In spring last year a group of volunteers worked online during the lockdown to draft a network of walking routes connecting Britain’s towns and cities. Currently, the network comprises 7,000 “Slow Ways”, and the next challenge they’ve set themselves is to walk, review and verify them all. That will entail more than 100,000 kilometres of routes. “It’s a big ambition for 2021,” reports the Slow Ways organisation, “and thousands of people are getting involved.”
Slow Ways’ objective is ”to inspire and support more people to walk more often, further and for more purposes… Slow Ways is a positive and timely initiative. Walking can improve health and well-being, help tackle climate and ecological emergencies, save people money, improve our environment, create memories and bring joy to people’s lives.”
According to the organisation, thousands of kilometres of paths link places across Great Britain but there isn’t a comprehensive and trusted network designed to help people walk off-road between towns and cities – which is what the Slow Ways initiative is creating with its distinctive geometric connections.
“The vast majority of Slow Ways routes start and finish in populated places, with varied transport links, food and accommodation options. This makes it easier and more affordable to plan short, medium and long-distance journeys.
“As people walk and wheel, review, rate, survey and create new routes this will evolve into a network of ‘verified’ routes, ones that can be used with confidence. Over time, this will help people with specific needs and desires easily find routes that meet their requirements.”If you would like to become involved, detailed information is available here.
Themed Eco-Friendly Adventures
In the meantime, bearing in mind that many couples prefer to celebrate their wedding anniversaries this year close to home, and that outdoor pursuits such as walking excursions or longer trekking getaways are especially popular, we checked out several attractive city walking routes being promoted by VisitBritain – in London, Manchester and Edinburgh.
As the tourism body notes, “Britain’s cities are fabulous on foot. Whether it’s a saunter through London’s creative East End, discovering Edinburgh’s unmissable viewpoints or strolling through Manchester’s industrial heritage, future visitors can dream of an eco-friendly city adventure with our themed walking routes.”
Culture and Cuisine in London’s East End
Extending for five kilometres, VisitBritain’s first recommended route offers walkers a mix of “culture, creativity and community spirit”. It starts at Aldgate East underground station, a one-minute walk from contemporary art exhibitions on show at Whitechapel Gallery, then continues for 25 minutes via Liverpool Street to the Barbican, with its program of cinema, art, music and theatre.
Returning to the East End via Shoreditch and Brick Lane, “visitors will be greeted by a creative buzz, unique shops and mouth-watering curries”. It is then a five-minute walk to Old Spitalfields Market, and its labyrinth of stalls and independent artisans, and the route concludes opposite the market in the historic Ten Bells pub – for a well-earned wedding anniversary celebration drink.
On to Pall Mall for Parks and Politics
A three-kilometre journey of discovery featuring London’s landmarks and parks, this walk starts at Green Park and follows a route through verdant lawns to Buckingham Palace, ideal for the ultimate selfie. Visitors then continue along this ceremonial route, adorned with Union Jack flags, to The Mall – adjacent to St James’s Park, where couples can celebrate their wedding anniversary with a picnic or café lunch.
Further along the road are Admiralty Arch, Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. The Trafalgar St James rooftop bar is popular for cocktails with a view, before the walk resumes en route to Whitehall, home of the historic Horse Guards, the Banqueting House and 10 Downing Street. At the end of Whitehall you will find Parliament Square, the House of Commons and Big Ben, all close by to Westminster Bridge and its views of the River Thames and Southbank.
Creativity and crafts in Manchester’s Northern Quarter
This one and a half kilometre route around the Northern Quarter in Manchester is “full of quirky bars, unique shops and visual delights”. It begins with street art, including the area’s visually iconic Blue Tit mural and Stevenson Square for photo-realistic graffiti of David Bowie, and continues with visits to Piccadilly Records and Afflecks Arcade (for a vintage outfit).
More eye-catching street art can be viewed on Tib Street, before a pit stop at the Koffee Pot, a local favourite for fry-ups. Then it’s time to sample local creativity at Manchester Craft and Design Centre and retail therapy at the Deadstock General Store. Foodies can conclude their excursion at V-Rev Vegan Diner or the Terrace NQ rooftop bar.
Central Manchester for History and Heritage
Along a three-kilometre route, visitors can discover Manchester’s past as well as modern favourites in Ancoats, “the world’s first industrial suburb”. The walk starts on Anita Street, between two rows of Victorian houses built for local workers, before continuing to Beehive Mill, one of the area’s oldest mills. Other industrial highlights can be viewed along Murray Street and Jersey Street, including the Paragon and Murrays’ Mills.
Those “longing to live like a local” can head to Cutting Room Square, the home of Rudy’s pizzeria and the Jane Eyre neighbourhood bar, and later on to Rochdale Canal and the New Islington Marina. Back in central Manchester, a 15-minute walk from the marina, the city’s many vintage shops include Blue Rinse Vintage and Pop Boutique.
Viewpoints and Vistas via Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh
This five-kilometre route offers panoramic views, historic sites and gardens around Edinburgh, beginning at Camera Obscura, which is located in Outlook Tower and offers 360-degree city vistas from a rooftop terrace. Just across The Mound and into Princes Street Gardens is the next stop, Scott Monument, built to honour writer Sir Walter Scott, where visitors can climb 287 winding steps to the top of the gothic-style building and enjoy views of Salisbury Crags.
Walking past the Georgian architecture of Princes Street leads to Calton Hill, a gentle peak that takes five minutes to climb via a staircase at Regent Road or Royal Terrace. The reward is memorable views of the Scottish Parliament, Palace of Holyroodhouse and Royal Mile. By now no doubt having built up a healthy appetite, walkers can savour a hilltop meal at The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage, before heading to the ancient volcano, Arthur’s Seat.
At the Heart of Edinburgh’s Mystery and Magic
Covering three kilometres through Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, this final route starts at the restored Georgian House before heading to the top of shopping hub George Street. Moving on past Edinburgh Castle, visitors arrive at the Royal Mile, home to the “eerie underground world” of the Real Mary’s King’s Close.
For literature lovers, The Elephant House is said to be a favourite writing spot of J. K. Rowling, while Greyfriars Kirkyard is a historic graveyard full of Scottish tales and Harry Potter connections. Later, the route takes in the National Museum of Scotland – and concludes with a refreshing pint and live folk music at Sandy Bell’s.
Photo Credits (from top to bottom):
- The Mall (London) – The Royal Parks
- Brick Lane (London) – VisitBritain/Mauricio Orozco
- Deadstock General Store (Manchester) – VisitBritain
- Holyrood Park (Edinburgh) – VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett