We all know the benefits of being in the Great Outdoors. With backpacks and sunhats, we exchange 10,000 steps for a handful of memories and a sweaty brow, taking nothing but pictures and leaving nothing but footprints in our wake. Like a spa treatment for the soul, these outward expeditions are our chances to break free from the hubbub of the city, disconnect from a world ruled by tech, and tune in to the sway of trees, feel of rocks, and sound of songbirds.

If you have your sight set on a leg-stretching break in the home countries, but youíre not sure where to start, our round-up of where to find the best hiking in the UK covers the iconic routes and secret trails for your next adventure. From the high peaks of the Lake District to the otherworldly landscapes of the Emerald Isle, there's no shortage of stunning paths to discover close to home. Here are our top picks for the best hiking spots and walking routes in the UK.

Eryri and Bannau Brycheiniog, Wales

GP2669 - A path in Snowdonia, the mountains of Wales

Wales happens where rich history and craggy landscapes come together. One of the best-known hiking routes in Wales is the Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) Horseshoe, a challenging seven-mile scramble that takes you from the car park in Pen y Pass up and around the highest peak in Wales. Expect breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys, and perhaps a chance sighting of a wild mountain goat or two. If itís a rest day, and something gentler is on the cards, consider taking the mountain railway up and walking back down to save the steep upward incline.

Those seeking a more secret route might try the Elidir Trail in Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons). Said to hold the entrance to a fairy kingdom, this quiet walk takes you through ancient woodland and along a peaceful river, with far-reaching views of the mountains.†If you're new to the Brecons, donít miss the highest and most popular mountain in the national park, Pen y Fan. For the gentlest ascent, follow the route from Pont ar Daf carpark. For a more challenging and rewarding trek, start at Fechan carpark and head north to Lower Neuadd Reservoir, before tracing the ridge of a glacial valley that traverses four flat-topped peaks. Another favourite for hikers is the circular route around Table Mountain, which rewards walkers by taking them past the scrummy tearooms of Crickhowell.

The picnic essentials: pack some Welsh cakes, Glamorgan sausage sandwiches (despite the meaty name, these Welsh vegetarian sausages are made with†Caerphilly cheese), and a hip flask of Penderyn to shot at the summit.

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The Lake District, England

GP2670 - Striding Edge, a mountain route in the Lake District

Youíll find some of the most iconic British hiking routes in Cumbria, in the north-west of England. A popular destination since long before the Romantic poets started penning tales of daffodils and summits, the Lake District draws in hikers and amblers from the world-over. The area is home to England's highest mountain, Scafell Pike, as well as the country's deepest lake, Wastwater (wild swimmers rejoice, as powered crafts arenít permitted here).

One of the most famous walks in the Lake District is the hike to the summit of Scafell Pike. The walk offers soaring views of the surrounding mountains and lakes, and can be tackled via a number of routes, all of which can be completed in a single day. For something less strenuous, consider the circular route around Buttermere Lake, a four-and-a-half-mile trail that takes glorious scenery and a delicious tearoom in its stride. But if the lesser-known routes are more your thing, head to Hallin Fell. This tranquil walk takes you from an already sky-high starting point and leads to a crag above Ullswater (youíll often see fighter jets training in the valley besides).

The picnic essentials: stock up on local Cumbrian cheese for the sandwiches, a bar of Kendal mint cake for a summit sugar rash, and have a bottle of Hawkshead Brewery beer waiting in the fridge of your holiday home for after the descent.

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The South West Coast Path, England

GP2671 - A beach in Penzance on the South West Coast Path in Cornwall

At 630 miles long, this trail stretches from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset, and takes in some of the most idyllic coastal scenery that the UK has to offer as it passes thought the English Riviera, the Jurassic Coast, and many a quaint coastal village. One of the most famous walks on the South West Coast Path is the section between Land's End and St Ives, a twenty-mile trail that ascends over 2,500 feet. Best suited to experienced folk, itís possible to walk this way in one day, perhaps staying over a few nights in a luxury home with a hot tub before walking the journey back in the opposite direction.

If youíre looking for a little mileage, but no less drama, try the stretch from Port Isaac to Tintagel. This walk is just under ten miles and takes you past hidden coves, the ancient settlement of Port Gaverne, an abandoned hamlet, and one of the least-visited sandy beaches with family-friendly facilities (Trebarwith Strand) on the popular north coast. Like all the best South West Coast Path routes, this is a one-way hike; stay awhile in Tintagel before heading back, or continuing along the coast to Boscastle and beyond.

The picnic essentials: pack some Cornish pasties and a few scones for a picnic of new highs, perhaps throwing in a bottle of Camel Valley wine for a true taste of the region.

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The Highlands and Skye, Scotland

GP2672 - The Isle of Skye, Hebrides, Scotland

Would you walk 500 miles? The Scottish Highlands offer some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the UK. One of the region's most famous walks is the West Highland Way, a 96-mile long trail that takes you from Milngavie, near Glasgow, to Fort William, at the foot of Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in the UK). Over six to eight days, the trail covers some of Scotlandís most iconic scenery, including Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, and Glen Coe.

Away from the famed towering peaks of Ben Nevis, visitors to Scotland might opt to make the journey to the Isle of Skye, where there's no shortage of hikes to choose from. While there are plenty of well-trodden trails and popular routes for hikers to explore, there are still many secret walks that offer a more off-the-beaten-path experience. Head to the Fairy Glen, a mystical landscape that is said to be home to supernatural beings. Or test your footing on the Quiraing landslip, where otherworldly rock formations offer photo-ready views of the surrounding hills and valleys.

The picnic essentials: a hearty supply of oatcakes, a flask of hot tea, and a secret stash of shortbread in your coat pocket will see you through from summit to sea.

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The Dingle Way and Glendalough, Ireland

GP2673 - Green fields in County Kerry, Ireland

Its wild seascapes and verdant inland valleys have made it one of the most sought-after destinations in the world. And an utterly romantic one at that. Hikers with their heart set on seclusion, while still being a hop-skip from a foot-tapping bar at short notice, will have a hiking holiday to remember in Ireland. One of the best walks in Ireland is the Dingle Way, a 111-mile-long trail that takes you around County Kerry's Dingle Peninsula in around eight to ten days. The route boasts movie-like scenes at every turn, from the foothills of Slieve Mish to the golden beaches on the Maharess. Another firm favourite is the Cliffs of Moher walk between Liscannor and Doolin in County Clare.

If it wasnít peaceful enough already, opt for an even quieter route; set out on the looped trail known as the Glendalough Spink (the White Route), passing ancient monastic ruins and glittering lakes. At six miles, itís a moderate trail with some rocky sections, best for experienced hikers due to its exposed nature.

The picnic essentials: head to a bakery for fresh Irish soda bread, sandwiching the slices together with creamy Cashel Blue, and stuffing in some cheese and onion Taytoís for crunch.

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