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A historic hike in the footsteps of Norse invaders — Viking Way

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A historic hike in the footsteps of Norse invaders — Viking Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

10-21

days

3-6 h

/ day

156 mi

5,475 ft

5,100 ft

The Viking Way explores a region of England that was occupied by Norse invaders in the 9th century, which came to be known as Danelaw. With countless historical sites, endless tranquil countryside, chocolate-box villages and a sumptuous sense of solitude throughout, this long-distance hike truly allows you to step back in time.

Starting in the shadow of the mighty Humber Bridge, the Way heads south into the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) before snaking west along the Bain Valley to Horncastle, onto Woodhall Spa via the Spa Trail and through Witham Valley to the cathedral city of Lincoln. The route then goes southwest to Long Bennington and onto Woolsthorpe by Belvoir before heading south through farmland past Buckminster, Thistleton, Greetham and Exton to Rutland Water and finally bending west to finish in Oakham.

While this route explores three counties — Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Rutland — it spends the majority of its time on the characteristically level landscapes of Lincolnshire. For the most-part, the trail follows public footpaths, bridleways and green lanes, with some brief sections on quiet lanes and roads. As such, there is never anything too challenging, making it a good choice for all abilities.

Danelaw began with Viking invasions into England in the 9th century (however, the term was not used until the 11th century). It describes a regional area and set of legal terms created in the treaties between Alfred the Great, the King of Wessex, and Guthrum, the Danish warlord, written after Guthrum's defeat at the Battle of Edington in 878. The Treaty of Alfred and Guthrum was formalised in 886, defining kingdom boundaries and paving the way for peaceful relations between the English and the Vikings.

Highlights along the Way include: Humber Bridge, an awe-inspiring suspension bridge across the Humber Estuary; Far Ings Nature Reserve, a brilliant place to spot migratory birds; Horncastle, a quintessentially-English market town famed for its antiques; Snakeholme Pit Nature Reserve, a haven for butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and water voles; Lincoln, with its breathtaking cathedral, impressive castle and iconic Steep Hill independent shopping street; Woolsthorpe Lock, a picturesque spot on the Grantham Canal; Belvoir Castle, a historic fortress and stately home in beautiful gardens; Rutland Water, the largest man made lake in England by surface area; countless historic churches and other buildings; plus plenty of beautiful riversides.

The Viking Way is 147 miles (237 km) long. However, with some clearly-marked detours to worthy sites, this Collection totals 156 miles (251 km). I have divided the route into 11 stages of between 11 - 16.8 miles (17.7 - 27 km) per day. I opted to tackle the Way from north to south but there is nothing stopping you hiking the other direction.

There is accommodation and opportunity for food and drink at the end of each stage. In more remote areas I have given advice on potential alternatives, however. Advance booking is essential. The Way is fairly well-served by accommodation and eateries throughout, making it easy to divide it into as many days as you feel comfortable with.

As the route follows established trails through low landscapes, it is possible to hike the Viking Way at any time of year. Sturdy boots and waterproofs are recommended in all seasons. As a lot of the trail is in open countryside with little tree cover, sunscreen and a hat are advisable in summer. Each hike is fairly well served by pubs, cafes and shops to resupply. Even still, be sure to bring enough food and drink as refreshment opportunities are not always abundant.

The start of the route is linked to the Yorkshire Wolds Way (to see a Collection on this trail, click here: komoot.com/collection/895632) and the end is linked to the Rutland Round trails, meaning you can extend your hike you feel like it.

As the Way starts and finishes in places with railway stations, it is super easy to access by public transport.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    06:16
    15.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 1 begins in the shadow of the mighty Humber Bridge before taking you on a journey through wildlife havens, pretty villages and tranquil North Lincolnshire countryside.

