop walk along the River Wye in the Peak District takes you through deep gorges and lush forests. Route and map.

Distance: 4 miles

Duration: 3 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Cuckmere River, Sussex
Cuckmere River
The slow-moving nature of the Cuckmere’s lower meanders encourages the deposition of large quantities of fluvial sediment – the raised riverbed, as a result, has left parts of the waterway just a few centimetres deep ©Alamy

Follow this seven-mile walk along the Cuckmere River, from the picturesque village of Alfriston to the monumental Seven Sisters chalk cliffs on the Sussex south coast. Route and map.

Marshfield, South Gloucestershire
Broadmead Brook
The clear waters of the Broadmead Brook hold a few trout, bullheads and crayfish ©Raymond Bird

The southern Cotswolds, just south of the M4, is a hidden marvel on the edge of Bath and Bristol – explore this secret of the British countryside with a seven-mile walk alongside rivers and through fields. Route and map.

Distance: 7 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: easy

Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire
Upper Wharfedale
Upper Wharfedale is a charming little valley off the beaten track ©Alamy

Head to the Yorkshire Dales in search of three of the national park’s finest attributes: limestone uplands, enchanting valleys and picturesque waterfalls. Route and map.

Distance: 7 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: moderate

River Stour, Suffolk
Willy Lott’s House – the subject matter for Constable’s The Hay Wain
Willy Lott’s House – the subject matter for Constable’s The Hay Wain ©Alamy

A short walk along the marshy banks of the River Stour, running from the Suffolk town of Dedham to Flatford Mill – once home to painter John Constable – and back again. Route and map.

Distance: 3 miles

Duration: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: easy

East Lyn River, Devon
The town of Lynmouth surrounds the confluence between the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers
The town of Lynmouth surrounds the confluence between the West Lyn and East Lyn rivers ©Alamy

This beautiful six-mile walk begins at Lynmouth in the Exmoor National Park and follows the East Lyn River upstream to Rockford before heading back to the coast. Route and map.

Distance: 6 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Forge Valley Woods, North Yorkshire
brown trout
The river is home to brown trout (pictured) and grayling ©Getty

The beautiful nautre reserve on the banks of the River Derwent in the North York Moor National Park was once home to iron smelting. Today it's a peaceful spot – go quietly and you may see an otter. Map and route.

Distance: 4.5 miles

Duration: 3 hours

Difficulty: moderate

River Croquet, Northumberland
River Coquet
The cross-shaped keep of medieval Warkworth Castle rises high above the Coquet ©Alamy

From its boggy source in the high Cheviots, Northumberland's River Coquet flows for 40 miles through some of the country's finest scenery and prettiest villages and towns without ever repeating itself. Its final three miles to the North Sea coast are as individual as any previous stretch, packing enough into its short span to occupy any visitor for a good day. More information.

Badgeworthy Water, Exmoor National Park
Malmsmead
Malmsmead Bridge crosses near Lorna Doone Farm in Exmoor ©Getty

Explore Doone Country, one of Exmoor's most beautiful river valleys and the backdrop to the R.D Blackmore's tale of romance and murder, Lorna Doone. Route and map.

Distance: 7 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: moderate

River Wharfe and Bolton Priory, North Yorkshire
Stepping Stones
Originally, these precarious stepping stones were the only means by which lay workers could cross to the priory ©Getty 

Stroll along the sylvan banks of a Yorkshire river on this moderate six-mile walk. Enjoy sights ranging from the dramatic ruins of a 12th-century priory to the grandiose arch of an old stone bridge. Route and map.

Distance: 6 miles

Duration: 3 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Marshcourt River, Hampshire
Marshcourt River
Marshcourt River – a tributary of the Test – meanders between the cattle-grazed water meadows of Stockbridge Common Marsh and a band of deciduous woodland. ©Alamo

England is home to more than 85% of the world’s chalk streams, with Hampshire offering some of the finest examples. Follow creeping water rails, singing warblers and shimmering brown trout along this stretch of the Marshcourt River. More information.

Northern Ireland

Tollymore Forest Park, County Down
Tollymore Forest Park
Tollymore Forest Park ©Getty

Climb through lush woodland along the Shimna River, past the Hermitage and on to Parnell's Bridge. Route and map.

