One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of our world is by walking. The process of moving one’s limbs and breathing in the fresh air not only refreshes the body and mind but also the spirit. 

“[Walking] is the perfect way of moving if you want to see into the life of things. It is the one way of freedom. If you go to a place on anything but your own feet you are taken there too fast, and miss a thousand delicate joys that were waiting for you by the wayside.”

— Elizabeth von Arnim

What are the National Trails?

If you live in the UK or are planning a visit, then you will be happy to know that the country is covered in some of the world’s best walking paths. Do you get confused about the UK? If yes, then keep in mind that the below countries are a part of the United Kingdom:

  • England
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland

All these countries are hiking, cycling or even road trip friendly. You can read about road tripping in Scotland here.

The UK officially has 15 national trails as of now and the 16th one is in the making. All these trails have something unique about them. These trails are long distance walking routes, but you can also opt for cycling or horse riding on some parts. Yes, just like Ireland’s the Great Western Greenway Trail where I cycled.

The first national trail in the UK opened in 1965 – Pennine Bridleway. The longest national trail in the UK is South West Coast Path, that takes 30 days of fast walking. South West Coast Path is 1014 KM long. At 127 KM, Yorkshire Wolds Way is the shortest national trail in the UK.

Some of these trails pass through lush green hills, incredible coastal scenery, lakes, farms, and a lot more. They pass through some of the most stunning and truly beautiful landscapes in the UK. 

Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales - Top UK National Trails

Pembrokeshire Coast Path in Wales – Top UK National Trails

As awesome as these national trails are, some of them are world-famous, such as Hadrians Wall, West Highland Way, or Cotswold Way. This is just a small few of the wide-ranging trails on offer. These are all different lengths, and suitable for all kinds of fitness levels. Here’s a list of all the national trails in the UK:

  • Cleveland Way, England
  • Cotswold Way, England
  • Hadrian’s Wall Path, England
  • North Downs Way, England
  • Peddar’s Way and Norfolk Coast Path, England (single National Trail)
  • Offa’s Dyke Path, Wales and England
  • Pennine Bridleway, England 
  • The Ridgeway, England 
  • South Downs Way, England
  • South West Coast Path (South West Way), England
  • Thames Path, England
  • Yorkshire Wolds Way, England
  • Pennine Way, majority in England and a little in Scotland
  • Glyndŵr’s Way, Wales
  • Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wales
  • England Coast Path around England (the construction will complete in 2020)

Experiencing one of the national trails in the UK is something you can do with your children to teach them to appreciate nature. It can also be a team building activity that you can do with your work colleagues. You don’t even need to be an adventure enthusiast but if you’re looking for an outdoor holiday, then consider trying out some of the amazing national trails. 

So, if you are looking for one of the top ways to explore the UK, heading out on the national trails is a great idea. Here are some of the best routes out there. 

Top 7 National Trails UK

Hadrians Wall Path

Hadrians Wall Path - National Trails UK

Hadrians Wall Path – National Trails UK – CC0 by Julia Schwab via Pixabay

Hadrians Wall path stretches 84 miles (135 KM) from the east to the west coast. It starts at Wallsend on the east coast and ends at Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast. The wall is actually a World Heritage Site, thanks to the many important historic points of interest along the way. 

These include Roman settlements and forts, temples, watchtowers, and giant earthworks. If you love history and are interested in the Roman occupation of the area, then Hadrian’s wall is a fascinating attraction. 

An ancient well along the Hadrians Wall Path

An ancient well along the Hadrians Wall Path – CC0 by Summersdale via Pixabay

Hikers come from all around the world to walk the Hadrian’s Wall trail. This is thanks to its interesting points of interest along the way, as well as the amazing walking trail itself. The path runs along the entire length of the wall, and there are plenty of stops to be made where you can learn about the history of the place. 

The Hadrian’s Wall trail usually takes about 6 days to complete, although many prefer to slow down and extend this a bit. There are accommodation options all along the way. The trail also passes through some of the most stunning green scenery in the UK. 

