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Ultimate lockdown walks

Ultimate lockdown walks

The one thing that's kept us going during this time in lockdown is our freedom to exercise. Many of us have picked up the habit of daily walks, running and cycling after long periods of being stuck indoors. But for some, the daily step count has dropped significantly. So for those in need of a pick-me-up, it’s time to take advantage of the looser rules on outdoor exercise and discover some of the best walking routes for your city.

As we’re all aware, fresh air and exercise has a significant impact on mental health, so Uswitch has discovered the most scenic, calorie burning routes without the crowds across twenty UK cities in the hope that there’s a walk that everyone can enjoy. And now that we’ve been given the go ahead to drive a short distance to get our daily exercise, many of the best walks can be found just outside our cities’ boundaries. We may just learn to appreciate the beauty on our doorsteps.

Uswitch analysed the distance, time, elevation gain, route type, rating, scenery, popularity, calories burned and gradient to see which walks are best to get the blood pumping in pretty, socially distanced surroundings.

Top ten lockdown walks

City Walk name
Sheffield Abbey Brook Headquarters
Sheffield Bull Stones to Derwent Watershed
Edinburgh Pentland Ridge
Cardiff Cefyn Onn to Caerphilly Mountain
Sheffield Win Hill from Heatherdene
Manchester Chorlton to Dunham Massey
Nottingham Strelley-Cossall-Trowell
Kingston upon Hull Yorkshire Wolds Way: Hessle to South Cave
Newcastle upon Tyne Hadrian's Wall: Heddon on the Wall to Chollerford
Southampton South Downs Way: Exton to Buriton

Sheffield’s proximity to the peak district means that three of its walking routes are found in the top ten list, one of which introduces walkers to a secluded waterfall. Long loop trails with healthy elevations have ensured its rank enabling people to finish where they started, limiting their need to rely on public transport or pickup at the end. With beautiful scenery and a scarce amount of people, it’s a lockdown walker’s dream.

The South Downs Way: Exton to Burlton in Southampton is the only southern English walk to feature in the top ten, whereas the Midlands has plenty of rugged routes for ramblers seeking a challenge.

The longest trail on the list is Newcastle’s St. Oswald's Way Section 6: Kirkwhelpington to Heavenfield which is where the average man would burn a staggering 1270 calories. However, its weak gradient and the length of time it takes to complete does not make it very efficient for burning off energy.

Despite London having an abundance of sights that people travel from all over the world to see, its best walk comes in 44th place. Its elevation doesn’t prove much of a challenge and its end point leaves you 11.1km from where you started. But perhaps the most iconic of all walks is the Central London Walking Tour which takes you past some of the most famous landmarks. In the short time of two hours you can see parliament, the London Eye, Westminster Bridge, Westminster Abbey, and Buckingham Palace. This saves you from the cost of a double-decker tour bus and painfully slow traffic, but beware of the crowds.

Top 5 most scenic routes

City Walk name Photographs
London Central London Walking Tour 1018
Sheffield Bull Stones to Derwent Watershed 274
Sheffield Win Hill from Heatherdene 250
Edinburgh Arthur's Seat 238
Glasgow West Highland Way: Drymen to Balmaha 223

Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh features the steepest gradient (13.68%) of all 100 walks as anyone who’s attempted it will certainly know. But with its central location it also attracts crowds which is the last thing any of us want to be amongst at the moment. So Pentland Ridge in Pentland Hills Regional Park is Edinburgh’s top choice walk, featuring an 11.9km loop where a man can expect to burn 779 calories and a woman 655 calories. Edinburgh’s Royal Mile proves not much of a challenge but in its short distance, walkers can lap up plenty of history. Mary Queen of Scot’s Bathhouse, John Knox’s House Museum, St. Giles Cathedral and Edinburgh Castle Esplanade are all sights to be seen along the 2.1km route.

Top 5 steepest gradient routes

City Walk name Gradient
Edinburgh Arthur's Seat 13.68%
Edinburgh The Dry Dam to Saint Anthony's Chapel and Arthur's Seat 11.88%
Cardiff Castell Coch Circular Route 11.33%
Belfast Cavehill Trail 10.24%
Edinburgh Pentland Ridge 9.66%

National Walking Month

With May being National Walking Month, there’s no better time to stack up the miles and one of the most popular ways to show off your feats is by embarking on the 100 Miles in May challenge (or kilometres if you’re feeling less energetic). People are recording their efforts in aid of a select few charities such as Melanoma Focus. However, don’t think you can leave it all to the last couple of weeks. You’d need to walk 3.2 miles or 5km each day to reach the target. That’s a lot of pathways and scenery to get through so make sure you’ve discovered the best routes available to you. Doing the same walk 31 times in a month might drive you round the bend.

Healthy body, healthy mind

Many of us rarely walk for walking’s sake, usually only using it as a method of transport from A to B. But these unusual times are bringing out the inner rambler in all of us and the health benefits that come along with this are second to none. One who takes up walking will see improved performance of heart, lungs, circulation, flexibility and strength, but probably the most important improvement is to our well-being. Now more than ever we have come to understand how much we appreciate our freedom to roam.

Television presenter and walking advocate Julie Bradbury of The Outdoor Guide explores some key tips on mental health during this difficult time, encouraging people to "stay safe, and stay local whilst considering the health and mental wellbeing of yourself and others whilst outdoor exercising."

Top 5 biggest calorie burning walks

City Walk name Calories
Newcastle upon Tyne St Oswald's Way Section 6: Kirkwhelpington to Heavenfield 1270
Manchester Chortlon to Dunham Massey 1269
Newcastle upon Tyne Hadrian's Wall: Heddon on the Wall to Chollerford 1150
Southampton South Downs Way: Exton to Buriton 1082
Newcastle upon Tyne Hadrian's Wall: Segedunum Fort to Heddon on the Wall 1070

Methodology: We took 100 walks (20 UK cities and 5 walks from each) from and marked them across 8 different sets of criteria: elevation, distance, route type, difficulty, calorie burn, gradient, crowds, and time. Each walk was marked out of 5 across each criteria. We favoured higher elevations, longer distances, looping routes that brought you back to your starting point, routes considered hard, higher calorie burn, steeper gradients, less crowded routes based on how many reviews a route had, and routes that were quicker to complete.

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