When you walk along the historic wonders of Hadrian’s Wall, or down a Cotswoldian valley where an ancient inn, local ale and roaring fire await, you realise that England’s ups and downs don’t always have to refer to its political upheavals. Its uplands and lowlands both proffer something very special and, being so accessible from its towns and cities, walking holidays in England are often just a heartbeat away.
With more and more people seeking to unplug and have a digital detox these days, active England tours are also helping them escape the noise. Once our walkers hit the likes of the magnificent Coast to Coast Path and its three national parks, or the South West Coast Path with its plethora of peninsulas, cliffs and coves, they see not only England’s fine natural heritage but also an array of welcoming communities committed to sustainability, biodiversity and, ultimately, tranquility.
Where to go
Hadrian’s Wall Path
Unlike the Coast to Coast Path, people usually walk Hadrian’s Wall Path from east to west, starting in Newcastle on the North Sea and completing their Roman ramble of 135km at Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. Also a UNESCO site, walking Hadrian’s Wall Path is a journey not only to historic sites such as Vindolanda and Housesteads Roman forts but also through natural triumphs such as Northumberland National Park. One of the final stretches is walking along the River Eden into Carlisle, the ancient city just 13km south of the Scottish border.
Walk the wilder spots of the ‘wolds’, meaning gentle hill in ancient English, or wander through some of their prettiest market towns and villages on a Cotswoldian circuit starting and ending in Bath. Whichever way you choose to walk in the Cotswolds, walking holidays in England don’t get more quintessentially English than these. The iconic honey-coloured architecture, flower-filled meadows and fecund markets are just some of the big Os that make up the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Cotswolds Way is the perfect way to seek out pastoral perfection, covering an undulating and undeniably charming 163km.
Coast to Coast Path
Traditionally walked west to east, the Coast to Coast Path leads you between the sandy stretches of St Bees on the Cumbrian Coast and Robin Hoods Bay at the foot of the North York Moors National Park. This is just one of three national parks that the colossal 293km Coast to Coast Path covers, the others being the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales. So although this is in no way a walk in just one park, you don’t need to be Bear Grylls to take on the challenge. Walk the whole thing gently in 16 days, or break it up into a west and east segment, staying in charming hotels and inns along the way, while having your luggage transferred for you.
South West Coast Path
This is a coastal spectacle on steroids, and also the UK’s longest walking trail at over 1,000km that clings to the coasts of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. It’s a piñata of peninsulas, a celebration of coves and joined up thinking at its most joyous. The South West Coast Path is also one of the most outstanding walking holidays in England, with our self-guided tours taking you along three Cornwall segments of the Path. Take them on separately or combine all three for a bit of slow and sublime south western wanderlust.
Things to do
- Travel solo on one of our self-guided walking holidays in England, supported by expert teams along the way, who not only transport your luggage but are also a daily contact. Most of our English walking holidays, from pilgrimages to long-distance paths, are not too strenuous, and so although you do need to have a fairly good fitness level and be comfortable reading maps, you don’t need to feel concerned about having a fellow walker alongside for guidance or support. Just enjoy the peace and your own pace. Solo travellers are charged a supplement in most places mainly because the cost of transfers isn’t always shared with others, but individual rooms are available in our small, friendly hotels.
- Pack your swimming gear in your backpack to give our active England tours aquatic added value. You may need a few suits on the South West Coast Path, of course, with glistening bays beckoning at every turn. Wash off the dust of wanderlust in Robin Hood’s Bay after completing the Coast to Coast Path and the Cotswolds have their fair share of lidos, including at Cirencester and Cheltenham. One of the country’s finest art deco lidos can also be found on the South West Coast Path in Penzance.
- Our England tours are not just about walking through the country’s wilder spots, such as the North York Moors National Park or the Lake District, but they are also often topped and tailed by visits to historic towns and cities. Celebrate near completion of Hadrian’s Wall in the ancient city of Carlisle, for example, a walled fortress city that has seen Romans, Celtic and Viking influences. The Romans also played a big part in the development of the elegant city of Bath, the last stop on the Cotswolds Way. The Pilgrim’s Way through the Kent Downs culminates in the great cathedral city of Canterbury, and our Shakespeare’s Way walking holiday has its prologue in Stratford-upon-Avon and epilogue in Oxford.
Responsible travel tips
- Shop locally for all your needs when you can, from soap to socks, snacks to backpacks. Markets in the Cotswolds, for example, are brimming with local produce, mountain gear shops along the Coast to Coast Path will welcome your business and cream tea shops along the South West Coast Path or pubs along Hadrian’s Wall Path are bastions of English culture.
- One of the joys of our England walking holidays is that many of them can be accessed by train. Leave the car and cares behind at home, starting the Coast to Coast Path by train to St Bees, and heading home by train from Newcastle, or connect with a number of train stations along the South West Coast Path and add the Night Riviera Sleeper train between London and Cornwall into the adventure.
- If you want to include some wild swimming on your walking holiday in England, the water pollution app Safer Seas and River Service, operated by Surfers Against Sewage is an invaluable source of information. Always double-check that there are no warnings against wild swimming in certain places eg. in the loughs around Hadrian’s Wall, such as Greenlee Lough which is an important bird habitat, and Broomlee. Never swim alone, read up on any tides or current weather information, and always stay close to the shore.
The conservation and preservation that goes into keeping England’s walking trails green, pleasant and open are thanks to many different organisations, many of which come under different trail umbrellas. Please donate to one of them when you have enjoyed the fruits of these organisations’ labour, on the donations page of the South West Coast Path, National Trust’s coastal appeal, National Trails donations, or to the RSPB which protects wildlife habitats across England.