The North Downs Way
Follow in the footsteps of pilgrims on an inspirational 153 mile journey from Farnham to Canterbury and the White Cliffs of Dover through a beautiful landscape rich in heritage.
The North Downs Way is one of only 15 designated National Trails in England and Wales and has a diverse appeal for many unique reasons. Passing through 153 miles of stunning and diverse landscapes and through the protected landscapes of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the Kent Downs AONB the North Downs Way makes for a great place for a family day out, a short walk, ride, a really good ice cream or a life-changing long distance walk.
• Well maintained and signposted
• Easily accessible from London, South East England and Europe
• Free to access and provides healthy outdoors education & enjoyment for all ages
• Multiple places of interest and visitor attractions along the route as well as food, drink and accommodation services
• Unique landscapes and wildlife in protected settings in chalk grassland, hills, forest and coastline
• Cultural and Historic Significance – pilgrims tracks, Cathedrals and ancient churches
The North Downs Way provides tranquillity from the daily grind, lying just south of London and the urban populations of South East England it is the most accessible of the National Trail lying outside of the Greater London borders With visitor attractions and country parks dotted along the route there are plenty of reasons to escape stress and noise of modern urban living. Users can walk a short section or use the trail to link between towns and villages or take a country walk around a specific place of interest.
A unique landscape
The North Downs Way presents a diverse and unique landscape, following a chalk ridge that winds over hills and grassland, passing through valleys and ancient woodland and along the White Cliffs to the Dover coastline. The route passes through many protected sites of specific scientific interest (SSSI) and is home to a number of rare species (notably orchids and butterflies) hard to find anywhere else in the UK.
Pilgrims and World Heritage
Much of the trail follows the legendary Pilgrims Way. Originally pilgrims travelled from Canterbury to Winchester to pray for St Swithun who was buried at the cathedral. The route was then used in reverse as pilgrims journeyed from Winchester to the world heritage site around Canterbury Cathedral and St Augustines Abbey to pray at the shrine of Thomas Becket, as a result there are many churches and links to pilgrims who would have travelled these parts in Medieval and more recent times. The route from Canterbury to Dover follows the Via Francigena European Pilgrimage route to Rome, re-tracing the route Archbishop Segeric took in 990 AD.
Fortifications, Palaces and Defences
Aside from the cathedrals you will find archbishops’ palaces as well as numerous stately homes and gardens on, or near to the main route. There are also Neolithic sites, Roman and Napoleonic forts, medieval castles and WWII fortifications. The North Downs can be considered the ideal natural defence having protected London from invaders from across the Channel. The views from the scarp across the High Weald are spectacular, as is the countryside through which it passes.
Love the Trail? You could be one of our North Downs Way Ambassadors and help us to share this wonderful National Trail. We’re running a free training programme to help local outdoor enthusiasts in Kent and Surrey to turn their walking hobby into professional, engaging guided tours. So if you’re a local legend, hike hero or nearby business wanting to expand your knowledge and customer off this could be for you. To find out more please visit our web page and apply by 5pm on the 20th August.
To find out more about the North Downs Way watch our video or to plan your North Downs Way adventure see the National Trails website here. For shorter circular walks on and around the Trail in Kent, search “North Downs Way” at www.explorekent.org