Britain’s coastline on foot: one hiker’s 2 year adventure

Quitting your job to walk around the whole of the British coastline. It’s the kind of thing you might have daydreamed about a couple of times. There’s something innate, something in our human nature, that yearns for shaking modern life’s claim on us. A closer connection with nature, experiencing remote, wild and beautiful places. It’s a pull that’s hard to put into words.

Emma Schroeder recently came to the end of a 2 year long walk around the entire British coastline. From life affirming wildlife encounters, to finding sanctuary in remote Scottish bothies, we caught up with Emma to hear what it’s like to experience the varied wilderness, and sometimes quirkiness, of Britain’s coastline on foot. 

Emma finding a sunny spot to pitch her tent. Credit: Emma Schroeder


Why did you decide to walk around Britain’s coastline?

There's something inherently appealing about the idea of just leaving everything behind, disconnecting from the screens that are so prevalent in our lives, and simply walking away (à la Craig-David_Walking-Away.mp3).

Credit: Emma Schroeder

I love travelling but I don’t think travelling necessarily means you have to jetset around the planet particularly when we should all be more aware of our environmental impact.

I also was aware of just how little I’d seen of the UK and I was drawn to the coast in particular because I figured if I kept the sea on my left I wouldn’t even need to learn how to use a compass.*

There’s such a huge variety in the coast of Britain too; From rugged cliffs to sandy beaches, charming harbour towns to wonderfully tacky seaside resorts, the coastline has a bit of everything. It’s been the best decision I’ve ever made, I’ve been telling everyone they should quit their jobs and walk around the coast of Britain. Not sure if anybody’s taken me up on that yet though.

*I still managed to go the wrong way multiple times believe it or not.


What sort of wildlife did you encounter?

I’ve seen dolphins splashing along the shore in Argyll, tiny puffins leaping off the cliffs in Yorkshire, walked alongside goats in the Great Orme, camped near Highland cows in Lochaber, and greatly enjoyed watching seagulls stealing ice-cream and chips out of people’s hands in Cornwall.

A remote pitch. Credit: Emma Schroeder

One particular standout moment was along the Norfolk coast path where I was walking with my friend Alissia (who I met on my walk). We popped over the dunes to watch the sunset, and to our absolute delight we saw hundreds of seals lolling about on the sand. There’s been moments on my walk that have felt utterly magical and that was one of them. While I’ve done most of my walking on my own it was so lovely to share the experience with someone.

Observing wildlife in their natural habitat is absolutely captivating, and is a reminder of how important it is to protect our environment and its inhabitants. We owe it to these charming seals and all the other creatures and critters that call our beautiful coastline their home.

That being said the midges can bugger off; I still have scars from my midge bites after battling through swarms of them in the Highlands.

Credit: Emma Schroeder


Blimey… varied experiences then! Has the experience deepened your connection with the outdoors and nature?

Yes absolutely. Almost every night I would set up my tent overlooking the ocean and feel this enormous sense of peace. There’s something humbling and awe-inspiring about that endless expanse of water, the boundary between the familiar and the unknown, and the history steeped in the waters and carved in the rocks.

Golden hour in a coastal wood. Credit: Emma Schroeder

When you see all the historical buildings dotted along the coast from the pillboxes to crumbling castles to hidden coves used by pirates and smugglers (once even a cave inhabited by an incestuous cannibal clan legend says), you can’t help but feel a profound connection to the past and wonder about all the souls who've stood on the same shores, gazing at the same endless horizon.

Other times the gusts would pick up or a herd of curious cows would come wandering over at three in the morning, and nobody had told me about the gusts or cows. I would have to shove everything into my bag and move to safety, bleary-eyed and grumbling, occasionally startled as the red light of my head torch caught an animal’s gaze and two glowing red eyes would reflect back at me from the darkness. Or I would simply put earplugs in and sleep through the horrible sound of my tent pole snapping in the wind.

But no matter how badly I slept, each day I would have the sea on my left, a constant companion, the vastness reminding me of the greater, grander world beyond. It puts your own life into perspective and reminds you that all your problems—big, small, and even imaginary—are just a drop in the ocean.