Hadrians Wall Path route

Hadrians Wall path is divided into the below sections.

  • Wallsend to Heddon-on-the-Wall – 15 miles (24 km) long.
  • Heddon-on-the-Wall to Chollerford – 15.5 miles (25 km) long.
  • Chollerford to Steel Rigg – 12 miles (19 km) long.Steel Rigg to Walton – 16.25 miles (26 km) long.
  • Walton to Carlisle – 11 miles (18 km) long.
  • Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway – 14.75 miles (24 km) long.

Reaching Hadrians Wall Path by public transport

To reach the start of the Hadrians Wall Path, you first have to take the national train to Newcastle and from there you need to get on to the metro to Wallsend metro station. Or, you can reach Carlisle via the national train and do a part of this train in any direction. You can also reach some parts by Bus AD122 that crosses Hexham, Chesters, Housesteads, Once Brewed, Vindolanda, Walton and Haltwhistle.

If you’re thinking of driving to one of the points in the trail then you should know that Bowness-on-Solway doesn’t have a parking place. A good option for parking is at Newcastle airport but it can turn out to be expensive. 

Cotswold Way

Broadway Tower on Cotswold Way Path

Broadway Tower on Cotswold Way Path CC0 by Bond Supanat via Pixabay

Cotswold Way is a long trail, running all the way from the medieval town of Chipping, to the historic city of Bath. The route covers a total distance of 102 miles (164 KMs) and should take 7 – 11 days to complete.

Cotswold Way trail runs from Bath to Chipping Campden. This famous trail will see you walking from the North Cotswolds to the edge of the Cotswold hills. British scenery doesn’t get much better than this. 

The scenic Cotswold Way Trail UK

The scenic Cotswold Way Trail UK – (CC BY 2.0) by Kumweni via Flickr

The trail passes landmark sights and points of historic interest. There are also many grand homes, green hills, and places of incredible natural beauty that you will pass. Although the Cotswold Way trail is long, the walking is fairly easy to accomplish. If the entire trail seems a bit much, you could just walk the shorter sections of it, too. 

Cotswold Way Trail route

Along the Cotswold Way - Top UK National Trails

Along the Cotswold Way – Top UK National Trails

If you look at the places and points of interest, he’s how you can divide the Cotswold Way in different sections:

  • Bath to to Somerset Monument at Hawkesbury, Gloucestershire
  • Hawkesbury, Gloucestershire – Tyndale Monument at North Nibley
  • North Nibley to the highest point at Cleeve Hill and to Sudeley Castle
  • Sudeley Castle to Hailes Abbey
  • Hailes Abbey to Broadway Tower 
  • Broadway Hill to Chipping Campden

Reaching Cotswold Way by Public Transport

It is relatively easier to reach Cotswold Way path as compared to many others since a lot of stops are served by the national rail. The stations Banbury, Bath, Cam and Dursley, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Kemble, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stroud, Charlbury, Kingham and Oxford are on the national rail network. 

It is easy to reach the Cotswold way by bus. The national express coaches run from Heathrow, Bristol and Birmingham airports to Cheltenham, Stroud and Bath.

 

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Musselwick Sands - Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wales

Musselwick Sands – Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wales – (CC BY 2.0) by David Evans via Flickr

The Pembrokeshire coastal trail is an extremely scenic and hence a favourite walking path in Wales. The path is completely located within the Pembrokeshire National Park, and it is one of the UK’s most well established national trails. It passes Pembrokeshire’s award-winning beaches, which have been awarded the Blue Flag awards.

Stackpole Head on Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wales

Stackpole Head on Pembrokeshire Coast Path, Wales – (CC BY 2.0) by Andrew via Flickr

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path route covers a long distance of 186 miles (299 KM), following the Welsh coastline from Amroth to Cardigan. This can be a fairly challenging walk that can take 5 – 17 nights.

