Your ultimate guide to slowing down and sucking up the scenery
Long Distance trails have been around since mankind evolved, mainly because there weren’t any airports in the Stone Age. Even though it’s so much faster to use almost any other form of transport, walking all or part of classic long distance trails is getting increasingly popular as we increasingly seek to slow down and suck up the scenery.
What are they?
In many cases they’re the routes pre-industrial society used to get to important destinations. Back in the day very few people travelled, unless it was your job to communicate with far flung places. Pilgrimages or trade are behind many of the current trails. Several cross countries; England and Wales has 15 official National Trails totting up to 2500 miles of paths, byways and bridleways, plus smaller roads open to all traffic.
The Pennine Way is Britain’s original National Trail | Visit Britain
In Europe there are some epics, like the high-altitude GR 20 down the spine of Corsica, the Appalachian Trail made famous by Bill Bryson in his book ‘A Walk in the Woods’ and the Way of St James to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.
Because these routes are so popular, there are related networks to keep you fed, watered and housed, and there are increasing numbers of organisations who will do all the planning. Some of these allow you to cover the whole distance in a shorter time, leapfrogging various sections so a 600-mile, six week journey can be completed within a regular 10 day holiday, leaving some time to put your worn-out feet up at the end.
Trails in the UK
They’re everywhere! Nationaltrail.co.uk has the official list and that’ll get you around England and Wales, and it’s an excellent website full of info and inspiration.
The South Downs Way is set entirely within the South Downs National Park | Visit Britain
For Scotland, the West Highland Way from Glasgow to Ben Nevis is a fine introduction to the country, the walking and long distance paths in general.
Here’s the lowdown of Outdoor Adventure Guide‘s favourite long distance trails.
Why do it?
There are many reasons for setting out to cover a long distance path – a personal test, pilgrimage or a chance to step outside everyday life seem to be the most popular. Is there a better way to enjoy a country, slowly absorbing the landscape’s changes?
Classic routes are well marked, full of companionship and easy to access. Your effort wants to be tilted towards getting physically prepared, so knowing where you’re stopping each night, what to take and how long you should be on the road for each day takes a load off you mind, and indeed lightens the one on your back.