Long walks are a remedy for clearing minds, soothing souls and improving physical fitness – all currently in demand. But exploring an area with your own two feet is also the ultimate way to travel freely, leaving speed and stride to personal choice.
May’s National Walking Month is an excuse to step up pedestrian activity by embarking on multi-day hikes or shorter strolls, slowly absorbing beautiful scenery along the way. Ranging from tough trails to easy ambles, the UK and Ireland has a variety of options. Here are some new routes to try – whatever your pace.
Padding along Paddy’s trail
Follow in the footsteps of Sthe 5th century missionary St Patrick, on a new tour along the Pilgrim’s Way and the medieval town of Downpatrick, with commentary provided by guides from the Saint Patrick Centre.
The 18-mile path can be completed in a day (or two half days), and covers highlights such as the world’s only St Patrick Exhibition, the largest statue of St Patrick in the world, Patrick’s first church in Ireland, and the first Healing Wells in Ireland at Struell.
The Saint Patrick’s Way Downpatrick Camino guided walk costs £65 per person, including lunch. A reasonably high level of fitness is recommended. Visit saintpatrickcentre.com.
Pilgrims of the north
Tipped to be the UK’s answer to Spain’s classic pilgrimage route the Camino de Santiago, six new Northern Saints Trails bring to life tales of Britain’s holiest heroes – all rooted in the Durham region’s Christian heritage. The 28-mile Way of Love focuses on three important female figures, St Hilda, St Helena and St Mary Magdalene, travelling from Hartlepool to Durham and covering some of the most important nature reserves in the north east.
The 30-mile Angel’s Way, meanwhile, traverses Tyneside from a site that once housed St Cuthbert’s remains, to works of modern art and architecture, including Antony Gormley’s triumphant Angel Of The North.
For detailed route maps and suggestions of where to stay and what to do, visit northernsaints.com.
Hiking through history
During the 1700s, coves and cliff crevices along the south coast provided useful hiding spots for smugglers, but today, only legends and folklore remain. Using a virtual app, this three-day self-guided tour retraces their footsteps and explores the best of the South Downs, starting in country town Lewes and finishing in Eastbourne. Part of the route follows tracks used by Churchill’s tank in the Second World War, now paved with peaceful paths and meandering rivers. Trails also wind through ancient woodlands, where inhabitants include the burnt orchid, barn owl, chalk carpet moth and the rare barbastelle bat.
Accommodation covers a range of country pubs, where luggage will be waiting when you arrive.
Pied A Terre Adventures (patadventures.com; 01403 788 994) offers The Eastern Wander break from £325pp (two sharing), including B&B accommodation and bag transfers.