England has some incredible National Trails – each network path is uniquely spectacular with diverse and beautiful landscapes. Here’s a little bit about each, so you can pick the English national trail for you.
In this time of finding adventure closer to home, let’s take a look at England’s National Trails, where they start and begin, and what we can expect to see along the route. Walking or cycling in England is one of the absolute best low cost or free activities you can do in the country.
Whether for a long walk or long distance challenge, if you’re interested in walking some of the fantastic National Trails in England, check out our list below.
National Trails in England
1. Cleveland Way
Cleveland Way, the second recognised National Trail in England and Wales, is a beautiful and unique path. It runs over 110 miles through Helmsley and the former fishing village, Filey on the east coast, surrounding the southern edge of the exotic scenery of North York Moors National Park. Cleveland Way was established on May 29, 1969.
The trail of Cleveland Way starting in the market town of Helmsley falls across the ancient and beautiful moorland of the North York Moors National Park.
This trail extends to the coast of the Saltburn-by-the-Sea and leads into the North Yorkshire coast into the inland of the Filey. The National trail also runs through the popular village of Robin Hood’s Bay leaves to meet the famous seaside resorts of Whitby and Scarborough. Walking is wonderful for your winter wellbeing, on those rare bright sunny winter days anyway!
Love Yorkshire? See how high you can score on this Yorkshire Quiz!
Cycling the Cleveland Way
From Saltburn, the route hugs England’s north-east coast until its end and Filey Brigg, over 100 miles from the start. Unfortunately for us cyclists, as is the case for most long distance trails, it is not possible to ride the whole length of the Way. A lot of it is footpath.
2. Thames Path
The Thames Path is a long-distance hiking trail along the most famous river in England. It’s 294km from its source in the Cotswolds through several rural areas to the heart of London. The road leads past peaceful natural wine meadows, historic towns, and many beautiful villages and ends at the Thames Barrier in Wimeswich, just a few miles from the sea.
You can walk the entire length of the Thames trail and some parts can be covered by bicycle. With an average daily walk of 24km per day, you can cross the trail in 14 days, giving you a few days of free time too.
This footpath can be divided into different areas, including from Oxford to Henley-on-Thames, from Windsor to Richmond, from the Thames Barrier to Crayford Ness, Richmond to the Thames Barrier and many more. Rivers and many other places of interest can be found along the way.
Cycling the Thames Path
Although you can’t cycle much of the Thames Path National Trail as most of it is a public footpath, there are some nice parts where you can.
3. Hadrian’s Wall Path
The Hadrian’s Wall Path is an 84-mile long-walking National Trail that stretches coast to coast from Wallsend, Newcastle-upon-Tyne across northern England. Following the path of the Hadrian’s Wall UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Hadrian’s Wall Path gets around some of the most spectacular cities of England.
From the rugged borderlands to the exotic cities of Newcastle, there are lots of fascinating views to take in on the way. If you want to walk the Hadrian’s Wall Path expect it to take between 6 to 8 days, depending on how many miles you can cover per day.
The paths of this trail are easy to walk. Signposts are put up at places to make navigation easier. Along the path, you will get to see Roman relics signifying their occupation of Britain (Wallsend to Heddon-on-the-Wall) along with many other historic landmarks.
It’s one of the best day trips from Newcastle for a day out of the city.
Cycling the Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway
Hadrian’s Wall Cycleway can be ridden in either direction. Depending on how many sites you want to stop off at along the way, allow four to six days to cycle the route.
The Ridgeway is the Ridgeway, or Old Road, known as Britain’s oldest street. The section, clearly defined as an ancient route, stretches from Wiltshire along the Berkshire Downs Cretaceous to the Thames Goring Gap. This was part of Icknield Road, which was not always on the ridge from Salisbury Plain to East Anglia.
From its inception on the Avebury World Heritage Site, it runs 139km northeast. The oldest road in Britain, the Ridgeway still runs along the same square as a plateau that has been used by passengers, shepherds, and soldiers for a long time. The trail can be covered for 6 days with an average daily walk of 24km per day, making a week ideal. A healthy person can walk 20-30 miles a day.
The National Trails in England are a great way to have a socially distanced day out in these modern times.
Cycling the Ridgeway
The Ridgeway National Trail follows an ancient route that runs for 87 miles through the Chilterns and the North Wessex Downs. Currently only the western half is open to cyclists, but change is in the pipeline.
5. Cotswold Way
To admire the ancient Cotswold beauty, walk the trails of the Cotswold Way. This 102-mile trail houses lots of historic landmarks such as the city of Bath and the market town of Chipping Campden.
Up north, above Cheltenham, you’ll see old quarries. Visit the historic villages of Stanway and Stanton before the Broadway village and then a descent to Chipping Campden through Broadway Tower.
