About the Trail
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.
Exploring the Trail
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.
What is special about the Trail?
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 also incorporates the Pilgrim’s Way – an historical route from Winchester to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury 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.
Several ferry companies currently operate from Dover port connecting to Calais and Dunkerque. There is a regular shuttle bus service from Dover Priory railway station to the Eastern Docks Ferry Port.
London Gatwick and Heathrow Airports are both within an hour’s drive of the start of the Trail at Farnham.
From Heathrow Airport, take a rail-air coach link to Woking railway station where you can catch a direct train to Farnham.
From Gatwick Airport, take the Gatwick Express to London Victoria station and transfer to London Waterloo for rail services to Farnham.
By bus or train
The North Downs Way is one of, if not the most, accessible National Trail by public transport with over 30 train stations on or near the Trail.
HS1 high speed train services connect London to Rochester, Ashford, Folkestone, Dover and Canterbury. Journey times from central London are around 1 hour to 90 minutes.
Train services to Farnham are provided by South West Trains with direct trains running to Aldershot, Alton, Woking, Surbiton, Clapham Junction and London Waterloo. Farnham is also served by coach and local buses.
From the end of the Trail at Dover there are regular train services from Dover Priory train station to London.
National Express operates frequent coach travel between London and Dover.
You can find up-to-date information on bus services at www.traveline.info.
For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk or www.thetrainline.com
The rail and motorway infrastructure run in the same corridor as the North Downs Way National Trail, and although rarely seen or heard, you’re never far from a train station or major road network.
The Trail runs close to the major motorway networks of South East England.
The starting point at Farnham is just off the A31 and the end point at Dover is located on the A2 and near the M20 motorway.
Access by car via M25/M26/M2 and M20 is straightforward either from mainland Europe arriving in East Kent, or from London airports.
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.
Download and print a list of accommodation for each section of the Trail.