Planning your North Downs Way walk

Published 7 March 2013. Last updated 6 November 2023

Kent County Council's North Downs Way markers

If you’re new to long distance walking or just fancy a walk without huge hills or being up to your waist in bog then the North Downs Way could be for you. Add in historical sites and random war related artifacts and there’s even more reason to do it.

It also has an added bonus for those living in London in that has excellent rail links to the capital meaning most of the trail can be done in day long hikes.

In this guide

  1. What is the walk like?
  2. The route
  3. Planning an itinerary
  4. Finding and booking accommodation
  5. Getting to/from the North Downs Way
  6. Guide Books and Maps
  7. And finally, and any questions

What is the walk like?

View point at the car park at Gatton Park

With its close proximity to London and cutting across the south east of England, the North Downs Way doesn’t exactly head over some the finest of Britain’s countryside. It spends a fair amount of its time near busy dual carriageways and motorways, and (especially in the Surrey section) the noise of motor vehicles can be very dominating. If you’re after absolute peace and tranquillity then this it not the walk for you.

However if you don’t mind some road noise you’ll find a walk which has some pleasant scenery, and more than a few stunning viewpoints. And Guildford as well.

It’s rarely taxing – there are no real steep hills and the walk is mostly flat – so it’s a good walk to introduce you to long distance walking. Trail conditions are good, and much of the walk is paved. The fact that it’s near London means that the North Downs Way is a great walk for those living in the capital and the South East.

Few people seem to do the North Downs Way all in one go (I didn’t do it that way and I didn’t see a single through-hiker on any of my trips) but the excellent rail connections meaning you can split it up in to day hikes or a series of short mini-breaks without having to travel hours from home.

If you’d like to know more about what to expect, read about my own North Downs Way journey. Alternatively, watch our North Downs Way video!

The route

You can see the route of the North Downs Way using the map above. Using the controls you can scroll around, zoom in and explore the route. Note that this map is a guide only, and should not be used for navigation.

You can also download the GPX file of the route.

Planning an itinerary

Old sign

Given the North Downs cuts across the densely populated South East of England you might think that you’ll never be more than five minutes from accommodation, however in reality it doesn’t go through that many villages or towns.

The ones it does pass through are generally ideally spaced to allow for a days walking. This means that generally you’re looking at 9 or 10 days to do the whole walk, although if you fancy doing some longer days it is possible to do it in less. Add on an extra two days if you want to do both north and south loops.

Most people walk the North Downs Way west to east so the guide is listed with that in mind. Each of the locations listed below has accommodation and a pub unless otherwise noted.

A ten day guide is shown below, but there are some shorter sections that can be combined together and done in one day. Locations with a railway station are marked with a 🚂.

10 Day Itinerary
Day From To Distance
      Miles Km
1 Farnham 🚂Guildford 🚂 11 17¾
2 Guildford 🚂 Westhumble 1 🚂 13 20¾
3 Westhumble 1 🚂 Merstham 🚂 11 16¼
4 Merstham 🚂 Oxted 2 🚂 8 13
5 Oxted 2 🚂 Otford 🚂 11¾ 19
6 Otford 🚂 Cuxton 🚂 15½ 25
7 Cuxton 🚂 Hollingbourne 🚂 17½ 28
Southern loop (via Folkestone and the White Cliffs)
8 Hollingbourne 🚂 Wye 🚂 15½ 25
9 Wye 🚂 Etchinghill 3 11½ 18½
10 Etchinghill 3 Dover 🚂 12 19
Northern loop (via Canterbury)
8 Hollingbourne Boughton Lees 4 13 21
9 Boughton Lees 4 Canterbury 🚂 13 21
10 Canterbury 🚂 Dover 🚂 19 5 30½ 5
  1. Station at Westhumble is called ‘Boxhill and Westhumble’, although sometimes called just ‘Boxhill’ for short.
  2. Oxted town and railway station is 2 miles, 3km off route
  3. Etchinghill has no accommodation. Accommodation can be found a few miles off the trail in neighbouring villages, or by hopping on Stagecoach East Kent’s hourly 17 bus service to Folkstone.
  4. Nearest railway station and accommodation is Wye, which is 2½ miles, 3¾km away. Wye can be accessed by following the southern loop.
  5. Whilst this is a long stretch, it is easy going and perfectly possible to complete in a day. However should you wish to break it up, limited accommodation and a railway station can be found after 10½ miles, 17km in the village of Shepherdswell.

Thanks to good paths and easy navigation, the North Downs Way is a good walk to do all year round.

Breaking the walk up for several trips?

To do the whole thing you’re probably going to be looking at 9 or 10 days of walking, but thanks to the railway network the North Downs Way is very easy to split up. If you’re London based you can do pretty much all of it in day long hikes – there are just that many stations on route. This means that you can do the route in almost any combination you like. All day hikes, several small trips, or a mixture of the whole lot. It’s entirely up to you.

