- The National Trails
- Cleveland Way
- Cotswold Way
- England Coast Path
- Glyndŵr's Way
- Hadrian's Wall Path
- North Downs Way
- Offa's Dyke Path
- Peddars Way / Norfolk Coast Path
- Pembrokeshire Coast Path
- Pennine Bridleway
- Pennine Way
- South Downs Way
- South West Coast Path
- Thames Path
- The Ridgeway
- Yorkshire Wolds Way
Trail Information and FAQs
We have tried to provide answers to the most common questions about the Trail here. If you can't find the information you are looking for please contact us directly and we'll do our best to help.
About the Trail
The North Downs Way National Trail offers walkers 153 miles (246 Km) of spectacular scenery, picturesque villages and glorious rolling countryside, passing through the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. You don’t have to walk the Trail in one go to enjoy the best it has to offer. There are a number of circular walks based on the Trail for everyone to enjoy.
You should aim to take twelve days to complete the Trail. This allows a comfortable 13 miles a day. The trail has steep ascents and descents in places, and more energetic climbs up Box and the Colley Hills in Surrey and those in the Mid Kent Downs.
The fastest time we're aware of to complete the Trail is 9 days, by Adam West and Tom Clark in 2016. We're sure someone out there has done it faster, but they are the only ones who have told us their time! Thanks chaps.
As with all National Trails there is a variety of terrain. Much of the Trail is along relatively level ground but remember the North Downs Way follows the scarp slope of the North Downs and does go up and down it a few times.
The section from Guildford to Reigate with St Marthas, Albury Down, White Down, Box Hill and Colley Hill is more challenging.
There is a dedicated team looking after the North Downs Way. The Trail is funded by Natural England and Kent and Surrey County Councils. The Public Rights of Way Teams in Kent and Surrey look after the physical maintenance.
Kent County Council operates a volunteer warden scheme incorporating the North Downs Way. For more information visit the Kent County Council website.
In Surrey volunteers are generally managed by supervised groups such as the Ramblers Association, carrying out a range of path maintenance tasks. Visit Surrey County Council's website to find out more.
Exploring the Trail
The Trail is catered for by a range of accommodation types from bunk barns at Puttenham and Thurnham to exclusive country manors such as at Eastwell Manor. It is always advisable to book your accommodation in advance especially during summer months. See the Plan Your Visit page for accommodation information
There are not many campsites along the trail and wild camping isn't allowed. However farmers and owners of pubs may allow you to camp on their land if you can obtain their permission first, check on CampInMyGarden.com. Camping barns also offer an alternative low cost option.
Campsites are shown on the interactive map on the Plan Your Trip page. You can also see a list of campsites here.
We are not aware of any companies offering baggage handing on the North Downs Way. There are companies that offer full self-guided packages including baggage handing - see the Holiday Operators page.
If you offer baggage handling on the North Downs Way, or know of a company that does, please contact us.
The North Downs Way can be enjoyed at any time of the year, although some sections can become muddy in wet weather so dress appropriately.
The best direction to walk the Trail is from West to East, although you’ll have to decide how to travel the loop to Dover.
Mobile reception is fairly good near to main towns but the more rural patches do have black spots. We recommend using your provider's online coverage checker before setting out if mobile reception is important to you.
The entire North Downs Way follows a series of defined Rights of Way along which you have a legal right of access.
An acorn is the symbol of the National Trails and it will be found on a variety of waymark discs, wooden pointers, metal finger posts, stiles, fences and on free standing posts. The use of coloured arrows combined with the acorn clarifies who can legally use the route.
A yellow arrow indicates a footpath for use by walkers only and where it is not permitted to cycle, ride or drive a vehicle. 48% of the North Downs Way is footpath.
A blue arrow indicates a bridleway which can be used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders but not vehicles. 20% of the North Downs Way is bridleway but unfortunately not in lengthy sections at a time which means cyclists and riders keen to experience the Downs must make use of other Rights of Way in the area as well which are designated for them.
A red arrow indicates a right of way which is open for walkers, cyclists, horse riders and motorists to use although there may be local restrictions to some vehicle use. 13% of the North Downs Way is classified in this way although not in any lengthy sections at a time so those interested in exploring the Downs along these routes should make use of other routes in the area as well which are designated for them.
To report a problem on the trail go to the Report a Problem page. From here you will need to identify where the problem is on the map and add some details. If you want to be informed about progress to resolve the problem please add your email address.
Trail staff aim to resolve problems as quickly as they can, but some things do take a long time. Please be patient if you do not see immediate resolution.
Who can enjoy the Trail
The North Downs Way is predominantly for walkers. However of the 153 miles (246 kilometres), 31 miles (50 kms) are public bridleway, 21 miles (33 kms) are Byway or Restricted Byway and 30 miles (48 kms) are metalled road. Horse riding and cycling is not permitted on footpaths.
Contact the Trail Officer for more information on which sections are open to cyclists and horse riders.
There are a number of SUSTRANS National and Regional Cycle Routes such as The Surrey Cycleway (NCN 22) and Pilgrim's Cycleway (NCN 17) which are good alternatives, also (NCR 2, NCR 16 & NCR 18) which closely follow the route of the NDW.
Both Surrey and Kent provide a range of horse riding and cycle options to enable you to plan your route to ride on, or alongside the North Downs Way.
