The North Downs Way follows an ancient pilgrim trail through rolling countryside and wild woodlands, over breathtaking escarpments and past 3,000-year-old ruins to finish on the iconic White Cliffs of Dover, gazing over the twinkling English Channel.
The inspirational 153-mile (245-kilometer) journey begins in Farnham and passes through the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the coast at Dover. The Way explores an enchanting landscape that is rich in beauty, heritage, wildlife, and folklore.
As you hike along this spectacular route, you are following in the footsteps of pilgrims dating back almost 1,000 years. However, many of these trails have been used for more than 3,000 years and the evidence of past civilizations is everywhere.
Along the way, you can see Bronze Age burial sites, Roman fortresses, churches dating back to the 11th century and beyond, Second World War bunkers, plus more. You also pass through internationally-important nature reserves and woodlands, all filled with rare wildlife and plantlife.
At Boughton Lees, the North Downs Way splits in two. The most direct route goes through Wye, over the Downs to Folkestone and along the cliffs to Dover. The alternative follows the hills to the historic city of Canterbury, along the Barham Downs, through Shepherdswell and Waldershare Park to Dover. Both options are shown in this itinerary and the Canterbury Loop is marked as such.
Every stage finishes close to accommodation, even if there are only a few options nearby. However, places to stay are not always abundant so it is worth planning in advance and scheduling any rest days accordingly.
In this itinerary we break the North Downs Way into 10 stages (11 stages for the Canterbury Loop). Of course, you can split up each stage into as many days as you are comfortable with. You can also walk any single stage, or a couple of stages, in isolation. Almost all of the trail is within easy access of London and has good transport links.
On some of the lengthier stages, there is a suggestion on the best way to split the route into a more manageable distance.
If you are planning to arrive by public transport, you can catch a train to Farnham Railway Station, which is served by direct trains from London and has connecting services around the country. To get home, Dover Priory railway station has direct trains to London and connections around the UK.
As with all long distance hikes, arriving by car is not the most sensible option. However, if you do decide to, your best bet is to negotiate with a hotel or B&B a rate to stay for a night either side of your hike in Farnham and leave your car for the duration. You can then catch a train from Dover back to Farnham, via London. Alternatively, there are long stay car parks in Dover that you could park at and catch the aforementioned train to start the hike.
For more information about the North Downs Way, visit: nationaltrail.co.uk/north-downs-way.
For train timetables and tickets, visit: thetrainline.com.
The first stage of the North Downs Way makes for a leisurely introduction to the trail.
A sculpture marks the spot where the 153-mile (245-kilometer) trail begins its journey from …
This stage starts by following the Pilgrims Way, a historical route from Winchester to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury.
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This challenging stage will test your fitness and endurance.
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This stage takes you across county lines from Surrey into Kent.
From Oxted, the trail descends to Oxted Quarry and then climbs through the Titsey Plantation.
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With a sizeable distance and a tough terrain, this stage will really test your mettle.
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You hike deeper into Kent along this stage on a journey filled with history and nature.
After skirting along the southern edge of Ranscombe Farm Nature Reserve, you soon cross …
You see some very historical buildings on this stage, including a castle that has been described as ‘the loveliest in England’.
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With a flat terrain and a more-than-manageable distance, you will find this to be a very leisurely stage.
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As you begin your journey along the Canterbury Loop, you will be joining a rich history of ancient pilgrimage.
Travelers have walked this trail for hundreds of years to pay …
Canterbury is one of the most popular tourist destinations in England and is a wonderful place to explore at any time of year.
With a rich history, beautiful architecture, a …
The final stage of the North Downs Way on the Canterbury Loop is another leisurely hike, allowing plenty of time to explore Dover.
Whilst it is just under nine miles …