One of the most popular ‘leisure’ pursuits in the UK is walking – the perfect way to enjoy the varied scenery of the British Isles.
Our islands are blessed with an intricate web of public footpaths, rights of way and 16 glorious National Trails.
The beauty of a National Trail is you can do a section at a time, or do the whole thing as part of that once-in-a-lifetime trek, staying in comfortable accommodation along the way.
And although there are ‘starts’ and ‘finishes’ included in this blog, there’s no hard and fast rules as to how you tackle a National Trail.
So in this, the first of two National Trail blogs, we introduce the ones with the mightier mileage.
The longest National Trails is the South West Coast Path, an awe-inspiring 630-miles-worth of boot leather and laces!
Originally created by coastguards who patrolled the South West Peninsula looking out for smugglers, this route is used by fishermen searching for shoals of fish and to see if it’s safe to board their boats. Starting at Minehead in Somerset, it runs along the coastline of Exmoor, North Devon and into Cornwall, then along the coast back to Devon, Dorset eventually ending in beautiful Poole harbour.
While there’s lots of different types of accommodation you can book along the way, there are three Wigwam® Holidays sites in Cornwall from where you can get to part of this immense National Trail.
The South West Coast Path’s hefty mileage probably makes the other National Trails look a bit more manageable, with the Pennine Way next on the list. This spectacular route covers 268-miles, not to be confused with its sister route the Pennine Bridleway (205-miles). Both cover the rugged ‘spine’ of England, with the walkers’ upland route starting at Kirk Yetholm in the north, ending at Edale in the Peak District.
There are glamping sites dotted around the area, offering comfy accommodation after a long day’s hiking.
The beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast Path twists and turns its glorious way along some of the country’s most breath-taking maritime views. Taking in 186-miles from St. Dogmaels to Amroth, this route covers the coastal fringes of the Pembrokeshire National Park. This route is challenging with 35,000 feet of ascent and is said to be the equivalent of climbing Everest, yet without leaving Wales! Click here for some comfy, affordable accommodation that will make this spectacular trek even more memorable.
At 184-miles, the Thames Path is next, a route which follows one of England’s greatest rivers from its source in the Cotswold Hills to the sea, passing through Oxford, nudging the Chilterns, before ending up in mighty Greenwich in London.
Offa’s Dyke, which follows the English-Welsh Border for 177-miles, is one of the most ancient of National Trails, parts of it dating back to the 8th Century. From Prestatyn in the north to Chepstow in the south, a sense of history prevails as you cover the distance.
The North Downs Way follows a pilgrim’s route from Farnham to Canterbury, not forgetting the iconic White Cliffs of Dover. At 153-miles, this route also takes in Seven Oaks and parts of the nation’s capital, London.
We’re returning to Wales for the next National Trail, which is Glyndwr’s Way, 135-miles of rolling farmland, open moorland, forests and lakes. The route takes you past ancient castles and through bustling market towns. You can begin in Welshpool, and follow the route to Knighton on the edge of the Shropshire Hills. Click here for a suggestion of where to stay if you start off or end at Knighton.
The Cleveland Way is arguably the most varied of the National Trails. Its 109-mile route includes majestic heather-clad moors, dramatic cliffs that fall away to remote beaches, ancient stone crosses and quaint fishing villages. As with all the National Trails, the Cleveland Way can be broken up into management chunks, starting at the market town of Helmsley in Ryedale, heading north to Saltburn-by-the-Sea before following the coast to Filey in North Yorkshire. Why not stay close to sections of this great trail?
So that ends our whistle-stop ‘tour’ of longest of the National Trails. Remember if you tackling part or all of a trail, then you must be prepared with proper clothing, footwear and other provisions. The National Trails shop is a good place to start. Always check the weather, tides and ensure someone knows where your planned route is each day.
This will be the lengthiest managed and way-marked coastal path in the world. Sections of this incredible route are now ‘open’ including in the North West, (from the Scottish Border to the Welsh border); South West (Southampton to Chepstow); South East (from the Wash to Southampton) and North East (from the Scottish Border to the Wash).
Our next blog will deal with the remaining trails and though no less spectacular, they have a more manageable mileage. In the meantime, start planning your route!
Wigwam® Holidays is now listed as an accommodation provider on the National Trails website - find us under the Plan Your Route section!