The route is known for its fantastic views of the ocean, bird watching opportunities, and total sense of escape. You will pass widely ranging landscapes and sights, making this an exciting trail to enjoy. The highest point of this path is at the height of 574 feet at Cemaes Head.

The Welsh coastline is rugged and beautiful, and this trail has got to be the best way of experiencing it. 

Pembrokeshire Coast Path Route

The Pembrokeshire Coast Path is very long and it can be segregated in many different parts. However, below is a broad segregation:

  • St Dogmaels to Newport (Town)
  • Newport to Fishguard
  • Fishguard to Pwll Deri
  • Pwll Deri to Porthgain
  • Porthgain to Whitesands
  • Whitesands to Solva
  • Solva to Broad Haven
  • Broad Haven to Martin’s Haven
  • Martin’s Haven to Dale
  • Dale to Neyland
  • Neyland to Angle
  • Angle to Freshwater West
  • Freshwater (W) to Broad Haven(S)
  • Broad Haven(S) to Skrinkle Haven
  • Skrinkle to Amroth

Reaching Pembrokeshire Coast Path by Public Transport

You can reach Pembrokeshire Coast Path by taking a train to Fishguard, Haverfordwest or Pembroke Dock. If you’re booking a place to stay near any of the stations, some accommodation owners also provide a pick up service from the stations. 

North Downs Way

Running from Farnham to Dover, North Downs Way is one of the most magnificent trails found in the UK. This trail extends for 153 inspirational miles (246 KM) through the countryside, with plenty of iconic sights along the way. 

The most popular point of interest along the route has got to be the White Cliffs of Dover. These cliffs are always a treat for tourists, but walking along them during the trail makes them even more enjoyable. The complete North Down Way takes around 12 days to complete. 

North Downs Way route splits into two at Boughton Lees, where one path runs through Wye and the other through Canterbury. Both these paths meet at Dover. At Wye, the path crosses the Stour Valley Walk and Wye Crown.

If you love beer, there is also a fun initiative called Ales of the Trail. They help to reveal the best beers along this monumental national trail.

North Downs Way Route

The walking route of North Downs Way can be divided into 15 sections as below:

  • Farnham – Guildford 
  • Guildford – Westhumble 
  • Westhumble – Merstham 
  • Merstham – Oxted 
  • Oxted – Otford 
  • Otford – Cuxton 
  • Cuxton – Detling 
  • Detling – Lenham 
  • Lenham – Wye 
  • Wye – Etchinghill 
  • Etchinghill – Dover 
  • Broughton Lees – Chilham 
  • Chilham – Canterbury 
  • Canterbury – Shepherdswell 
  • Shepherdswell – Dover 

 

Reaching North Downs Way by Public Transport

You can reach the start of the trail by taking a train to Farnham. At the end of the trail, look for a train from Dover Priory train station to London.

Suggested: Achill Island on Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way 

Offa’s Dyke Path

Offa’s Dyke Path follows the border of England and Wales for 177 beautiful miles (285 KM). The path is actually found along Offa’s Dyke which dates all the way back to the 8th century.

Wondering what is Offa’s Dyke? It is a hand dug ditch that runs along England and Wales border and it was built in the 8th century under King Offa. Offa’s Dyke Path doesn’t go along all of the Offa’s Dyke but only some.

Starting at Chepstow and ending in Prestatyn, it generally takes 14 days of walking to complete the Offa’s Dyke Path. While walking along this trail you can expect plenty of rolling green hills and natural landscapes. It crossed the summit of Black Mountain, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley

This trail offers a total escape from the city, and it is always a popular choice amongst nature lovers. It does however passes through some historical towns. Local wildlife can be spotted all along the route. Offas Dyke Path blends history with natural scenery – making it a great all-round choice for keen hikers.

