Rambling enthusiast SINCLAIR McKAY shares his top hikes
RANNOCH MOOR, PERTHSHIRE
One of the bleakest yet most beautiful areas in Britain, this vast moor, rough with tussocks and glittering with ice-cold lochs, makes you feel you have swirled back in time to the beginning of the Earth.
If driving to Rannoch, stop off and start striding up the Road To The Isles, an ancient track snaking into the Highlands, and the islands beyond, that has inspired songs and folk tales.
The path is stony but firm with breathtaking mountain views, but your breath can also be taken by sudden rainstorms that come swooping in from the west. An hour up the track will get you firmly into the hills.
Duration: Depends on how far into the wilderness you go. Stay: The Moor of Rannoch Hotel, Rannoch (01882 633238/www.moorofrannoch.co.uk) offers doubles from £102 per night (two sharing), B&B.
EDALE TO KINDER SCOUT, DERBYSHIRE
This is a hilly but exhilarating walk from Edale railway station at the base of Edale Valley, 20 miles from Sheffield. High up on the wind-scoured moor is Kinder Scout, the highest point in the Peak District.
It is the site of the 1932 Mass Trespass, which opened up large areas of countryside to the public, and also one of the most captivating vantage points in the UK.
More amazing than the far-reaching views are the vast, brooding boulders, scattered around the black mulchy peat, which give the place an eerie, alien atmosphere.
Nearby is Kinder Waterfall which, thanks to an optical illusion, looks as though it is flowing upwards. You get to see brave hikers embarking upon the 272-mile Pennine Way.
Duration: Three to four hours to cover around nine miles. Stay: The Rambler Inn, Edale (01433 670268/www.theramblerinn.com) offers doubles from £80 per night (two sharing), B&B.
ST BRIAVELS, THE FOREST OF DEAN, GLOUCESTERSHIRE
For anyone who loves losing themselves in dense woodland, the Forest of Dean, between Chepstow and Gloucester, is the last word in escapism.
The village of St Briavels, high atop a vast valley of trees, boasts a beautiful 12th-century keep which is now home to a youth hostel. Make this your starting point.
The paths down into nearby Hudnalls Wood make you feel like you are descending into a deep green underworld. Not far from here is Puzzlewood, which has maze-like trails and rocks that glow green with moss.
It might seem familiar: the BBC films Doctor Who and Merlin here. Duration: Three hours to cover the three to four-mile St Briavels to Hudnalls Wood loop.
Stay: St Briavels Youth Hostel (0845 371 9042/www.yha.org.uk/hostel/st-briavels) offers rooms from £19.50pp per night in shared accommodation (discount for YHA members).
RHOSSILI, THE GOWER PENINSULA, SOUTH WALES
Hollywood superstar Catherine Zeta-Jones still pops back with her family to enjoy the bracing stretches of beach near her home town of Swansea.
The Gower, on the very tip of south Wales, boasts golden sands, sea campion, seals and prancing porpoises.
The coastal path, which winds round from the Mumbles to Rhossili, features not merely the blustery views of waves, but also inland castles, iron-age forts, sheep-dotted downs and the strange island formation of the Worm's Head, which juts out of the sea like a submarine. Start out at Rhossili and walk a five-mile coastal loop.
Duration: Up to you, anything from half an hour to half a day. Stay: The Worm's Head Hotel, Rhossili (01792 309512/www.thewormshead.co.uk) offers doubles from £80 per night (two sharing), B&B.
ROMNEY MARSH, KENT
Conservationists are re-introducing rare bumble bees to this wide expanse of flat, rich marshland.
Drive down from Hamstreet and explore a weird landscape of ancient churches, 18thcentury military canals, disused Second World War structures on the shingly beaches, and the dark hulk of Dungeness power station set against vast skies.
Start at Ivychurch and stroll to Old Romney, listening for the marsh frogs along the way.
Duration: 90 minutes to cover three miles.
Stay: The Royal Oak, Brookland (01797 344215/ www.royaloakbrookland.co.uk) offers doubles from £80 per night (two sharing), B&B.
Ramble On: The Story Of Our Love For Walking Britain (4th Estate), £14.99.