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E-Routes: UK and Europe

Over the past 15 years or so eleven European Long Distance Paths have been established that cross several countries and are each several thousand miles in length. The E-Routes are initiatives of walkers’ and ramblers’ groups in many European countries, who are members of the European Ramblers Association (ERA). In the UK both the Long Distance Walkers Association and the Ramblers’ Association are members of the ERA. The ERA itself and many of its member organisations in mainland Europe are largely run by unpaid volunteers and this should be borne in mind when contacting them.

The following sections summarise the development of the three E-Routes (E2, E8 and E9) that include sections in the UK, listing the constituent paths that make up these UK sections, and identify the main sources of information about the routes, some of which is available on the Internet. E-Routes are being marked on OS mapping as new editions are issued.

E-Routes in the UK

Currently three E-Routes, E2, E8 and E9, go through Britain.

The E2 runs from Galway to Nice. The 3030 miles (4850 kilometres) route starts in Stranraer, then goes through Southern Scotland, with variants through Eastern England and the Netherlands or Central and Southern England and Flanders to Antwerp, then Ardennes, Luxembourg, Vosges, Jura, Grande Traversée des Alpes (this section is the well-known GR5) to Nice.

The E8 is a 2740 miles (4390 kilometres) route from East Cork in Ireland to Istanbul, crossing England from Liverpool to Hull along the Trans Pennine Trail, then via Rotterdam, Aachen, Regensburg, Vienna, Bratislava, through Southern Bulgaria to the Turkish Border.

The E9, the ‘European Coast Path’ from France to Estonia, has been extended along the South Coast of England, bringing the total distance to some 3100 miles (5000 kilometres).

Development of the European Long Distance Paths

The European Ramblers Association (ERA) was founded in 1969 to act as an international umbrella organisation for all the major national walking organisations throughout Europe. One of its first tasks was to link member countries together by means of a series of long distance footpaths, designated as E-Routes. They link together established routes in member countries/regions to form international routes, with the aim of encouraging cross-border walking, thereby furthering contacts and understanding among the peoples of Europe. At first there were only 6 routes but as organisations from more countries joined, the number has now risen to 11 (E1-E11). There is no European 'standard' for these routes and the designation, waymarking and maintenance of the individual sections is the responsibility of the organisations in the country or region concerned. The waymarking in the UK is mainly that of the underlying routes.

The E-Routes currently total over 53,000 kilometres in some 20 countries, extending from Estonia and Poland to Portugal and from Sweden to Greece. In continental Europe, routes are linked via a border crossing; with countries like the UK, where there are no land borders, the links are via ferry ports.

Ever since the concept of establishing these European Long Distance routes in the UK was raised, the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) has not only taken an interest in, but has been closely involved in the establishment of these routes as the implementing body in the UK.

Constituent Paths of E-Routes within the UK

In the development of these E-routes within the UK no new footpaths have been created: all three routes (E2, E8 and E9) use existing, often well-established long distance paths that have been linked together along with a few relatively short linking sections to create the final route.

The paths that make up the two E2 main variants, and the E8 and E9 sections comprise:

E2 (Eastern Variant: Dover – Stranraer)

North Downs Way National Trail, Dover to Guildford; Wey-South Path and Wey Navigation, Guildford to Weybridge; Thames Path National Trail, Weybridge to Oxford; Oxford Canal, Oxford to Kirtlington; Oxfordshire Way, Kirtlington to Bourton on the Water; Heart of England Way, Bourton on the Water to Cannock Chase; Staffordshire Way, Cannock Chase to Rushton Spencer; Gritstone Trail, Rushton Spencer to Disley; Peak Forest Canal, Disley to Marple; Goyt Way, Disley to Compstall; Etherow/Goyt Valley Way, Compstall to Broadbottom; Tameside Trail, Broadbottom to Mossley; Oldham Way, Mossley to Standedge; Pennine Way National Trail, Standedge, via Middleton in Teesdale where the Central/Southern section joins, to Kirk Yetholm; St Cuthbert’s Way, Kirk Yetholm to Melrose; Southern Upland Way, Melrose to Stranraer.

Some short linking sections are not yet waymarked.

E2 (Central/Southern Variant: Harwich – Stranraer)

Essex Way, Harwich to Dedham; Stour Valley Path, Dedham (via link path) to Stetchworth; Icknield Way, Stetchworth to Linton; (Roman road link not included in the Handbook, Linton to Cambridge); Fen Rivers Way Cambridge to Ely; Hereward Way, Ely to Rutland Water; Viking Way, Rutland Water to Barton-upon-Humber; (Humber Bridge, Barton-upon-Humber to Hessle); Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail, Hessle to Filey; Cleveland Way National Trail, Filey to Guisborough; Tees Link|, Guisborough to Middlesbrough; Teesdale Way, Middlesbrough to Middleton in Teesdale; joint section Pennine Way National Trail, Middleton in Teesdale to Kirk Yetholm; St Cuthbert’s Way and Southern Upland Way, (as above).