North or south loop?

Unusually the North Downs Way has a choice of routes at its eastern end. The split happens at Boughton Lees, 99 miles from Farnham. The north loop (which is six miles longer) goes via Canterbury and is the option if you’re interested in following a similar to route to medieval pilgrims. The southern route is more direct and takes in the White Cliffs of Dover for a triumphant ending.

Both routes have their merits and having done both, I have to say it’s difficult to choose between them. Whilst most people will be happy to chose just one option, you can do both by doing them as a complete loop starting and ending at Dover or Wye. Alternatively do Wye to Dover by one section, then return to Wye to do the other.

Finding and booking accommodation

Enchanting Path

The North Downs Way passes through several towns and large villages where finding accommodation shouldn’t be too difficult, however you may be advised to book in advance if you want to find something close to the trail. Otherwise you may need to take a train or a bus to get to your bed in the evening.

As with all National Trails the North Downs Way has an excellent accommodation guide on its website.

Accommodation Booking Services and Baggage Transfer

A number of companies will arrange your walk for you. Generally this includes baggage transfer as well. You can find a list of companies who will book accommodation on the official North Downs Way website.

The official website also has a list of companies who provide baggage transfer if you just want that service.


There is only YHA hostel on the North Downs Way. This is YHA Canterbury – naturally in the heart of Canterbury, and just a short distance from the trail

There is also a camping barn at Puttenham which does sleeping bag hire. However as it is only 6½ miles from the start/end at Farnham it is probably of limited use to most North Downs Way walkers.

YHA Tanners Hatch is a mile north of the trail from Westhumble, near Ranmore Common. Which is handy, but at last check, it is only accepting bookings on an Exclusive Hire basis.

If you plan to stay at multiple YHA hostels, it’s well worth considering becoming a member as this will save you some money.


There are few campsites on or around the North Downs Way, mostly concentrated on the more rural Kent section of the trail. The official Norths Downs Way website lists campsites in its accommodation guide.

Due to the nature of the land the North Downs Way traverses it is not generally suitable for wild camping.

Getting to/from the North Downs Way

All go at Wye station

There are many railway stations on the North Downs Way, with stations at both ends at Farnham and Dover, and at regular intervals on the route. Most stations have a direct and regular service to London, whilst others may require a simple change. Train times and connections can be found from National Rail Enquiries.

Guide Books and Maps


To be honest the signage on the North Downs Way is so good that you’ll rarely need to refer to a map, however it’s always good to have one.

North Downs Way: National Trail Guideby Colin Saunders

Without doubt the best guide book is the official North Downs Way Trail Guide published by Aurum Press.

As with all of Aurum’s guides it excerpts of Ordnance Survey maps at the 1:25,000 scale as well as information and history about the trail. The latest version of the book was published in January 2016.

If you’d prefer a strip map, there are three options.

North Downs Way Adventure Atlasby A-Z

First up is the A-Z Adventure Atlas for the North Downs Way. We are big fans of the A-Z range as they include Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 scale mapping in a convenient book format, and a full index.

Harveysby North Downs Way Map

Also available is the Harveys North Downs Way strip map. Published in September 2013, this version covers the entire of the North Downs Way – previously two maps were required to cover the whole route.

The mapping is to Harvey’s own 1:40,000 scale.

Walking the North Downs Way Mapby Cicerone

Third option is the Cicerone North Downs Way Map. This contains Ordnance Survey mapping at the 1:25,000 scale.

Finally if you would prefer to take Ordnance Survey maps, you will need the following:

  • Landranger (1:50,000): 177, 178, 179, 186, 187, 188, 189
  • Explorer (1:25,000): 137, 138, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150

And finally, and any questions

There's something scary in the undergrowth at No Mans Orchard

Hopefully that covers all you need to know about the North Downs Way but if you’ve any questions feel free to ask them in the comments box below.

But most of all, I hope you enjoy your walk!

We update our planning guides on a regular basis, and welcome reports of errors, clarifications and additions. If you have any, please email us using our contact form.



2 June 2013 at 9:59 pm

excellent resource – very useful. Spotted a typo – on the North Downs Way itinerary, you refer to Mertsham, rather than Merstham

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

4 June 2013 at 9:36 am

Charles – Have you never been to Mertsham? It’s a lovely place!

Thanks for letting me know. I’ve now fixed it.


31 March 2014 at 7:39 pm

Excellent resource! I’m visiting England for the first time in May from Canada, and am torn between waling the North or South Downs Way as the bulk of my vacation… As I understand it, pubs sometimes have space for pitching a tent for the night for those on a budget… Any resources you could pass along in that direction?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

6 April 2014 at 7:05 am

Hi Andrew – I’ve come across more pubs which allow camping in the north of England rather than the south, but you may find some on the South Downs Way. I’m not sure of any on the trail myself though as I wasn’t really looking. Best bet is to check out the official website as they have an accommodation list, including camping.

