7 reasons to embark on England’s greatest walking trails

Content provided by England’s Great Walking Trails

Taking a long walk on one of England’s National Trails is a fantastic way to spend a week, two weeks, maybe more. But we don’t all have the time, or energy, to spare for such an undertaking.

But these rich and varied walking routes aren’t just good for walking. They’re conduits to some of the country’s greatest sites. Basing a short break in England around a National Trail can reveal mountains, moorlands, rivers and coasts as well as Roman forts, industrial heritage, stately homes and prehistoric remains. It can also involve an array of activities – not only walking, but cycling, paddling, climbing and caving, crafting, boating, birding and baking.

So, to help you get more adventure out of a shorter break, England’s Great Walking Trails has created a range of three-to-five-day trip ideas based along seven of the routes, which combine wonderful walks, varied experiences, mouthwatering food and welcoming accommodation.

Got a free weekend? Here are just seven reasons why you should take a short break on a long trail…


To walk (or bike) to ‘England’s finest view’ – Cleveland Way

Cleveland Way

Derelict abbey in Helmsley, Yorkshire

The Cleveland Way is a trail of two halves, part crossing the North York Moors, part tracing the wild Yorkshire Coast. Spend three days around the handsome market town of Helmsley, where the trail begins, to focus on the moorland highlights. That includes touring the local brewery, visiting medieval abbeys, dining in Michelin-starred restaurants and cosy thatched pubs, and gazing up at star-spangled dark skies. It also includes what James Herriot (the world’s most famous vet) reckoned was the finest view in the country, which you can reach on foot or by mountain bike.

Find out more about the Cleveland Way

To get creative behind a potter’s wheel – Cotswold Way

Cotswold Way

Herd of sheep in Chipping Campden along the Cotswold Way

The whole Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is, well, outstanding. But the area at the northern end of the Cotswold Way combines glorious countryside with human creativity. The Arts & Crafts Movement set up a rural HQ in Chipping Campden in 1902; take a three-day break here and, as well as charming walking, you can learn about this influential trend. Visit the original Guild of Handicraft, where you can still watch artists at work. See exquisite Arts & Crafts pieces – from silverware to ceramics – in a host of museums. And head to Honeybourne Pottery for a session on a potter’s wheel.

Find out more about the Cotswold Way

To learn Latin from a Roman teacher – Hadrian’s Wall Path

Hadrian's Wall Path

View of section of Hadrian's Wall, along the Hadrian's Wall Path

Head to the western section of Hadrian’s Wall and you can travel back two millennia in the space of a few days. Basing yourself between the market town of Haltwhistle and lively Carlisle, you can access great pubs, galleries and walking trails – including a hike along the longest remaining stretch of Hadrian’s Wall. But you can also delve deeper into life in the first century AD: at the Roman Army Museum, Centurion Africanus will try to recruit you as a legionnaire while teacher Velius Longus will give you a lesson in ancient Latin and Roman morals.

Find out more about Hadrian's Wall Path

To see England’s largest colony of grey seals – Norfolk Coast Path

Norfolk Coast Path

Skelton Hill in Sheringham along Norfolk Coast Path

Bracing sea breezes, birdlife galore, Michelin-starred restaurants and perhaps the country’s finest beach… the stretch of North Norfolk Coast around Holkham, Wells-next-the-sea and Blakeney is perfect for the most refreshing and restorative of micro-adventures. The reliable Coasthopper bus and the short distances between highlights mean you can leave the car at home. Even better, take to the water and explore the coast by paddleboard, or take a boat trip out to Blakeney Point for close encounters with England’s largest breeding colony of grey seals.

Find out more about the Norfolk Coast Path

To make a pilgrimage by punt – North Downs Way

North Downs Way

Couple sitting on rock at Dover cliffs, along North Downs Way

When the North Downs Way enters Canterbury, it follows the route trampled by centuries of pilgrims. This is some of the most historic hiking in the country, as well as some of the most bucolic, wending amid the orchards and oasthouses of the ‘Garden of England’. Spending four days around the cathedral city allows you to combine holy trails with other activities such as a cycle trip to the seaside (to slurp oysters in bohemian Whitstable), a ride on a heritage railway and a tour of medieval Canterbury in a traditional wooden punt.

Find out more about the North Downs Way

To descend into a century-old mine – Pennine Way

Pennine Way

Stoodley Pike located along the Pennine Way

The 431-kilometre-long Pennine Way reaches its zenith in the North Pennines AONB; this is England’s highest land outside the Lake District, properly rugged and remote – a thrilling choice for a short break. Alston, the country’s highest market town, is the perfect base, because from here you can get high and low. You can walk on the fells, explore upland bird reserves and raise real ales in proper pubs. You can also investigate the region’s centuries-old industrial heritage by donning a hard hat and venturing down into damp, spooky mine shafts that were hewn 150 years ago.

Find out more about the Pennine Way

To paddleboard into the sunset – South West Coast Path

South West Coast Path

View over Towan Head in Newquay, along South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is a spectacular way to see the sea. Unfurling alongside cliffs, coves, headlands, smugglers’ haunts and wide sandy beaches, the trail offers near-constant views of the waves. But on a walking-and-more mini-adventure, you can split your time between looking at the ocean and being in it. Head to North Cornwall, around Newquay and Portreath, to sign up for surf lessons, soak up surf culture, go for wild swims and set off by paddleboard in the late afternoon, to watch the sunset as you float serenely on the blue.

Find out more about the South West Coast Path

Find more things to do and see along England's top walking routes at National Trails

22 Apr 2022(last updated)

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  • 1

    Cleveland Way

  • 2

    Cotswold Way

  • 3

    Hadrian's Wall Path

  • 4

    Norfolk Coast Path

  • 5

    North Downs Way

  • 6

    Pennine Way

  • 7

    South West Coast Path

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