12 spectacular coastal walks in Europe
Are you like me? When I see a beach, a coastal path, or a trail heading up on to cliffs high above the ocean I just have to go there. I like to take off my shoes and walk with bare feet towards the waves. I want to feel the sand pushing again the soles of my feet and through my toes and then enjoy this tickling sensation as the grains are washed off by retreating waves. I like to peer into rock pools and lie down in the sunshine on warm sand dunes. I want to count the mesmerising variety of wildflowers found on the unique Scottish machair grasslands on west coast island shorelines. I love to see over-plump-looking seals on vast beaches and spot dolphins or porpoises jumping out of dark, brooding seas. I relish the wild sounds of seabirds as they chatter overhead going about their busy, busy lives. It’s all that and the taste of the sea air, the wind in my hair and the higher than average opportunity to come across a great ice cream shop or a fabulous café that makes me long for my next great coastal walk. It is no surprise, therefore, to discover that research has revealed you’ll feel better for a walk at the coast. For me, the coasts of the UK and Europe offer so many gems that listing some of the best coastal walks feels like a true pleasure. It’s the same for Macs Adventure’s Kaleigh, who has picked her top five UK coastal walks. There are many, many great walks and so many shores to choose from but each of these walks has been picked for a reason.
The Channel Islands Way
Launched officially in 2011, the 110-mile Channel Islands Way is a great route for discovering the beautiful coves and deserted beaches of stunning Guernsey, car-free Sark and deserted Herm. Keep your eyes peeled in summer for seals, dolphins, and puffins. You will easily spot vast spreads of colourful wildflowers on coastal stretches. Must-dos include crossing La Coupee from Big Sark to Little Sark (you need a head for heights) and dining on locally caught oysters and lobster. Also, see Walking in the Channel Islands for the Jersey Coastal Path and Guernsey Coastal Path.
Isle of Wight Coastal Path
The Isle of Wight Coastal Path is a circular long-distance footpath of 70 miles that circuits the island. It’s easy to reach off the south coast of England and offers a wealth of fabulous seascapes, wildlife, and lovely coves. Must-dos include lunching on freshly caught crab. Walk with Macs on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.
Moray Coastal Trail
Surprisingly less-visited, this peaceful corner of Scotland offers abundant sandy beaches, rugged cliffs, clear seas, lovely fishing villages and a resident pod of some 200 bottlenose dolphins. In fact, the Moray Firth is one of the best places in the UK to spot dolphins from the land. Other wildlife wonders to spot on the 50-mile route include seal, kittiwakes and possibly whales.
Gower Coast Path
The Gower and Swansea Bay Coast Path is part of the Wales Coast Path, an 870-mile long-distance walking route around the entire coast of Wales, which opened in 2012. This part of south Wales is famed for its vast sandy beaches, superb surf and dramatic cliffs. It is also located in the country’s first designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The easy-to-follow paths trace a journey between pretty villages and numerous beaches. The Gower is also home to one of the UK’s top beaches. Also, see the highly-rated Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail.
Wild Atlantic Way, Donegal
The Wild Atlantic Way in north-west Ireland is the longest signed coastal route in the world extending to a total of 1,700 miles – and it was once a popular pilgrims’ route. It also takes in some of the tallest marine cliffs in Europe. The 1,970ft high Slieve League Cliffs. There are some stiff hills to climb but the rewards are the superb views. Check out this walk of the week: the best of the Burren Way.
The Causeway Coastal Walk
The basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway World Heritage Site are one of the top attractions in Northern Ireland – and a major highlight of this 33-mile Causeway Coastal Walk. The landscape is a mix of thick forest and rugged coastline. You can also spot some of the settings from The Game of Thrones, such as the Cushendun Caves and Portstewart Strand. Wildlife gems include puffins, kittiwakes and guillemots. (They nest in May and June.) The Antrim Glens and Causeway Coast Walk combine the Causeway walk with the Moyle Way for a week of glorious walking.
Fisherman's Trail, Alentejo
Billed as “probably one of the best coastal trails in the world”, the Fisherman’s Trail extends some 60 miles along the Southwest Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Park in south-central Portugal. The coastal trailheads between sandy beaches and fishing villages of Portugal’s Atlantic Coast. It’s a stretch of wild coastline and combines fabulous sea views with swathes of wildflowers, traditional seafood lunches, and fabulous sand dunes. You can check out more details of the Rota Vicentina: The Fishermans Trail on our website.
The Amalfi Coast
See the remains of Pompeii and undertake the “Walk of the Gods” on the Amalfi Coast. Stunningly beautiful, the Amalfi Coast is a 30-mile stretch of shoreline along the southern edge of Italy’s Sorrentine Peninsula, in the Campania region. On an Amalfi Coast Walking Holiday, you will be treated to picturesque villages surrounded by lemon groves, meals of local fare, including cheeses and wines.
Cinque Terre National Park
The Cinque Terre offers more delightful walking in Italy. Five small, impossibly beautiful villages linked by footpaths cling to the land above the azure Mediterranean to make this a walkers’ paradise. This is classic, bucket-list coastal walking.
The Lycian Way
The coastal path in Turkey is 310 miles and was designed and waymarked by Englishwoman Kate Clow in 1999. The adventurous can wild camp along the route but there are also plenty of friendly, family-run pensions and boutique hotels if you prefer. The route includes the amazing sight of Chimaera, where flames from natural gases flicker up through rocks on the ground and the ancient Lycian city of Olympos.
South West Coastal Path
Last, by no means last the fabulous English South West Coastal Path stretches 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset and visits highlights such as Padstow, St Ives, Newquay, Falmouth, Plymouth, Exeter, and Lyme Regis and Poole. You can expect a wealth of spectacular coastal scenery, local heritage, and wildlife.
If you have any questions about the route, don't hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.