Andy barrett

11 April 2015 at 1:41 am

Very useful site .. Thank you

Donna Davis

8 October 2015 at 5:22 pm

can you tell if dogs are allowed on the north down trail. Any part which is a no go for dogs. Thanks.

Jeremy Sachs

26 October 2015 at 1:45 pm


this website is very helpful thank you.

Can anyone recommend a part of the walk that goes through woodland? I only have a weekend and would really like to see some



Phil Levy

12 March 2017 at 9:45 pm

Can I please tap your experience of the north downs way please.

I am looking to do the north downs over straight days in 2018 having completed the south downs in 5 days for charity in 2016.

Would it be possible to do the north in 5/6 days do you feel.

Finally what is the highest point on this route please.

Thank you
Phil Levy

Barbara Howard

2 April 2017 at 6:22 pm

very interesting and helpful website!
I am from Austria and last summer I did the South Downs Way with my family.We really loved it, so this year we would like to do a long distance path again.Is the NDW recommendable?Is the countryside as lovely as in the SDW? I am a bit afraid because I heard/read it is so loud because of the traffic.Is that true?
Thank you

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

3 April 2017 at 9:48 am

Hello Barbara – whilst the North Downs Way has its moments, personally I would say the South Downs Way is far superior when it comes to views. The North Downs Way spends a lot of time near trees, and it does feature road noise quite a bit.

For my money, the Ridgeway is probably a better choice if you’re looking for something similar to the South Downs Way.

Barbara Howard

3 April 2017 at 10:05 am

Thank you for your quick answer Andrew!
I will read about the Ridgeway!
What do you think about the Norfolk Coast Path?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

3 April 2017 at 10:09 am

Haven’t done it yet although the Norfolk Coast Path is on my list of walks to do. Maybe this year if I’m very lucky.


18 April 2017 at 7:01 am

We are doing this trail in May and I wondered if you knew of a service that exists to take my backpack for me from pub to pub so I only need carry a small rucksack. I am new to this extended rambling but think I would enjoy it much more with a smaller load (we are walking for a week) many thanks…


2 May 2017 at 1:53 pm

Thank you so much for your wonderful website. I completed the North Downs Way on Saturday and found your blogs on the trail extremely helpful.

Chris Marshall

31 May 2017 at 5:12 pm

Hi! Very useful webpage!

Do you know of any refreshment stop for lunch between Box Hill and Guildford, near to NDW?



Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

31 May 2017 at 10:02 pm

Hello Chris – I’m afraid I don’t know anywhere. Not to say there isn’t anything but I didn’t find anything.

Phil Edwards

5 July 2017 at 1:30 pm

Hi Chris,

Newlands Corner has a couple of cafe’s and is roughly halfway between the two although maybe a little nearer to Guildford. The village of Gomshall is definitely almost slap bang halfway between the two and has a couple of pubs and some tea rooms. You’ll need to leave the North Downs Way down a hill at Beggars Lane but it is only 510 mins walk from there.

Ed Moody

21 August 2017 at 8:41 pm

Andrew, I have three days left on the NDW (Hollingbourne to Wye, Wye to Etchinghill and Etchinghill to Dover). Any idea where I can stay overnight in Etchinghill as there’s no train station there? I did write to the pub there but had no reply. Would be obliged if you could advise. Many thanks. Ed

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

22 August 2017 at 9:28 am

Hello Ed – we stayed in a B&B in Etchinghill, but it looks like it’s not there anymore. There’s a couple of B&Bs in the surrounding area – like one near Lyminge – but they’re a few miles off route. An alternative is to get the Stagecoach 17 bus to Folkstone and stay there.

Ed Moody

23 August 2017 at 7:05 pm

Thanks Andrew. Much appreciated.


20 November 2017 at 8:48 pm

I have done the SDW twice, 5 days each time, stealth camping, and obtaining all my water from the taps enroute.
Is there a similar water resource on the NDW, and if not where would a thru hiker and camper best get his water?

Carina Oostwal

12 February 2018 at 10:34 am

Would like to walk the NDW end April/beginning May , go via the south loop to Dover and walk on along the coast to Canterbury. Is it feasible to do this and stay at a minimum of places on the Way so that our luggage can stay behind as often as possible?we have walked most LDW in Britain by now but prefer not to carry packs anymore.
Looking forward to your early reply.


12 February 2018 at 3:04 pm

Struggling to find accommodation for a night in or near, Shepherdswell, Kent. We have 2 small dogs and finishing
the NDW. Can anyone help?


17 June 2018 at 9:49 am

Hello. Can anybody tell be if there is a baggage transfer service for the North Downs Way? We are doing the last section from Lengam to Dover.


