The North Downs Way

The Start

The North Downs Way is a 153 mile route from Farnham in Surrey to the Coast at Dover in Kent. The route is one of fifteen National Trails in England and Wales and a great one for weekend walkers or campers as it is easy to split up into sections ending at train stations which serve London, but equally it’s possible to walk in one go stopping off at campsites or B&B’s.

A brief history of the North Downs Way

The North Downs Way was created in 1978 running through 2 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Surrey Hills and the Kent Downs.  The route is often compared to the Pilgrims Way as the route goes West to East with the opportunity to go through Cantebury Cathedral but although it follows much of the Pilgrims trail it is a different route along the ridge of the North Downs which is more scenic.

The route was updated to create a split east of Boughton Lees allowing the walker to choose two routes to Dover.  Either East through Canterbury past the Cathedral or South and East through Folkestone taking in the White Cliffs of Dover in the final miles.

The Route Sign at Farnham

The Route Sign at Farnham

 Planning your journey

Although the route is well sign posted its worth taking a map or guidebook with you to ensure you are on the right route and to see where you can cut off route to a local town or village.  I recommend the National Trail Guides: North Downs Way which I used, this was updated in March 2013 and it contains detailed Ordnance Survey maps of the route complete with local information and turn by turn instructions.

Many including the guide book recommend splitting the route into 15 stages (if you are to complete both routes at the split to Dover).

Start Finish Miles
Farnham Guildford 11
Guildford Westhumble 13
Westhumble Merstham 10
Merstham Oxted 8
Oxted Otford 11.8
Otford Cuxton 15
Cuxton Detling 12.5
Detling Lenham 14.9
Lenham Boughton Lees or Wye 11.1
Wye Etchinghill 18.1
Etchinghill Dover 12
Boughton Lees Chilham 5.9
Chilham Canterbury 7.2
Canterbury Shepherdswell 10.4
Shepherdswell Dover 8.5

Though the Guide book is sufficently detailed that you are able to plan your own stages.  The suggested 13 or so miles a day is easily achievable with an average walking pace of 2.5 – 3 mph in 5 hours allowing you time to stop and take in the sights or enjoy various tea rooms and attractions along the route.  However keener walkers may want to create their own route as some of the days are a little short.

At the end of each section the guide lists Public Transport, Refreshments and Toilets, and Accommodation.  The accommodation is predominantly Hotels, B&B’s and Hostels but there are a few campsites scattered along the route.

To do the full 153 North Downs way you need to complete both paths where the route splits at Boughton Lees/Wye.  For this you could either do the second leg in reverse once you get to Dover or return to Wye by train to start heading to Dover again on the other spur.

Your Say

Have you walked the North Downs Way?  Leave your tips in the comments, what was your favourite part?  Know a good tea room?  Leave a comment.

North Downs Way Guide

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