Advice for long distance walkers

Gritstone TrailBritain is a great country for extended walking breaks and long distance walking. There are plenty of established and signed routes to follow, such as National Trails, or, if you are feeling adventurous, you can devise your own route using the local footpath network.

If you’ve got the walking bug but want to try something more ambitious than short walks and day trips, here are some tips to get you going.

Choosing your trail

Start out by choosing a well-established trail that will be easy to follow, making sure the route is signed on the ground and shown on Ordnance Survey maps. It’s useful to refer to a written guide as well but not all trails with a written guide are signed on the ground so look for one that is.

Choose a trail on easy terrain to start with. Some trails will be challenging, with sections in rugged and remote country, and should only be attempted by experienced and well equipped walkers. Some challenging routes may also require good navigation skills, even if they’re signed.

You could devise your own route between two specific points rather than walking a single trail, but this will require some research. A good resource is the Long Distance Walking Association’s UK Trail Walker’s Handbook which includes overview sketch maps of major trails showing how they connect. You can also use Ordnance Survey maps to plan a route on local footpaths.

Building up to a long distance walk

Remember you don’t have to walk all of a trail in one go. Trails in or near urban areas can be broken up into a series of day walks using public transport. More remote trails can often be tackled as a series of weekend or longer breaks.

Practice before you commit yourself. Try a series of day walks over the same daily distance you plan to walk on your chosen trail, over similar terrain if possible and carrying a similar load.

Planning out your walk

Think about how far you aim to walk in a day and divide up the route accordingly. Don’t set yourself too high a target – if you exhaust yourself one day you probably won’t enjoy the next! On a walk in rugged country you could even put yourself in danger.

Strong walkers usually cover at least 4km/2.5 miles per hour on good ground, but will need to add around 30 minutes for every 300m of height gained. It’s easy to be slowed down by difficult path surfaces, obstructions and blockages, navigational mistakes or sheltering from bad weather.

Don’t forget to add time for meal breaks, rests, enjoying the scenery and visiting interesting places along the way. Many long distance walkers plan on covering 15-25km/10-15 miles a day in good conditions, although it is be a good idea to do less until you have a better idea of your abilities.

Check the distances involved carefully. Trails are often designed to go by the most attractive and interesting rather than the most direct route, so the distance may well be longer than by road.

Guidebooks, websites and information centres should have information about public transport along the way. You can find public transport information online through Traveline and Transport Direct.

What to take with you

Take general maps of the area you’ll be walking through as well as a guidebook, and don’t rely on signs which may be eroded or vandalised. Ramblers members can hire Ordnance Survey maps from our map library.

Unless you use a luggage transport service you’ll be carrying more weight than on a day walk, which may slow you down and possibly tire you out quicker.

Coming soon!

We're adding long distance trails to Ramblers Routes - our online library of walking routes. Independent walker

Cotswold Outdoor