Top trail running routes for you to explore

Routes from 7km to 117km from all over Britain

Ben Nevis route

by Trail Running |

In association with Jen and Sim Benson and OS Maps, here are a few of the great routes we've featured recently in Trail Running magazine. We have also included links to the routes on OS Maps. We bring you 10 new routes in each issue of Trail Running - you can find the archives here.

1 Portland (13.6km)

A run around the Royal Manor of Portland – a title it has held since Saxon times – on the South West Coast Path. It starts through the Tout Quarries Nature and Sculpture Park before joining the coast path and running down to Portland Bill, the southernmost point of Dorset. From here, it winds through the eclectic array of beach huts and chalets that feature at the Bill and past the cranes to lower the boats into the sea. Continuing onwards, the run goes through the old quarries, down into Church Ope – a good spot for a quick dip – and past the prison. The final miles visit Nicodemus Knob, a nine-metre-high pillar of Portland stone, which now stands as a landmark and quarrying relic at East Cliff, finishing past the 19th-century High Angle Battery and back to the car.

■ Becky Phillips, Trail Running reader

Portland

2 Hell Lane, Dorset

The mysterious Hell Lane is a sunken lane – also known as a holloway – which cuts through from Symondsbury to North Chideock. Starting and finishing at Symondsbury Estate this 10km run follows a circular loop, showcasing Dorset at its finest, and challenging you at times. The first half of the run follows Hell Lane itself and into the village of Chideock. You’ll eventually join the South West Coast Path national trail at Seatown for the second half of the route, which includes a big ascent up to Thorncombe Beacon. The view from the top is just sublime, and a great opportunity for that all-important trail running selfie. The final miles follow an almighty descent through woodland and back into Symondsbury Estate. This one is a real feast for the senses...

■ David Miller, @Davidmillerphotography

Hell Lane, Dorset

3 Capital Ring, London (117km)

Envisaged as a walking route and divided into 15 sections, all easily doable by public transport, the Capital Ring also offers a fantastic any time challenge for runners. Taking in some of London’s finest scenery, it links up areas of open space, nature reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, parks and intriguing landmarks. If you’re planning to run it in a oner be aware that some of the parks may be closed, depending on your time of arrival. The ground underfoot can also become very muddy after wet weather. Lots of excellent advice, information and inspiration on running the Capital Ring can be found at fastestknowntime.com/route/capital-ring-london-uk.

■ More information: tfl.gov.uk/modes/walking/capital-ring

Capital Ring London

4 Sherwood Pines (10.8km)

Pack your trail shoes and head to one of the Midlands’ best-known forests. Located north of Nottingham, Sherwood Pines has recently added a waymarked 10km run route to its selection of walking, running and cycling trails.

Starting out on the current 5km route, at 2km it splits and heads towards Robin Hood’s Whetstone, past the popular Tornado Alley mountain bike route. You’ll cross over into the south side of the forest, running through a mix of broadleaf and pine as the trail snakes through the outer areas of this fascinating ancient forest. At 7km, you’ll join back in with the 5km route, heading home to the central visitor hub and café, perfect for quick pick-me-up refreshments.

■ Laura Howard, Forestry England.

Sherwood Pines

5 Hamsterley Forest (7.8km)

At 7km, the orange Forest Runner trail gives runners a wide range of experiences ensuring plenty of interest throughout the run. Starting and finishing at the visitor centre with its friendly bustle, the run soon escapes into the peace and tranquillity of the woods. There’s a great variety of terrain, including short sections of road, technical sections on winding paths, open views and close-in trees. The steep ascents challenge the legs and lungs but the reward is a huge sense of accomplishment to those who make it to the top without walking, along with panoramic views of the forest. The long, flowing downhills that follow are a chance to stretch out legs and build speed en route to the café at the finish.

■ Laura Hull, Active Forest Coordinator at Hamsterley.

Hamsterley Forest

6 High Street, Lake District (21km)

This route is a great option for an early-morning or an evening circuit of the fells, when the Hartsop valley is in the shade and the long shadows of the mountains glimmer the golden colour of the bracken. On a good day, the vivid green of the pastures in the valley floor is in stark contrast to the blue skies, and the surfaces of Brothers Water and Hayeswater are calm mirrors drawing the eyes down from the fells and ridgelines. The route ascends six Wainwright summits, although a couple can be bypassed if you’re looking to trim a few minutes off the circuit.

■ From Trail and Fell Running in the Lake District by Kingsley Jones, published by Cicerone. cicerone.co.uk/trail-and-mountain-running

High Street, Lake District

7 Sunderland to Seaham (9.8km)

Linking the train stations at Sunderland and Seaham with a stretch of the England coast path, this route was mapped by one of Slow Ways’ volunteers. The best running is on the coast path itself, so if you’re starting from the train station, as the suggested Slow Way does, wind your way south-east through the outskirts of Sunderland to reach the sea near to Grangetown. The following stretch of the coast path skirts sandy beaches, rocky headlands and cliffs, and is a great place to spot seabirds, including waders over the winter months and fulmars all year round. The run finishes in the seaside town of Seaham – head to the sheltered stretch of sand at North Beach for a post-run paddle. As this route is yet to be verified on the Slow Ways website, make sure you review it at beta.slowways.org.

■ Route suggested by Slow Ways.

Sunderland to Seaham

8 Waun Fach, Black Mountains

Nestled on the eastern edge of the Brecon Beacons, the Black Mountains are home to a series of horseshoe-shaped ridgelines, offering superb high-level running. This route traces the westernmost horseshoe, which encircles the valley through which runs the Grwyne Fechan, a tributary of the River Usk. From Llanbedr, join the Beacons Way, climbing steeply to gain the ridge, with far-reaching views across the Beacons to Pen-y-Fan. From here follow the undulating ridge as it curves clockwise around the head of the valley, picking off summits along the way. The high point geographically – Waun Fach at 811 metres – is not the most exciting of summits, but the intriguing top of Pen y Gadair Fawr that follows, the airy exposure of many stretches of the ridgeline, and the fun, fast descent to finish more than make up for it.

■ From Wild Running (2nd edition) by Jen and Sim Benson, published by Wild Things Publishing.

Waun Fach

9 Aberfoyle to Rowardennan (21.2km)

This route, mapped by one of Slow Ways’ 700 volunteers, links the village of Aberfoyle with Rowardennan, on the shores of Loch Lomond, through the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Along the way it skirts peaceful Loch Ard – a great spot to stop off for a swim followed by one of the Wee Blether Tea Room’s legendary slices of cake – and climbs to 400 metres over the shoulder of Ben Lomond. The route meets the mighty West Highland Way at its finish, lending itself well to further explorations. As yet this route has not been verified on the Slow Ways website, so if you do give it a go be sure to review it at beta.slowways.org.

■ Route suggested by Slow Ways.

Aberfoyle

10 Ben Nevis (15.9km)

Rising to 1345 metres, the summit of Ben Nevis is the highest point in the UK. This run follows the main route up the mountain on steep but often runnable trails. From the start, cross the river, following the obvious wide path, zig-zagging as it climbs higher. Take care not to miss a sharp left turn at the head of the Valley of the Red Burn, after which the going becomes rougher before levelling out at the summit plateau. On a clear day the views from the summit are spectacular, covering much of the Highlands. CAUTION: In poor visibility, very careful navigation is needed to steer a course between Gardyloo Gully and Five Finger Gully at the summit. The John Muir Trust has cared for the summit of Ben Nevis for 21 years and is this year targeting £100k for vital care work on the mountain.

■ More information: johnmuirtrust.org/whats-new/nevis-21

Ben Nevis
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