Distance: 3 miles

Duration: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: easy

Glenariff Nature Reserve, County Antrim
Glenariff
In autumn and winter the rivers swell, accentuating their beauty ©Getty

This short circular gorge walk, abound with tumbling rivers and waterfalls, navigates through a lush reserve in Northern Ireland's County Antrim. Route and map.

Distance: 1.8 miles

Duration: 1 hours

Difficulty: easy/moderate

River Blackwater, County Armagh
Kingfisher
The River Blackwater is home to kingfishers ©Getty

Cross the industrial ironwork of Bond’s Bridge, then head south-west along the River Blackwater, keeping an eye out for kingfishers and other wildlife. This National Trust walk is perfect for dog walkers, families and geocaching. Route and map.

Distance: 2 miles

Difficulty: Easy

Duration: 1 hours

Scotland

Nevis Gorge, Highland
Glen Nevis, Highland, Scotland
Hikers walking up Glen Nevis, Highland, Scotland ©Jake Graham

A spectacular two-mile walk up Glen Nevis through gorges and meadows to the epic Steall Falls. Route and map.

Distance: 2 miles

Duration: 1.5 hours

Difficulty: easy/moderate

Glen Sligachan, Isle of Skye
Glen Sligachan
Ragging river beneath the Cuillin Range ©Getty

This rugged wilderness trail in Scotland guides intrepid walkers into the nucleus of the Cuillin Mountains, past gushing burns and striding ridges to a dramatic, sea-kissed bay. Route and map.

Distance: 11 miles

Duration: 5 hours

Difficulty: hard

Falls of Bruar, Perth and Kinross
Falls of Bruar Cairngorms
Falls of Bruar at Lower Bridge, Cairngorms ©Getty

Pull on your boots and step into a reclaimed forest, climbing through trees of golden larch, towering Scots pine and magnificent mountain ash in search of a roaring Cairngorms cascade. Route and map.

River Braan, Perthshire
Black Linn Falls
The rushing water of Black Linn Fall's crashes deep into the foaming pools below ©Getty 

Follow the white water of Scotland's River Braan through a fabled woodland of giant Douglas firs, fairy-tale bridges and an ancient oak immortalised by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Route and map.

Distance: 6 miles

Duration: 3 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Allan Water, Stirlingshire
Allan Water, Stirlingshire
Born from the Devonian rock of the Ochil Hills, the Allan Water spills for 22 miles through Stirlingshire and Perthshire, eventually joining the River Forth ©Alamy

The earthy scent of mosses, ferns and wild garlic are heavenly on this exquisite riverside 3 mile ramble, where fish leap, herons stalk and weirs rumble. Route and map.

Distance: 3 miles

Duration: 2 hours

Difficulty: easy

Wales

River Wye, Monthmouthshire
Symonds Yat hand ferry
Symonds Yat hand ferry ©Alamy

Hike along a wooded bank past radiant wildflowers, foraging deer and a king’s cave on a seven-mile track beside the River Wye. The route passes from England into Wales and includes a crossing of the deluge on the Symonds Yat hand ferry. Map and route.

Distance: 7 miles

Duration: 3.5 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Afon Cynfal, Gwynedd
afon cynfal
Afon Cynfal ©Alamy

Enjoy the hypnotising white noise, skipping wagtails and glittering ferns of the Cynfal river basin in Snowdonia National Park. More information.

Afon Ystwyth, Ceredigion
River crossing
here are lots of quiet places to dip into the cold water when the river’s low ©Giles W Bennett

Step off the beaten track on to the mossy banks of a hidden river in west Wales – overhanging trees, towering cliffs and a wealth of wildlife make this long, waterside walk well worth the effort. Route and map.

Distance: 8 miles

Duration: 4 hours

Difficulty: moderate

Waterfall Country, Powys
Sgwd Yr Eira
Sgwd yr Eira is perhaps the best-known of all the cascades in Waterfall Country ©Getty

Discover a world away from the crowds with a spectacular walk through Waterfall Country in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Route and map.

Distance: 3.5 miles

Duration: 2 hours

Difficulty: moderate

River Marteg, Rhayader, Powys
Damselfly
Spot damselflies resting on the banks of the River Marteg ©Getty

A circular walk along the banks of the River Marteg through the Gilfach Farm Nature Reserve in Powys, Wales. Map and route.

Distance: 3 miles

Duration: 2 hours

Difficulty: easy/moderate

 

Discover more great walks in the British countryside.

Main image: River Brathay ©Getty

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