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Hike through 3,000 years of heavenly history — North Downs Way

cajaygle (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Hike through 3,000 years of heavenly history — North Downs Way

Hiking Collection by komoot

9-20

days

3-6 h

/ day

142 mi

10,650 ft

10,650 ft

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.

On The Map

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
    Difficult
    05:13
    12.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    675 ft
    750 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    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 …

  • Difficult
    05:39
    12.9 mi
    2.3 mph
    975 ft
    950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage starts by following the Pilgrims Way, a historical route from Winchester to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury.

    From Guildford, you cross the River Wey (north branch) …

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  • Difficult
    07:52
    17.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,975 ft
    1,400 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This challenging stage will test your fitness and endurance.

    With 17 miles (27 kilometers) of distance and nearly 2,000 feet (610 meters) of ascent and descent, it certainly is a …

  • Difficult
    06:01
    13.7 mi
    2.3 mph
    900 ft
    1,425 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    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.

    Once you emerge from …

  • Difficult
    07:11
    16.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,450 ft
    1,625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    With a sizeable distance and a tough terrain, this stage will really test your mettle.

    The enchanting beauty, rich history, and abundant wildlife should serve as a reward for your …

  • Difficult
    05:27
    12.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,275 ft
    950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    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 …

  • Intermediate
    04:22
    9.85 mi
    2.3 mph
    925 ft
    800 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You see some very historical buildings on this stage, including a castle that has been described as ‘the loveliest in England’.

    Before you leave Detling, it is worth having a …

  • Intermediate
    04:44
    11.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    250 ft
    625 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    With a flat terrain and a more-than-manageable distance, you will find this to be a very leisurely stage.

    From Lenham, you soon arrive at Lenham Cross, a chalk cross set …

  • Difficult
    06:40
    15.3 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,025 ft
    1,100 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 …

  • Intermediate
    04:37
    10.9 mi
    2.4 mph
    575 ft
    350 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    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 …

  • Intermediate
    04:19
    9.93 mi
    2.3 mph
    650 ft
    725 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    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 …

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    11
  • Distance
    142 mi
  • Duration
    62:07 h
  • Elevation
    10,650 ft10,650 ft

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Hike through 3,000 years of heavenly history — North Downs Way