Now is the best time to celebrate feeling the ground beneath your feet, and go that little bit further than from the kitchen to the living room. Why wouldn’t you? May is National Walking Month and the blossom’s looking fabulous, the bluebells are at their most sublime, and (apart from the odd shower) the weather is looking mighty fine too.
We’ve had some glorious spring days so far this year, so perhaps you’ve already been getting outdoors for a brisk march up a hill or a gentle stroll through a country park. Maybe you like hiking in the hills, appreciating the views of one of Britain’s spectacular national parks, with a flask of tea and a bar of Kendal Mint Cake in your rucksack ‘just in case’.
Even if your idea of heaven is a turn about the pier of a coastal town, ice-cream cornet in hand – it still counts as ‘walking’.
There are walks for everyone, and not only will they make you feel happier, but stepping out will keep you fitter and healthier for years to come. With any luck the walks you’ve been enjoying this spring and early summer will inspire you and your family to put one foot forward more often – and keep walking all year round.
‘Walkers are Welcome’ towns
If you’re tired of attempting the same old route with the dog and need some inspiration as to where to visit next for a decent walk, you’ll enjoy our selection of ‘Walkers are Welcome’ towns.
These towns, along with the additional 100 or so members within the scheme have been accredited as providing a suitable welcome for anyone looking for a good walk. That’s not just serious fell-walkers but people looking for a route without stiles – handy to know if you’ve got a child’s buggy or a wheelchair.
These towns may demonstrate a commitment to walkers with a walking festival, offering guided walks, or may have themed walks with, for example, artists in mind.
Deal in Kent
Considered to be the prettiest seaside town in Kent, Deal once found favour with royalty. King Henry VIII built three castles here and two of them have survived – the solid Tudor artillery fortress Deal Castle to protect the coast of South East England, and the elegant stately home Walmer Castle, both now run as tourist attractions by English Heritage.
Along Deal seafront a café culture has developed, and you can also pick up freshly caught fish for dinner.
There are beach and cliff top walks, including a circular walk to the White Cliffs of Dover and also numerous footpaths at Fowlmead Country Park, plus mile-upon-mile of marked walking trails, many with a specific theme.
Look out for the annual White Cliffs Walking Festival, held from 25 to 31 August 2016, with a huge variety of walks to suit all abilities and interests. Rest your head – or weary soles – in your caravan at Sutton Vale Holiday Park, situated in six acres of Kent countryside.
Ilfracombe in Devon
Caravan holidays in Devon are always popular and the seaside town of Ilfracombe is also a popular choice for walkers. The town plays a key role in the annual North Devon Walking Festival. It’s an understandable choice, given the town’s location – the South West Coast Path takes you through areas of outstanding beauty along the rugged North Devon coast.
As a bonus you can enjoy tales of historic shipwrecks around Morte Point and Bull Point in the west, round to the crags around Hele Bay and Watermouth Cove. From here you can also join the wild ponies and red deer roaming through Exmoor National Park, just a hop, step and a jump away from the town.
Visit Ilfracombe’s Tourist Information centre and you’ll find a great collection of maps and local walks. As a ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town, Ilfracombe is proud to offer good walks for all ages and abilities.
Caravanners are spoilt for choice with the plethora of campsites in Devon, and many excellent campsites near Ilfracombe. There are no less than four parks from Practical Caravan’s Top 100 Sites Guide all within a handful of miles of Ilfracombe: Stowford Farm Meadows and Newberry Valley Park, both in the neighbouring village of Combe Martin, are the closest to the town, with Warcombe Farm Holiday Park and Hidden Valley Touring & Camping Park just a little further away.
Once the capital seat of Offa, the Anglo-Saxon King of Mercia, the town of Winchcombe, in the Cotswolds, has no less than six long-distance paths converging on its High Street, including The Cotswold Way. This is no coincidence.
Winchcombe’s central location, in a bowl surrounded by Cotswold hills, means that the town has been a crossroads, a meeting place and a focal point for travellers, traders and religious pilgrims over hundreds of years.
Winchcombe’s architecture is charming and the town streets worth a wander in their own right, but if you fancy a very gentle stroll amid some very attractive gardens, the beautiful Sudeley Castle and Gardens, within walking distance of the town centre, is the place to visit. Close by is Hayles Fruit Farm, a couple of miles from Winchcombe, a magical campsite, with equally magical views.