    From Barton, the trail heads west along the Humber, a mighty estuary formed by the rivers Trent and Ouse. On this section, you pass underneath the awe-inspiring Humber Bridge, which was the longest …

  • Difficult
    07:14
    16.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,050 ft
    850 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Expect historic buildings and fine views on this stage, which takes you into the Lincolnshire Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

    With 16.8 miles (27 km) to cover and 1,050 feet (320 m) of elevation gain, stage 2 is the toughest in the Collection. (For a suggestion on how to split the hike, read on.)

    From Barnetby le Wold, …

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  • Intermediate
    04:35
    11.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Gentle countryside, historic villages and a sumptuous sense of serenity await on this stage, which takes you into the heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

    You leave Barnetby le Wold after crossing the River Rase and zig-zag southeast along footpaths to Ludford. Next, take lanes to Wykeham Pond, cross the River Bain head east briefly before looping around and hiking south. …

  • Difficult
    05:26
    12.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    475 ft
    625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Stage 4 takes you through the southwestern tip of the Lincolnshire Wolds to the quintessentially-English market town of Horncastle, a place synonymous with antiques.

    The hike starts by heading south along the Bain Valley to Gouleby. You then hike east to Scamblesby before rising and falling through farmland and following the River Waring to Belchford, a small village with a …

  • Difficult
    06:12
    15.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    175 ft
    250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage takes you along pretty riverbanks, past impressive steel sculptures and beside a nature reserve that has Britain's greatest concentration of small leaved lime trees.

    From Horncastle, head south along the Spa Trail on the banks of the River Bain, with Banovallum Carr Nature Reserve on your right. Cross via the bridge and hike along the opposite bank until …

  • Difficult
    06:04
    14.7 mi
    2.4 mph
    400 ft
    200 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 6 winds through wildlife havens, into patchwork farmland and by riversides to the cathedral city of Lincoln, where history and culture combine spectacularly.

    Leave Bardney north along lanes and then take footpaths to Snakeholme Pit Nature Reserve, a haven for butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and water voles. A short section along Bardney Road brings you to Stanfield before the trail …

  • Difficult
    05:07
    12.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    450 ft
    425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This hike explores some of Lincoln’s most prized sites before crossing the River Witham and heading south into level rural charm once again.

    Starting in the shadow of the breathtaking cathedral, the Way heads straight to Lincoln Castle, a mighty structure that was built by William the Conqueror in 1068. The trail then descends Steep Street, which is famous for …

  • Difficult
    06:39
    16.0 mi
    2.4 mph
    450 ft
    600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You really step back in time on this route, which explores 12th-century churches, an iconic windmill and follows a Roman Road through peaceful Lincolnshire countryside.

    Before leaving Wellingore, it is worth checking out some historic sites in the village: Wellingore Windmill, a Grade II-listed structure built in the early 19th century; and All Saints Church, a 12th-century place of worship …

  • Intermediate
    04:54
    11.7 mi
    2.4 mph
    425 ft
    300 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Peaceful riversides, tranquil countryside, historic buildings and chocolate box villages all combine on this route, which brings you to Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir.

    From Marston, head west along footpaths through peaceful countryside. On the outskirts of Westborough, cross the River Witham and once again a short time later into Long Bennington, which boasts the 11th-century All Saints Church.

    After crossing over the A1 …

  • Difficult
    05:59
    14.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    850 ft
    600 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 10 takes a brief detour to explore Belvoir Castle and the picturesque village of Knipton before heading south along the boundary of Lincolnshire and Leicestershire and finishing in the latter.

    The hike begins with a detour to Belvoir Castle, a historic fortress and stately home that was originally built after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Nestled within extensive grounds …

  • Difficult
    06:48
    16.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage steps into the county of Rutland; taking you along the picturesque shores of Rutland Water to finish in the historic town of Oakham.

    Leave Sewstern along the lane and then take a series of green lanes and footpaths southeast to Thistleton. You then take a path through fields around Kendrew Barracks and follow a lane into Greetham. …

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Questions and Comments

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    11
  • Distance
    156 mi
  • Duration
    65:15 h
  • Elevation
    5,475 ft5,100 ft

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A historic hike in the footsteps of Norse invaders — Viking Way

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