Credit: Emma Schroeder

With all the time spent outdoors some people assume I have developed some kind of innate weather forecasting abilities. As though I will thoughtfully gaze up at the clouds stroking my chin and say something like “Those cumulus clouds gathering to the west are a sure sign we’re due a spell of patchy rain at 12:34”. But that hasn’t happened.

Credit: Emma Schroeder

I'm no human barometer, but my years of experience in the outdoors has taught me one thing that is foolproof when it comes to predicting the weather: If you optimistically change into your shorts after a bit of sunshine, it’s almost guaranteed to start raining.


I’ll have to remember that one! That's a really interesting point about how being in these vast landscapes can have such a profound effect on you. Do you have any particularly memorable locations?

Some of the most memorable and remote locations for me have been the bothies in the Highlands of Scotland. Before I started my walk I had no idea what a bothy was. They were an absolute godsend during my soggy odyssey when I trudged through constant rain, rivers in spate, and swarms of midges in what locals called “The worst summer in years”. I had wet feet for about two weeks straight.

Credit: Emma Schroeder

A bothy is a little shelter lovingly maintained by The Mountain Bothies Association, often nestled in the most beautiful remote and wild landscapes with streams of fresh water cascading off the mountain lochs. These sanctuaries sometimes come with multiple rooms, often a fireplace, occasionally a small collection of books, once a half-full bottle of Buckfast*.

One of the best feelings during my walk was to spot a bothy in the distance, a beacon of hope, and with a renewed sense of purpose slip and slide through moors and bogs and finally have the chance to escape the rain’s relentless assault. Soggy and bedraggled I would knock and enter, and meet a motley crew of interesting characters on their own adventures. We’d tell tales, share wee drams of whisky (or said leftover Buckfast), and dry our boots by the crackling fire while the wind howled and rain hammered at the windows.

*The bottle of Buckfast is always half-full. Free booze is always a reason to be optimistic.

Credit: Emma Schroeder

Other times I would have the place to myself. Enjoying the temporary novelty of pretending to be a homeowner, only for night to fall and leave me utterly terrified by the pacing footsteps outside the window. I mustered up my courage to crawl out my sleeping bag and swing the bothy door open. A sheep looked up at me. “Beeeh!” She said. Bloody sheep.



This has clearly been an incredibly positive experience for you, where you’ve learnt a lot about yourself and our landscapes. Do you think everyone can benefit from spending more time outdoors? 

Yeah, for sure. Humans are built for walking; we literally crawled out of the water and grew legs because we got sick of swimming [citation needed].

There’s so much to see and do, time spent outdoors is never wasted. You can foraging and find all manner of tasty treats from wild garlic to mushrooms, somebody smarter than you may be holding a wicker basket and collecting various fungi and tell you “Oh yeah, you can eat that”, the fact they are alive while they are telling you this being a glowing endorsement for the mushroom in question being safe to eat.

Credit: Emma Schroeder

You can begin to identify birds from the flash of yellow of a goldfinch, the noisy cheeping of the oystercatchers, the incredible murmurations of the swallows, the raucous honking of the geese (my personal favourite).

There’s also something deeply satisfying about looking at the clouds. Watching them twist and turn, gaining a rudimentary understanding for what kind of weather they’ll be bringing your way based on their shape and position in the sky, wondering what kind of weather a cloud shaped like a rat wearing a jet-pack could possibly represent.

I think the best thing I’ve ever done for my own mental health is to take a hike. With our lives increasingly becoming screen-focused, spending time outdoors fosters a profound connection to the environment, encouraging a deeper appreciation for the world around us. So go away, take a hike, get lost. I’m not being rude, I’m caring earnestly for your mental health.

Credit: Emma Schroeder


Do you have any plans for more challenges?

Oh absolutely—There’s so much more I want to see, and I already miss the excitement of not knowing what each day will bring. I’d love to do Offa’s Dyke Path, The Ireland Way, The Coast to Coast, the Camino de Santiago, the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail… Just need to patch up my air mattress and maybe get around to learning how to use a compass if I can’t rely on the sea being on my left anymore.


Keep up with Emma’s adventures on Instagram

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