The UK’s best walks for older people
18th May 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
To celebrate May being National Walking Month, a campaign to promote the benefits of walking, this guide shares information about the best walks for older people in the UK.
No matter whether an elderly person has mobility problems and needs a stair lift at home or is just cautious of walking long distances without rests, this guide has a walk that is perfect for all ages and levels of fitness.
Benefits of walking
Before going onto the best walks older people can go on it is worth highlighting some of the benefits of walking.
- Improves heart health - Walking for seniors can improve heart health by reducing the risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Improves strength, stamina and suppleness – John Alden from I Walk Cornwall says, “Walking can improve strength, stamina and suppleness, regardless of age. It's something that as you do more of it, you start to find it easier and are able to tackle a bit more.”
- Reduces pain – Walking is known to help reduce some pain. Sufferers of lower back pain, for example, are recommended to walk to strengthen their abdominal and back muscles.
- Lowers blood sugar – Going for a short walk after a meal is known to reduce the after-eating spike in blood sugar.
- Improves your wellbeing - Mike Brockhurst from The Walking Englishman says, “Being in my early 60’s now I really appreciate my passion for walking in our great outdoors. Whenever I am feeling lethargic or simply a little glum I plan a walk and make sure I go out and do it. Whether it is a short local amble or a longer ramble I always feel the better for it. No pill, tonic or similar contrived pick-me-up can beat a walk. It is a sensational remedy to ills of mind and body.”
Avalon Marshes, Somerset
Avalon Marshes is located right in the heart of Somerset’s Levels and Moors and is home to a number of nationally important nature reserves.
Covering around 3,700 acres, the nature reserves at Avalon Marshes are a great place to walk as walkers can see a broad range of wildlife and habitat types including open water, reed-bed, mire, fen, meadow and wet woodland.
There are lots of tracks and trails around Avalon Marshes and most are ideal for elderly walkers. The trails around Westhay Moor are perfect for walkers of all fitness levels as the paths are well maintained and there is no elevation as well as offering visitors the chance to see all kinds of wildlife. After the walk around Westhay Moor visitors can head to the Sweets Tea Rooms for a hot drink and a bit of cake.
There are also quite a few trails close-by to the Avalon Marshes Centre at the Shapwick Heath and Catcott Complex. The routes are generally flat and are right beside the marshes, meaning you can get really close to the different types of birds and animals that live in the area.
Avalon Marshes recommend walkers to wear good footwear as the paths can in some places get slightly muddy, although the nature reserves in the area all have car parks meaning that if you need to head back to the car it will only be a short walk away.
Baggy Point, Devon
Explore Devon recommends a walk to Baggy Point in North Devon, which starts in the National Trust Baggy Point car park close to the beautiful village of Croyde.
Part of the famous South West coast path, this 2.7 mile walk leads to a stunning viewpoint at Baggy Point and the fact it has now been levelled and compacted means it is easier to access for everyone.
The first half a mile of the path can even be used by wheelchair users, but then there are some slightly steeper gradients after this initial stretch.
The end result of the walk is a stunning sweeping view of the coast and cliff-nesting seabirds.
Daymer Bay to Padstow, Cornwall
John Alden from I Walk Cornwall, who have information of around 220 walks around the county, recommends a walk from Daymer Bay to Padstow in North Cornwall.
John says, "I've selected a figure-of-8 walk from Daymer Bay to Padstow, which has mostly gentle gradients but is a very respectable six miles in length. However, the route is broken into 3 sections by two rides on the ferry and the option to stop for a cuppa or something to eat in Padstow.
"It is therefore an ideal walk to pace yourself and spread over a full day out. It is also possible to break the middle section of the walk by having a paddle on the golden sandy beach at Harbour Cove overlooking the infamous Doom Bar which wrecked hundreds of vessels before giving its name to the local beer now sold all over the world.
"The walk passes St Enodoc Church which, by Victorian times, had become so buried by the sand dunes that services were held by entering through the roof, and the Elizabethan manor continuously occupied by the Prideaux family for 14 generations and with a deer park dating back to Roman times. The walk includes plenty of snippets of local history including the origins of Cornwall's iconic pasty."
Chichester Harbour route, West Sussex
Aimee White, editorial assistant at Rough Guides, a leading travel publisher, has picked out a walk from their book The Rough Guide to Walks in London and the Southeast, which is a great walk for older people.
She says, “Our Chichester Harbour route is perfect for history buffs, architecture admirers and for anyone in between. The route, which covers 9 kilometres in total, should take you just over 2 hours and 15 minutes to complete. Whilst you can easily halve this route by returning directly to Fishbourne from The Anchor Bleu pub, it's much more picturesque to go back the way you came.
