Top Ten European Coastal Walks
Europe’s varied coastline has a phenomenal amount to offer from gentle walks to rugged terrain, bracing winds to soft salty breezes - not to mention abundant nature and wildlife, plus the opportunity to clear your mind and fill your lungs with fresh sea air.
Remember to pack your Salt-Waters to refresh feet in coastal waters. Every coastal walk needs a dip in the sea after all!
Here are our top 10 European coastal walks.
Eshaness Circular, Shetland
2020 is Scotland’s Year of Coast & Water so there’s no better time than now to visit. This vigorous coastal walk at the northernmost extremity of the UK is about 4 miles around the headland of Eshaness on Shetland. The hugely varied coastline with dramatic cliffs and sea stacks is home to a wide variety of birds and wildlife and in the Summer resembles a hanging garden; flowers and heathers clinging impossibly to the cliff face. Look out for otters, dolphins and even orcas along the way. This one will definitely blow the cobwebs away.
For more information on the Year of Coast & Water see here.
Isle of Wight Coastal Path
With over half of the island designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the 70-mile long coastal path is a tranquil circular route and a walker’s paradise. The Isle of White also champions the ‘drive less, see more ethos’ so you’ll find the footways are well signposted. You can pick off smaller sections depending on how much time you have, but the historic town of Ryde is a good starting point. Look out for the iconic Needles at Alum Bay and links to Queen Victoria in Cowes plus excellent fossil hunting opportunities at Compton. More information on fossil hunting can be found at the National Trust.
The Gower Coastal Path
Launched in 2012, the Wales Coast Path is the first dedicated footpath in the world to cover the entire length of a country’s coastline, and what a coastline it is! At 870 miles in total, it would take a super fit person around 6 -7 weeks to complete, but you can dip in anywhere along the route. We love the Gower Coast path in particular, along the southern edge of the peninsular beginning at Rhossili and the iconic Worms Head. Look out for the majestic views at Three Cliffs Bay (the first place to be named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1956) and the romantic ruin of Pennard Castle. The walk ends in the pretty fishing village of Mumbles where the secret recipe at Joe’s Ice cream Parlour is not to be missed. At about 23 miles it’s possible to do this route in a day so split over two or three if you prefer a gentler adventure. There's further information on the types of birds you might see or hear on this walk at visit.wales.com
The Inishowen Head Loop
The Wild Atlantic Way runs the length of Ireland’s west coast and is every bit as rugged and untouched as it sounds. How about a bracing coastal walk in the Northern Headlands? The sheer granite walls of the sea cliffs at Slieve League are some of Europe’s highest and there’s even a chance to see the Northern Lights in winter. The Inishowen Head Loop is a great introduction to the region as the peninsula possesses such a range of sights that it’s often referred to as ‘Ireland in miniature’. This walk is about 5 miles long and begins at a World War II lookout tower at Inishowen Head. Look out for the viewing point where on fine days you can see the West Coast of Scotland.
The Ravenscar Circular to Robin Hoods Bay
On the heritage coast of the North York Moors, this is one of Yorkshire’s finest coastal walks. From the craggy heights of Ravenscar you have spectacular views out to the rumbling North Sea on the right and Howdale Moor on the left, with its spreading moorland heather and flowering gorse in Summer. You can drop down from the cliff top stretch onto the old railway line along the coast to Robin Hood Bay, a picturesque fishing village where the houses are built very close together along winding cobbled streets and narrow alleyways. The return leg to Ravenscar is via the beautiful Cleveland Way nature trail making this an 11-mile round trip.
The Pelion Peninsula, Greece
The Pelion Peninsula, a forgotten corner of Greece, juts out into the Aegean Sea about half way between Athens and Thessaloniki and according to Greek mythology the area was home to the centaur. Mount Pelion towers over the port of Volos which sits at the top of a huge bay; the hills are covered in pine and olive groves and the old mule paths or kalderimis that once connected one village to the next have been cleared and signposted to create an incredibly scenic hiking route. Accessible to all abilities the trails start from several villages including Kalanera and Tsagarada. In these villages you’ll also find traditional restaurants or tavernas; stopping for fresh fish and salad is all part of the Pelion dream.
The Friends of the Kalderimi is run by mostly British expats who restore the ancient donkey trails. The site has lots of tips on walking and routes.
Le Côt de Granite Rose, Brittany, France
The Grande Randonée (GR34) also known as le Sentier des Douanniers is a footpath that follows the coastline of Brittany for over 1000 miles. Created in 1791, the path was patrolled by customs officers (hence its name) on the lookout for smugglers. Described nowadays as a ‘succession of postcards’ we love the route along the Northern coast - an 8 mile stretch from Brehat to Trebeurden known as the Côt de Granit Rose so called for the colour scheme – the rocks glow a coppery pink colour especially when the sun shines on them. This sculpted shoreline is loved by walkers and birds alike and you can expect to see puffins, gannets and cormorants. Look out also for the Pink Granite Lighthouse.
Camino de Faros, Galicia
For thousands of years pilgrims have travelled to Galicia in North West Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago, but there’s a much less trodden path to discover along this, one of Europe’s most spectacular and unspoilt coastlines; the Camino dos Faros – The Lighthouse Way. The total route is around 120 miles beginning at Malpica and ending in Cape Finisterre and links fishermen’s ways to farm tracks to back roads. It’s not, as yet, an ‘official route’ so the paths are sketchy in places and the way is marked by green blobs of paint which all adds to the adventure. The Atlantic Ocean can be wild and treacherous for the fishermen who work on it (hence all the lighthouses) and the coast is called the Costa de Morte (Coast of Death) due to the high number of shipwrecks during the early part of the 20th century. Some sections of the route are harder going so check out Onfoot Holidays who organise self guided tours of different lengths and difficulty.
Cinque Terre Coastal Trail
The Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a group of five towns perched on the dramatic western coastline of Italy, south of Genoa. Translating as ‘five towns’ this 15 mile coastal path takes its name from the five Italian villages that you pass through, with their pastel buildings stacked on top of one another, overlooking the harbours below. The most popular way to enjoy the Cinque Terre on foot is to follow Trail 2 (the Sentiero Azzurro, or Blue Trail), which is made up of four individual paths along the coast. You can walk the entire route in about six hours, if you take short breaks, although many hikers prefer to spread the route out over a few days at a strolling pace, stopping to enjoy the towns along the way.
Trail 2 is the busiest hiking trail in the Cinque Terre, but it certainly isn’t the only one. If you are looking to step off the beaten path and avoid some of the crowds, there is an entire network of lesser-known trails that are perfect for more serious hikers.
Island hopping in the Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden
A slightly different type of coastal walk for our last choice, but a fabulous way to explore the beautiful Stockholm Archipelago - a network of idyllic islands that stretches East from the city into the Baltic Sea. You can buy a boat pass (båtluffarkort) and hop on and off the local boats between islands; the best and most affordable ferry company is called Waxholmsbolaget. There are thousands of uninhabited islands to explore plus hostels to overnight in on some of the larger islands, but head to Ingmarsö for some classic Scandinavian scenery. The island has a population of 150 people, but it’s well laid out with hiking trails through unspoilt woods, around remote lakes and over marshlands and sandy bays. The Waxholmsbolaget ferry takes about three and a half hours from Stockholm and if your legs get tired you could always ride around the island on an Icelandic pony.
This feature has hopefully inspired you to daydream and make future plans for some great adventures this autumn. In light of the current situation, please check local advice and be sure it's safe to travel to any of these destinations.
With love as ever from the team at Salt-Water x