Long Distance Walks
If you are very keen and energetic, there are some long distance walks dotted around the country that you can try. Some have been designated as 'National Trails', which are waymarked with an acorn symbol, whilst others have simply become well known as good routes over the years.
Most of these long distance paths do not stray too far away from civilisation so it is possible to walk them whilst staying in guest houses or bed and breakfasts along the way. But if you plan to do them in the height of summer they can be quite busy, so it is best to book your accommodation in advance.
Make sure that you do not underestimate the hazards of hiking just because you are walking on an official route. Wear appropriate kit, and take a map and compass. Always check the weather forecast and heed local advice. Guide books are available for most of the walks, and the best maps are usually the very detailed Ordnance Survey Pathfinder series.
|National Trails in Southern England|
|South West Way|
This path follows the coast from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset, going around the whole of the coasts of Devon and Cornwall. At nearly 600 miles long it is the biggest long distance walk.
As well as being long, it is also quite hilly so it is one of the most strenuous paths - it would probably take about eight weeks to do in one go. As a result most people just do a small section, with the majority electing to just do the coast of Cornwall. This is a much more reasonable distance, which would take about two weeks to complete.
This 100 mile long path takes you from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon all the way down to Bath, taking about a week to complete.
It goes right through the Cotswold Hills, thus taking in some of the most beautiful scenery in England. This is where you will find the stereotypical England of picturesque villages nestling in beautiful valleys. It is also a particulalry good route for budding historians as the trail takes in lots of historical sites from prehistoric forts and roman remains to stately homes.
This path takes you along an ancient route that claims to be the oldest road in the UK. It goes from Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Avebury in Wiltshire, taking you across the Chiltern Hills. It is 85 miles long making it one of the shortest long-distance trails, and it should take just under a week to walk the length.
This path follows the 180 mile long River Thames from its source in Gloucestershire all the way to the Tames Barrier in London. As a result the scenery is very varied, from idyllic rural scenes to urban streets. It would probably take about a fortnight to complete this path.
South Downs Way
This path is 100 miles long going between the famous Cathedral city of Winchester in Hampshire and Eastborne on the Sussex coast. The scenery is beautiful and varied with everything from spectacular sea views and white chalk cliffs to wooded hills and picturesque valleys.
This path is the most historic long distance route for the area that it goes through has some of the earliest evidence of human settlement in the UK and the path itself actually follows an ancient trail that was in use over 4000 years ago.
It would probably take about a week to complete this walk. It is worth noting that it is one of the easier National Trails and it is also a bridleway so it can also be used by horseriders and cyclists as well as hikers. This means that it is one of the busiest long distance walks.
Norfolk Coast Path (and Peddars Way)
This 100 mile long path goes right across Norfolk, following the path of a Roman road. It would take about a week to complete it on its own. However at one end (Cromer) you can carry on for another 40 miles or so until you reach Great Yarmouth, whilst at the other end (Knettishall) you can pick up the 100 mile long Icknield Way.
The Icknield Way starts in Ivinghoe Beacon, which is where the Ridgeway Path also ends. So if you really wanted to you could walk all the way from the start of the Ridgeway Path at Avebury to Great Yarmouth on the Norfolk coast. However, this would be a mammouth 325 miles long, taking at least three weeks to complete.
|National Trails in Wales|
|Pembrokeshire Coast Path|
This is a 190 mile long path along the cliff tops of south-west Wales, offering some spectacular scenery. The area is also renowned for its wildlife and is of particular interest to birdwatchers. It would probably take you about two weeks to do the whole distance.
Offa's Dyke Path
In the 8th Century, King Offa of Mercia built a huge dyke to separate his kingdom from Wales, and it has pretty much marked the boundary of England and Wales ever since. This path, roughly following the dyke, is about 170 miles long taking it from the north Wales coast, through the Wye Valley to Chepstow in the south. The scenery is stunning along the route which would probably take a little under a fortnight to complete.
At Knighton, midway along the Offa's Dyke Path, a 120 mile long trail called Glyndwr's Way breaks off. If you choose to follow this trail it will take you right through central Wales.
|National Trails in Northern England|
|The Pennine Way|
This is one of the oldest official long-distance walks, taking you along the Pennine Mountain ridge from England into Scotland. The route is 250 miles long and is one of the most arduous paths, not least because of the unpredictable mountain weather. Unless you are extremely fit it would probably take three weeks to complete.
But if you are fit enough, the rewards are excellent for the scenery can be breathtaking. The route takes in some of the most popular countryside in England including the Yorkshire Dales, the Northumberland National Park and the scenery of northern England made famous by the Brontë sisters.
Compared to some of the longer walks, this one could be considered short. But it is still 70 miles long, taking four or five days to complete. If you want to do some walking, but are not sure that you are up to the biggies then this is definitely the trail for you.
Not only is it a reasonable distance, it is also a relatively easy route. And it takes you through some of the most beautiful scenery in England, for it goes right through the Lake District National Park.
This is one of the oldest National Trails and takes in the scenery of the beautiful North York Moors National Park. The route is about 110 miles long, and it is quite challenging so it would probably take about two weeks to complete. However, there are lots of short cuts you can take to make it a bit easier.
It is also one of the most interesting paths, for the route takes in a wide range of scenery including rugged coastline, heather clad moors and beautiful valleys. There are also lots of historical sites such as ancient forts, Roman remains and medieval castles to visit.
|National Trails in Scotland|
|West Highland Way|
This is a 100 mile long route that takes you through the beautiful countryside of the Scottish Highlands. It begins in the Lowlands near Glasgow and then winds past the mountains, lochs and rivers that have made the Highlands famous.
Although the path goes through some spectacular mountainous countryside, the route is not too arduous and should take about a week to complete. But the mountains do mean that the weather is a big consideration so make sure that you are well prepared to cope with the elements. It is also worth noting that in summer the area can be plagued by midges, so a good insect repellent is also a good idea.
|Non-National Trail Walks|
|The Dales Way|
This is not an official National Trail, but it is a well recognised and extremely popular route. It is about 80 miles long and takes in not one, but two of the most famous of England's National Parks - the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. This is also a very historic route for the path follows some ancient tracks. It would probably take about a week to complete.
Coast to Coast Path
This is a 190 mile long path taking you from Robin Hood's Bay on the east coast of England to St Bees Head on the west coast. Although it is not an official National Trail, it is a well-recognised route taking you across the three national parks of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors.
As a result it takes in some spectacular scenery, but it is also quite a hard walk, taking at least two weeks to complete. Luckily, however, there is a minibus known as the Coast to Coast Packhorse that runs the length of the walk carrying back packs between pick up points along the way. This makes life a lot more comfortable, and if you have had enough you could even hitch a lift.
Hadrian's Wall stretches for 70 miles along the north of England. It was built in AD122 by the Roman Emperor Hadrian to keep the marauding Scots out of England and is now a World Heritage Site. Although there is not a National Trail along the wall just yet (but one is planned), you can do a series of smaller hikes across the route.
As well as the wall itself, there are several interesting roman forts and temples to see in the area.