“You'll start at Fishbourne, which is home to the largest excavated Roman site in Britain, Fishbourne Palace. There's only a couple of pubs in this tiny village but plenty of green spaces for picnics in the sunshine. You'll soon cross the peninsula into the Saxon-settlement of Bosham– walking along the edge of the harbour, keep an eye out for the charming 17th and 18th century cottages that will swing into view. This intricate route will give you an insightful background to both the local culture and the wider area of West Sussex.”
Noss Mayo - Revelstoke Carriage Drive, Devon
Another section of the South West coast path that Explore Devon says is a great walk for older people is the Noss Mayo Revelstoke Carriage Drive.
This one mile section of the path uses the Revelstoke Carriage Drive along the cliff tops and gives incomparable views of the wild seas and rugged coastline.
The walk starts from the Warren National Trust car park and is perfect for those with mobility issues as the track is surfaced, well-graded and wide. There are also toilets and refreshments in Noss Mayo and the Ship Inn is great if visitors fancy a meal after their walk.
Peak District National Park
The Peak District National Park is well-known as walking country as it is offers spectacular scenery and a variety of routes to be explored – from steep sided limestone dales to the dramatic high moorlands.
There are walks available for everyone – individuals, families and groups – with challenging hikes and short strolls all available throughout the park.
A spokesperson for the Peak District National Park recommends the Long Causeway walk at Stanage as it offers big views, is accessible from Sheffield, boasts lots of heritage, is renowned for its ecology and is a Disabled Ramblers route.
Another walk that is recommended in the Peak District National Park is on Tideswell Dale. This limestone dale is famed for its geology, but its disabled toilets, benches and picnic spots make it ideal for elderly walkers.
Janet's Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales
The Walking Englishman recommends the Janet's Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove for visitors and locals in the Yorkshire Dales.
Described as the most popular walk for families and mature walkers in the national park, the trail leads to Gordale Scar to see the famous waterfall. The views from the route are spectacular and the path itself is fairly flat apart from one section where walkers will have to climb up a fairly steep path to the left of Malham Cove.
The walk goes close to the base of the cliff and the impressive limestone face is usually being used by rock climbers who are testing their skills, while birdwatchers will be in close proximity to keep a close eye on the resident Peregrine Falcons.
Grand Western Canal, Devon
This short walk, roughly three miles long, at the Grand Western Canal and local nature reserve meanders through the mid-Devon countryside between Tiverton and Lowdwells.
The walk is extremely peaceful and is great for older people as the canal basin and car park has ramps and handrails available and the towpath is flat and is compacted with limestone chippings.
The Grand Western Country Park where the walk is based is a perfect family day out as visitors can ride on board the horse-drawn barge.
Staithes, Port Mulgrave and Hinderwell, North York Moors
The Staithes, Port Mulgrave and Hinderwell route is also recommended as one of the best walks for older people on the North York Moors.
Mike Brockhurst from The Walking Englishman says Staithes is one of the North Yorkshire coasts picture postcard villages and this walk starts and finishes at the beautiful village. Walkers leave the village by following the North Yorkshire coastline south to Port Mulgrave and then head inland towards Hinderwell.
There is a lovely woodland path that walkers can then follow and this passes through a nature reserve and then leads back to Staithes.
In total the walk is just over four miles and it is best for enjoying over a half-day.
Kirkby Stephen and Eden Viaducts Trail, Cumbria
Walking World recommend the Kirkby Stephen and Eden Viaducts Trail as one of the best walks for older people to go on.
The trail follows an old railway line over deep valleys to the south of Kirkby Stephen. The trail takes in impressive stone viaducts and gives visitors an insight into how important the Stainmore railway used to be and what an essential link it was between the coalfields of South Durham and the iron and steel industries in Lancashire and West Cumberland.
The walk has two platelayers’ huts on the viaduct path and these display old photographs and share some history of the line. At the weekend the museum and café are open and restored steam trains can be seen at Kirkby Stephen East Station.
This circuit offers some fantastic views and from the Millennium Footbridge at Stenkrith walkers can see the River Eden as it swirls through the rocks below.
Loughrigg Tarn, Lake District
No walking guide is complete without a walk in the Lake District as the region is no doubt one of the best places in the world to walk.
Older people don’t have to miss out on these walks, even if they cannot walk long distances, as there are lots of accessible routes available in the national park.
The Walking Englishman says Loughrigg Tarn is one of the best walks for older people to go on in the Lake District as it is not only an easy walk to navigate, but is a beautiful trail as well.
Mike Brockhurst says, “This walk is truly delightful and it involves walking through a lovely wooded glade to the most sublime tarn which is in a beautiful setting. On a clear day there are awesome views of the Langdale Pikes to be had while you relax on the shore-side of the tarn. Also, it is one of the best places in the Lake District to enjoy a picnic so why not take one with you.”
The walk will usually take around 1-2 hours and is around 1.7 miles long.