The inhabitants of the British Isles have had a passion for recreational walking, or rambling, for centuries. The Romanticism of the late 1700’s fostered an appreciation for the natural world, with poets, artists and writers affectionately portraying their favourite moors, dales, fells, tarns, becks and brooks. That outlook has passed down through the generations and, today, it’s no exaggeration to call the United Kingdom a nation of ramblers.
Many of the United Kingdom’s walking routes follow paths that have been recognised for centuries and provide frequent reminders of those different times. The Ridgeway, for example, now a protected ‘National Trail’, has been called the oldest road in Britain and follows a course that has been taken for over 5000 years past Avebury Stone Circle and Silbury Hill. Hadrian’s Wall Path and Offa’s Dyke Path are other obvious examples. In fact, it’s rare for a recognised walk not to have historical and literary associations.
Rambling in the United Kingdom is distinguished from walking in most other parts of the world by the UK’s system of legally protected rights of way, rights of access and rights to roam. These rights are extraordinarily extensive and open up vast areas of the country to the walker. They also mean that walkers obtain insights into rural work and life that enrich the walking experience.
Given all this, it’s not surprising that the UK has many waymarked long distance paths. In England and Wales, some of these (sixteen, in fact) have been designated as ‘National Trails’. National Trails benefit by being administered by a statutory agency of the UK Government. Scotland has an equivalent, being ‘Scotland’s Great Trails’. Aside from the National Trails and Scotland’s Great Trails, there are many other long distance paths that have been established by local authorities or popular useage.
It’s possible to find remote and challenging walking territory in the UK and for some that is the drawcard. For many others, the attraction lies in the more hospitable environs - the areas where gentle rolling hills are divided by stonewall and hedgerow and interspersed with pockets of woodland and swathes of heath and wildflowers. These areas, of course, allow for rambling from village to village at one’s chosen pace, enjoying both the beautiful countryside and the village attractions.
Click on the region name below for information on walking in that area