Planning a long distance walk in the UK - Part 1


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There are lots of long distance paths around the UK with information on routes and good sign-posting.

WalkersCanal towpaths are ideal if you are less able – they are generally flat, passing through rural and urban landscapes with the added bonus of watching people try, not always successfully, to navigate through locks. However, remember it was assumed travelling along canals was to be by boat, so accommodation is more limited and likely to be another mile or so away from the towpath.

Coastal paths are always fascinating and usually well signposted. Not always easy walking as the path is likely to climb steeply in places as small inlets divide the coastline. River walks provide a wide range of challenges alongside some spectacular scenery. Bear in mind that walks that follow a river do not necessarily do so at the bottom of the valley – your path is likely to take you up the mountains at each side.

RamblersNext steps

Once you have decided on the path, get the official guide with a description of the terrain and the route. How long do you want to spend on the walk and where is the starting point? For example, the Wye Valley Walk goes from the source of the river Wye down to Chepstow 135 miles away but the guide starts at Chepstow as this is the easier way to walk it.

One of the main principles when walking long distances is to carry the minimum you need in a day sack. You definitely do not want to carry two week’s worth of gear. Note my personal view that life is too short to camp so each day has to end at a B&B. The most efficient way is to post a parcel beforehand to every 2nd or 3rd night’s B&B with a change of clothes, tissues and cereal bars plus a bag to post your laundry back home. All the B&Bs we used were happy to do this so your planning also needs to include setting out gear to post ahead.

The day sack now only needs to contain essentials plus a light-weight T-shirt type dress, small cashmere cardi plus a pair of sandals to wear in the evenings (for the ladies of course!). Note the change of shoes to give your feet a rest must support the foot all around, so not flip-flops.

Decision time! The plan

  • Decide route, get official guide
  • Set dates – in UK probably late Spring or early Autumn are better thanmid Summer
  • Work out distances between points to find B&B
  • Decide a broad timetable of dates to thenstart on-line search for accommodation
  • Once the first few agree dates and prices,make firm booking – no turning back now!
  • Don’t forget the night before the start and night you finish the walk – will a partner be meeting you or waving you off?

Silver Travel Advisor recommends Ramblers Walking Holidays for guided and independent walking holidays.

•  Read Planning a long distance walk in the UK - Part 2
•  Read Planning a long distance walk in the UK - Part 3

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Other Members' Thoughts - 6 Comment(s)

  • SilverTravelUser
    about 7 years ago
    You are right, the guide is not a replacement for a map but we always use the official guide as a starting point as it tells you the distance between towns and villages along the way so that you can start planning where to stop - best ones I have found so far are the Wye Valley one and the Severn Way. I then photocopy relevant sections of a map to take with me (not sure if you are allowed to!) to see alternative lanes etc - for example, one part of our path went across a field where the bull definitely did not want our company, so we found the best way to skirt around it and reach the next section of the route. (this was our 135 mile trek over 15 days long Wye Valley Way)

    There is another part of the blog that goes into what to include in the rucksack - the minimum suggested was only in addition to the basics not instead of so no, we are not scrimping on the kit. If walking for more than 3-4 days, we also arrange meeting points with friends or family along the route.
  • SilverTravelUser
    about 7 years ago
    couldn't agree more about taking time to see the places you are visiting - I never plan for more than 12 miles a day, generally around 8-10, and over several days (such as our walk 135 miles in 15 days along Wye Valley Way) we sometimes only did 5 miles so that we could have half a day free.
    Personally I would always walk a bit each day as I know I won't want to put my boots back on otherwise! I always have a little sketchbook with me too.
  • keithydee
    about 7 years ago
    Don't forget the OS maps, guides are fine up to a point but footpaths and rights of way do change and a guide printed a few years before can be hopelessly out of date, they are not a replacement for a map, particularly if you are going across country rather than following a feature such as a tow path. Carrying the minimum is fine, personally I would never scrimp on carrying enough kit for the conditions and location, what is minimal for a 2 day stroll along a well trod way wouldn't be the minimum for a few days across country in Scotland or Norway, and, what ever you do, you should leave a route map with someone with estimated times on it. Decent kit made out of modern materials can be washed and dried overnight.
  • cathisherwood
    about 7 years ago
    Dont be in too much of a hurry to complete your walk. Sometimes you miss visiting the most interesting places on route if you are trying to meet deadlines. Why not plan to have a day off here and there to rest those feet and take in the local sites of interest
  • esthermate_1
    about 7 years ago
    Walking is great exercise and so fulfilling. Myself and the husband took a walking holiday in the Scottish highlands, exploring lochs that were only accessible on foot. It was a truly wonderful holiday!
  • susanh
    about 7 years ago
    I love walking, wish I had more time to do more, thanks for the tips.