A large bird, possibly in league with Satan, tore into our food supplies while backs were turned and then cackled at us all the way down the hill the next day. Litton dale and Langstrothdale are two of these quieter side dales, and there’s a wonderful circular walk between them following an old drover’s track over the shoulder of Birds Falls.
The scenery is classic dales: limestone outcrops and pavements, and dry stone walls, but there’s rarely anyone there; all you hear are the skylarks and curlews. Photograph: Sebastian Weiser/Getty ImagesWhile northern Dartmoor is beautiful and hilly, the south is vast open moorland with no one around, and Duck’s Pool is one of its remotest parts.
Photograph: James Grant/Alabama Nick is the road that climbs steeply from Dale to Mam Tor, deep within the Peak District national park. As the road snakes around, there are great views of Back Tor, Lord’s Seat and Kinder Scout behind you, if you care to stop for a breather.
I first discovered this route on my bike in 2009 and was surprised how quiet it was compared with the hum of tourists and traffic at better-known Peak District attractions. It is one of the toughest cycling climbs and, in the opposite direction, one of the most exhilarating descents in Derbyshire, on what is left of the abandoned Shivering Mountain (Mam Tor) road and the hair-raisingly steep Winners Pass.
Photograph: David Boat/AlamyFrom the start of the drive from Landover (the nearest town, 10 miles away), you sense that you’re delving deep into the rugged heart of the Cambrian mountains, a truly undiscovered gem of Carmarthenshire. Initially, the trail runs alongside the still-infant Town river, which, even in the driest season, roars across the rocks through the gorge from its source at LLN Brianna as it cuts through the mystical oak and alder woodland.
Use the steps cut out of boulders to take on the challenge of finding the well-hidden cave of Two Sion Cat (the Welsh highwayman). The feeling of tranquility and isolation is spectacular, as red kites, pied flycatchers and tree pipits soar overhead.
On a clear day in May, you’re immersed in yellow gorse, orange lichen, aquamarine sea and the light and dark browns of granite glinting with feldspar. Begin by following my favorite road through the foothills to Manager Glen’s ancient forest of oak and ash.
Here, having evaded St Patrick’s banishment, Ireland’s last serpent lurks in a pool swollen by the Altnaheglish and Genera burns. From Sawed, the highest peak in the range, you can gaze east all the way to the Mourned, and to Binevenagh on the north coast.
If rough ground speckled with summer’s bog cotton keeps your eyes lowered, you’ll spy cloud berry and sundew among the coarse grasses and heather. Monuments, like Claghorn Wedge Tomb, cued by boulder erratics, litter the moorland with standing stones and circles.
Photograph: Angus Alexander Chisholm / Alumni you want wild and remote, head to Hand, off the Sutherland coast. It’s not far from the North Coast 500 route, which is attracting growing numbers of visitors, but as an island we are one of the most isolated spots along this coastline.
Is an abundance of Bronze Age sites linked by a prehistoric track, recently christened the Arduous Way, that once connected Ireland to Britain via the natural harbors of the coast. Standing proud like a crown of thorns is Bryan Cadet Finer, a spectacular stone circle thought to be a prince’s burial cairn.
From here, a network of lakes and tarns spread out and buzzards soar around the lonely granite top of Model Ysgyfarnogod, or hare mountain. The glacial CWM Much valley drives a scar to the north, descending into the precipitous gorge of Llennyrch, among some of the finest examples of Atlantic rainforest in Europe.
Mosses and lichen drape the sessile oaks, bilberries abound and walkers can bathe in a Narnia of waterfalls and pools. You may spot the iridescent flash of a kingfisher patrolling his “beat” and in search of his next meal, the unmistakable stream of fizzing bubbles as the elusive otter speeds off into the distance, or a Chinese water deer at the river’s edge.
A footpath runs alongside the river for about nine miles from Ayesha to Coltish all, and the Sure Valley Steam railway roughly follows the same route, so you can walk one way and get the train back. And wild camping, where you pitch up in the wilderness instead of a designated campsite, offers an uplifting sense of remoteness and freedom.
Another good option is the high ground above Ivy bridge, where you set up camp with views over the town and countryside below. Framed by the peaks of Sure Na Strip, Beaten and the mighty Cullen range, Camasunary is a tranquil bay that’s the perfect place to bed down after a day “bagging” the Skye Munro's.