Offa’s Dyke Path Route

Offa’s Dyke path route can be divided into 12 sections:

  • Sedbury Cliffs to Monmouth 
  • Monmouth to Pandy 
  • Pandy to Hay-on-Wye 
  • Hay to Kington
  • Kington to Knighton
  • Knighton to Brompton Crossroads
  • Brompton Crossroads to Buttington Bridge
  • Buttington Bridge to Llanymynech
  • Llanymynech to Chirk Mill 
  • Chirk Mill to Llandegla 
  • Llandegla to Bodfari 
  • Bodfari – Prestatyn 

 

Reaching Offa’s Dyke Path by Public Transport

To reach the start of Offa’s Dyke path, you need to take a train to Chepstow and from there walk for 3 KMs. The end of the trail is just 500 meters from Prestatyn station. 

Thames Path

The Thames is one of England’s greatest natural landmarks. This trail follows the course of this great river – from its source in the Cotswold hills all the way to the sea in Greenwich.

Along the way, you will get to pass through some beautiful rural villages and historic towns. Oxford is also along the way for those interested in exploring the historic area. The trail will eventually take you to London. 

A brilliant feature of the Thames Path is that you get to experience a range of landscapes – from farmlands to the city streets. This is a great choice for anyone wanting to gain a better understanding of England as a whole. The route is 184 miles long (296 KM) and fairly easy to manage. It normally takes 14 days to complete Thames Path.

Thames Path Route

Thames Path can be divided into the below 6 sections:

  • Thames Head to Oxford 
  • Oxford to Henley-on-Thames
  • Henley to Windsor
  • Windsor to Richmond
  • Richmond to the Thames Barrier 
  • Thames Barrier to Crayford Ness

 

Reaching Thames Path by Public Transport

It is very easy to reach the start of this path or the end by trains. From Oxford you can take a train to Thorney Leys and from there just walk for 5 minutes to Cotswold Meadow where the trail starts. 

Yorkshire Wolds Way

Millington to Nunburnholme - Yorkshire Wolds Way

Millington to Nunburnholme – Yorkshire Wolds Way (CC BY-ND 2.0) by alh1 via Flickr

The Yorkshire Wolds Way is a trail that covers 79 miles (129 KM) of pure natural bliss. The trail stretches across the Yorkshire Wolds, from Hull to Scarborough. This walk usually takes anything from 6 to 9 days

Yorkshire Wolds Way was also featured in a documentary by BBC where it was called “arguably Britain’s least well-known national walking trail”. This is one of the most scenic trails around, passing many grassy valleys, wildflowers, hedgerows, birds and butterflies. This trail covers some classic UK scenery and is a perfect choice for anyone wanting to try out a walking holiday in Northern England. 

Millington, East Yorkshire Yorkshire Wold's Way

Millington, East Yorkshire Yorkshire Wold’s Way – (CC BY-ND 2.0) by alh1 via Flickr

Not only does the route pass a great deal of natural beauty, but you also get to pass many art installations that pop up along the path. This is part of a project called WANDER – Art on the Yorkshire Wolds Way

Yorkshire Wolds Way Path Route

Yorkshire Wolds way path route can be segregated into the below sections:

  • Hessle to South Cave – 13 miles (21 Km)
  • South Cave to Market Weighton or Goodmanham- 12 miles (19 Km)
  • Market Weighton or Goodmanham to Millington 8 ½ miles (13.5Km)
  • Millington to Thixendale 12 miles (19Km)
  • Thixendale to Sherburn 19 miles (30Km)
  • Sherburn to Filey – 17 miles (28 Km)

Reaching Yorkshire Wolds Way Path by Public Transport

In order to reach Yorkshire Wolds Way, you can take the Northern Rail to Hessle from Leeds, Sheffield or Hull. All these destinations can be reached directly by train from London. 

Suggested: Triglav National Park in Slovenia 

 

Final Thoughts

Taking a walking holiday in the UK is always a great idea. It allows you to enjoy a sense of escape and freedom in nature. You will get to pass some of the best sights and landscapes that the area can offer. 

While these might be some of the best and most well-known national trails, there are still loads more to choose from. So, grab your hiking boots, choose a destination, and breathe in the fresh air. It will definitely be an experience to remember.

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