England may be a small region, but the island is full of incredibly diverse landscapes, from thick, lush forests to rolling grasslands. Dotting the landscape are rivers, moors, ancient ruins, and diverse wildlife.
Some of the most well-known walking trails are known as the National Trails–these are walking, cycling, and horse riding routes that take you through some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of England. Some of these trails go on for miles and miles; the Pennine Way, one of the most famous, meanders 268 miles through the countryside.
A Walking Trail In England
These trails are popular for long distance walkers, (in the States they’d be called hikers – in England they are often termed ‘ramblers’) and are the result of post-World War II desires to keep areas of England special and protected from development. This led to the establishment of National Parks, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, and the Long Distance Routes.
The very first of these was the Pennine Way, which opened in 1965. Since then, tourists and locals like spend walking holidays out enjoying nature. Some of the trails in this guide will lead you through small, quaint villages, while others will wind out far from civilization for miles and miles. Others will take you exploring through the rugged coastline.
Whichever trail you take, you’re sure to see some of the most beautiful spots in England. Be sure to take your camera and extra batteries, so you can capture the natural beauty of England!
The 20 Best Walking Trails in England
1. The Pennines
The Pennines are a range of mountains and hills in Northern England, and consists of dozens of trails in and around the range. The most famous of these is the Pennine Way, which is steeped in history and winds along the mountain tops that form the rugged backbone of England for a magnificent journey of 268 miles.
2. Malvern Hills
The Malvern Hills are south of Worcester, and despite their relatively small size, the trails wind through a surprisingly wide range of landscapes. A narrow ridge trail culminates at the summit of the Worcestershire Beacon, but the trails aren’t limited to just the ridge. Others take visitors on gentler path through rolling green countryside.
3. South Downs and South Downs Way
South Downs cradles a 100 mile stretch from the historic city of Winchester to the white cliffs of Beachy Head. Visitors will be taken through ancient woodlands, open heath, and chalky downs. This trail is not as hardcore as others, and is suitable for a lighter rambling walk, for horseback riding, and for cycling.
4. Lake District
Lake District National Park is located within Cumbria. The main towns within the park are Windermere, Ambleside, and Keswick. The Lake District is broken into several smaller districts, each with their own trails that vary from easy to more challenging. The Southern Fells have the highest mountain in England, while the Far Eastern Fells are just miles of easy walking and gorgeous panoramas.
Dartmoor National Park is in Devon, and is dominated by some of the wildest upland moorland in the entire United Kingdom. Visitors will see granite outcroppings, rolling countryside, and high moors during their walk. Along the trails are evidence of earlier settlements, including Neolithic sites and sites from the more recent industrial revolution.
Northumberland is a large county in northeast England that shares a fiercely contested border with Scotland. While walking trails in Northumberland you may see rounded hills that stretch for miles before turning into the rugged Simonsides, deep river valleys, the expansive Kielder Water, and huge tracts of forest before ending at the sandy coastline.
7. New Forest
New Forest contains over 193,000 acres of forest and about 143 miles of gravel path for walking and cycling. New Forest is scattered with incredible attractions, many of which you may encounter while walking. Should it rain while you’re out and about, there are plenty of places to duck into and spend a few hours out of the rain.
8. Gower Peninsula
The Gower Peninsula projects west into the Bristol Channel, it was the first area in the United Kingdom to be designated an Area of Outstanding National Beauty in 1956. The Wales Coast Path provides great views of the coastline, while a network of field paths take you through the countryside. The peninsula also has beaches, if you get tired of walking and want to take a swim!
The Chilterns are only a few miles northwest of London, and yet they seem so far away from civilization. The gently rolling hills are swathed in woodland and chalk downs. Quiet valleys house scenic villages nestled around medieval churches. You can see old Iron Age forts along the hills. The Chilterns are over 2000km of footpaths that are well signposted, so you needn’t worry about getting lost.
10. Peak District
The Peak District National Park is split between the contrasting White and Dark peaks. The White Peak is filled with quiet limestone dales, while the Dark Peak hosts wild moors. A walk through Peak District is one of varying and contrasting elements.
Exmoor National Park includes a dramatic section of coastline and wild moorlands. The park is relatively small, but has a central plateau, towering cliffs, rocky headlands, wooded ravines, waterfalls, and heaps of fallen rock.
12. Yorkshire Dales
The gritstone and limestone scenery of the Yorkshire Dales cover 683 square miles, and make the Yorkshire Dales the third largest National Park in the United Kingdom. The variety of landscapes include picturesque villages, archaeological sites, wild moorland, and many areas of upland.
13. Hadrian’s Wall Path
The path runs from the suburbs of Newcastle to the Solway Firth, and follows Britain’s most iconic Roman monument: Hadrian’s Wall. The path stretches 84 miles across northern England’s most barren terrain. All in all, it’s a fabulous archaeological walk with plenty of ruins to spot.
14. North Wessex Downs
The North Wessex Downs include significant areas of chalk downland and the iconic white horses of the area. Visitors can also visit the stone circle at Avebury, and Silsbury Castle. You’ll see sheep, rare butterflies, and a variety of beautiful flowers.
15. Isle of Wight
The Isle of Wight is actually much bigger than you’d expect: 24 miles from east to west. It has 60 miles of coastline and a wide variety of landscapes. The island’s best known landmarks are the Needles and the colored sands of Alum Bay. However, the most popular part of the island for walkers is the westernmost part, with fewer villages and more nature.
16. Forest of Bowland
The Forest of Bowland, located in northern Lancashire, is wild upland and cultivated valleys. While essentially part of the main Pennine range, the area is dominated instead by gritstone fells and large areas of heather-covered peat moorland. Pendle Hill is worth climbing, as it offers exceptional views over the Yorkshire Dales to the north.
17. Norfolk Coast Path
Also called Peddars Way, this National Trail is a total of 150km long, and remains close to sea level. This makes for a gentle walk that isn’t too strenuous. There are various other trails along the coastline, and these are made easily customizable due to bus routes nearby.
18. Cotswolds Way
The Cotswolds Way is just over 100 miles of walking with long distance views. It’s a challenging route, but there are other trails in the area that are suitable for those looking for gentler routes.The trails lead through villages, so it might be tough to avoid ducking into a pub or two along the way.
19. Thames Path
The Thames Path, unlike the rest of the trails on this list, is urban, leading through the heart of London along the River Thames. The trail follows the river for 184 miles to the sea, passing through rural villages, historical towns, through the heart of London and ending at the Thames Barrier.
20. Lizard Peninsula
While you probably won’t see any real lizards while walking around this peninsula, you will view the spectacular coastline, complete with exotic subtropical plants, rugged caves, and exquisite coves. While the area is small, you could easily spend days happily exploring the coastline’s many crevices.