Kington, a border town in the Marches, is dominated by its skyline, the vast bulk of Hergest Ridge meeting the town’s fringes. Bradnor Hill, another dominant feature also stands above the town. Situated right on the English/Welsh border, Offa’s Dyke is a part of the history of Kington and it’s well worth hiking along the Offa’s Dyke long distance trail, which runs along the top of Hergest Ridge and Kington’s High Street. Alternatively, you can enjoy gentle riverside walks alongside the River Arrow.
To get a real flavour of this frontier town, you might want to join the Kington Walking Festival from 15 to 18 September. The programme offers 40 guided walks plus, if you’re up for it, ‘The Eight Peaks Challenge’, a popular self-led challenge for walkers – and runners, should you feel like breaking into a trot!
Looking for a good campsite near Kington? Try Fleece Meadow Caravan & Camping Site (01544 231235 after 6pm), a small campsite just a short walk from the town centre.
Beverley, East Yorkshire
Walking in Beverley may prove to be the slowest of your walks, as you gaze up at the lofty heights of the Minster in Beverley, or stroll around the architectural wonders of the town’s Georgian Quarter.
To go further, I’d recommend a wander along the banks of the River Hull or a ramble with the dog across the various commons that surround the town. My favourite of these is The Westwood, which can be accessed from the centre of Beverley and which provides magnificent views of the Minster.
Beverley offers a couple of town trails, including ‘Beastly Beverley’ showing the darker side of the town through floods, famine, disease and a smelly past! For a more fragrant walk in the countryside, head up onto the Yorkshire Wolds – The Wolds Way is a national walking trail.
Alternatively, feel the sand between your toes on a walk along the East Yorkshire coast. The sandy beach stretches for miles between Spurn Head and Bridlington. Beverley’s annual Walking festival takes place from 10 to 18 September in 2016.
To find the best campsites near Beverley, browse the North-East England section of Practical Caravan’s Top 100 Sites Guide 2016. Readers of the magazine have chosen the adults-only Blue Rose Caravan & Country Park, conveniently situated midway between Beverley and the East Yorkshire coast.
Whisky is the lifeblood of Dufftown, because the famous Glenfiddich Distillery is based in the town and many more renowned tipples are made within a few miles. Set in the heart of Speyside (Highlands) in northeast Scotland, Dufftown is situated on the banks of the rivers Fiddich and Dullan at the foot of the Conval Hills.
You can explore Dufftown and the surrounding countryside with short, waymarked walks or aim for something a little more spectacular. From Dufftown you can climb the twin peaks of Ben Rinnes. You’ll also find that Glenlivet, the Cairngorms and the 84-mile Speyside Way are all accessible from Dufftown, while the Moray Way Walking Festival has walks to suit everyone from 16 and 26 June 2016.
If you simply can’t wait to taste a wee dram of Scottish whisky between now and then, book onto a guided Dufftown Distilleries Walk, a relaxing walking tour around the town’s distillery sites past and present; sampling included!
If you need a good campsite near Dufftown, try Aberlour Gardens Caravan and Camping Park as your peaceful setting for the night, just 500 yards from the beautiful River Spey.
Though there are many thousands of magnificent walks to be sampled in the UK, few can actually be regarded as a World Heritage walk. But the stunning Dee Valley, from the famous Pontcysyllte Aqueduct on the Llangollen Canal to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen, is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – 11 miles of sheer, unadulterated beauty.
During caravan holidays in North Wales, it’s fun to combine walks with gentle boat rides along the Llangollen Canal or steam train rides from Llangollen along the Dee Valley to Carrog.
Considered one the most beautiful towns in Wales, Llangollen is a popular centre for numerous outdoor activities besides walking, including kayaking and whitewater rafting. But if you want to keep your feet on the ground rather than in water, the Llangollen History Trail links the historical landmarks in the area through a six-mile waymarked walk.
Make Abbey Farm Caravan Park in Llangollen your port of call for the night. You’ll wake up to stunning views, because it’s in a pretty impressive location at the foot of the Horseshoe Pass and next to the ancient ruins of the Valle Crusis Abbey.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our selection of ‘Walkers welcome’ towns to visit – and caravan parks that make a good base.
The Dee Valley, from the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct to the Horseshoe Falls in Llangollen, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site