National Trails are a world-class family of long distance paths which provide outstanding walking routes, and many horse-riding and cycling opportunities, through our finest landscapes. They are the gold standard for public access.
Marked with the familiar acorn symbol, there are 13 routes in England and along the boarder with Wales, forming a path network of over 3,500km. There are also 2 National Trails in Wales.
National Trails are cared for and managed by 50 local Highway Authorities as well as other organisations, with the cost of this work supported by Government through Natural England.
All National Trails are suitable for walkers and some sections are also suitable for cyclists, horse riders and people with limited mobility. They pass through the finest landscapes, visiting places of interest and calling in at villages along the way for refreshments and accommodation.
National Trails bring societal benefits, not just in terms of public enjoyment, but also in contributing to local economies and tourism, including:
Enjoyment: An estimated 12 million people visit National Trails each year1, from the spectacular South Downs Way to the tranquil Yorkshire Wolds Way.
Local economic benefit: Research has demonstrated how National Trails can boost income to local businesses through tourism. A report published in 2003 estimated that the South West Coast Path generates £307 million a year for the economy of the region, supporting over 7,500 jobs2.
Environmental enhancement: National Trails pass through some of the most special places in England3 and have been at the forefront of successfully managing access alongside the interests of nature conservation, landscape character and heritage protection.
Civic engagement: Many people value National Trails and large numbers get involved with looking after them by joining friends groups or local volunteer networks. For example, more than 50% of the maintenance on the Thames Path is undertaken by volunteers.
1 Countryside Agency 2005, National Treasures
2 Southwest Tourism / University of Exeter 2003, South West Coast Path, research for Countryside Agency
3 For example: 81% of the Pennine Way passes through sites that are designated for either landscape biodiversity or heritage. Just over 37% of it passes through sites that are internationally designated for biodiversity.
Latest news: Review of National Trails
The National Trails website will tell you all you need to know about planning a trip along a National Trail, whether you're looking for a short stroll or a long walking holiday.