Readers' Top 10 UK Races: Scenery

The most scenic British races of 2008 - as voted by you, the runners who ran them


Posted: 23 March 2009
by Alice Palmer

1. PUMA Garburn Trail 24K
Where: Cumbria When: June 6

The race you rated as the most scenic in Britain is a stunner – a rough-and-tumble trail tour of the Lake District, complete with panoramic views.

Its footpath and bridleway route takes in Lake Windermere and dramatic Lakeland fells, following the Kentmere Valley before a tough climb up to the Garburn Pass and the downhill return to Race HQ in Staveley.

With well-marked trails, sturdy terrain and just one incline of note, the race brings spectacular scenery to a course that is ideal for off-road novices, walkers and joggers, all of whom are made very welcome. With Lakeland speciality Kendal mint cake on offer at drinks stations and a 40-piece Brazilian samba band at the finish, the race certainly has an atmosphere to match its fabulous backdrop.


2. Coniston 14
Where: Cumbria When: March, 2010 date tbc

The Coniston 14 is beautiful and popular, with a loyal annual crowd numbering more than 1,500. First staged in 1982, and still organised now by a small committee of volunteers, the Coniston 14 is a real local effort by residents proud of their stunning surroundings.

Its undeniably hilly course tracks 14 miles – or 13.875 to be precise – of road around the edge of the Lake District’s Coniston Water. The circular course gives entrants a unique panorama of the surrounding peaks and valleys, before a return to the local village and its friendly pubs.


3. Baxters Loch Ness Marathon
Where: Highland When: October 4

This marathon along the shores of Scotland’s most famous loch is a very different beast from its big-city counterparts.

Join a field of around a thousand other runners on a tranquil and quietly beautiful point-to-point tour of the Highlands. From its utterly rural start – entrants are taken to the start on special coaches – through stunning Highland scenery, runners trace the southern shores of Loch Ness and then cross the River Ness to finish in city centre Inverness.

As well as the treat of the unique surroundings, entrants are treated to a full Highland welcome with a pre-race pasta party and festival with ceilidh.


4. Ullswater 12K
Where: Cumbria When: November, 2009 date tbc

Nicknamed the ‘Steamy Surprise’, this is a beautiful trail race around Ullswater lake. Entrants are ferried to the start line in the hamlet of Howtown in style, with a half-hour cruise on the Ullswater Steamer "Raven", and afterwards, finishers are treated to a feast courtesy of Wilf’s Caterers.

In between the steamer ride and the feast are 12 winding kilometres of the Lake District’s most picturesque trails, nestled in a dramatic Cumbrian valley setting and following the twists and turns around Ullswater.


5. PUMA Hawkshead Trail 15K
Where: Cumbria When: April 18

Starting and finishing in the picturesque village of Hawkshead in Ambleside, the Hawkshead Trail 15K’s beautiful, varied trail route tours Beatrix Potter country. Its course winds up Claife Heights, before rewarding entrants at the top with stunning views of Lake Windermere and the surrounding peaks of the Langdales and Coniston Hills.

But it’s not all sightseeing – runners are kept busy with some seriously tough climbs. The Hawkshead Trail is also admirably inclusive, with a 'Challenge' race for hikers, Nordic walkers and more relaxed runners before the battle for the trail race begins.

 


6. Rhayader Round The Lakes 20
Where: Powys When: March, 2010 date tbc

Rhayader, a diminutive market town on a crossroads in mid-Wales, is set in a landscape of hills, valleys and tranquil lakes.

It’s a calm and rural setting perfect for spring marathon preparation, which is what initially draws many of the race’s entrants from all over the UK to mid-Wales.But once there, the 20 miles are spent in a beautiful lap of the Elan Valley, and a tour of the valley’s dams and lakes.

It’s dramatic, peaceful Welsh scenery at its best – with a few hills to keep runners from taking it easy!


7. Brathay Windermere Marathon
Where: Cumbria When: May 17

Take on a complete circuit of Lake Windermere, England’s largest lake, in its namesake marathon, and you’ll enjoy exhilarating views of the famous lake, woodland and surrounding hills. After a 20-year break, this popular marathon was brought back to life in 2007 to an enthusiastic reception.

