Exploring the Trail
How long does it take to complete the Trail?
The Trail is 153 miles (246 km) long. You should aim to take twelve days to complete the trail on foot. 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.
If you prefer to cycle, follow our Riders’ Route and either take on the trail as one big challenge or break it up into easy to manage section.
How hard is it?
As with all National Trails there is a variety of terrain that can be easy in parts and challenging for walkers and cyclists in others.
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.
The route is well signed throughout, but we always recommend following an up to date map or GPS mapping.
Can I ride the North Downs Way?
The national trail is rideable in sections or in one go for an ambitious challenge.
The route is perfect for both amateur and experienced cyclists, as well as for horse riders.
You can find out the best way to ride the trail with our Riders’ Route
Top Tips for Enjoying the Trail
How do I get to the North Downs Way?
The trail is easily accessible by public transport. Most people start at Farnham in Surrey, and there are direct train services between London Waterloo and Farnham. Farnham is also served by coach and local buses.
London Gatwick and Heathrow Airports are both within an hour’s drive of Farnham. From Heathrow take a rail-air coach link to Woking railway station where you can catch a direct train to Farnham. From Gatwick, take the Gatwick Express to London Victoria station and transfer to London Waterloo for rail services to Farnham.
From the end of the trail at Dover there are regular train services from Dover Priory to London. National Express operates frequent coach travel between London and Dover. Local bus services visit surrounding towns and villages.
Several ferry companies currently operate from Dover port connecting to Calais and Dunkerque. There is a regular shuttle bus service from Dover Priory railway station to the Eastern Docks Ferry Port.
For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk
You can find up-to-date public transport information including a journey planner at www.traveline.info
Access by car via M25/M26/M2 and M20 is straightforward either from mainland Europe arriving in East Kent, or from London airports.
Find out about travelling with bikes on train if you want to cycle your way across the route.
Where can I stay on the Trail?
The trail has an abundance of quaint, cosy country inns with rooms, pop up campsites or more formal hotels and family run B & B’s.
Accommodation can be viewed on the Interactive Map below or on the Create Your Own Trip page here.
Download and print a list of accommodation for each section of the Trail.
It is always advisable to book your accommodation in advance especially during summer months.
Can I camp along the Trail?
There are plenty of campsites along the trail and they can be viewed on the Interactive Map. If you plan to camp please note that wild camp is illegal in England or Wales; you must stay on official campsites.
However, some farmers and owners of pubs may allow you to camp on their land if you obtain their permission first. Check on Campspace. Camping barns also offer an alternative low cost option.
Can I get my bags carried or my accommodation booked?
There are several companies that will arrange to move your bags for you, help you plan your trip, or arrange a full package.
View a list of these companies here.
What is the best time of year to walk on the Trail?
The North Downs Way can be enjoyed at any time of the year!
We encourage people to visit during the different seasons to enjoy different colours, views and sight. Some sections can become muddy in wet weather so dress appropriately.
Which direction should I walk it in?
Historically Pilgrims would walk from West to East, but visitors arriving on the East Kent coast from Europe may decide to walk in the opposite direction.
The trail is signed in both directions so it’s up to you to decide which direction to explore the trail.
What should I take with me?
We recommend that you take a map and/or guidebook with you, or a copy of the walk leaflet if you are doing a shorter walk. You may also find a compass useful.
You can also download Google Maps offline. If you are walking solo you may want to tell someone where you are going as there can be mobile black spots along the trail. Ensure your phone is fully charged before setting off.
Weather in the UK can be changeable so it’s wise to be prepared. You’ll need good footwear, waterproofs and warm layers. Take plenty of water and just in case, pack a few plasters for your feet. In the summer you may need sun cream.
Will I have mobile phone and internet access?
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.
Is there signage on the North Downs Way?
The UK is unique in having a network of paths that the public can use, this is the Public Rights of Way network. You can see these paths on Ordnance Survey maps.
National Trails are signed with an acorn symbol and/or the Trail name which you will see on stiles, gates and signposts. This is the symbol used by all the English and Welsh National Trails.
As you are walking along the Trail you will also see waymarkers pointing to other paths. You can use the public rights of way network to leave the Trail to explore places of interest, reach your accommodation and find places to eat and drink.
You will often find a coloured arrow on signs which indicates the status of that section of path. The most common are yellow arrows which are footpaths and blue which are bridleways.
Why not explore the North Downs Way National Trail on two wheels? Take a look at our Riders’ Route for an amazing cycling break in beautiful countryside.
Visit our Walking Holidays Page for holiday inspiration for the North Downs Way.
Circular and Linear Walks
There are some great short walks to enjoy along the North Downs Way.
You can view short walks on the interactive map below or browse the list of walks on the Circular and Linear Walks page.
Leaflets, Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise
Can I get a guidebook and map for the Trail?
The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the The Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.
Which Ordnance Survey maps cover the Trail?
You can find a list of Ordnance Survey maps for the Trail here.
Can I get a certificate if I complete the Trail?
Certificates are available from the The Trails Shop.
Are there any useful Trail Leaflets?
There are some great walks to enjoy along parts of the North Downs Way, which will give you a flavour of the wonderful, peaceful nature of the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs.
You can find leaflets here
You can find short and linear routes here