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Walk the National Forest Way: A Gentle Walking Holiday in the Heart of England

Woman walking through a gate along the National Forest Way walking trail. She is carrying a copy of the National Forest Ordnance Survey map. There is an orange marker for the National Forest Way on a wooden post
The National Forest Way is one of England's newest long distance walking paths. Photo Credit Diana Jarvis; NFC

Discover one England's newest long distance trails

If you're a fan of long-distance walking holidays, the National Forest Way in England should definitely be on your bucket list. Opened in 2014, this 75-mile (121 kilometres) trail is one of England's newest and most inspiring long-distance walking routes. It takes walkers through the ever-changing landscape of the National Forest, crossing the counties of Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Staffordshire. With its diverse terrain, from ancient and newer woodland to picturesque villages and historic landmarks, the National Forest Way promises a unique and unforgettable walking experience.

Hand pointing to a feature on an Ordnance Survey National Forest Map.
The National Forest Way is 75 miles long and takes walkers through the varied landscape of the National Forest. The terrain is especially suited to walkers looking for an easy walking holiday.
A walking holiday along the National Forest Way is an excellent way to experience the history and culture of a part of England undiscovered by mass tourism.

Transforming the Landscape: The National Forest Project

The National Forest is an ambitious and innovative project that began in 1991. The goal was to transform 200 square miles of the Midlands' landscape, previously scarred by mining and quarrying, into a rich and varied woodland. Over the years, the National Forest has planted over 9 million trees, creating a diverse array of wildlife habitats, including woodland and heaths, meadowland and wetlands. Be inspired as you walk the National Forest Way and see firsthand how the landscape has been transformed from black to green in just a few decades.Along the way you will learn how the forest is managed sustainably, providing both commercial and leisure opportunities, as well as new opportunities for local employment. Much of the woodland maintenance is undertaken by community volunteer groups, and local communities and businesses have also planted and adopted woodland areas, including a number of fabulous community orchards. The woodland even supports charcoal makers, creating a sustainable English charcoal.

Canal barges at Barton Marina, with the Waterfront pub and restaurant in the background.
Barton Marina is one of many sights to explore when walking along the National Forest Way

Exploring the National Forest Way: An Adventure for Everyone

The National Forest Way offers an adventure for everyone, showcasing the diversity and progress of the changing landscape. Walk through ancient woodlands, parklands, meadows, and newer plantations.. As you journey along the trail, you'll encounter picturesque villages and bustling towns, each with its own unique history and architecture. The National Forest is also rich in cultural heritage, with ancient churches, abbeys, and manor houses dotted throughout the landscape. Be sure to visit the National Trust property of Calke Abbey, a Grade I listed stately home with extensive parkland and gardens. Keep an eye out for the abundant wildlife along the way, making this walk perfect for heritage buffs and nature lovers alike.

The National Forest Way is ideal for walkers looking for a gentler terrain. The route is well-marked, and there are plenty of opportunities to rest and grab a bite to eat. Plus, if you need to cut a day's walk short, you're never too far from civilisation.

sunsetting over the Leicestershire countryside, with a large tree in the foreground and far reaching views.
In the east, the National Forest Way starts at Beacon Hill in the Charnwood GeoPark region of the National Forest. Photo Credit: NFC Ben Hall

National Forest Way start and end points

The eastern end point of the National Forest Way is at craggy Beacon Hill in Leicestershire. Set in the heart of the Charnwood Geopark, Beacon Hill is one of the highest points in the county and was historically an important signal point. The rocky crags found at Beacon Hill are some of the oldest rocks found in England and the area forms part of the new Charnwood GeoPark.

The western end point of the National Forest Way is at the stunning National Memorial Arboretum, just north of Lichfield. Set in 150 acres and with over 400 memorials, the Arboretum is an inspiring site to learn more about the many stories of those serving the country and Commonwealth, since the 2nd World War.

The National Forest Way Stages

The National Forest Way has been divided into 12 stages, ranging from 4 to 7.5 miles. Each stage highlights a different aspect of the National Forest and showcases the diversity of the countryside. Walkers walking westbound along the National Forest Way, from Beacon Hill should follow purple waymarker discs. Walkers walking eastbound should follow orange waymarker discs.

Getting to the National Forest Way by Train

Situated in the Heart of England, the National Forest is easily reached from all parts of the UK. The start and end of National Forest Way are easily accessible by train from Loughborough and Lichfield. From these stations, you can connect to the trail by a short bus or taxi journey. This makes the National Forest Way a perfect walk for those seeking a “no drive holiday.” As well as being the more sustainable option, arriving by train avoids having to travel back to your starting point to retrieve your vehicle.

A post in woodland, with markers for the National Forest Way.
One of the many woods walkers will enjoy along the National Forest Way. Orange way markers are used to mark the eastbound route and purple markers to mark the westbound route. Photo Credit: NFC Diana Jarvis

Explore the National Forest Way on our Self-Guided Walking Holidays

Our self-guided walking holidays along the National Forest Way are perfect for guests seeking a hassle-free walking holiday, with onground support from local experts. Choose from our 7-night or 10-night walking holiday options to explore the entire National Forest Way at your own pace. We take care of everything, from arranging your accommodation to transferring your luggage between hotels. You'll receive detailed maps and directions, along with information on the best places to explore and eat. And if you need assistance during your holiday, we're only a phone call away.

Looking for a shorter self-guided walking holiday? We have a range of gentle walking holidays around the National Forest area. Contact us today to learn more and start planning your adventure!


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