E8 Trans Pennine Trail, section from Hull to Liverpool.

E9 Dover to Plymouth

Saxon Shore Way, Dover to Rye; 1066 Country Walk, Rye to Jevington; South Downs Way National Trail, Jevington to Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP); Staunton Way, QECP to Broadmarsh; Solent Way, Broadmarsh to Portsmouth.

For the E9 from Portsmouth there are mainland and Isle of Wight (IOW) variants:

Mainland variant: Solent Way, Portsmouth to Lymington on Sea and Milford on Sea; (Local routes, the Bournemouth Coast Path, waymarked, Milford on Sea to Poole); Sandbanks Ferry, to Studland; South West Coast Path National Trail, Studland to Plymouth.

IoW variant: Ferry, Portsmouth to Ryde; Isle of Wight Coastal Path (IoWCP), Ryde to Bembridge; Bembridge Trail, Bembridge to Newport; (Local route, Newport to Carisbrooke); Tennyson Trail, Carisbrooke to The Needles; Isle of Wight Coastal Path (IoWCP), Needles to Yarmouth; Ferry, Yarmouth to Lymington; then as the mainland variant to Plymouth.

Sources of Information on E-Routes

Where we have the individual route’s information online on this site you can find more detail on the path page – use the links above or search for the route.

This breakdown of the routes along with further information on each can also be found in the UK Trailwalker’s Handbook and the Long Distance Path Chart 2002 Edition, both researched and produced by the LDWA. Details of these two publications are elsewhere on this website and can be ordered from our online shop. This Handbook includes in its Details of Routes section a brief summary of each of the component routes listed above, along with the publications and their sources and the maps that are needed to follow them on the ground. The Chart (a large topographic map), produced by Harvey Maps in conjunction with the 2002 Handbook, shows the course of each of the three E-Routes in the UK. The E-Routes are being shown on OS mapping as new editions are completed.

The LDWA informs its members about updates as new publications are produced for the constituent routes, through the LDP News features that appear regularly three times a year in its members’ journal, Strider.

If you are looking for more information by means of the Internet, the website of the European Ramblers Association at www.era-ewv-ferp.com is an excellent source of information on E-Routes, both in the UK and the overall European network. It includes schematic maps of the full European network and of each route individually, indicating which sections are completed and the development status of the planned sections and it includes a description of each E-Route, and links to the sites of the responsible organisations in each country, supported by lists of route publications and sources of local information and it gives an idea of the terrain on each section. Translation facilities are included on the site as its users come from many countries.

As set out on the ERA website, there is a more detailed 1:3,500,000 map of the E-paths network as a whole, produced by Freitag & Berndt of Vienna. This includes a separate booklet with more details on the routes (German only), and should be obtainable through map retailers or, in case of difficulty, from the ERA's office. The ERA website should however be consulted for the development status of each section.

Three overview books in German have recently been published: Auf Tour in Europa by Hans Jürgen Gorges, published by Deutscher Wanderverlag (Kompass) ISBN 3-8134-0338-6; Europäische Fernwanderwege by Frank Auerbach, published by Steigerverlag of Augsburg (ISBN 3896521772); and Auf Europa's Grossen Wegen: Wandern und Kultur by Robert Wurst, published by Styria of Graz.

Acknowledgement is given to the ERA for material from the ERA’s website used above.

The UK Ramblers’ Association (RA) website at www.ramblers.org.uk has pages on the UK sections of the E-Routes, with descriptions of the constituent paths and links to the individual path pages elsewhere on the RA site, that in turn provide links to local authorities, tourist information centres, ferry services and some publishers, and path-related accommodation information can also be obtained from the same site or from the RA’s annual ‘Yearbook’ publication that also covers the E-Routes.

A significant part of the E-Routes in the UK is comprised of sections of several of the National Trails, as named in the lists above. There is a common entry website for these routes at www.nationaltrail.co.uk that links to the sites for each trail, where publication and accommodation information can be found.

Many of the other major constituent routes have websites of a user group or association for the route while many are covered on the sites of their local authorities. The links on our details pages take you to useful sites that provide one or more of the following: outline route information, sources of leaflets or guides, maps – sectional or route schematics, and downloadable route descriptions or leaflets.

More and more routes are developing their own websites while at the same time the search engines (such as www.google.com) are improving in scope and effectiveness, and it is well worth searching for data directly from the Internet by this means, for example by simply entering the route name. This will often lead to other useful links to local authority and tourism sites. A useful entry site to the local authorities own sites is http://www.direct.gov.uk/Dl1/ Directories/LocalCouncils/fs/en from which one can follow the links to search alphabetically.