Reap the benefits with coastal walks


  • People sleep an average of 47 minutes longer after a walk by the coast
  • Coastal walking boosts feelings of calm and happiness and provides walkers with a sense of escape
  • North East coastal walks offer a distraction from the stresses of everyday life

A walk by the coast will have you sleeping on average an extra 47 minutes as well as providing you with feelings of calm (83 per cent), happiness (82 per cent) and a sense of escapism (62 per cent), according to a report out today.

58 per cent of people from the North East say they fall into a deeper sleep after being by the coast with one in three also saying that the thought alone of the sea helps them sleep at night.

The research has been carried out as part of the National Trust’s Great British Walk campaign, run in partnership with Cotswold Outdoor, to look at how walking on the coast really impacts on our wellbeing and to encourage people to explore our UK coastline, of which 775 miles is cared for by the conservation charity.

To help understand how a walk by the sea affects both our mood and the quality of our sleep, the National Trust has undertaken qualitative and quantitative studies to look at how the sea really impacts upon us. The research identified that when it came to feelings of wellbeing, people from the North East feel 81 per cent happier and 29 per cent healthier straight after a ramble along the shoreline. A further 61 per cent state that a coastal walk allows them a distraction from the stresses of everyday life with 44 per cent saying it makes them feel positive about their lives in general.

Undertaking the qualitative research component, Environmental Psychologist Eleanor Ratcliffe explored the effects of walking by the coast on change in mood and sleep. The report, (Sleep, Mood and Coastal Walking) saw participants undertake either a coastal walk or an inland walk. Both types of walkers experienced positive changes in happiness, calmness, sleep quality, alertness and sleep length following their walk. However, coastal walkers showed a significantly greater increase in sleep length than inland walkers, and were more likely to show increases in sleep quality and alertness. Coastal walkers also reported memory associations relating to family, childhood and holidays as well as opportunities for introspection and reflective thought, which were less apparent amongst inland walkers.

Ratcliffe stated: ‘‘Coastal walkers are getting more sleep, and are more likely to show increased sleep quality and morning alertness. In addition, coastal walkers associated their walks with family, childhood memories and the anticipation of holidays. It’s clear that there is something special about the coast, particularly as a place to escape to that can allow people to boost their mood, relax and sleep in.’’

The Sleep, Mood and Coastal Walking report also delved into how and what coastal walkers think about when strolling along the shore with four key areas dominating the minds of those studied:

  1. Memories - Walking by the sea triggers memories associated with people close to the walker, such as parents, children or other family members, as well as their own childhood. These memories were often reflective and described different times and stages of life
  2. Mood - Walking by the coast is related to qualitative perceptions of happiness and calmness or relaxation. Emotional reactions to inland walks were almost universally positive, while emotional responses to the coast were sometimes bittersweet or nostalgic
  3. Reflection - Coastal and inland walkers both used their walk as an opportunity to think and reflect, with coastal walkers more uniformly receptive to reflective thought processes
  4. Sense of escape - Despite using the walk as an opportunity to reflect on important matters, walking was also associated with feelings of freedom and escape for many participants. Comments from coastal walkers suggest that the coast still retains the associations and romance of a holiday destination

Presenter Julia Bradbury from The Wonder of Britain who is supporting the Trust’s Great British Walk campaign this year said: ‘‘Everyone knows I love a good ramble and what better news than it helps us sleep longer! I’ve walked the coast a lot as part of my TV work and also spent a huge amount of time outdoors on the coast with friends and family and I can tell you first hand, I always sleep like a baby afterwards!’’

The National Trust’s Great British Walk campaign has more than 1,000 downloadable walks available, with a third along the coastline it looks after across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. So whether it’s a bracing walk along the headland, a ramble through the sand dunes or a gentle wander on one of the UK’s beautiful beaches there are plenty of walking routes to choose from.

Kate Bradshaw, assistant ranger for the National Trust on the Northumberland Coast, recommends taking a walk from Craster to Low Newton¹, she said:

“This walk takes you from one historic fishing village to another, heading along the rocky shoreline that opens out onto the vast expanse of Embleton beach. In autumn, golden plover and purple sandpiper can be seen dotted along the shoreline, whilst harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphins can regularly be spotted out at sea. Along with the silhouette of Dunstanburgh castle against the unbroken expanse of the North Sea, for me, a walk here just has a calming quality that can’t be matched by other landscapes.”

Away from the coast, there are plenty of inland walks on offer where you can take in the sights and sounds of the countryside. Cotswold Outdoor can provide the quality equipment and expert advice you need to make the most of the National Trust’s diverse locations.

For some inspiration and to help aid a better night’s sleep, the National Trust has recommended a list of some of our best walks in the North East:

  1. Discover wildlife, archaeology and industrial heritage on the Greenleighton Moor Walk at Wallington with great views of the surrounding Northumberland countryside.
  2. Take in the highlights of Cragside and enjoy the stunning landscape created by Lord Armstrong on the estate’s Gun Walk. The mixture of the bright colour in the woodland combined with the towering conifers is a truly magnificent sight in autumn.
  3. The Wider Estate Walk at Seaton Delaval Hall takes you on a journey that shares how the Delaval family’s history is so closely entwined with that of the local area.
  4. A walk from Trow Point to Souter Lighthouse is a stunning clifftop walk that reveals the South Tyneside coast’s past. It also gives the perfect opportunity to spot winter birds arriving on the coast as the season changes.
  5. Explore the network of paths that criss-cross the woodland of Allen Banks and Staward Gorge. Wander along the river up to Moralee Tarn and keep an eye out for a heron or a kingfisher.
  6. Take a minute to catch your breath on Gibside’s Parkland Walk and see autumn colours glowing in the late afternoon sun. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of roe deer in the dene or track the red kites as they fly over, coming into roost.

2015 is the 50th anniversary of the National Trust’s Neptune Coastline Campaign - one of the longest running environmental campaigns in Western Europe which has resulted in the charity managing 775 miles of coast in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For more information on Great British Walk, head to the website: walking/

The National Trust is here to protect the coast: for ever, for everyone.