Top 10 walking vacations in England

From ancient pilgrimage routes to mountain tracks, Englandís green and pleasant land holds a myriad of walking trails. Through ancient towns steeped in folklore, to panoramic coastal lookouts, by way of historic inns and superb local grub, our favourite trails will take you through some of this countryís most special places. Routes are walkable all year round (but this is England, so pack some waterproofs) and enjoy putting your best foot forward on our top 10 walks in England.

1.The Thames Path

Following the course of the River Thames from the sleepy Cotswolds to stately Greenwich, London, the Thames Path offers 290km of gentle walking on flat, riverside trails. This is a journey of contrasts; on your way, honey-coloured thatched villages and rolling countryside give way to the life and noise of central London. Historic Oxford and Windsor Castle are iconic English highlights.

2. The Pilgrimís Way

Youíll walk in the footsteps of Chaucer on this ancient pilgrimage route to Canterbury Cathedral. Steeped in folklore, the 192km long Pilgrimís Way stretches from historic Winchester, along the entire length of the North Downs. Youíll walk between some of Kentís oldest and prettiest villages and visit stately homes with family ties to Jane Austen, staying at historic inns en route.

Our top trip: Winchester to Canterbury pilgrimage walk
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3. Kennet and Avon Canal Towpath

Enjoy easy walking along a 75mile route, perfect for a relaxing week-long vacation. The Kennet & Avon Canal Towpath will take you from Reading to beautiful Roman and Regency Bath, via pretty waterside pubs, historic villages and engineering marvels. Relics of old warehouses and the impressive Caen Hill flight of locks tell tales of the canalís industrial past.

Our top trip: Kennet and Avon Canal Towpath Walking Vacation, England
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4. Coast to coast

When organised by experts, this 300km walk from the Irish Sea to the North Sea via the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales becomes surprisingly manageable. Start out on the Cumbrian coast, crossing the Pennines and following the River Swale to North York Moors National Park, before finishing in picturesque Robin Hoodís Bay. Family-owned hotels, traditional B&Bs and pubs ease you along your way.

5. The South West Coast Path

In its entirety the South West Coast Path takes in just over 1,000km of Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall coastal perfection. Tackle sections rather than the whole shebang; the 107km Cornish stretch from Bude to Newquay offers you dramatic clifftop vistas and the quaint fishing port of Padstow, or follow Dorsetís Jurassic Coast and search for fossils on its sweeping beaches.

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6. The South Downs Way

The South Downs form Responsible Travelís back garden so we have a lot of love for the steep chalk escarpments, coastal panoramas and thriving market towns that make up the UKís newest National Park. Youíll enjoy spectacular views from the South Downs Way, the 160km trail forming the spine of the park, from Winchester to the sheer chalk cliffs of Beachy Head outside Eastbourne.

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7. Two Moors Way, Devon

This long-distance Devon coast to coast route, the ĎTwo Moors Wayí, is 165km from Plymouth to Lynmouth, through remote and unspoilt countryside that has inspired everyone from the Romantic poets to Conan Doyle. You wonít encounter any slavering hounds chasing around these moors, but wildlife including adders and kingfishers are frequently seen. Easygoing itineraries allow plenty of time to stop and drink in the views, as you walk between handpicked, locally owned accommodations, your bags transferred ahead of you.

8. Hadrianís Wall Path

Step back in time to Roman Britain as you walk along one of Englandís most historic monuments. Stretching for 135km from Wallsend on Englandís east coast to Bowness-on-Solway on the west coast, the Hadrianís Wall Path offers you relatively easy and clearly way-marked trails through remote countryside, perfect if you prefer self-guided adventures. Relics of ancient Roman forts punctuate your route.

Our top trip: Highlights of Hadrianís Wall walking vacation, England
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9. Norfolk Coast Path

Leisurely days of wandering interspersed by lunches of delicious, locally caught brown crab, all washed down with Norfolk ale Ė sounds like walking heaven. The 75km Norfolk Coast Path from Hunstanton to Cromer makes for a delightful, relatively gentle weekís vacation, with superb sea views, sleepy coastal villages and some of Englandís best seafood. Add on the Peddars Way from Thetford for 154km of uninterrupted Norfolk bliss.

Our top trip: Norfolk Coast Path walking vacation, England
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10. The Cumbria Way

This route stretches 131km from Ulverston to Carlisle, via some of the Lake District National Parkís most evocative places: Coniston, Borrowdale, Great Langdale, Bassenthwaite Lake, Derwent WaterÖ The list of natural beauty on this trail just goes on and on. Skirting lakes and valleys, with towering fells rising above you, the Cumbria Way offers you surprisingly easy walking in a region best known for its dramatic, rocky slopes.
Written by Sarah Faith
Photo credits: [Page banner: Luke Porter] [Thames Path - Henley: Edmund Gall] [Pennines Way - Coast to Coast: Ian Cylkowski] [Dartmoor: Liam Richards] [The Cumbria Way: YorkshirePhotoWalks]