Travel & Hospitality

Hidden Gems of the UK

Clarks Unveils the Ultimate Parks, Forests, Beaches and Hiking Trails for a Socially Distanced Dose of Nature This Valentine’s Day

Life has undoubtedly been turned upside down because of COVID-19. From learning how to bake bread at home to moving out of big cities, adapting to the ‘new normal’ has seen millions of people in the UK find new ways to keep busy. The stunning summer months last year made getting outside a breeze, but with drops in temperature and increasing rain and snow in some areas, getting that daily walk in suddenly feels less appealing.

Enter friluftsliv: a Norwegian concept that means “a commitment to celebrating time outdoors, no matter the weather forecast.” And rightfully so: regularly spending time outdoors in nature has huge benefits for our health and wellbeing. In fact, in a 2019 study, scientists found that spending just 20 minutes a day in nature reduces stress. But with a national lockdown meaning time outdoors is limited to essential reasons only, including outdoor exercise once a day, and a unanimous desire to enjoy that time safely and responsibly, where can people in the UK get outdoors while staying local and social distancing?

To find out, Clarks analysed over 5,000 TripAdvisor listings and can today reveal The Best Kept Secrets of the UK Countryside. From parks and forests to beaches and hiking trails, these are the nation’s best places to get outdoors while social distancing.

Top 3 Beaches:

  1. Newburgh Seals Beach in Aberdeenshire
  2. Polin Beach in Caithness and Sutherland
  3. Embo Beach in the Scottish Highlands

Top 3 Hiking Trails:

  1. Berwickshire Coastal Path in the Scottish Borders
  2. North Down Coastal Path in County Down
  3. Ben Craigforth in Stirling

Top 3 Parks:

  1. Silverburn Park in Fife
  2. Southampton Common in Hampshire
  3. Hereford Board and Bike Park in Herefordshire

Top 3 Forests:

  1. Newborough Forest on Anglesey Island
  2. Clare Glen Woodland in County Armagh
  3. Greatwood in Somerset

These destinations have been ranked by the lowest number of reviews, but with the highest concentration of 5-star ratings to identify the most secluded but wonderful spots in the country.

For those looking for a sea breeze, Newburgh Seals Beach in Aberdeenshire tops the list of hidden gems among beaches. With over 93% of reviewers giving it a 5-star rating, this location is typically brimming with seals popping their heads out of the water or basking on the sand. One reviewer dubbed it a “spectacular sight” while another wrote “on a bright Autumn day we almost had the place to ourselves.” Elsewhere, Bushfoot Strand in County Antrim is described as “one of the most beautiful beaches in Ireland”, while the “wild and wondrous” Marske Sands Beach in North Yorkshire takes fifth place in the category.

If a more active day out is on the cards, the best hidden gem among the UK’s hiking trails is Berwickshire Coastal Path in the Scottish Borders. At 8 miles long and an ascent of 500 metres, the walk has been described as “a stunning stretch of coastline.” The county boasting the most hidden gems in this category, however, is Cornwall. Taking up 30% of our Top 10 Best Kept Secret Hiking Trails, the area is home to Lanhydrock and Respryn Circular Walk, described as “a real opportunity to contemplate,” and Portmellon and Bodrugan’s Leap Walk which boasts “simply the best view in the world.”

Taking joint-first position among UK parks are Silverburn Park in Fife and Southampton Common in Hampshire, each with eight reviews and all of which are 5-star. One reviewer describes the former as a “place of quiet enjoyment,” while Southampton Common has been deemed “a remarkably peaceful place” despite its central location.

For people seeking the pleasures of crunchy leaves underfoot, Anglesey Island’s Newborough Forest is appropriately crowned the UK’s Best Kept Secret Forest according to the analysis. Made up of sprawling woodland that opens onto grassy sand dunes and a beach, this spot with 16 reviews, all 5-star, has it all. Elsewhere, Lower Woods Nature Reserve in Gloucestershire offers the ultimate escape for wildlife lovers. Described as “a gem” and “not easy to find,” this place offers sights of muntjac and roe deer in their natural habitat.

Sebastian Edwards, Men’s Business Manager at Clarks said: “Devon and Cornwall are typically renowned for amazing stretches of coastline, which is certainly true – but for a quieter seaside stroll, our research showed that Scotland is home to seven of the top ten best kept secret beaches in the UK. With the analysis covering every county in the country, however, there should be parks, forests, beaches, and hiking trails closer to home for everyone to enjoy while social distancing. Our high street stores are closed during lockdown, but we’re committed to helping our customers find their ultimate pair of boots online to enjoy the outdoors in this season.”

Find out more about the Best Kept Secrets of the UK Countryside on the Clarks website.

Please enjoy public spaces, such as those listed, responsibly and in line with government rules and advice.