Discovery, Drive & hike, Tips & advice, Walking

12 spectacular coastal walks in Europe

31 Aug , 2017  

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 wild flowers 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 coast 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.

A fabulous Channel Island beach.

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.

Pretty Isle of Wight coast.

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.

Wild and wonderful Moray. Pic credit: Alan Hodgson

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.

Pobbles Beach on the Gower coastline. Pic credit Kev Griffin.

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.

Stunning Burren.

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 combines the Causeway walk with the Moyle Way for a week of glorious walking.

Walk the Causeway Coastal path.

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.

Enjoy fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean on the Fisherman’s Trail.

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.

The sublime Amalfi coast.

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 beautiful Cinque Terre coast.

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. 

Turkey’s dramatic shoreline.

Iceland’s South Coast

From Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavik, this drive and hike tour visits a wealth of gems including glaciers, stunning waterfalls, lava fields and hot springs. Enjoy an introduction to the best of the “Land of Fire and Ice” on Iceland’s dramatic south coast.

Waterfalls and all kinds of geological wonders in Iceland.

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.

One of the many, many beautiful views on the South West Coastal Path.

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A journalist, web copywriter blogger and social media chatterbox, Fiona combines her love of the outdoors – especially Scotland – with a diverse freelance work life. If she's not at her desk writing about the outdoors, she'll be outside cycling, running, kayaking, snowboarding and walking Munros. She shares her outdoors passion with partner, the G-Force. Sometimes her teenage daughter Little Miss Outdoors tags along, too.