There are lots of quintessential English villages and sites to discover along the trail. It takes between 6 to 10 days to complete the trails and explore what you would like along the way.
The Cotswold Way follows the Cotswold escarpment leading to scenic views of the surrounding landscape. From Broadway to Wood Stanway, Winchcombe to Cleeve Hill, Dowdeswell to Leckhampton Hill, Leckhampton Hill to Birdlip, and more, there are so many routes to explore here.
Cycling the Cotswold Way
The Cotswold Way is promoted as a walking route only. Some sections that are bridleway and restricted byway are open to cyclists, but these are fragmented.
6. Yorkshire Wolds Way
Spanning 79 miles from Hessle to Filey, the Yorkshire Wolds Way offers you an opportunity to view some of the tranquil and calm landscapes of the countryside. The high grounds and deep valleys offer a unique and serene setting for walking. Views of the North Yorkshire Moors, the grasses of the valley, and a patchwork of fields are some of the vistas you should look out for on a walk.
To complete a walk around this national trail, it’ll take between 5 and 10 days, depending on experience and agility.
The route of this rural area passes through a few villages and towns. Starting from the Humber Estuary, the route runs through a historic rural area of Britain to Filey on the North Coast. The route through Filey connects with the Cleveland Way.
Cycling the Yorkshire Wolds Way
The Yorkshire Wolds Way is 79-mile a walking route. Only one short stretch of the off-road element of it – to the north of Newbald – can be ridden and is shared with the Yorkshire Wolds Cycle Route
7. South Downs Way
Running along the escarpment and ridges of the South Downs, the 100-mile long South Downs Way offers visitors a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of this busy part of England. For long distance walkers and bikers, the undulating path provides them an opportunity to have an amazing trip.
The South Downs Way begins in Winchester, Hampshire, passing through Cheesefoot Head, Storrington and Steyning, down to Eastbourne, in East Sussex. There are short sections on the roads and byways where motor vehicles are permitted.
A walk or cycle along the South Downs Way is relatively easy for anyone that’s moderately fit. Walking 12 to 15 miles a day, it will take 8 or 9 days to walk the whole sections of this National Trail.
A visit to this place will expose you to the grass-covered hills and many other natural remarkable landscapes of South Downs. Check out these South Downs holiday cottages and lux up your trip!
Many of the best days out in East Sussex revolve around the South Downs Way – it really is a beautiful part of England.
Cycling the South Downs Way
The South Downs Way is a mainly off-road, mountain bike route which traces a route through the rolling hills of Sussex and Hampshire. As you bike from Eastbourne to Winchester you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.
Next adventure: how about walking the Solent Way? It’s 60 miles from Emsworth to Milford on Sea, Hampshire, and we’ve broken it down into 6 awesome day trips. Click the link!
8. Pembrokeshire Coast Road
I thought some of this walk was in England for some reason, which is why I’ve included it in this list of England’s National Trails – turns out it’s not but I’d already written the below so I’ll just leave it. Sounds fab!
From St. Dogmael in the north to Amroth in the south, the Pembrokeshire Coast Route covers almost all types of seascapes, from steep limestone cliffs to wavy bays made of red sandstone to volcanic landscapes, beaches, estuaries and flooded ice valleys.
The trail was opened in 1970 and offers hikers outstanding coastal and wildlife. It runs through a landscape rich in human occupation and maritime history.
The trail is located almost exclusively in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park and features many coastal flowers and bird species and evidence of human activity from the Neolithic to the present day. The entire Pembrokeshire Coast Path is 186 miles long. It takes at least 12-14 days for regular sports travellers or up to 18 days for a quieter schedule to cover the entire route.
The coast of Pembrokeshire is characterised by a diverse ecosystem of wildlife and coastal fauna. Seals, dolphins, and unusual seabird species appear along the natural coastline.
Cycling the Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Unfortunately, due to the narrow tracks, steep gradients and precipitous cliffs, only a very short section is open to cyclists.
9. Offa’s Dyke Path
Running closely along the border between England and Wales, the Offa’s Dyke Path is a beautiful National Trail. This 177-mile trail offers amazing and scenic views that draw walkers and sightseers from around the globe. Between 5 to 12 days, you can discover all the things that make Offa’s Dyke Path a unique National Trail.
The Offa’s Dyke Path starts at Chepstow and ends at Monmouth. Between these routes are dense and natural vegetation offering a gorgeous sight. According to popular folklore in this area, the devil once stood here to lure away the monks that once inhabited the area.
To see the historic Black Mountains on the Hatterall Ridge, a day walk through the upland section on the Pandy to Hay-on-Wye walk will get you here. Going beyond this area is the undulating walk leading to the Brecon Beacons National Park.
