May is National Walking Month and as the UK begins to emerge from lockdown you might be planning a summer staycation.
Great Britain has over 4000 miles of National Trails spanning mountains, moorlands, and rugged coastal paths.
Whether you plan to complete a whole route or find a base nearby for a series of day walks, here are some trails to consider, perfect for a staycation walking holiday.
1. Norfolk Coast Path
The Norfolk Coast Path is 84 miles of largely flat trail, running through the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
Running from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea, it passes through seaside towns and villages, tidal salt marshes, and pine woodlands. Whether you are looking for a walk with wide sandy beaches, quaint fishing villages, or the opportunity for a spot of bird watching, you’ll find it along the route.
The unspoilt beauty of Holkham beach features in the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love. You will also find 13th-century churches, Anglo Saxon towers, and – at Blakeney Point – the largest seal colony in England.
A perfect beginner’s trail, the gentle gradients, everchanging scenery, and a wealth of points of interest make this is a great choice if you are new to long-distance walking.
The Norfolk Coast Path can also be joined to the Peddars Way to make a 130-mile trail.
2. Glyndŵr’s Way
Owain Glyndŵr was a Welsh prince who organised a rebellion against King Henry IV of England in 1400. The Glyndŵr’s Way National Trail is a 135-mile route named in his honour.
Tackling the whole path will require a reasonable level of fitness – the walk takes in the Radnorshire Hills and Cambrian Mountains – and can be remote in places too. From Knighton on the England-Wales border, the route heads as far west as Machynlleth before heading back east to Welshpool.
Taking in woodland, open farmland, and rolling moors, if you don’t feel up to taking on all 135 miles, there are plenty of interesting locations for day walks or short stays. These include Clywedog Reservoir and Cadair Idris, a mountain peak named after a giant.
Spending a night on the mountain – something which isn’t recommended – is said to turn you mad, or else into a poet.
3. Offa’s Dyke Path
Knighton and Welshpool – the start and endpoints for the Glyndŵr Way – also feature as stop-offs on another long-distance Welsh walk.
The Offa’s Dyke Path is named after the 8th-century king, Offa of Mercia.
Those of you who have been clients of HA&W for some time may remember that Jim walked the 177-mile coast-to-coast route in two stages in 2009 and 2010. In so doing, he raised thousands of pounds for Parkinson’s UK.
Following the dyke, and the border between Wales and England, the trail begins at the Severn Estuary near Chepstow and heads north to Prestatyn. It has been a National Trail since 1971.
Passing through the Brecon Beacons National Park as well as three areas of outstanding natural beauty – the Wye Valley, the Shropshire Hills, and the Dee Valley – you’ll find plenty to explore, whether you are tackling the whole route or walking for the day.
As well as Chepstow, the path passes through Monmouth, Hay-on-Wye, and Oswestry, all great places to use as a base for further exploration on and off the path.
4. Hadrian’s Wall Path
Another National Trail to be awarded the HA&W seal of approval, the Hadrian’s Wall Path is an 84-mile route along what remains of the Roman wall. The path runs coast-to-coast from Wallsend in the east to Bowness-on-Solway in the west. Covering open moorland and rolling meadows, the walk takes around a week to complete.
Marked both by the acorn symbol that accompanies all the National Trails, as well as the wall itself, the walk is moderately easy at either end with a hilly section in the middle requiring a reasonable level of fitness.
You’ll be compensated for your efforts with roman forts, multiple museums, and a stunning array of wildlife.
5. North Downs Way
The North Downs Way National Trail is 153 miles long and runs from Farnham to Dover. Passing through the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs (both areas of outstanding natural beauty) you’ll encounter picturesque villages, rolling hills, and the white cliffs of the famous Dover coast.
Following the ancient Pilgrim’s Way there are castles, cathedrals, and stately homes along a beginner’s level walk – in terms of terrain if not distance.
The Pilgrim’s Way runs from Winchester to Canterbury Cathedral in Kent and the shrine of Thomas Becket. Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury between 1162 and 1170. Follow the path from west to east and you’ll end your trip with fantastic views over the English Channel.
Head east from Dover and you’ll be following in the footsteps of Archbishop Sigeric, who passed this way from Rome in 990 AD. This section of the route marks the UK’s only Cultural Route of the Council of Europe, a series of European Cultural Routes launched in 1987 to celebrate Europe as a shared cultural space.
The way encompasses Neolithic, Roman, and Napoleonic sites, as well as WWII fortifications and the city of Canterbury, the perfect place to make a staycation base.