Tonight Julia Bradbury pulls on her walking boots for another perfectly paced series of rambles in some of her favourite parts of the UK.
Here she shares her personal favourite routes with RT – two in the UK, and two spectacular hikes further afield, one on a Baltic island and another in South Africa.
White-cliff walking – Seven Sisters, South Downs
The Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, East Sussex
I don’t think you need mountains for it to be a proper walk. What you want is a nice view and good landscape – and you definitely get both from the South Downs’ beautiful, undulating valleys. This walk takes in the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, Beachy Head and the seaside charm of Birling Gap. Set off from the village of East Dean, which was home to Sherlock Holmes from 1903 to 1917 – at least according to a (fake) blue plaque on one of the pretty cottages. In His Last Bow, Arthur Conan Doyle – who was once a guest at Birling Manor Farm, just a few miles away – wrote that Holmes retired to “a small farm upon the Downs, five miles from Eastbourne”.
From there, you explore one of the longest unspoiled coastlines on the south coast – one that is being eroded at a rate of almost a metre a year. The walk ends at the Belle Tout lighthouse, with commanding views across the rolling Sussex Downs and those distinctive cliffs.
Moor-top views – Kinder Scout, Peak District
This is where my dad and I would walk hand-in-hand when I was a little girl. He always made our treks an adventure, telling me stories along the way.
The Peak District was our first National Park, and is the spiritual home of popular walking because it was the setting for the 1932 mass trespass – a skirmish between workers who wanted to enjoy the landscape and local landowners who preferred to keep it to themselves for grouse-shooting. It’s arguably where our right to roam first came into being and led to the creation of Britain’s first National Trail 50 years ago.
After heading off from the Derbyshire village of Edale, which is the start of the Pennine Way, you follow in the footsteps of those trespassers and ascend the Kinder plateau. As you reach the top of the moors, the staggering views across the Edale Valley make it all worthwhile. My dad’s knees have given in, so we can no longer walk it together, but we’ve had a pint in the Old Nags Head in Edale instead.
Picture-perfect coastline – Rügen, Germany
Rügen’s white cliffs
Germany’s biggest island offers a magical coastal walk of beaches and cliffs, yet it’s full of surprising glimpses into this country’s past. Rügen is more than twice the size of the Isle of Wight, but the German mainland lies just a few hundred metres away. For 70 years a road bridge has connected them, but the island remains a place of escape. The start point of this walk is the popular island resort town of Binz. From there, you explore the National Park and its very own white cliffs. These famous chalk cliffs were the inspiration for Germany’s most celebrated Romantic painter; just as the English lakes had poet William Wordsworth, crowds arrived on Rügen because of Caspar David Friedrich and his oil landscapes.
Dramatic range – Drakensberg mountains, South Africa
The Drakensberg mountains are regarded as one of the world’s most distinctive ranges, and are home to South Africa’s highest peaks. I explored the valley at the very centre of the Drakensberg – one that encapsulates much ofthe human history that has shaped the Berg. These formidable peaks form an escarpment over a thousand kilometres long. It dominates the province of KwaZulu-Natal – home of the Zulu nation – and beyond it there’s a whole new country: the mountain kingdom of Lesotho. Watching over it is the Berg’s most imposing, recognisable summit, which dominates the valley: Cathedral Peak.
Down in the peak’s shadow there’s some meaty history to get to grips with. Over a hundred years ago in KwaZulu-Natal the British and Boers famously slugged it out. Before that, the arrival of the Zulus had already caused the indigenous San people to be driven out, up into the higher mountains.
While it might look pretty intimidating, Cathedral Peak is a surprisingly well laid-out mountain for the walker. At just over 3,000 metres, it’s far higher than anything I’d scaled before. It’s not just the altitude that poses a hefty challenge; weather conditions can change as rapidly as they do in England’s lakes.
Britain’s Best Walks with Julia Bradbury begins on Friday 6 January, ITV, 8pm.