10 of the best British walking festivals

<span>High and mighty: out and about on the Isle of Wight.</span><span>Photograph: PR</span>
High and mighty: out and about on the Isle of Wight.Photograph: PR

Crickhowell Walking Festival, Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons)

9-17 March

One of the earliest of the year’s festivals, the charming town of Crickhowell, surrounded by the looming khaki-purple hues of the Bannau Brycheiniog national park (Brecon Beacons), has a well-established walking festival, which this year boasts 81 different walks, ranging from two to 17 miles. Many are dog-friendly; all are graded in terms of effort and difficulty, from an easy stroll along the Monmouthshire & Brecon Canal, to a – new for 2024 – hike through the western Fans (peaks), with spectacular views en route. Stay at The Bear, a 500-year-old coaching inn at the top of Crickhowell’s picturesque High Street, with doubles from £142 B&B (bearhotel.co.uk).

Walk Scilly

12-21 April

The Walk Scilly festival traditionally kicks off the season on the Scilly Isles, when walking guides and local experts come together to share the archipelago’s rich history, along with its wind-lashed landscapes and rich variety of wildlife. The programme has yet to be announced, but walks usually include foraging hikes, sea safaris and walks across the wild, uninhabited islets as well as the five main islands. Base yourself on St Mary’s – the biggest of the islands – at The Atlantic, a buzzy pub set right by the water, with comfortable rooms from £165 B&B (atlanticinnscilly.co.uk).

Ulverston WalkFest, Lake District

27 April-6 May

Situated on the top of the Furness Peninsula, Ulverston is within easy reach of both Morecambe Bay and the Cumbrian fells. The WalkFest programme shines a light on the region’s varied past, from slate mines to centuries-old mills and lime kilns, along with tranquil villages and historic castles, as well as the rugged Cumbrian countryside, with hikes taking in Windermere, Coniston and Grizedale Forest. Snap up a room at the Bay Horse Hotel, which has wonderful views over the River Leven estuary and cosy doubles from £100 B&B (thebayhorsehotel.co.uk).

Ride2Stride, Settle-Carlisle

30 April-6 May
An annual week-long celebration of the western Dales and Eden Valley, the festival’s varied programme of walks all begin and end at stations along the Settle-Carlisle line – one of the most spectacular stretches of train line in the UK. New for 2024 will be Trail Tasters, walks that offer the chance to sample sections of some of the region’s long-distance trails, as well as annual favourites and live music and entertainment at pubs in the area. The Golden Lion in Settle makes the perfect base, a cosy pub with super-comfortable rooms from £120 B&B (goldenlionsettle.co.uk).

Isle of Wight Walking Festival

11-19 May and 5-13 October
Celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2024, the Isle of Wight Walking Festival laces up its boots in spring and autumn, on the 500 miles of footpaths that criss-cross the island. There are walks focusing on every aspect of the island’s history, from Queen Victoria and Osborne House to dinosaur walks, plus early-morning hikes to catch the dawn chorus. Walks are graded according to pace and difficulty, with many offering the chance to discover the island’s rare species of plant and animal life. Stay at the Union Inn in Cowes to be at the heart of the action, a lively firelit pub with doubles from £80 B&B (unioninncowes.co.uk).

Ballater Walking Festival, Aberdeenshire

18-24 May

With three walks each day, one strong, one medium and one easy, Ballater is not as big as some festivals, but does offer some truly spectacular (if challenging) hikes across the towering munros and granite tors that immerse walkers in some of the best of Scotland’s dramatic scenery. There are gentler walks that offer excellent bird- and wildlife-spotting, and the chance to meet local farmers and discover some of the region’s foodie treats. The Balmoral Arms is a charming, dog-friendly inn with stylish rooms from £133 B&B (crerarhotels.com).

National Forest Walking Festival, east Midlands

18-30 May
A 200-square-mile swathe of lush woodland in the heart of the Midlands, the National Forest is at its most beautiful in May, with carpets of bluebells and drifts of blossom. The Walking Festival celebrates its 15th year in 2024, with walks graded from easy to strenuous. The programme is now available to download, with over 90 walks including history-themed hikes and the chance to try Nordic Walking and Forest Bathing, as well as “Bench to Bench” walks, for those with less mobility. Dovecliff Hall is an elegant country house near Burton upon Trent, with luxurious doubles from £120 B&B (dovecliffhallhotel.co.uk).

Moray Walking and Outdoor Festival

14-24 June
A great choice for those looking for other activities to enjoy besides walking, this 10-day celebration includes everything from kayaking to bird-walking, skiff-rowing and bushcraft, with walks ranging from gentle seaside strolls to endurance hikes through the Cairngorms. Many events have to be pre-booked, with five different grades of difficulty, with the shortest walks and activities taking around two hours, up to a full day for the most challenging. Reward yourself with a stay at Dowans, a luxurious country estate in Aberlour, with doubles from £250 B&B (dowanshotel.com).

Mid Devon Walking Festival

14-29 September

Worth getting in the diary now, this new festival for 2024 in tranquil Mid Devon will hum with walkers in September, with a programme of guided and self-guided walks from family-friendly trails to hardcore hikes. As well as walks, there will be live music, foodie events and farmers’ markets, along with the chance to join a vineyard stroll or walks themed around the region’s flora and fauna or history. Stay at the Hartnoll Hotel, set in glorious countryside on the edge of the Exmoor valley, with cosy doubles from £130 B&B (hartnollhotel.uk).

Saltmarsh Coast Walking Festival, Essex

27 September-6 October
Choose from self-guided or expert-led walks along a 75-mile stretch of the Saltmarsh coast, dipping into the region’s maritime history, or learning about the rich variety of bird species. There are downloadable self-guided routes available from the website, or a variety of guided walks taking in vineyards, and nature reserves and vast skies along the shoreline, which is also rich in wartime heritage. Stay at the Limes in Maldon, an elegant townhouse with a buzzy Italian restaurant and chic doubles from £99 B&B (thelimesmaldon.co.uk).