Head to the secluded beach, where mountain and sea meet spectacularly, and watch dawn break over the isles of Egg and Rum as your coffee brews over the campstove, and you plan your day’s adventure. One of Lakeland’s most famous writers, the fell walker Alfred Wainwright, had his ashes scattered at Haystacks in the Western Fells because he loved the hill so much.
Due to a law introduced in 2017, some sites in Scotland, including Lock Lomond, do now require campers to get a permit (see this guide for more information). You’ll feel a world away from the stresses of modern life in Glenfeshie, with its tumbling waterfalls and sweeping mountain vistas.
Home to one of the country’s most successful “rewinding” projects, it’s also the starting point for many walking routes, so you can hike straight from your tent. The other mountain ranges in the Breton Beacons may be the major draw for the crowds, but that’s great news for wilderness lovers.
The route passes through the wild and rugged landscapes of Moral, Knoydart, Torrid on and Assent. Harris and Lewis offer opportunities for high, trackless terrain as well as more accessible routes exploring the beautiful coast and ancient monuments.
For a fantastic wilderness day out, make your way to the UIG hills on the western side of Lewis. Richard Barrett suggests you arrive at the end of the road south of Alaska and begin the 12 km circular route to climb Griomabhal, Naideabhal Amiga and Label.
Rocky slabs, scattered boulders and grass are crossed on broad ridges, with views on a clear day out to the Lankan Isles and St Kinda. Further south, there are vast areas of wilderness in the Reinforms, where it is still possible to spend all day walking without seeing another person.
For a long and high wilderness day out, climb Band Headpin, Ronald Turnbull’s favorite route, approached via Lock Norwich then up the northeast ridge, with an optional grade 1 scramble, and another onto the summit tor. Not all of it is wilderness, of course, as this area also includes remote valleys with ghostly reminders of the mining activities in the past.
But there are huge areas of wild upland and moorland, and boggy bits too, where the only intervention by man has been to graze sheep for centuries. For a wilderness day out in the North Pennies, Paddy Dillon has a 24 km route he describes as rugged, high-level, with bleak and exposed moorlands, sometimes with vague paths.
There is a true sense of remoteness, as old bridleways and disused paths are followed, crossing numerous streams and through a national nature reserve to the high point at around 600 m. The Cambrian Way is a challenging 470 km (292 miles) mountain trek through Wales between Cardiff and Conway following elegant ridge lines and crossing wild and rugged landscapes.
For a fantastic wilderness day out in a quiet corner of the Breton Beacons, this 16 km circular walk approaches the craggy cliffs of Craig Craig Glacial National Nature Reserve, then upwards to the high, exposed moorlands of Fan French and across to the spectacular cliffs at Craig CWM Du. People have trampled over southern England for thousands of years, creating roads, railways and canals linking ever-growing towns and cities.
In the far east of England, there are few really wild and remote areas, however stretches of the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts offer opportunities for walks in relative solitude. Starting at Chelmondiston just south of Ipswich, the quiet and tranquil route beside the River Orwell leads to Shortly Point, with a panorama of container shipping entering Felixstowe opposite.
Alternatively, to return to the start, either reverse the route, or walk to the village of Shortly, then north to Church End, then on a footpath east to rejoin the coast path back to Chelmondiston. Moving west across southern England, there are some wonderful walks where you can be alone all day, enjoying huge expanses of chalk downlands and big wide views.
People have, in fact, been living and walking on the chalk downlands for thousands of years, but the nature of the chalky hills has preserved the scenery, with modern intrusion appearing only in the villages nestling at the foot of the downs. For a fantastic day out in an area of outstanding beauty, as well as a visit to the Iron Age earthworks of Barbary Castle, this 20 km circular walk follows much of the Ridgeway National Trail high in the Marlborough Hills, with superb views and big open skies, descending along Seethe’s Ridge back to the village of Osbourne St Andrew, just a short drive north of Marlborough.
Further west again, and the moorlands of Dartmoor, Ex moor and Bodkin all have a remoteness and challenge, yet are mainly easily accessed. From there, a shorter 12 km day enjoys the River Dart valley, then eventually climbs the slopes of Camel Down, with good accommodation in nearby Wycombe in the Moor.