Experience the diversity and drama of England’s Great Walking Trails with this captivating video
Julia Bradbury shares her love of England’s National Trails and the perfect backdrop they provide for a wide range of activities and experiences
Introduction to the Trails
National Trails are long distance walks through some of the very best landscapes the UK has to offer. Some of them can also be ridden on mountain bike or horse. They are special – they have been designated by the Government and are managed to a set of Quality Standards that set them above other routes. You will find the trails well waymarked with the distinctive acorn symbol. Each trail is looked after by a dedicated officer often with teams of volunteers.
National Trails offer a wide range of experiences from the dramatic and beautiful South West Coast Path to the stunning Norfolk Coast Path with its big skies and amazing wildlife. You can walk in the footsteps of Romans on Hadrian’s Wall Path, or in the footsteps of pilgrims on the North Downs Way. If you fancy a more serious challenge the Pennine Way might be for you with its ever-changing scenery, or maybe the Cleveland Way which offers the very best of heather moorland and craggy coastal walking.
If you are looking for peace and quiet in beautiful countryside you could try Glyndwr’s Way, created to celebrate the Welsh rebel Prince Owain Glyndwr, or the Yorkshire Wolds Way with its chalk landscape that has inspired so many artists including David Hockney. You could walk the English/Welsh border, and cross it 26 times, on Offa’s Dyke Path, or explore the dramatically beautiful Pembrokeshire Coast Path. If you are new to long distance walking the Thames Path is a great choice. Following the mighty river Thames from the source in the Cotswold Hills all the way to the Thames Barrier it is downhill all the way (well nearly). If history is your thing you can follow Britain’s oldest road on The Ridgeway National Trail.
If you prefer to explore on a bike or horse the South Downs Way or Pennine Bridleway are the ones for you. Following lanes and track, packhorse routes and drovers’ roads they take you on a journey through fabulous scenery.
For those looking for something seriously challenging how about the England Coast Path? It’s not complete yet, but when it is it will go all around the coast of England – making it the longest coastal trail in the world.
Background to National Trails
National Trails are long distance walking, cycling and horse riding routes through the best landscapes in England and Wales. In Scotland the equivalent trails are called Scotland’s Great Trails.
There are 16 National Trails. Walkers can enjoy them all, cyclists and horse riders can enjoy the Pennine Bridleway and the South Downs Way, as well as sections of the other Trails. In total, England and Wales have around 2,500 miles (4,000 Km) of National Trail.
The England Coast Path is the newest (and will be the longest) National Trail when it is complete. Some sections are now open and more will be opening over the coming months.
Download The Best Trails in England and Wales leaflet (pdf) to find out more about the National Trails.
For an overview of the Trails download our Trail Comparison chart.
How did National Trails come about?
Walking in the wild and beautiful parts of Britain became increasingly popular in the early decades of the Twentieth Century. After World War II the desire to keep areas of Britain “special” and to protect them from post-war development led to the establishment of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty (AONBs) and Long Distance Routes (now called National Trails in England and Wales).
The first Trail was the Pennine Way, opened in 1965.
How are National Trails looked after?
Each Trail in England and Wales has a Trail Partnership made up of the local authorities responsible for the path on the ground. Usually there is a dedicated National Trail Officer or Manager with responsibility for keeping the Trail up to the high standards set for National Trails. Maintenance work is carried out by the local highway authorities together with landowners often with the help of volunteers.
Take on the challenge of a demanding trek along the spine of England or meander through rolling countryside – it’s your choice.
Experience the varied landscape of the North York Moors National Park on a journey across breathtaking heather moorland and dramatic coastlineView trail
Step back in time in scenic southern England on an idyllic walk through the Cotswolds to the Roman city of BathView trail
From the Scottish Border to the Wash this incredibly varied stretch of coast has it all.View trail
From the Scottish Border to the Welsh Border this stretch of coast is a journey of contrastsView trail
From the Thames Estuary to Southampton, passing stunning wildlife and cultureView trail
From the Welsh Border to Southampton this dramatic stretch of coast is bound to impressView trail
From the Wash to Thames Estuary, passing stunning wildlife and cultureView trail
Celebrate Welsh cultural and natural history in the footsteps of Owain Glyndŵr on this peaceful trail.View trail
Follow in the footsteps of Romans and trek alongside an ancient monument on a coast to coast walk across northern EnglandView trail
Trace ancient routes on a modern-day pilgrimage through Surrey to the Kent Coast at Dover, along one of England's most accessible trailsView trail
Be surrounded by history and wildlife beside the 8th Century ancient monument along the English-Welsh Border.View trail
Lose yourself in a magical land of history, heathland, sand dunes, salt marshes and nature reserves.View trail
Follow the most breathtaking coastline in Britain past rugged cliffs, sheltered coves and stunning beachesView trail
Follow ancient packhorse routes, drovers roads and newly created bridleways through the magnificent Pennines.View trail
Walk the backbone of Britain from the Peak District to the Scottish Borders on England’s first National TrailView trail
Travel the length of the South Downs passing attractive wildlife, visible prehistory, fine pubs and pretty villages.View trail
Walk hundreds of miles of superb coastline through Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset on England’s longest National TrailView trail
Follow the greatest river in England past water meadows, unspoilt rural villages and historical towns and citiesView trail
Take a route used since prehistoric times by travellers, herdsmen and soldiers through ancient landscapes.View trail
Discover the Yorkshire Wolds dry valleys and wildflowers alongside vibrant market towns and ancient villagesView trail