A River Runs Through It
Date Updated: 21/11/2022
In our opinion, a river is the perfect walking companion; spending time on its banks, being guided by its gentle passage and observing the surrounding nature and wildlife is a great way to relax and unwind. Lucky for us, the British countryside is criss-crossed by a vast network of charming waterways which offer miles of riverside rambles. Scroll on to discover our favourite waterside walks in the UK and Europe …
Photo by Jonny Gios on Unsplash
The River Tweed, Borders, Scotland
Photo by Stephen Talas on Unsplash
The River Tweed steers an extraordinary course through Scotland and England as it flows East towards the North Sea. For 18 miles it forms the natural border between the two countries and thousands of years of history lie along its banks. At 97 miles long, it offers many beautiful rambles through varying landscapes. The western end has rolling hills and beautiful lochs. The central section has a more rural character while the Eastern part borders the North Sea and is dotted with pretty seaside villages like St Abbs and Cove. A good starting point for stunning views is the Ninian’s Haugh walk in Peebles which has an easy access path. Or visit Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, and from there take the scenic circular route around the romantic market town of Melrose.
The River Ouse, Sussex, England
This splendid riverside ramble starts at the river’s source near Horsham in West Sussex and follows the 42 mile Ouse Valley Way through the diverse and beautiful scenery of the South Downs National Park, the National Trust Nymans Gardens and the historic town of Lewes before reaching the coast at Seaford Bay. If you don’t have time for the whole stretch, the Ouse Valley walk is a lovely option. This 3.5 mile circular trail begins and ends at Southease, East Sussex; a typical downland village with a tiny 12th century church. You can also visit Monk’s House, Virginia Woolf’s country retreat, now owned by the National Trust. Look out for pretty, thatched cottages along the way and stop at the Abergavenny Arms for refreshments.
The River Barle, Exmoor, England
This simple 3 mile circular walk begins near Dulverton in Somerset and takes in the iconic Tarr Steps, an ancient clapper bridge that dates back to around 1000 BC. The name clapper comes from the latin ‘claperius’ which means ‘pile of stones.’ Huge flat slabs are placed across the water to form a crossing, it’s a curiously beautiful structure. The walk follows the Barle through the woodlands of the National Nature Reserve, home to a variety of wildlife including red deer, dormice and otters. Rare mosses and lichens also flourish here in the clean, damp air.
The River Conwy, Gwynedd, Wales
Photo by Lisa on Pexels
From mountain stream to Conwy Bay, this river changes character as it flows down through the pretty Vale of Conwy. There are lots of walks to discover and you could happily spend 2 or 3 days on the Conwy’s verdant path. Make a base in Betws-y-coed and discover its source in the Snowdonia National Park. Or watch as it tumbles over the Conwy Falls and becomes a bolder river in the enchanted woodland section known as the Fairy Glen. It also flows through the National Trust’s Bodnant Garden, where you’ll find stunning views of the river valley and beautiful terraced gardens sloping down to wildflowers along the riverbank. And, as it joins the Irish sea beyond bustling Conwy Quay, it winds itself past the smallest house in Britain and the magnificent medieval fortress that is Conwy Castle, a World heritage site. Make sure you keep your eyes peeled for the legendary Afanc, a Welsh water monster, likened to the Loch Ness Monster, who was said to lurk in the river many hundreds of years ago.
The River Barrow, County Kildare, Ireland
The Barrow Way is one of Ireland’s most scenic long distance walking trails but remains largely undiscovered. It follows the River Barrow from Lowtown in County Kildare to the idyllic village of St Mullins in County Carlow. The entire trail is 70 miles long and takes about 4 days to complete but it can easily be broken up into shorter walks with plenty of accommodation options along the way. The ground is level and the river is surrounded by lush greenery as well as an abundance of architectural points of interest from pretty bridges to castles and derelict mills.
The River Gave, Pyrenees, France
Photo by Gaetan Detournay on Unsplash
The Cirque de Gavarnie is arguably one of France’s most beautiful spots and a UNESCO World heritage site. There are various levels of hiking in the Gavarnie area but the hike up the River Gave to view the Cirque is an easy 2 hour walk with a gradual ascent and stunning views. The cirque itself is a rocky cliff face that forms a curved natural amphitheatre with waterfalls tumbling down into the River Gave below. The trail begins in the village of Gavarnie and follows the river up through the spectacular changing scenery. There is an option to walk to the bottom of the waterfalls for more experienced walkers.
The River Meuse, Dinant, Belgium
Photo by Thomas Bormans on Unsplash
The Meuse is a major European River. At 595 miles long, it rises in France, flows through Belgium and the Netherlands and finally meets the North Sea near Rotterdam. The original settlement of Dinant had little room to grow due to its position between the dramatic cliff and the river so it expanded into a long thin town along the river’s edge. A leisurely waterside stroll here is highlighted by the colourful ribbon of shops and houses that runs alongside the Meuse. Dinant’s events calendar revolves around the river – look out for the International Bathtub Regatta which happens in August. And beyond the town the lush green valleys offer great hiking, biking and caving.
In light of current circumstances and whilst our movement around the planet is still restricted please check government advice and be sure it's safe to travel before visiting any of these destinations. And if you do set out for a riverside ramble, don’t forget to pack plenty of water and provisions for your journey and, of course, your Salties!