Railway walks to try

Man walking with map

Our guide to the best walks on former railway lines around the country.

England

Parkland Walk, London

A four-mile treelined route known as the Parkland Walk. The route is mostly flat but there are a couple of slopes due to tunnel closures. It can be muddy.

It is London’s longest Local Nature Reserve, with more than 2,000 wild flower species recorded, as well as hedgehogs, foxes and the occasional muntjac. It is also part of the Better Haringey Walking Trail, a 12-mile circular walk around the borough of Haringey.

You can access the walk at the following points:

  • Finsbury Park, N4
  • Oxford Road, N4
  • Florence Road, N4
  • Lancaster Road, N4
  • Stapleton Hall Road, N4
  • Blythwood Road, N4
  • Crouch End Hill, N8
  • Crescent Road, N8
  • Holmesdale Road, N6
  • Cranley Gardens, N10
  • Muswell Hill Road underpass, N10
  • St James' Lane, N10
  • Muswell Hill Road, N10

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Camel Trail, Cornwall

In the days when trains still ran it was described by John Betjeman as “the most beautiful railway journey I know”. Now you can walk or cycle along it the 18-mile trail from Padstow to Bodmin.

The Padstow to Wadebridge line was opened in 1899, with trains running to London Waterloo via Okehampton and Launceston. The section from Wadebridge to Poley's Bridge is one of the oldest in the world and was opened in 1834 to carry sand from the estuary to farms inland.

Bodmin through to Wadebridge was connected to the mainline system and operated until 1967, whilst the line between Bodmin and Poley's Bridge, which was only used for freight, closed in 1984. The path is surfaced, nearly flat, and suitable for cycling and horseriding.

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Tarka Trail, Devon

The trail is named after Henry Williamson’s book Tarka the Otter, set in the area. There are stunning views on the flat section from Braunton to Meeth, which is popular with families and cyclists. Suitable for wheelchairs, and you can even hire a wheelchair tandem in Bideford which is along the route.

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Monsal Trail, Peak District

The reopened tunnels and the scenery are the big draws of this 8.5 mile route between Buxton and Bakewell. Easy access is available for wheelchair users at Hassop, Bakewell and Millers Dale stations.

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Isle of Wight

Although the island is only 21 miles by 13, it once had more than 50 miles of track, some of which you can still walk on. National Cycle Route 23 runs across the Isle of Wight, and two long sections of it are on traffic-free former railway line. These are from Cowes to Newport (access from the south end of Arctic Road at Cowes) and Shide to Sandown.

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Marriott's Way and Bure Valley Railway, Norfolk

The Marriott’s Way starts just outside Norwich city centre and heads north-west along the route of a former railway line to Reepham and Aylsham. It is popular with cyclists and forms part of national cycle network route 1. Aylsham is also one end of the Bure Valley railway, a narrow-gauge railway which runs diesel and steam trains to Wroxham. You can walk or cycle alongside the Bure Valley rail line but it is not really wide enough to be suitable for wheelchairs. For wheelchair users the line is paved for the first two or three miles starting from Norwich.

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Wales

Mawddach Trail, Wales

This footpath and cycle route runs for 9.5 miles from Barmouth to Dolgellau along the southern edge of the spectacular Mawddach estuary. Suitable for wheelchairs, though wheelchair-users may find it easier to start at Pont y Wernddu to avoid the narrow footbridge. North Wales Society for the Blind has produced a free audio guide to the trail.

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Scotland

Innocent Railway, Edinburgh

This signposted path runs from the Newington/St Leonard's area under Holyrood Park via Duddingston and Craigmillar to Brunstane in the east of the city. It is part of National Cycle Network Route 1.

It began as a horse-drawn tramway and was Edinburgh’s first railway line, opened in 1831. As part of it you can have the eerie experience of walking through one of the UK’s oldest railway tunnels, which is 517 metres long and goes under Holyrood Park. Suitable for wheelchairs.

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Speyside Way, Scotland

The Speyside Way is one of Scotland’s four official long-distance routes, though only part of it is on a former railway line.

The 12-mile section from Craigellachie to Ballindalloch follows the route of a railway line which once served the whisky industry. It starts at Fiddich Park, Craigellachie, ends at former Ballindalloch Station. You can also access the path at Aberlour, Carron, Tamdhu, and Blacksboat.

The path is generally level, but can be muddy in places. Also suitable for cycling and horse-riding. The steps at the Aberlour suspension bridge have been replaced by ramps.

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Northern Ireland

Comber Greenway, Northern Ireland

Seven miles from inner east Belfast to Comber. Suitable for cycles too (part of the National Cycle Network). Start at Dee Street in east Belfast or in Comber.

The Befast end provides views of Harland & Wolff Cranes, Parliament Buildings at Stormont and the Belfast Hills. It becomes more rural and runs alongside the Enler River and finishes in Comber town centre, close to Strandford Lough. The path is flat and wide with no stiles, paved with bitmac and suitable for wheelchairs.

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Learn more about railway walks

  • To find more traffic-free walking and cycling routes, contact Sustrans on 0845 113 00 65 or visit their website
  • To find out more about old railway lines or to join the Railway Ramblers (membership costs £8 per household), visit their website or write to Membership Secretary, PJ Walker, 27 Sevenoaks Road, London SE4 1RA.

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