Trying to put together an objective list of the best hikes in the UK is a thankless task. There are so many wonderful routes to consider, and people will always have their own preferences when rating a hike, from the type of terrain to the amount of climbing involved and the views.
It’s a lot easier to use what’s popular as a proxy for what’s best. Sure, you’re unlikely to find solitude, but if thousands walk the same route, word would get round pretty quickly if it was rubbish.
And it’s easy to find out what’s popular thanks to Strava, which has used the data from its 100 million-strong user base to rank the six most popular hiking stretches (known on Strava as segments) in the UK. It’s as close to an objective list as you can get, since people have literally voted with their feet by walking the routes.
As you might expect, the UK’s biggest mountains feature prominently in the list, with routes up or around Ben Nevis and Snowdon taking spots one and two on the list and two of the Yorkshire Dales’ Three Peaks – Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside – coming third and fourth.
Another big mountain – Pen-y-Fan – comes in fifth, but actually it’s a specific route down that proved to be popular with Strava users. Rounding out the list is a tough climb in the grounds of Belfast Castle.
Using Strava segments is clearly not a foolproof way to pick the best hikes, since people might stray off the exact route and not add their data to the pile as a result, but there’s no doubt that the six routes produced are all excellent hikes and worth adding to the itinerary of any trips you might be taking to the relevant areas.
The UK’s Most Popular Hikes Based On Strava Segment Data
Ben Nevis, Scotland
This challenging route covers the last section of the climb to the top of Ben Nevis, with 575m of ascent in total. See the segment
The Llanberis path to Snowdon, Wales
The most popular segment around Snowdon is this route down the final section of the Llanberis Path, one of the longest routes up and down the mountain, but the one with the gentlest elevation change. See the segment
Pen-y-Ghent is the smallest of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks, but the most popular Strava segment around it still involves a meaty 112m of climbing in just over a kilometre. See the segment
Whernside is the tallest of the Three Peaks in the Yorkshire Dales and this hike takes in the entire climb of the mountain from Ribblehead up to the summit at 736m. See the segment
You drop 468m in this segment on Pen-y-Fan in the Brecon Beacons, hiking from the summit all the way back down to the road. See the segment
Belfast Castle, Northern Ireland
The average grade of this challenging climb in the grounds of Belfast Castle is 10%, but the views from the top must be worth it, given the amount of people that tackle it. See the segment
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.