Explore the North Downs Way Riders' Route

North Downs Way Riders Route


Take time to ride the North Downs Way Riders’ Route, your way. The liner route across the Kent Downs and Surrey Hills Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty winds through lush countryside, rolling hills and leafy lanes, offering magnificent views and numerous historic sites to enjoy on the way 365 days of the year.

Quiet and almost traffic free, our riders’ route is easy to follow, family friendly and – above all – absolutely beautiful. It can be broken up into easy to manage sections so you have the choice of testing your skills as a cyclist on challenging hills or just enjoying the scenery on a pretty family day out on two wheels or even four legs!

Cycle the North Downs Way

Cycle the riders’ route

You’ll find accessible trails along ancient routes that pass eight castles, three cathedrals, three archbishops’ palaces, award-winning vineyards and breweries, sculpture trails, chocolate-box villages, and plenty of cosy country pubs and cafés.

It’s also easy to hop off and on the route with great accommodation options to choose from along the way and numerous train stations nearby, so you can zip down from London with your bike and be immersed in natural beauty in less than an hour.

You can find out more about travelling with bikes on trains with this helpful advice from Southeastern

Finding the perfect pit stop along the way is a breeze with Cycling UK’s accredited Cycle Friendly Places, and you can guarantee a warm welcome. Even if you’re not a seasoned cyclist, there are lots of cycle hire options available for people visiting for the day. 

Horse riding

Horse riding on the riders’ route

The North Downs Way Riders’ Route is also available to horse riders. Further consultation work is underway to test and enhance the route for these audiences in the future. We advise horse riders to assess the routes based on their own requirements and knowledge.

As we all look for more sustainable ways of travelling, cycling and horse riding is a great way to get out and about in nature and discover new places.

If you want to experience the beauty of the Kent Downs and Surrey Hills at a gentle pace, or are simply itching to take your bike for a spin or your horse for an adventure, The North Downs Way Riders’ Route is ready when you are.

Tour Overview






Moderate to Challenging


Hills / countryside / vineyards / woodland / coast / beaches


Historic / Beer & Wine / Pilgrimage


Fully rideable route

Riders' Route - Full Itinerary

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your trip on the North Downs Way. Click on the blue arrow tabs below for more information. To save this itinerary to view later, use the Save to My Rucksack button at the top of the page.


The North Downs Way is fully explorable on two wheels, or four legs thanks to our new Riders’ Route itinerary.

The 153-mile national trail through the Kent Downs and Surrey Hills Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) has undergone enhancement works in the past year to make it more accessible for both keen and amateur cyclists and horse riders. It can be tackled in one go for experienced riders, or broken up into sections. 


Wind your way through the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, exploring the landscape that inspired Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and passing through woodland nature reserves, chalk grassland, and the babbling River Wye, spotting rare wildlife and fauna on the way.

This section does have a couple of steep climbs and challenging sections, but can be taken at a leisurely pace for less experienced riders.  And the jaw-dropping panoramic views from the top of the likes of Box Hill will be your well-earned reward. Take a moment to soak up the scenery at the public sculptures like Optohedron, Radius and Coccolith.

Country pubs are a-plenty on this stretch, plus this is also wine country with vineyards open to visitors for tours and tastings.

You’ll pick up the ancient Pilgrims Way Merstham to Oxted, and take a gentle climb onto high farmland past the Victorian folly Whitehall Tower and on to the Kent Surrey border. The town of Oxted has a train station, and plenty of places for refreshment or rest so you’re ready to tackle the next section of the trail. 

To download full details and section specific information, click here.

This section of the North Downs Way Riders’ Route takes you deep into the Garden of England, around ancient structures and along pilgrimage routes for an incredible journey across the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and aspiring Cross-Channel UNESCO Global Geopark.

Swap tarmac in Oxted for dirt tracks through the West Kent woodland as you set off on this section of our Riders’ Route. Here you will pass historic sites such as Sir Winston Churchill’s home Chartwell, and more lush vineyards and rolling fields, before our trail merges with the historic Pilgrims’ Way.

