There’s nothing like a long distance walking challenge for seeing the best of the UK countryside and giving you a goal to motivate you into your walking boots. The UK has some fantastic National Trail as well as hundreds of slightly shorter trails criss-crossing the land, all of which you can find the official details of on the National Trails website. From mountain tops to river valleys, forest trails to coastal paths, there is every kind of terrain on offer.
You are forgiven for writing-off the idea of walking a National Trail with children. If you’re tackling them in one go then they are a multi-day affair, with long, challenging days of walking involved. Some of the routes are also on terrain that is not suited to young children (though try and stop your keen teen at your peril). Only having ever walked random bits of the National Trails (and usually by accident) before having children, it wasn’t until we moved to Oxfordshire and had two of them sitting right on our doorstep that I really thought about completing a trail from start to finish. With a baby under 1 accompanying us on all our walks, this looked like it might be tricky but we decided to give it a go all the same.
Logic dictated that we start with trails close to home, so we have been tackling the Thames Path and the Ridgeway intermittently over the last couple of years. Whilst routes and information on completing the trails in half or whole days sections are fairly easy to find, I couldn’t find much in the way of shorter options, circular walks or information specifically for families who are always keen to know about loos, refreshments, pushchair suitability and other points of kid-friendly interest along the route! To help out other people who may be interested in completing the trails in easy chunks withe children, I have pulled together all our walk routes on the National Trails so far and will continue to add future ones here as we progress. Hopefully one day we will have a complete linear guide from start to finish of mainly circular, child-friendly national trail walks – that is the intention at any rate!
The Ridgeway National Trail
A 139km path from Avebury in Wiltshire to Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire, the Ridgeway follows an ancient roadway along hilltops used by prehistoric travellers and tradesmen. Once up onto the hilltop, the going is largely fairly flat and straightforward for little legs, with some stretches suitable for bikes and off-road buggies. Given its ancient nature, there is plenty of history to explore along the way, not least the amazing standing stones at its starting point of Avebury. To me Avebury’s standing stones are worth just as much, if not more, of a visit than neighboring world-famous Stonehenge.
- Avebury Ridgeway Circular Walk – 7km (P*)
- Overton Hill to Broad Hinton – 10km (P*)
- Broad Hinton to Barbury Castle – 7km (P)
- Barbury Castle to Ogbourne St. George – 8km (P*)
- Ogbourne St. George Circular Walk – 6.8km (P*)
- Ridgeway & Railway Walk round Ogbourne St. George – 7.8km (P*)
- White Horse at Uffington – 13km (P*) (this was walked in pre-Ridgeway challenge days, so might get broken up into a shorter, more Ridgeway centric walk in the future. It’s still a lovely wander though if you have good little walkers in the family.
- Goring to South Stoke – 3km (P)
The Thames Path National Trail
294km of riverside walking along the UK’s most famous river, the Thames, takes you from the Costwolds into the heart of London. Although we are walking the Thames Path in no particular order, given we have walked the very final stretch in London but not got to its official starting point to the west yet, the routes below are listed in reverse linear order i.e. from London to the Cotswolds although some individual routes may be described in east to west format!
- Thames Barrier to Millenium Dome – 2.9km (P)
- *I have walked the section of Thames Path from Greenwich to Tower Bridge with a pushchair but didn’t find it very child or pushchair friendly and as a result, never got round to writing it up. It is interesting as an historical walk and to see a totally different and very industrial side of London but with lots of diversions through back streets, some of which I felt a little bit unsure of walking alone, it did not spring out as a huge recommendation. Hopefully I can dig out my notes sometime to post about my experiences and route here.
- Tower Bridge to Westminster – 4.3km (P)
- Cookham to Winter Hill – 5.2km ( P)
- Marlow riverside walk – 5.1km (P)
- Henley Royal Regatta walk – 4.5km (P)
- Shiplake to Henley Thames Path Walk – 3.7km (P)
- Sonning to Shiplake Thames Path Walk – 9.15km (P*)
- Caversham to Sonning Thames Path Walk – 6.2km (P)
- Reading to Tilehurst Thames Path Walk – 6km (P)
N.b. We have only set out to walk the Thames Path and Ridgeway as complete trails to date. I have listed these in linear order, with an asterix * to show where there are missing sections between two walks that we have not completed yet or are waiting to be written up! I’ll keep the page updated as we tick off future walks.
Where a walk is technically possible with a pushchair I have marked it with a (P), with (P*) used to indicate where a walk is only partially pushchair friendly or where there is a major consideration to take into account which may make pushchair use extra tricky. Do please bear in mind that these indications are through my own experience only and are not an official guide. Whilst a walk may be ‘technically possible’ with a pushchair that does not mean the walk will be possible for all pushchair types, all seasons or weather conditions or even for every pushchair user – do read the descriptions carefully to work out if taking a pushchair will be a good option for you personally before you set off.
I will list some walks from other National Trails or long distance paths as and when we complete them/I get time to wade through my walk bank but unless specified, these others have been done as stand-alone walks rather than with the intention of walking as a continuous series.