25 July 2018 at 8:10 am

Hi there,

Found this Blog very useful. Plan to do some of the NDW this weekend but is there water taps available along the route like the SDW?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

25 July 2018 at 9:10 am

Hello Hannah – I’m afraid there’s no water taps on the North Downs Way that I’m aware of.

Matt Griffiths

28 May 2019 at 9:28 pm

Thanks for this great site!

I just finished the NDW in a series of day hikes, and used your route planner heavily. I’d agree with your assessment, it’s not a very exciting walk, and the middle section is low on convenient pubs, but it was perfect for me to get back into walking long distance without needing to carry overnight gear.

I did struggle with directions, unable to find signposts on numerous occasions. Sometimes I was simply blind, but a number of junctions appear to have their signage missing, damaged or defaced. So I’d heavily recommend a map (or a map app).


30 June 2019 at 6:21 pm

This looks great, we are thinking of just doing the loop ecorporating both the Canterbury and white cliffs of Dover that you mentioned. Is this less populated with less traffic noise?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

1 July 2019 at 10:22 am

Hi Bridget – for the most part, yes. Definitely the quieter end of the trail, and well worth walking.

Brad LaSalle

14 July 2019 at 2:43 pm

My wife and I are planning to walk the North Downs way next year and will be arranging the accommodation ourselves. Do you know of anyone that provides baggage transfer only for this walk?

Thank you,
Brad LaSalle

Peter Turner

28 September 2019 at 4:57 pm

Hi there!
My brother and I are planning on walking the North Downs Way soon and wanted to know the distance from Canterbury to Shepherdswell. Do you have this information?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

30 September 2019 at 9:48 am

Hello Peter – it’s roughly half way between Canterbury and Dover, so about 10 miles or so I think.


3 October 2019 at 8:48 pm

Hi yes so far ive walked the ndw from farnham to westhumble in 3 seperate day hikes, using the good train links for start and finish. and found some nice pubs on all 3 days . Its my first attempt at walking an official long distance walk , and i have found the variety of scenery good , even walking through ally ways in residential areas and roads i have found interesting , some fantastic old churches , ancient paths and estates. I was just going to mention that while the signage is good for ndw , there do seem to be crucial missing signposts that will send you off direction if not concentrating , so a map of some sort is crucial and useful. I had the a to z ndw paper map which is great , but mainly used viewranger gps on my smartphone with the ndw route downloaded onto it , this proved really useful on do i go left or right situations. And carrying a small power charger to boost the phone charge during the day and your sorted . Thorougjly enjoying the walk next bit boxhill to reigate :)

James Long

8 September 2020 at 10:48 am

Hi. My daughter together with her 10 year old son and 7 year old daughter have made walking the NDW their 2020 Summer project. They are now past Canterbury and should finish in Dover by end September. Any details on youngest ever finisher? Are their any special gifts available for completion? Interested to hear any info. you feel relevant. Best regards


13 November 2021 at 11:31 pm

Finally finished the North Downs Way recently and thanks for your wonderful site.
I like to do long hiking days (previously did SDW is 4.5 days) so thought I would share my NDW itinerary, in case it might help anyone else with their planning.
I did Farnham to Guildford and Guildford to Westhumble in two very short day hikes, which could easily be done as a long single day hike. I then went –

1. Westhumble to Clacket Lane
2.Clacket Lane to Halling
3. Halling to Harrietsham
4. Harrietsham to Brabourne
5. Brabourne to Dover

It was a bit of a mission with November light (starting at 7am each day and chasing sunset at 4pm to get to my next stop!) But people with long summer days could easily do the NDW in six days (this is using the south loop – I haven’t tried the northern one yet). In the final stages there are some really great pubs to stay at and I recommend through hiking that section. However the Westhumble to Rochester section was a bit uninspiring.
One quick note for winter hikers. The NDW at Box Hill crosses stepping stones. These and the neighbouring foot bridge were completely submerged when I came through. But I followed the road north to cross the River Mole and then came back along the footpaths of Box Hill. It adds an extra mile or so.


4 May 2022 at 12:09 pm

Excellent resource. Please note Augustine Camino told us they no longer do luggage transfers. We planned and arranged our own trip. We used the excellent coast and country rambles for our luggage only transfers. Very efficient.


5 July 2022 at 11:31 pm

My husband and I would like to do three nights on the North Downs Way that includes Canterbury and the Cliffs of Dover. How do you recommend we break our trip up?

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

9 July 2022 at 8:46 pm

Hello Suzy – assuming you have three days as well as three nights, the most obvious thing is to walk Canterbury to Broughton Lees on the northern loop on the first day, then when you meet the Southern Loop, follow that to Wye – about 15 miles. Then do the southern part of the loop over two days to Dover.

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