Explore Britain's dramatic coastline on a series of exhilarating trails. JANE SLADE picks her favourites
Two years ago a new extension to the Tennyson Trail opened to celebrate the 200th birthday of poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. Seven miles of the route weave in and around the rolling hills and swirling lanes of the beautiful Lincolnshire Wolds where he was born. The rest meanders along the coast of the Isle of Wight where the Victorian poet lived.
His former home, the spectacular Grade I-listed Farringford, in 100 acres of parkland, offers "Alfred" and "Emily" cottages on the estate, boasting vaulted ceilings, stone fireplaces and log-burning stoves.
There are many walks around the estate and you can access the coastal path which leads towards the bay and west to the Needles Headland where you can take exhilarating walks along the clifftops.
Sights en route include Carisbrooke Castle, the Tennyson Memorial and Highdown Cliffs.
Farringford Holiday Cottages (01983 752 500/ farringford.co.uk/selfcatering) offers seven nights in a two-bedroom cottage from £703 (four sharing).
Isle of Wight tourism: 01983 813 813/ islandbreaks.co.uk
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You can touch the sands of time and trace history to the dinosaur era along the Jurassic Coast, which extends from Dorset and East Devon and takes in part of the South West Coast Path.
This World Heritage Site is not only a geological wonderland for fossil hunters but also home to stunning gateway towns Lyme Regis and Budleigh Salterton as well as Lulworth Cove which have their own rich history and scenic gems.
The area is awash with B&Bs including Stoneborough House in Budleigh Salterton. This charming Edwardian home offers three en-suite rooms. It is within walking distance of the town and Budleigh's striking red cliffs and seafront, part of this magical stretch of coast.
Stoneborough House (01395 445 923/stoneboroughhouse.co.uk) offers doubles from £80 per night (two sharing), B&B. Visit Devon: 01395 445 275/ visitdevon.co.uk
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If you like your coast far-flung and wild, head for the whisky isle of Islay in the Inner Hebrides.
A mere plane hop from Glasgow or two-hour ferry ride from Kennacraig, Islay guarantees deserted beaches, empty roads and big skies. You will need your wellies if you meander across the peat fields (peat is the magic ingredient giving the Islay malts their smoky punch), moorlands and meadows.
The craggy coast is punctuated by seven distilleries, all waiting to serve you distinctive drams accompanied by a clootie dumpling, a traditional dessert.
Make the Port Charlotte Hotel on the shore of Loch Indaal your base, down the road from the Bruichladdich Distillery. It is the focal point of a pretty conservation village of whitewashed houses, right on the sandy shore.
Islay is a mecca for birdwatchers and the hotel can arrange guided walks for twitchers.
Port Charlotte Hotel (01496 850 360/portcharlottehotel.co.uk) offers doubles from £170 per night (two sharing), B&B. Isle of Islay tourism: islayinfo.com
The Pembrokeshire Coast National Path in south-west Wales offers mesmerising walks.
The path extends 186 miles over limestone cliffs, undulating bays, sandy coves, valleys and volcanic headlands. There is a walkers' bus service which is ideal if you want to tackle shorter trails such as the gentle 11-mile stretch from the medieval Tower House at Angle village to Pembroke Castle. This route is also a birdwatchers' paradise.
Old Cross Hotel is in the centre of St Davids, the smallest city in Britain, which boasts a magnificent cathedral. The hotel is perfectly located for the path or for wildlife spotting from the rugged cliffs where porpoises and seals can frequently be seen.
Old Cross Hotel (01437 720 387/oldcrosshotel.co.uk) has doubles from £72 per night (two sharing), B&B. Visit Pembrokeshire: 01437 720 392/ visitpembrokeshire.com
The South Downs Way, the 99-mile path from Eastbourne to Winchester, is one of the best-known (partially) coastal trails in England.
Those tackling the full length of this undulating route through England's newest National Park will meet 13,600ft of ascent and descent so it is a challenge. For a shorter, scenic chunk, however, start at the pretty village of Alfriston, home to The George Inn, a wonderful creaky, old medieval watering hole first licensed in 1397. It has six rooms and offers a hearty lunch and dinner menu.
The National Trail passes through the village along the high street of antiques shops, pubs and restaurants. Follow it towards the sea and the Seven Sisters Country Park and walk down to the mouth of the Cuckmere River and along the grassy clifftops of the chalky Seven Sisters all the way to Birling Gap. Three miles on, past Belle Tout Lighthouse, you reach Beachy Head, the highest chalk cliff in Britain.
The George Inn (01323 870 319/thegeorge-alfriston.com) offers doubles from £100 per night (two sharing), B&B. South Downs National Park Authority: 0300 303 1053/southdowns.gov.uk