READ MORE: The Best National Parks in England
Cycling the Offa’s Dyke Path
You can’t cycle on the Dyke (it’s an ancient monument after all), but you go through all the communities along the Dyke – with outstanding places to visit.
10. South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path has long and short walks making it ideal for a range of walking abilities. Stretching 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, to Poole Harbour in Dorset it is a challenging trail for walkers that want to take a walking experience to another level.
Twice in a row, the South West Coast Path has been voted as the ‘Britain’s Best Walking route’. In terms of completing a walk around this National Trail, it takes between 4 and 8 weeks. This depends on if you want to see sights or just walk around.
From the North Atlantic Coastal Path, to Westward Ho, to the Lizard pathway, the South West Coast Path offers some of the most challenging and incredible walking sections in England.
Cycling the South West Coast Path
Generally speaking you’re not allowed to cycle on the most of the South West Coast Path. As nearly all of it uses ‘public footpaths’, therefore is only available to people on foot, and so there is no legal right to ride a bike.
11. Pennine Bridleway
The pathways make an excellent platform for walks or, biking or horse rides. Get on this trail for some ancient discovery and relaxation. Cycling or walking around this National Trail could take up to 5 to 7 days.
The Pennine Bridleway has two starting points, namely the former Hartington Railway Station and at Middleton-by-Wirksworth. The old Railway Station is designated to horse riders runs through the Tissington Trail and connects with the High Peak Trail at Parsley Hay.
Middleton-by-Wirksworth passes through the Peak Trail before running along with the limestone of the White Peak. There are various alternative routes for cyclists and walkers.
Through Derbyshire is the Greater Manchester, a trail that skirts around the Heather moor. The trails from here are amazing.
Cycling on the Pennine Bridleway
The Pennine Bridleway offers mountain bikers the chance to ride the longest continuous off-road biking route in the UK.
READ MORE NEARBY
Check out PeakDistrictWalks.net for 8 Beautiful Short Walks in the Peak District, if you’re in the area and don’t fancy doing the entire Pennine Bridleway. Most of the walks listed are around 2-3 hours, brilliant!
12. Norfolk Coast Path
The Norfolk Coast Path is an 83-mile long-distance footpath that runs from Hunstanton to Hopton-on-Sea in Norfolk. This footpath is ideal for walking and cycling, in some areas. Walking or cycling this route is one of the best things to do in Norfolk.
Cycling through the trail offers you the opportunity to cover seeing the amazing and historical country roads, villages, and more with ease than on foot. It was opened in 1988 and has since proven to be one of the best National Trails in England.
Completing walking or cycling on this trail takes a day and 7 days respectively.
The route of the Norfolk Coast Path starts from the town of Hunstanton and passes along Norfolk’s heritage coast to Hopton-on-Sea. There are creeks, hills, seaside resorts, fishing villages, dunes, cliffs, and more that you will encounter and explore along the way.
Cycling on the Norfolk Coast Path
Much of the Norfolk Coast Path has only public footpath classification and therefore no cycling, so the recommended route is the Norfolk Coast Cycleway.
13. Peddars Way
The Peddars Way is a 74km long-distance footpath that runs through Suffolk and Norfolk. Suitable for walking and cycling, country roads and serene lanes are cutting through diverse landscapes.
Between 6 and 10 days is enough for you to explore fully this historical footpath on foot. There’s a folklore that this footpath used to a haunting ground of the ghostly East Anglian hound, Black Shuck. You might visit to find out how true it is.
The Peddars Way can be accessed by transport that is meant for the locals and tourists.
Cycling on the Peddars Way
The Peddars Way Cycle Route starts from the Thetford Railway Station to Bridgham Heath and upwards to Holme-next-the-Sea. The route of the Roman road offers an ancient track way built by the Romans. It links with other historical landmarks that make the Peddars Way Cycle Route one of the most visited National Trails in England.
14. North Downs Way
The North Downs Way is a 153-mile long-distance trail in the south of England, opened in 1978. It runs from Farnham to the white cliffs of Canterbury and Dover and passes through two areas of outstanding natural beauty – the Surrey Mountains and Kent Downs – and along the famous Pilgrim’s Road from Winchester to Canterbury.
It takes 9-10 days to walk around North Downs Way.
You’ll discover history every step of the way: near the trail, there are eight castles, three cathedrals, three palaces of archbishops, and numerous manors and gardens.
After an eventful day, try traditional English pubs and inns to sample English beers with Kentish hops, or try refined wines from several local vineyards.
Cycling on the North Downs Way
The 150 miles can be ridden in one go as a bikepacking adventure.