A list of the long-distance walks in the UK
6 minute read
There are 16 national trails and many hundreds of other named long-distance routes in the UK, including 29 Great Trails in Scotland. The UK has a fantastic network of other footpaths and named multi-day routes that cross the countryside, providing access to mountains and moorland, coast, valleys, woodland, meadows and rolling hills. Here are some of Lesley's favourites.
If you are new to long-distance walking, then it might be best to choose something not too demanding, as it’s always much better to return from your walking holiday wanting to do more, rather than regret having ever considered the idea!
There are many articles on the Cicerone website that will help you to prepare for a long-distance walk, including tips for training, navigation and map reading, packing and essential kit. This article is not in any way a fully comprehensive list of recognised routes, but it does give you a good starting point. You may even want to make up your own multi-day walking tour!
The longest national trail is the England Coast Path, which when completed, will be the longest coastal path in the world. Although it will still be several years before the entire route is completed, it is certainly possible to walk a number of sections of the England Coast.
It includes the South West Coast Path, which explores the beautiful south west peninsular of England for 630 miles, and generally takes at least four weeks to walk, the Cleveland Way, part of which explores the North Sea coast to the east of the North York Moors, the Norfolk Coast Path and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
All national trails are well maintained and fully waymarked, so you are guaranteed to have a positive experience while you explore some of the most iconic scenery in the British Isles.
The advantage of using a Cicerone guidebook is that all the mapping you need is contained in a separate map booklet included with the book. The National Trails website has a vast amount of information on each trail, and the chart below provides good comparison information about each trail.
Scotland’s Great Trails website has a similar listing for comparison, with clickable links to access additional information about each trail. There is also a map available to download showing the location of all Scotland’s Great Trails.
|Trail||Distance in miles||Distance in km||Number of days|
|Great Trossachs Path||28.0||45||3|
|Mull of Galloway Trail||36.7||59||3|
|Berwickshire Coastal Path||29.8||48||4|
|River Ayr Way||41.0||66||4|
|Three Lochs Way||34.2||55||4|
|West Island Way||29.8||48||4|
|Cross Borders Drove Road||51.0||82||5|
|Formartine and Buchan Way||42.3||68||5|
|Great Glen Canoe Trail||59.7||96||5|
|Loch Lomond & Cowal Way||57.2||92||5|
|Moray Coast Trail||44.7||72||5|
|Romans and Reivers Route||52.2||84||5|
|Borders Abbeys Way||67.7||109||6|
|Forth & Clyde/Union Canal Towpath||65.9||106||6|
|St Cuthbert’s Way||62.1||100||6|
|Great Glen Way||77.7||125||7|
|Arran Coastal Way||66.5||107||8|
|Rob Roy Way||78 (or 95.7)||127 (or 154)||8|
|West Highland Way||95.7||154||8|
|Ayrshire Coastal Path||100.0||161||9|
|Fife Coastal Path||116.2||187||10|
|John Muir Way||133.6||215||11|
|Southern Upland Way||213.8||344||16|
Perhaps you are looking for a long-distance path in a particular area, or have specific criteria for your trek, such as a particular length or difficulty. The most comprehensive source of information about the UK's long-distance paths is the Long Distance Walkers Association website, which has a fantastic database of every known long-distance footpath and route. The site allows you to search using an interactive map of the UK (excluding northern Ireland).
It is also possible to enter particular criteria, such as the name of a path, its location or distance, to find routes that meet your needs.
The Long Distance Walkers Association is so much more than just a list of long-distance walking trails and routes. Members can take part in challenge events, join and walk in local groups, and the association is also the keeper of the Hillwalkers Register of those who have completed Hill 'lists' such as the Munros, Corbetts, Wainrights, Fellrangers, Marylins etc. So if you are into walking, and collecting summits, the LDWA is a good place to start.
From a personal point of view, I would find it hard to pinpoint any one trail that I have enjoyed more than the others. Each has been a different experience, and for different reasons.
I've walked a number of national trails, with and without the company of fellow walking friends, or with our dog, and I can honestly say I don't think I have a preference as to whether I am alone or not!
In company, you can share and discuss the scenery and sights as you go, take photos of each other, and have a guarantee of company in the evenings. Alone, and your mind can drift gently as you pace yourself through the miles, and with a dog, there is never a dull moment as your faithful friend will always guide you along the path most frequently trod (hence you don't get lost!).
Some of the particular moments or days that stand out for me would be these:
The South Downs Way – walked alone with our dog in February, so we largely had the South Downs to ourselves all week, and had some epic times wading through mud, and swiftly putting waterproofs, gloves, hat etc on during a wet and windy afternoon, and during a freak snowstorm! But the views were tremendous, and I had fun walking with friends on one day, and with Kev Reynolds and his wife on another.
The Coast to Coast – another one punctuated by two days of exceptional stormy weather while passing through the Lake District, followed by wonderfully satisfying long days over the Pennines and into the Yorkshire Dales, a day of lifting our Labrador through about 30 'squeeze stiles' between Keld and Reeth, and the two days on the North York Moors surrounded by a sea of purple heather…
Cotswold Way – this was my first national trail on my own with the dog, and we definitely bonded. It was the height of summer, so walking all day drained our energy, but visiting beautiful Cotswold villages for refreshments and taking countless photographs punctuated each day, and I remember the particular delight of exploring Crickley Hill Iron Age fort near Cheltenham, where I had taken part in an archaeological dig way back in 1972! See the video of this trip.
The West Highland Way– this turned out to be a trail of two halves… literally! We began in one year with friends, and had a lovely few days up until the point when one of us was bitten by something very nasty during our descent from Ben Lomond, which curtailed our trip abruptly at Crianlarich! The following autumn we resumed, this time just two of us (in case anything else went wrong) and finished the trail, enjoying beautiful autumn weather and the treat of a detour over most of the Mamores between Kinlochleven and Fort William.
The Cumbria Way – a very long stage from Ulverston to Coniston on a searingly hot day gave rise to some sore feet. But then we were in among the fells, with a special overnight stay at the Old Dungeon Gill Hotel (somewhere I had always wanted an excuse to stay), over into Borrowdale, then up into the hills above Keswick to stay at the highest and most remote Youth hostel – Skiddaw House, then over the northern fells to Carlisle. A 'potted' Lake District visit.
A made-up three-day walk in the Yorkshire Dales – yes, long-distance walking can be something you make up! This was a trip that began in the north eastern corner of the Howgills at 'The Fat Lamb', traversed into the Mallerstang valley, passing Pendragon Castle and onto a section of 'Lady Anne's Way' to Hawes, then a little section of Pennine Way to Austwick, then over the fells to summit Ingleborough and down to meet our daughter and a lift home. A fine few days, near to home, yet it felt a 1000 miles away!
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