walk the walk

June 17th, 2009

NTPL/David Levenson

NTPL/David Levenson

To truly understand any locale, one must walk it. Whether you stroll, jog, hike, or simply meander, walking is the best way to soak up a new destination (not to mention it works to reduce our carbon footprint!).  Through foot-guided tours, one can experience a location’s rare wildlife, spectacular views, geological marvels, and historical landmarks.  So this summer ditch the car and grab some sneaks and enjoy some of the National Trust’s gorgeous walkways as a member of The Royal Oak Foundation. ­­­­


While some of the stretches of land described below are open to all, others are contained within the grounds of some of the National Trust’s most beloved historic houses.  Membership (just $50/individual and $90/family) to Royal Oak, then, is a must for the itinerant nature lover, granting free entry to these and the some 300 homes and gardens throughout England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 


Here are a few not-to-be-missed walks courtesy of the National Trust…


White Horse HillThis seven-and-a-half mile walk in Oxfordshire is perfect for those looking for some exercise and a history fix.  Upon the green hill lies an expansive, 3,000 year-old chalk illustration, making it one of the oldest drawings of its kind in England.  The beautiful English walk also includes the Ashdown house, which was commissioned in the 17th century by the Earl of Craven for Elizabeth of Bohemia as a safe-house that was meant to protect her from the deadly plague infecting Europe.  Sadly, she succumbed to the Black Death before she ever got a chance to move into the home.


Osterley ParkFor those looking to stay within an urban environment, this walk is a must. The London park is 357 acres and includes three lovely lakes. The Garden Lake is of special interests for it is home to a wide variety of birds such as Egyptian Geese and assorted ducks.


Clumber ParkThis luxurious estate in Nottinghamshire, which once belonged to the Dukes of Newcastle, lies on the northernmost portion of the Sherwood Forest.  Though the mansion that once dominated the grounds was demolished, the chapel, garden, pleasure ground, and lake still exist.  The chapel, Chapel of St. Mary the Virgin, took three years to build and consists of stunning stained glass windows and seven gargoyles, each symbolizing one of the Seven Deadly Sins.  The pleasure ground includes many exotic trees, including the towering conical hinoki cypress.  The estate also offers an array of wildlife, including many beetles on the verge of extinction.  


Giant’s CausewayThis iconic stretch of coastline in Northern Ireland is composed of basalt columns caused by a volcanic eruption over 60 million years ago. The coastal path is twelve miles long – not for the faint of feet!  This site is one of the most exotic and baffling in Ireland and is Northern Irelands lone World Heritage Site.  It even features in Irish lore!  Underway now are plans for a state-of-the-art visitors’ center to be unveiled in 2012!


Gribbin HeadA wildly diverse site, Gribbin Head includes beaches, coves, woodlands, and grasslands. One of the more fascinating places of interest in this South Cornwall locale is the house in which Daphne Du Maurier, the writer, once lived.  Many of her stories turned into Alfred Hithcock films, including Rebecca. The cottage at Polridmouth (a destination on this walk) is believed to be the inspiration behind the suspenseful tale.


Ynys Barri: This quiet coastal town in Pembrokeshire, Wales used to be a hub for industry.  The fishing port was once used to export stone to all corners of the United Kingdom.  Now, the town is known for its authentic Welsh pubs, cafes, and galleries – the perfect spots to give the feet some respite!  


Alderley EdgeThis walk is a stunning woodland adventure.  Alderley Edge, located in Cheshire, was named a Site of Special Scientific Interest as it’s chock full of archeological and geological wonders.  For example, the highest point of the Edge was originally a Bronze Age burial mound and, in the 1500s, was used as a base to launch fire signals during war.  Another portion known as Castle Rock not only offers lovely views, it was also once a place of settlement during the early Mesolithic period.  Who knew?

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