6 places to walk away from the crowds

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In modern times it can be difficult to find somewhere to walk that will give you a section of the world to yourself, and this goes double if you are stuck in a city and don't really know where to go. If you're lucky you may have 2-3 green spaces within walking distance and a handful more a short drive away, but with such a density of people living in our cities you end up sharing these areas with a huge amount of people - not ideal in a world of social distancing or for when you really want some time to yourself. However, with a little bit of planning and maybe a short drive, you might just be able to find somewhere to walk without being surrounded by crowds. These places may not be right on your doorstep and some may take some planning to get the most out of, but it takes a little work to get some solitude somewhere spectacular. For this list, I am going to try to focus less on the specific locations and more on things to look for when mapping out your next adventure, I am also going to go into some places you may regard as often heaving with people and explain how you might still be able to find some peace there too...

Canals and Waterways

Last light over the canals

Canals and waterways were once the backbones of this country, and it shows whenever you look at a map - they are damn near everywhere! While many sections have been modernised into city centre pseudo-waterfronts or lined with expensive apartments and others have turned into areas of disrepute, there are still many forgotten stretches that only have a handful of walkers enjoying them. Often I will take a stroll amongst the rolling farmlands, down the old towpath full of life and nature with barely a few other souls to greet on my travels, except for the occasional narrowboat helmsman chugging along the otherwise still waters. Combine that with the fact that there are usually footpaths snaking away from the canal towpaths and you can get a nice day's adventure out of these wonderous memorials to our industrial revolution. The only thing to consider with canals is they often feature very narrow paths, making passing other walkers difficult in places so try to be courteous to one another and cyclists should especially take care on these precarious routes. It is generally pretty easy to find a nice section of the waterway to explore, take a quick look at a map and follow any canal out into the countryside, it will likely be a beautiful walk amongst perfect surroundings.

Country pathways

A less trodden pathway

Local and national parks may already be overflowing with dog-walkers, sunbathers and joggers, but many nondescript sections of the countryside are often overlooked when trying to get out there and see something different. The United Kingdom is littered with paths, bridleways, byways and walkways all waiting to be explored that are often surprisingly underutilised by the general public. They will often see you through sections of countryside, past farmland and occasionally into woodland walks - all of the fresh air you could want! Some walks are marked on Google Maps, but using an OS map or one of the many websites that list this information, such as footpathmap.co.uk, will make navigating these a lot easier. Pick an area of farmland or open green space near you, look for a spot not really near any attraction or populous and find a footpath marker that you can follow to your heart's content. Not every walk found this way will be the most memorable but you will get plenty of fresh air and exercise out in glorious greenery - a great way to spend a day.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) - exploring the fringes

A pathway through quieter parts

Most people when visiting an AONB will head directly for the main attractions, or to what would be considered the primary car-park and then congregate in the areas immediately surrounding that spot. But many of the United Kingdom's AONBs are vast and feature many square miles of gorgeous landscapes, just begging to be explored. Find some of these lesser explored sections by browsing the outskirts, or at the very least far away from the major settlements and landmarks. More often than not there will be a lay-by to stop in and a path immediately accessible to you. By avoiding the few spots people tend to gravitate towards in these places you will often be almost completely alone, free to explore the local landscape without the worries of coming into contact with other people. To try to help you on your way, pop onto your preferred mapping app, and just search for the AONB of your choice; any of the returned car-parks or landmarks can probably be ignored and the spaces in-between them are likely to be devoid of other people.

Fishing Pools

A fishing pond on a summer's day

Fisherman often have dedicated pools that are absolutely stunning, teeming with life and usually in glorious surroundings - this can also be a great boon for walkers too! While the pools may be full of fishermen they tend to be stationary, prefer silence (as not to spook the fish) and easy to avoid, leaving the circular paths around the pools or at the very least walks that pass through into the local countryside available for you to enjoy. The only thing you will need to plan is somewhere to park if you need to drive (parking is typically reserved for members of the fishing club), but if you can find somewhere quiet nearby then you will usually be rewarded with a bit of nature that you can appreciate in peace.


A beach all to ourselves

Now I know when you think of a beach, you probably picture densely packed tourists, a patchwork of towels with their matching garish windbreaks and a mass of jet skis, beach games and sunbathers. All wonderful things that can be enjoyed in their own regard, but not what you want when you are trying to get some peace and quiet out in nature. There are things you can do to enjoy beaches in all of their glory without tripping over all of your fellow beachgoers and it usually involves either a bit of planning or a bit of walking. Humans are often drawn to the path of least resistance, and when on holiday they will usually gather at the first open spec of sand within reach of where they are staying. With that in mind, if you are willing to travel a little ways away you will often have whole swaths of golden sand to yourself. You can even pre-plan a journey just by checking a map, just look for anywhere more than a stone's throw away from a holiday park, caravan site or local attraction to find yourself a personal private beach.


Halfway to the top on empty paths

Okay, odds are you don't have a mountain right on your doorstep. Odds are, you have also seen those daunting photos of people queueing at various peaks and are thinking "how on earth could you be alone in a place with so many people?". People often fall into the trap of heading to the most famous of a landmark without realising the wealth of options on offer that you could have nearly to yourself; the number of times we have ascended mountains around the Cadair Idris range and barely seen another soul is testament enough to the potential for solitude. Wherever you happen to find yourself, if you are looking for a bit of isolation then you should avoid the tallest, most famous peaks and opt for somewhere nearby - often these tall mountains have sisters that have almost identical (if not better) views, just as challenging walks and best of all they will often have a fraction of the visitors.

Hopefully, this list has inspired you to get out there, even if you are after some peace and quiet you only need to plan a little to avoid the crowds. There is a certainly a lot of enjoyment to be had be exploring in groups but I can absolutely appreciate the desire to enjoy nature without other sights and sounds distracting you. I hope you find your little patch of silence amongst lush flora and amazing surroundings.

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