Explore Kent http://explorekent.org/activities
This route between Rochester and Canterbury can be followed here: http://explore-kent-bucket.s3-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/uploads/2015/03/03123421/pilgrims-cycle-trail.pdf
For more information on horse riding please visit:
Bridleway Map: http://www.bridlewaymap.com/
Your dog is welcome on the North Downs Way. Please take care when walking through areas with livestock especially when lambs and calves are present.
Cows with calves are very protective and can be aggressive towards dogs. Try to avoid walking close to cows with calves, if you encounter any aggression release your dog, do not try to pick it up.
There are several byways along the North Downs Way some of which are covered by Traffic Regulation Orders – this means that vehicles are no longer permitted to use them.
The North Downs Way passes through a variety of terrain, with some steep slopes and rough surfaces making the Trail not suitable for people with limited mobility.
We welcome organised events on the North Downs Way. In the interests of maintaining the excellent quality of the Trail, and linked routes, we request that you:
1) ensure participants are aware of the Countryside Code.
2) arrange for a 'sweeper crew' after the last person has gone through, picking up any litter and temporary signage left on the Trail or other rights of way that you're planning to use.
3) report any problems and their locations, such as damaged surface, overgrown vegetation or broken / missing signage.
In return, we'll help publicise your event through our online presence and provide local contacts (if you need them and if we have them).
If you plan to organise a large event, ie one with more then approximately 50 participants, then please contact the Trail Officer. It is important that they are aware of your event. A large number of events use the Trails, the Trail Officer can advise you to ensure your event does not clash with any other event or major works that may affect or close parts of the Trail. You will be asked to contribute a minimal donation of £1 per entrant for paid events. 20% of your donation goes to support the website and promotion of National Trails, including promotion of events and 80% goes to the Trail.
If your event is using roads, or is likely to take over whole villages or car parks, please consult the Highways Authorities (Kent, Surrey or Medway), local Borough or District councils, and local Village or Town Councils.
What is special about the Trail
The North Downs Way is one of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales. National Trails are designated by the Secretary of State and are administered by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, and managed by the local authorities and National Park Authorities whose area they pass through.
Most National Trails have a dedicated Trail Manager responsible for maintaining the high quality standards on the Trail. National Trails are waymarked with the distinctive “acorn” symbol.
National Trails are special because they pass through some of the best landscapes, and they are managed to a very high standard. Because of this you can be confident that any journey you make along a National Trail will be one of the best you have taken.
Natural England sets quality standards for National Trails and their management. You can find out more on the Natural England website.
The North Downs Way passes through a landscape of great variety. There are eight castles, three cathedrals, three archbishops’ palaces as well as numerous stately homes and gardens close to it. The trail follows part of the Pilgrims Way and there are many churches and links to pilgrims who would have travelled these parts in Medieval and more recent times. There are also Neolithic sites, Roman and Napoleonic forts, Medieval castles and WWII fortifications. The North Downs can be considered the ideal natural defence having protected London from invaders from across the Channel. The views from the scarp across the High Weald are spectacular, as is the countryside through which it passes.
Much of the trail follows the legendary Pilgrims Way. Originally pilgrims travelled from Canterbury to Winchester to pray for St Swithun who was buried at the cathedral. The route was then used in reverse as pilgrims journeyed from Winchester to Canterbury Cathedral to pray at the shrine of Thomas Becket.
Modern day pilgrims and people simply out to enjoy some of the finest scenery in South East England now use the North Downs Way and the route takes the traveller through a rich tapestry of heritage and history.
The Pilgrim's Way and the North Downs Way follow the same route at times however, the North Downs Way is a National Trail, a walking route maintained to high quality standards and way marked with the National Trail acorn symbol.
The Pilgrim's Way as shown on maps in the area is a series of minor roads that run along the bottom of the downs. It was established in the Victorian era and runs between Winchester and Canterbury. Much of this route is filled with traffic and isn't pleasant to walk. It isn't a separate waymarked route for walkers.
We recommend that for a pilgrimage between Winchester and Canterbury you follow the St Swithun's Way to Farnham and then the North Downs Way to Canterbury.
Maps, guides, certificates and merchandise
The official Guide Books for the National Trails are produced by Aurum Press. The guides are regularly updated and all details are checked by the trail managers. The books include sections of Ordnance Survey 1:25,00 maps and are the very best accompaniment to your walk. You can buy them from the National Trails shop.
As well as a guide book we recommend a good quality map and you can buy these in paper or digital format - to browse the maps and books available please visit the Maps and Guide Books page.
Yes – you can get one from Explore Kent - follow this link and complete the questionnaire.
There aren’t currently any videos of the North Downs Way.
How to add information to the Trail map
Anyone can add information to the website. We hope that people who have enjoyed the National Trails will want to share their good experiences and that businesses will promote their services by adding information to the map.
You can add information to the map. This includes:
- Points of interest or attractions
- Services - for example shops, pubs, vets, cycle hire shops etc
- Details of your accommodation business
- Events - for example farmers’ markets, village fetes, guided walks
- Information to help horse riders or cyclists such as busy road crossings or water points
To add content you will need to sign up – click the join button in the top right corner. You’ll need a username and an email address. We won’t give your email address to anyone, we’ll only use it if you need a password reminder or if we need to contact you directly. For more information read our data protection policy.
Once you’re signed in you can add information to the map by clicking here.