CAUTIONARY TIP :
Please don't try to solo-hike in a country you're not familiar with. (If you're backpacking your way through then that's different as you've done your research beforehand on what to expect and are prepared for all weather situations that can and most likely will arise while hiking in the UK.)
Meetup is your best option for hiking groups if you're in a metropolitan city; join all the groups, just all of them. For London, I personally really like the FREE Outdoor Trips From London because well "FREE".
TRAINING TIP :
Hiking is more about sustained endurance than anything else and so the training I'm undertaking is focused on enduring through multiple reps of 2-3s.
MATERIALS TIP :
Layers, layers, layers. It's a very wet country, y'all. Fleece pull-overs, heat-tech, thermal, UV protected button-downs, lightweight long sleeve, and short sleeves. Down/duck puffer vests and jackets (I have a Uniqlo vest that is very warm). Trekking socks are key, extra pairs are necessary as well because you know -- wetness abounds here.
Vibram, vibram, vibram. I just spent the last three days trying on quite literally 12 different brands of hiking and cross trail boots with varying soles. I've tried both leather, suede, and weatherproof fabric boots as well as Storm, Vibram, and other soles.
DO SOLES really MATTER?
It depends honestly.
I managed to hike probably a combined 85-100 miles in 11 months through Southern California using the same shoes every single day of my life. I trekked through the Mojave/Colorado desert, Mt. Baldy/San Jancito, along the Coast, along the foothill towns with my much beloved Walmart shoes that my mother paid for. They have small tears and severe low sole-tread now, but technically still operational. I did have to add-in some foot pads for heel comfort.
My suggestion is if you're new to hiking, don't go drop $100-200 on some boots. Try something along the $30-60 range for the 6-8 months it's going to take you to build up the endurance and flexibility to tackle a substantial hike that would warrant those fancy boots. Supplement with good socks and arch/heel support insole-inserts. You may find in that training/exploration phase that you actually aren't that invested in making hiking into something you're passionate about. In which case a $30 hiking boot you break out for a lite trek/camping trip is pretty much good enough.
Slugging my way through the tamed wetlands and mud of Hampstead Heath I realized that Nike Roche's were not going to cut it. So began my hunt for a proper hiking boot. I walked over 20 miles in the past four days throughout central London and have visited every Blacks, Cotswold Outdoors, and Mountain Warehouse within the city centre. I nearly bought a Peter Storm waterproof boot for $50 and a $25 Mountain Warehouse pair of fabric boots; however I was concerned about tread, soles, movability, and longevity. Thus, I turned to amazon and found these for $45:
I 'bought' them from Amazon marketplace which means I have 7 days to do some lite test-driving of them. If I keep them past the 7 days they charge me the $45, if I return them before the 7 days they do not.
Trying them on initially tonight with my Bridgedale socks they were a perfect fit. One finger in the back of the heel and still toe wiggle room, I could squat and jump and the heel of my foot didn't move. I will test out the walking ability tomorrow.
I've completed a muddy 15.6 mile hike in these and there is no going back now. With lacing adjusts and further breaking in they'll become my beloved. The important aspect is that their grip is excellent, they are leather material is waterproof so my feet never got wet and cold. They are heavy boots which can be a downfall in some respects, but ultimately for trekking through the varied climates of the UK and Europe, they are perfect.
WHERE TO BUY :
UK outdoorsy shops:
GEAR I WEAR ON THE REG :