This historic route taken by pilgrims from Winchester to the shrine of Thomas Becket in Canterbury was actually thought to be in existence since the Stone Age, following the natural causeway on the southern slopes of the North Downs. The mystical reminders of ancient times are a joy to behold, such as numerous Long Barrows and megalithic burial sites, as are the memorials to both pilgrims and soldiers who once travelled this way.

Crossing the River Medway, you descend into ‘ The Garden of England, with much easier terrain allowing for easy family rides or a faster pace.  

This section finishes in the chocolate-box village of Wye, once a Roman camp but now a vibrant community with fantastic riverside pubs, train station and staggering views from the famed Devil’s Kneading Trough (if you fancy one last climb!) .

To download full details and section specific information, click here.

Head out from Wye and up to the Kings Woods, a 1,500 acre ancient forest that is dotted with outdoor sculptures that are part of the new Arts Trail and offers sensational views across the Downs and all the way to Canterbury. This spot is carpeted with bluebells in the spring, a sight not to be missed.

Passing by Jane Austen’s former stomping ground at Godmersham, the beautiful Tudor-framed village of Chilham awaits for refreshment. The traffic-free Pilgrim’s Cycle Trail winds easily along the Great Stour and through the Whitehall Meadows Nature Reserve and Hambrook Marshes; a great place for spotting kingfishers, herons and even the elusive snipe!

The bustling medieval city and UNESCO World Heritage Site Canterbury is a sight to behold, and is the perfect place for a pause, a pint and even a bed for the night. The Cathedral, Westgate Towers and Roman ruins are a must see for, and the night-time culture and hospitality are hard to resist.

After your stop in Canterbury, the route heads southeast along the ancient Via Francigena pilgrimage route that stretches from Canterbury to Rome.

Heading through agricultural land and orchards, you’ll spot plenty of pretty village churches and the old heritage railway line – and keep an eye out for Kent’s famous oast houses, once used for drying local hops for the county’s famous ales.

A Roman Road will deliver you to Dover, one of Britain’s best-known ports along the south coast and home of the iconic White Cliffs and Dover Castle. Kent’s Heritage Coast was even voted as one of the best places to visit by Lonely Planet in 2022! Existing from Roman times to the 20th century and surviving two World Wars, the landscape is steeped in history and warrants a lengthy stop to explore the scenery.

Out of Dover you will pass the Samphire Hoe Nature Reserve, created in 1997 at the foot of the White Cliffs using chalk marl excavated from the creation of the Channel Tunnel. So at only 25 years old, it’s one of the ‘youngest’ locations in England!

Continuing along the cliff tops the route passes by a (concrete) sound mirror, and The Battle of Britain Memorial at Chapel-le-Ferne. Continuing inland, if you aren’t tempted off route by Terlingham Vineyard, you will appreciate fine views over Folkestone from this elevated position.

Heading north-west, the route follows a variety of quiet roads, bridleways, and byways until delivering you to the Wye Downs Nature Reserve, where you can dismount and explore the incredible viewpoint on foot, before rolling a short distance down into the village of Wye to complete your own personal North Down’s pilgrimage.

At various points along this section, there are opportunities to pick up the Cantii Way Loop (see the optional route tabs).

To download full details and section specific information, click here.

For those looking for an easier start for section 3, follow this ‘River Stour alternative route’ which heads north-east along the valley floor.

Following the course of the River Stour, this route option makes use of the more gentle slopes and the better surfaced trail along the National Cycle Network no.18 route.

The River Stour, also known as the Kentish Stour, is the second longest river in Kent, rising from springs on the Greensand ridge in Lenham and flowing around 57 miles (92 kilometres) to the North Sea at Pegwell Bay, near Sandwich.

The route runs parallel to the South-Eastern Railway, which was first opened in 1846 and remains a popular link between Ashford, Canterbury and Margate, until you come to Catha’s Seat.

