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Planning a long distance walk

Emily Thompson By Emily Thompson

There’s nothing more exciting than heading out the door on an adventure, especially walking a long distance trail. If you’ve never tackled a long distance trail there’s plenty to consider and lots to choose from, so where do you start?

Hadrian's Wall

Planning your route

There’s hundreds of trails across the UK to choose from, from those that span the mountains to others that circle a whole parish or district. If you’ve never done a long distance trail before, the National Trails are a great first step.

With 16 routes to choose from, they are very well sign posted with a little acorn symbol, easy to follow on OS Maps and also have a great range of books written about them. Most of the National Trails are also well catered for with public transport links along the way if you want to break them into sections.

You can read more about my journey along the Pennine Way.

If you fancy something a little shorter or closer to home the Long Distance Walkers Association has a fantastic map which shows all of the trails in the UK and where you can find more information about them and if you're member, download the GPX file to upload to OS Maps.

Most popular long distance paths are already on OS Maps, along with thousands of other great trails to help you plan a fantastic walk. Select 'Find routes' and filter by duration, distance, difficulty and rating.

How many miles a day are you comfortable walking will help you decide what length trail to choose.

Find routes in OS Maps

When do you want to go?

Spring and Autumn can often be good times to do a long distance walk as it’s not too hot or cold and the paths are often quieter than in summer.

How many days do you want to walk?

Can you find a route which can be achieved in the number of days you want to walk? Are you comfortable you can walk the distance you need to cover each day to achieve this?

Where are you going to stay?

Are you going to stay in Bed and Breakfast accommodation along the way, or carry a tent and camp?

Think about how far you want to walk in a day and where you might be able to reach – is there accommodation or campsites there?

Campsites are usually marked on the map. If you’re staying in accommodation, do an internet search for the place you want to stay to see what there is in the area. Sometimes you might have to walk a little way off the route to find something, but doing this can often result in finding a really special place to stay.


Travel to the start and finish?

Is it a linear walk where you need to consider how you will get from the start and finish?

Many of the long distance walks start in villages and towns which are well served by public transport, so you can often leave a vehicle at one end and head back there when you finish, or do away with the car entirely!

Many of the National Parks put on additional bus services over the summer period to reduce the number of cars travelling in to the area, consider making use of these and reducing your carbon footprint.


British countryside

Clothing and equipment

In summer you might find yourself carrying everything from sunglasses and suncream and a waterproof jacket, in winter you’ll need to carry full wet weather gear and warm clothing. Read our ultimate guide to layering to help you prepare your clothing.

Consider also that you will need a rucksack big enough to carry your additional kit for staying over (depending how many nights you are doing). If this is your first long distance trail and you don’t want to carry all your kit, you can consider using one of the many baggage transfer services which exist. They’re relatively inexpensive but do only cover the popular trails, but its worth searching them out if your concerned about carrying kit.

Basic kit includes the following...

Public footpath sign
Our Hiking Checklist

Navigation

Is the route you intend to walk going to be well sign posted?

Many well-known long distance trails are well signposted with disc markers and footpath signs, but don’t rely on these as they can often disappear on the less well used sections of even the most popular routes.

Are you going to need good navigational skills? Some long distance trails which cross mountain passes are not clear to navigate in poor weather. If you want to brush up on your navigational skills you can find some fantastic course providers and take a look at our free map reading guides.

Remember to download your route onto your device prior to setting off so you can easily navigate on the go. OS Maps gives you access to 607 OS paper maps on and offline on any device.

Long distance walks are a great achievement however you choose to do them, so get out there and have a great time!

Explore with OS Maps Free map reading guides More on walking

Published 03/09/2019. Edited 23/03/2021.

Emily Thompson By Emily Thompson

About:

When she's not romping over the mountains Emily works for a charity inspiring positive changes and providing second chances to young people.

You can find out about Emily's adventures here.

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