The storybook English countryside offers some great places to get outside and stretch those leg muscles.
It’s the pinch-yourself, is-this-really-so-lovely kind of scenery in these hills, about 65 miles west of central London (and easily reached by car). Immerse yourself by walking the Cotswold Way, a 102-mile National Trail that dips and climbs through the sheep-dotted landscape from one adorable honey-gold village to the next.
Some walk the entire distance over a week or so, staying overnight in B&Bs along the way. (You can even arrange to have your luggage transferred from one spot to the next.) But shorter loops have been designated that fit nicely into smaller chunks of time, say, 2 to 5 hours. Find more details, maps and information on distances and levels of difficulty at Cotswold Way
Choosing where to walk in this South East county can be a challenge. The area (just half an hour from central London by high-speed rail) is dense with compelling historical landmarks, such as Canterbury Cathedral, and scenery, including the White Cliffs of Dover.
This is the land of Charles Dickens, so it’s a great time to tour the many locations in Kent that inspired the novelist. There are guided walking tours of Higham, where Dickens lived from 1857 until his death, in 1870, and a self-guided audio tour of nearby Rochester, which made an appearance in many of his books (look for the Elizabethan mansion that inspired Miss Havisham’s house). For other explorations, footpaths crisscross the county, offering everything from short walks to day-long hikes.
A national park in North West England, the Lake District encompasses a large part of Cumbria county. This densely scenic area has inspired countless poets and writers—Wordsworth, Coleridge and Beatrix Potter among them. The fastest way to get there is to fly to Manchester and then drive (about an hour and a half).
Ask 10 people to recommend walks in the Lake District and you’re likely to get 10 different (extremely enthusiastic) answers. Some will tell you not to miss the routes through the heartlands, while others will encourage you to seek out the places many visitors overlook, like the Western Fells. There are thousands of walking routes throughout the district, so your best bet is to hire a guide (available for a half day or full day). That way you’ll learn all sorts of stories and myths and pick up tips like the best place to stop for a pint after you’ve gone the distance.