Passing through the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs from Farnham to Dover, the North Downs Way offers magnificent views and fascinating heritage, following the legendary and historic Pilgrim’s Way. Explore the North Downs Way for three days, a week or even longer. Find inspiration for your walking adventure using our suggested itineraries, or select one of our bookable itineraries which are highlighted with a star.
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Cutting across the South East of England, the North Downs Way National Trail offers walkers 153 miles (246 km) of spectacular scenery, picturesque villages and glorious countryside, easily accessible from London.
Running from Farnham to Canterbury and the White Cliffs of Dover, the Trail passes through two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs, and along the famous Pilgrims Way (or Pilgrim’s Way) from Winchester to Canterbury – one of England’s most famous cities.
You’ll discover history every step of the way: there are eight castles, three cathedrals, three archbishops’ palaces and numerous stately homes and gardens close to the Trail. After a day of exploring, you can sample English ales flavoured with Kentish hops at traditional English country pubs and inns, or try sophisticated wines from one of the various local vineyards.
The North Downs Way can be enjoyed at any time of the year and the most popular direction to walk the Trail is from West to East, although many travellers arriving in Folkestone and Dover choose to walk the route in the opposite direction.
Much of the Trail follows relatively level ground but around the scarp slope of the North Downs there are a number of inclines rewarded by fantastic views across the High Weald. The section from Guildford to Reigate with St Marthas, Albury Down, White Down, Box Hill and Colley Hill is more challenging.
The National Trail passes fascinating Neolithic sites, Roman and Napoleonic forts and WWII fortifications, the ancient city of Canterbury – home to the world-famous Canterbury Cathedral – and the historic seaside towns of Folkestone and Dover.
The North Downs Way features two ancient Pilgrims routes. The Pilgrim’s Way is a historical route from Winchester to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral in Kent. Thomas Becket was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1162 until his murder in 1170, and for more than 200 years his shrine at Canterbury became the most important in the whole of the UK. The route between the Port of Dover “the Gateway to England” and Canterbury retraces the steps of Archbishop Segeric who travelled this route in 990AD from Rome to Canterbury on what is now known as The Via Francigena, the UK’s only European Cultural Route.The historic route is also rich in landscape, from the high chalk ridge of the North Downs, a rare grassland habitat for Orchids, bees and butterflies found only in Kent to the ancient woodlands of the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs which are carpeted with bluebells in early spring. The trail bursts out onto the White Cliffs at Folkestone with magnificent views across the English Channel and Dover Castle sitting above the historic Port.
This National Trail passes through the very best landscapes – places you may want to explore for several days at a time. From cosy country inns to characterful cottages, we’ve got your accommodation near the North Downs Way covered. You can find accommodation along the trail by using our interactive map.
Turn a walking weekend into a modern-day pilgrimage and visit some of England’s grandest castles, stately homes, churches, abbeys and its foremost cathedral at Canterbury...
Feeling inspired? Build a bespoke itinerary and start planning your visit to this great National Trail here.