Long Distance Paths

For most people who enjoy walking most walks are completed within a few hours of a day - a morning or afternoon. If you belong to a walking club this might be extended to a whole day. There is another level of walking - to walk on successive days to complete a trail. At this time of making resolutions day walkers often set themselves the target of undertaking a long distance path (LDP).
 

Before the arrival of rail transport if you had to travel say from Gloucester to London like Dick Whittington (we're still in the pantomime season hence the reference)

 

you did it on foot. Only the rich could afford a horse. Gloucester to London is a distance of 114 miles and the likelihood is that young Richard would have walked it in about three days. People walked faster in the past - easily 4mph. This was John Hillaby's speed when he walked from Land's End to John o' Groats in the mid-1960s recounted in the classic travel book "Journey Through Britain". When I first reflected on his assertion that 4mph was his walking speed I doubted it comparing it to my less than impressive but pretty average 4kph (2 ½ miles) but now I am more inclined to believe it - in past times people walked quicker.

The Land's End to John o' Groats is the Ultimate Long Distance route in the UK - indeed a journey through Britain. Depending on the chosen line it will not be less than 850 miles and can be over 1,000. In planning such a venture you need to consider its logistics. There's the question of transport to the start and from the end - by rail in the region of £300. Then there is accomodation to think about for the 60 or 70 days it will take say at an average of £35 - well over £2,000 unless you are a hardy backpacker. Add food at a moderate £15 per day and the experience of walking Land's End to John o' Groats will set you back between £3,000 and £4,000. Hmmm. I'll wait until Channel 5 offer me a TV series. Incidentally the record for someone covering the End to End route on foot is held by Andy Rivett who did it in 9 days 2 hours and 26 minutes.
 

Walking on successive days has its appeal. There is something deeply satisfying about seeing a landscape roll out before you as you progress to the night's stop. For the day walker wishing to step up to this type of walking the question is where to start?

Most people have heard of the Pennine Way (268 miles) and the Coast to Coast (192 miles) LDPs. Absolutely nothing wrong with these routes but for the novice trail walker both demand a big commitment - 19 days for the Pennine Way and about two weeks for the Coast to Coast.
 

Keeping matters in proportion to what is reasonable I would like to suggest three LDPs as entries into the rewarding activity of trail walking. Locally the Pendle Way at 45 miles is a most attractive route and could be completed over the course of a Bank Holiday weekend. As it is circular the logistics are simplified and there is decent accommodation available.

 

My second suggestion is St Cuthbert's Way between Melrose in the Scottish Borders and Lindisfarne on the Northumberland coast.

 

At 62 miles this will take between 4 and 5 days. The final stage involves waiting for low tide to cross by the Pilgrim's Route making for a memorable end to the walk.

 

The West Highland Way in Scotland sounds as if it might be more demanding but is not apart from being longer. It will take a week - especially if you tag on ben Nevis at the end after reaching Fort William. It starts on the edge of Glasgow at Milngavie and is 96 miles long. Aside from giving you the spectacle of the Scottish Highlands without too much climbing

 

accommodation along the route is plentiful making it an easy trail to plan.

However none of the above answer the basic question "Can I walk two days in a row?" For this I would thoroughly recommend the Limestone Way in Derbyshire - the original classic route from Matlock to Castleton. At 26 miles long the reasonably fit day walker can divide this into two days with an overnight at Monyash its midway point.

 

The White Peak offers superb and enjoyable walking in an area of outstanding scenic beauty.

If you have yet to make a resolution for 2018 resolve to walk from Land's End to John O' Groats but before you do try the Limestone Trail first.