The clocks may have changed but you can still make the most of the shorter days, travelling by train to a walking trail in the UK. Board in the dark and walk into the light.
Here are a few of Loco2 train geeks’ hiking havens. After all, our geeks aren’t trainspotters; they are get up and goers. Plus, they happen to know the best train stations and most cost-saving fares to get you out on the hills. The days may be shorter, but we think life is short too. So just book your tickets, dust off your hiking boots and go.
To get to the South Downs by train, there are several options. From Southease railway station you can walk up onto the stunning chalky hills within minutes of arriving. Similarly, start walking directly from Amberley station in the Arun Valley over the Downs with a gentle descent to Arundel, and back along the river to Amberley. The South Downs Way is a 160km National Trail starting in Winchester and ending in Eastbourne, both with railway stations. There are several sections of it you can do in a day, with other stations along the way including Petersfield and Lewes. See this South Downs Way leaflet for some great walking ideas, showing how to link to the area’s train stations too.
Crab and Winkle Way, Kent
Although we do mourn the loss of some of the UK’s historic railway routes, at least some of them have been converted into off-road trails for cyclists and walkers. This Crab and Winkle Way is aptly named as it links two railway towns: the cathedral city of Canterbury and the fishing and seafood specialist town of Whitstable, taking you inland through ancient woodland and open meadows for seven miles. Download a route description for the Crab and Winkle Way and celebrate your winter escape at the Whitstable Oyster Company. There is no shortage of fish and chip options of course too.
A perfect winter walk for those seeking a quick hiking trail from Manchester by rail, this small Cumbrian waterfront village, overlooking Morecambe Bay, is 1 hour 30 mins from Manchester Piccadilly station with prices from £8.50 single. Walk directly from the station onto the 6 miles Northern Arnside circular trail up to Arnside Knott, with views across the River Kent estuary and also towards the Lake District. Complete your circuit along a coastal path, taking in views of the Arnside railway viaduct which is 552 yards long and part of the Cumbrian Coast railway line.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
This may feel like a bit of a longer journey for people who live outside Wales, but if you haven’t walked along this stunning section of the Wales Coast Path, you have a treat in store. Accessing the Pembrokeshire Coast Path by train is pretty easy. Fishguard station is right on the Path and other stations to connect with on foot include Milford Haven, Pembroke Dock and Tenby. You might want to spend two days walking on the Path from e.g. Fishguard to Milford Haven with a night in a hostel or cottage along the way. There is no shortage of accommodation along the Pembrokeshire Coast Path. The National Trails website is a great font of information, including how to book luggage transfer services, link up with coastal bus shuttle services and they also give detailed maps.
Pembrokeshire Coastal Path, © Catherine Mack, All Rights Reserved
Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales by rail is a perfect winter pick-me-up, especially as this national park is accessible on one of the UK’s most famous scenic train journeys: the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle line. One of the favourite stops for trekkers is Horton-in-Ribblesdale, which gives access to the Three Peaks. A top book for exploring the Dales by train is Dales Rail Trails by Tony and Chris Grogan, with details of 32 walks from train stations including 18 circular hiking trails between 10-20 km. Other train stations of interest include Ilkley, just over an hour from York, from which you can head up to Ilkley Moor to see the Twelve Apostles Neolithic stone circle. Or from Skipton station head straight up to Skipton Moor with great views across the Aire Valley. Skipton’s historic market, dating back to medieval times, is a must for packing a picnic, operating Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday throughout the year.
Isle of Wight
You will have the walking trails on the Isle of Wight to yourself during autumn and winter. So near to several of the south of England’s railway stations and yet so gloriously far in terms of everyday stresses and strains. There are up to 200 Isle of Wight ferry crossings a day operating from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington so getting to the Isle of Wight by train is very easy. From London, for example, you can get to the island in around two hours. The Isle of Wight also has its own railway line, just 14km long between Ryde and Shanklin. Enjoy walks such as the 7km Towering Tennyson Trail around the most western tip of the Island taking in natural highlights of Alum Bay, The Needles and Tennyson Down. Pure poetry.