North Downs Way National Trail
201 km / 125 miles
The North Downs Way National Trail broadly follows the historic Pilgrims Way along the Downs to Canterbury. The first 14 miles are over sandy countryside to the south of the Downs. The Downs are first reached at Newlands Corner, east of Guildford and from there on the Trail mainly follows the crest of the southern escarpment of the North Downs or footpaths and tracks along their lower slopes. There are views over the Weald to the South Downs and several steepish ascents where the ridge is cut by valleys, notably those of the Mole at Box Hill, the Darent at Otford, the Medway at Rochester, and the Stour near Wye.
Generally the route provides comparatively easy walking through woods, over chalk grassland and, especially in Kent, through orchards and farmland.
At Boughton Lees there is a choice of routes. The direct one goes through Wye, over the Downs to Folkestone and along the cliffs to Dover. The alternative follows hills to the west of the river Stour and passes through orchards and the picturesque village of Chilham to Canterbury. From the cathedral city it heads south-east via Barham Downs, Shepherdswell and Waldershare Park to Dover. Canterbury Cathedral, St Augustine's Abbey, and St Martin's Church form a World Heritage Site.
The waymarked Thames Down Link (15 miles and on OS mapping) connects the Thames Path at Kingston with the North Downs Way near Westhumble along a green corridor through Malden Manor, Horton Country Park, the Commons of Epsom and Ashstead, and Mickleham Downs.
The Pilgrims Way is an ancient track between Winchester and Canterbury. Though not itself a single promoted long distance path, it is approximated by the St Swithun's and North Downs Ways though the Pilgrims Way often keeps to the spingline. The link below has more detail of this route and its extension inot Europe, the VIa Francigena. The North Downs Way signposts from Canterbury to Dover include the logo of the Via Franigena. a pilgrim.
The LDWA National Trails Register offers certificates for completers of several British National Trails.
See also E-Routes (E2).
Publications, Badges and Certificates:
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