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  • Writer's pictureRichard Hammond

Car-free walks in Britain

As part of our ongoing series on Car-Free Travel, Richard Hammond provides a few examples of car-free itineraries in Britain

You’re never far from a footpath in Britain – there are about 150,000 miles of public rights of way in England, Scotland and Wales, and many of them can be reached by public transport. Walking to catch a bus, boat or train is a great way to begin a walk – the adventure starts as soon as you leave your house – whether you’re going on a day walk out of a city centre, or a long-distance walk across areas of great natural beauty. Many train, bus and boat operators are keen for walkers to use their services, especially at weekends, and provide multi-modal ranger tickets that you can use across their networks. Here are a few examples of car-free itineraries – simply lace up your boots and away you go.


heather with sea in background
Robin Hoods Bay seen from Ravenscar on the North Yorkshire Coast. Photo: England's Coast

Rail To Trail

This is a series of 12 self-guided walks from train stations along the Bentham Line, totalling 68 miles (109km) from Heysham Port to Skipton across Yorkshire and Lancashire. The train travels through the lovely valleys of Aire, Ribble, Wenning and Lune, passing the hills of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, before reaching the huge estuary of Morecambe Bay. Four of the stations along the route, Wennington, Bentham, Clapham and Giggleswick are handy gateways to the Forest of Bowland. The shortest walk is just 2½ miles (4km) – from Morecambe station to Bare Lane station – while the longest is the 11⅓ miles (18.2km) from Wennington station to Carnforth, the station that famously featured in the classic 1945 film Brief Encounter directed by David Lean. communityraillancashire.co.uk


People Power: Find hundreds of carfree walks in the UK at carfreewalks.org and a network of walking routes that connect Britain’s towns and villages at sloways. org. Keep an eye out too for the ‘Walkers are Welcome’ logo given to over 100 towns and villages that are particularly welcoming to walkers.

Heart of Wales Line Trail

This trail is linked to the many of the stations along the rural Heart of Wales railway that runs between Swansea and Shrewsbury, passing through remote uplands of the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Radnorshire Forest and Brecon Beacons, the woodland and salt marshes of the Loughor valley and on to the Millennium Coastal Park in Llanelli. The entire route is 143 miles (230km), but you can easily do it in car-free stages, accessing it at the various railway stations along the way. The trail also links up with several other long-distance paths such as the Shropshire Way at Craven Arms; Offa’s Dyke Path and Glyndwr’s Way at Knighton/Llangynllo; the Wye Valley walk at Newbridge-on-Wye/Builth Wells; and the Wales Coast Path at Loughor, near to Llanelli (heart-of-wales.co.uk).


walker on path with sea and cliffs in background
Leave the car behind and explore the best of Britain on foot. Photo provided by England's Coast

England’s Coast Path

England’s Coast Path is a new National Trail (nationaltrail.co.uk), which will run all the way around the country’s seashore. Most sections are already open, and when it’s complete it will be around 2,800-mile long, making it the longest continuous coastal path in the world. There are any number of railways and bus connections along the route. One of the most fascinating stretches is the 11-mile (17.7km) walk along the Durham Heritage Coast from Seaham railway station to Crimdon (you can get the train back at Hartlepool railway station). Walk through the region’s industrial heritage, passing wonderful wildflower meadows and via some beautiful beaches. Keep an eye out at sea for basking sharks, they’re frequently sighted off the Durham Heritage Coast during the summer. durhamheritagecoast.org

Pembrokeshire Coast Path

The 186-mile Pembrokeshire Coast Path, from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south, is connected by five coastal bus services – the Puffin Shuttle, Poppit Rocket, Strumble Shuttle, Celtic Coaster and Coastal Cruiser – operating seven days a week from May to September, and two days a week in winter. They all operate on a Hail and Ride basis in rural areas, so you have to flag down the driver to stop. It means you can be picked up or set down at any point along the bus route, providing it is safe to do so. The buses go to many of the crucial stages along the coastal path, such as St Brides Bay, Marloes and Bosherston. The main gateway railway station for the coastal path is at Carmarthen, and there are bus services from Haverfordwest where the Puffin Shuttle connects with St Davids and Milford Haven. pembrokeshire.gov.uk 


Walks from railway stations

Several rail operators provide information on walking routes from their stations:


two people walking through a forest
Woodlands walking. Photo: Wix Media

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This is an edited extract from The Green Traveller (£18.99 Pavilion Books) by Richard Hammond 


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