The challenging trail route leads entrants around the lake through the villages of Hawkshead, Newby Bridge, Bowness-on-Windermere and Ambleside. The one-lap course is undeniably tough, but entrants will be cheered by the stunning views of the lake, noisy crowd support as the route passes through local villages, and the ubiquitous Kendal mint cake.


8. Northumberland Coastal Run 14
Where: Northumberland When: July 12

Perhaps not one for GPS-addicts, the point-to-point route of the Northumberland Coastal Run peaks above or dips below 14 miles depending on the tide, which also changes the race’s terrain and scenery.

But entrants are likely to be too busy enjoying the view to check their watches – the course goes from Beadnell Harbour to the Alnmouth Estuary through an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The route follows a variety of terrains, from clearly marked footpaths and roads to cliff paths, dunes and a finish along a sandy beach. As one competitor commented, "It's the only race I've done where people stop to take photographs of the scenery."


9. Beachy Head Marathon
Where: East Sussex When: October 24

Join hundreds of other runners, joggers and walkers for 3,500ft of climbs and countless stiles, gates and steps on this coastal course in Eastbourne.The Beachy Head Marathon’s loyal following are rewarded for their toil with the cliff-top views from the marathon’s route over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head.

The course is set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty through some of Britain's most spectacular cliff-top paths - it’s not just the relentless hills that take runners’ breath away in this special marathon.
And all finishers enjoy a heroes’ welcome with hearty food in addition to a well-deserved medal at the finish.


10. North Downs Run 30K
Where: Kent When: June 14

The North Downs Run in Gravesend has been staged for over 25 years now, but entrants never tire of its backdrop – some of the south-east’s most beautiful landscapes.

The route leads runners round a comprehensive tour of Kent’s North Downs. It challenging route takes in all the ups and downs of the area’s tracks, weaving through woods, farmers’ fields, parkland and small villages.

The heart of the race is a climb to the top of the North Downs that has been described as ‘relentless’, which leads to the ridge along the top and its stunning views over the surrounding countryside and its famous apple and pear orchards.


How the results were calculated

This list was calculated using 2008 race ratings given by respondents on www.runnersworld.co.uk after they took part in the races. We worked out the average of the 'scenery' rating runners gave races, to arrive at a figure between 0 and 100%, allowing us to rank them. NB: We have only included races with at least 25 responses and where a race appeared on more than one Top 10 chart (Scenery, PB Potential, Beginner-friendliness, Atmosphere), it was only included in the chart where it had the highest ranking.


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Discuss this article

Thanks to RW for publishing these new listings - most interesting and amusing.

I note that on the 'most picturesque' list that 8 of the 10 races are in the 'north' (north of me, anyway) - so maybe it's not as grim up north as they say.

Please can we have a list of 'Best value' as well? (RW collects information on this category along with all the other data for these lists, when runners rate races).

It will concentrate the minds of many race organisers (after all, you can't really do anything about the picturequeness of your race, but you can influence its value for money) and it's a hot topic in these tough times. Note: cheap doesn't necessarily mean good value, nor does expensive necessarily mean bad value!
Posted: 25/03/2009 at 11:41

I'd add the Keswick Half to that list as well. Great race.
Posted: 25/03/2009 at 12:05

Great Langdale - HM & FM the scenic route
Posted: 25/03/2009 at 12:24

Aha! Maybe we should start an England v Scotland v Wales (v Northern Ireland?) category.... they do organise races in N.I., don't they? (and I know that they have fabulous scenery...the Mournes, Carlingford Lough, the Sperrins, Belfast, the Antrim Glens - but where are they on this list?!!!!!
Posted: 25/03/2009 at 14:04

On the current list, there are eight in England, one in Scotland and one in Wales (0 in N.I.) - maybe non-English runners don't rate their races on RW? (or maybe they are just used to spectacular scenery!)
Posted: 25/03/2009 at 14:06


UFO
Keswick half - wonderful event
Posted: 25/03/2009 at 14:21

yes i would agree with that UFO

even though i've never run Keswick HM itself

I've spectated the event when wife and myself happened to be there on a holiday once - ( Philip was home in respite )

but i have in the month of August whil'st caravanning up there - taken Phillip around the course on numourous occasions

so yes- Keswick HM - wonderful event - scenery just so stunning


Posted: 25/03/2009 at 14:27

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