Walking in the United Kingdom

« Back to Glossary Index

**Historical Background of Walking in the UK**:
Walking for pleasure began in the 18th century with changing attitudes towards nature.
– Thomas West, William Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Robert Louis Stevenson popularized walking tours.
– Rambling clubs emerged in the 19th century to campaign for the legal right to roam.

**Political Activism and Access Rights**:
Walking surged in popularity in the 1930s due to economic factors and increased leisure time.
– Media coverage and a hiking craze contributed to the increase in walkers.
– The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 improved access rights.
– The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 extended the right to roam in England and Wales.

**Walking Tours and Access in Different Regions**:
Walking tours are extended walks in the countryside, self-guided or led by professional guides.
– Commercial companies organize walking tours, including long-distance routes.
– The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 extended access rights in England and Wales.
– Access to land is more limited in Northern Ireland compared to other parts of the UK.

**Rights of Way and Access Regulations**:
– Public has legal right to walk on footpaths, bridleways, and public rights of way in England and Wales.
– Conflicts between walkers and landowners have occurred, regulated by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
– Permissive paths allow walking with landowner permission.
– Scotland has universal access to land codified in law.

**Promotional Activities and Health Benefits**:
Walking is recognized for its health benefits in the UK.
– Various organizations support walkers, including the Ramblers Association and the Long Distance Walkers Association.
– Local volunteers lead group walks across Britain.
– Accommodation providers like youth hostels and mountain bothies support walkers.

Walking is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United Kingdom, and within England and Wales there is a comprehensive network of rights of way that permits access to the countryside. Furthermore, access to much uncultivated and unenclosed land has opened up since the enactment of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. In Scotland the ancient tradition of universal access to land was formally codified under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. In Northern Ireland, however, there are few rights of way, or other access to land.

Walking is used in the United Kingdom to describe a range of activity, from a walk in the park to trekking in the Alps. The word "hiking" is used in the UK, but less often than walking; the word rambling (akin to roam) is also used, and the main organisation that supports walking is called The Ramblers. Walking in mountainous areas in the UK is called hillwalking, or in Northern England, including the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales, fellwalking, from the dialect word fell for high, uncultivated land. Mountain walking can sometimes involve scrambling.

Ivinghoe Beacon, Buckinghamshire, England (the eastern trailhead) seen looking north from the Ridgeway
Skiddaw mountain, the town of Keswick, Cumbria and Derwent Water seen from Walla Crag, Lake District, England
« Back to Glossary Index