These large solid oak wooden chairs have built-in cycle parking slots for your bicycle wheels, and were built in memory of cyclist and campaigner Catherine Keegan, who had campaigned to create this cycle route between Ashford and Canterbury.

So, take a moment to sit back and enjoy the spectacular countryside views from the seats provided and pay thanks to, and appreciate her efforts.

From here you can join the ‘main’ East Kent Loop route by the village Chartham, continue on your journey Canterbury bound.

If you have the time and energy, make a little detour to the delightful tudor village of Chilham, it will be well worth the effort.

To download full details and section specific information, click here.   

This short excursion into Rochester provides a wonderful addition to those traversing the North Downs Way Riders’ Route, with a couple of castles, a cathedral, a historic shipyard and numerous other fascinating properties! It’s also a great place for rest and re-stocking.  

Leaving the route and heading north along the Pilgrim’s Way trail on quiet back roads, the National Cycle Network will guide you into the streets of Rochester.

Riding along the River Medway you pass along the old city wall to the pier near Rochester bridge, where you can either head out to beautiful Upnor Castle and its quaint little village, or to head straight into the heart of the city to follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens.   

Climbing Castle Hill delivers you to the wonderful sight of the castle, cathedral and city wall, with their cobbled streets. You can also hop on a cycle path out to the Historic Dockyard Chatham and Fort Amherst for a dose of maritime and military history.

When it comes time to leave the city, the National Cycle Network trail no.17 will lead you out of the city and back onto the North Downs Way National Trail. This provides great views out over the River Medway before reuniting with the main route before Blue Bell Hill.

To download full details and section specific information, click here.   

Launched in May 2022, the Cantii Way is a new 145-mile loop through the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and across parts of the North Downs Way National Trail that explores the very best of The Garden of England.

Taking its name from the Celtic tribe which inhabited the area during the Iron Age, the Cantii Way combines quirky coastal towns and dramatic chalk cliffs with the rolling hills of the Kent Downs.

Starting and ending in the village of Wye, the circular route explores both countryside and coast, taking in the seaviews and white cliffs around Whitstable, Margate, Dover and Folkestone, soaking up the seascapes of New Romney and Dungeness, and winding through Kentish wine country in rural Ashford.

The circular route uses traffic-free cycle paths, bridleways and quiet roads, and is ideal for touring and hybrid bikes. It’s perfect for a leisurely trip with lots to discover along the way – from remnants of military defences to vibrant art trails and vineyards.

For more details, visit Cycling UK’s website.

Food & Drink

Our route has numerous pubs, restaurants and cafes close by, with excellent food and drink options in the towns and cities you pass through.

For local beers, why not explore the Ales of the Trail?

Map & GPX Downloads

You can follow our Riders’ Route online and also download GPX map files to plan your trip.

Our online map shows the full Riders’ Route and allows you to filter accommodation options, food and drink venues, points of interest and cycling facilities along the way.

View the full Google Map route, created by the North Downs Way team

You can download the GPX map files for the entire route and key sections

Riders’ Route full GPX

If you prefer to break up the route into sections, you can do so using these files:

Riders’ Route – Section 1 – Farnham to Oxted (48.8m/78.6km)

Riders’ Route – Section 2 – Oxted to Wye (64m/103km)

Riders’ Route – Section 3 – Section 3 – East Kent loop – Wye, Canterbury, Dover (55.6m/89.5km)

Riders’ Route – Section 3a – Alternative Wye to Canterbury route (10.4m/16.8km)

Optional Riders’ Route – Rochester Loop

Optional Riders’ Route – Rochester Loop with extension to Upnor Castle

Optional Route – The Cantii Way (145m/234km) (links to more information on the Cycling UK website)

View the Rider's Route on Google Maps

The North Downs Way team have created a Google map showing the full route along with accommodation options, food and drink venues, points of interest and cycling facilities along the way.