My first memories of ‘going for a walk’ are from around the age of five. I would be taken – usually unwillingly – with my family to nearby woods for an hour or two. And I complained every time. Even though I always enjoyed myself there, playing and running around with all four of my brothers, I would still complain the next time. After childhood, ‘going for a walk’ largely fell out of my life until late-twenties, when I was more focused on sports.

It was through my travels I developed (or re-awakened) a love for hiking. In part, because I travelled to some of the most beautiful places in the world, and the best way to see them was hiking into them. But my love also came from the enjoyment of walking itself. Going for walks into nature is a great way to relax, to gather your thoughts, and to gain perspective. A good hike can also be a tough challenge, pushing you to your limits, physically and mentally. That, combined with fantastic sights, makes hiking an extremely rewarding pastime.

On this page, I will share some tips for hiking that I have picked up and learned. And I want to show that hiking is accessible to all abilities. I will also share details of my own walks and hikes to some of the most spectacular locations around the globe. Finally, I will attempt to address the age old question – and define the difference between walking and hiking.

When, where and how

Where is up to you. The most popular hiking routes in the world now often attracts crowds that, in my opinion, can detract from the experience of hiking – exploring quiet, untouched areas. It may be worth scouting lesser known trails, or going at off-peak times.

Hiking can be enjoyed all year round. Always take clothing appropriate for the season and be weary of the climate you are in. Particularly if hiking at higher altitudes – be prepared for a change in weather conditions. Don’t be too proud to turn back if you have to. There will always be another chance to hike. It’s not worth continuing on a route faced with unnecessary risks. When rain does come though, there might only be one way to get out of it – to keep walking. So, pack appropriately.

Hiking doesn’t have to be in some faraway land. If you aren’t aware of trails in your own country, research them. I’m sure you will be surprised by the opportunities not far from where you are. While they may not be the most eye-catching compared to those posts you see in Instagram, you may surprise yourself how much you enjoy exploring your own surroundings.

Also, a hike doesn’t have to be done at a high speed. If you were to read articles from some of the world’s most prolific hikers, you may get the impression you have to aim to break a world record. You don’t. Depending on your experience and ability, taking your first step can be a challenge. Don’t push yourself too hard on your hikes. If you enjoy being outdoors, that’s enough.

My hikes

Since travelling abroad, I have realised the joys of exploring the UK, and that we have plenty of great trails at home.

I have been fortunate to travel around the world and hike some rewarding and equalling challenging trails.

Are you walking or hiking?

I think there is a difference between a walk and a hike. But the difference isn’t clear, and so the lines can be blurred. As hiking is a form of walking, it’s easier to think about the question – when does a walk become a hike?

I don’t think you have to cover a great distance to be classed as a hiker. Although I would say you need to cover at least two or three miles, as a hike indicates a degree of exertion. If I were to put a time limit on it, I would say you need to be on your feet for at least 45 minutes to an hour.

A telling contrast is the terrain you are walking on, as well as your surroundings. If much or most of your walk is on a paved trail, next to roads and buildings, it is unlikely to be a hike. If you are walking in the middle of untouched nature – albeit on a well-trodden trail – you could claim to be hiking. An illustration of this is the Yorkshire Three Peaks. This is now a popular hike, on which you are never far from civilisation, and a clear path has been made. However, you are required to climb three tough peaks, and traverse dales, over a total of 24 miles. That is a hike. If you were to walk a similar distance around central London, however, you would do well to convince me you had done anything else than walk.

Generally, I would say a walk becomes a hike when there are ample inclines and declines. For example, if you are walking up hills, mountains or cliffs, and down into valleys or gorges, you are likely on a hike. Similarly, if you are tramping through unmarked forests or swampy marshland, across a desert, or great plains, you are probably hiking.

The gear you have doesn’t make you a hiker. Holding hiking sticks in your hands and putting a backpack on, to stomp around your local park, isn’t enough to say you went for a hike. And hiking in the wild isn’t about having the right equipment, either. Hiking is about being in the outdoors, embracing the opportunity to delve into nature and discover new experiences – breathing fresh cool air high up in the mountains, the aroma of an ancient forest, or the feel of the sea breeze on an exposed coastal path.

Ultimately, though, it really doesn’t matter what you call it (which makes this section entirely redundant). Call it what you want. Just get out there and experience it for yourself.

Types of Hikes

Multi-day hikes: These are the most challenging hikes, requiring you to be on your feet over a number of days, or even weeks. They can be the most rewarding. For some, it’s almost a pilgrimage – if not in a religious sense, but of the mind, for peace and solitude.

The nature of the walk may mean you have to carry a substantial weight in your backpack; water, food, clothing and equipment. It’s important to be prepared physically, and mentally.

Day hike: these are more accessible and require less planning than multi-day hikes. And yet, a full day hiking can you leave you completely exhausted, while still offering you the chance to fully immerse yourself in wonderful surroundings.

A general rule for hiking is to carry a litre of water for every couple of hours you’ll be walking. It’s better to have too much than too little, especially in hot weather. And factor in enough suitable food, too. Although you might truly find your appetite after the walk, it’s important to have spare food and drink in case of emergencies. We’re all susceptible to taking a wrong turn every now and again.

Short walks: A quick stretch of the legs, breath of fresh air, relaxing wind-down – whatever the motivation, don’t underestimate the appreciation you can get from a gentle stroll. 

These are especially enjoyable for me on long road trips, to get out of the car and wander into the scenery I have driven through. Some of my favourite days on the road are when I break up the trip with a jaunt into the woods, to a waterfall, around a lake, or a sprint up a hill to a lookout point.

Urban walks: In almost every city I visit, I plan a route to see the sights, the architecture – the castle, the palace, cathedrals or temples – as well as the neighbourhoods. It’s a great way to get an insight into life there; people watching, chatting to residents, stumbling on a great local spot that isn’t in the guidebooks.

I think a lot of people appreciate that getting outdoors, even in an urban landscape, is vital for our mental health. Lockdown inspired me to walk to parts of London I never knew existed. And I imagine there are areas near all of us that we have yet to discover. As Henry David Thoreau wrote, in his aptly-titled book, ‘Walking’:

“There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of ten miles’ radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you.”