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Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Things to do in the countryside

There are many ways you can enjoy the countryside whatever your age or ability. From walks that offer increased accessibility for disabled people to horse-riding and cycling – there is something for everyone to join in with outdoors.


There are thousands of walking trails all over the country, and places where you can walk without even having to stick to the paths. Whether you’re a committed hiker or a casual rambler, you’re bound to find a walk to suit your ability and your free time. The links below give you ideas for walks you can do in England, Wales and Scotland.

For information about using rights of ways and open access land while out walking, see ‘Public rights of way’ and ‘Open access to the countryside’.

Led walks

Led walks are headed by trained leaders who can provide useful information and advice. Most led walks have a leader at the front and back, so you don't have to worry about getting left behind. They are a good idea if you are a new walker or want to do challenging walks in the safety of a group.

Walking for health

Walking is a great way to get fit and improve your health.

There are organised health walks to help people with heart conditions or diabetes, or people recovering from surgery. These are a good way to meet people and reduce stress in a natural environment. Some walk leaders can tell you how fast you should be walking in order to really benefit from the exercise.

You can find your nearest health walk on the ‘Walking for health’ website.

National Trails

National Trails are marked with an acorn symbol

National Trails are long distance trails intended for walking, cycling, and horse-riding. They were created to help people enjoy some of the finest landscapes in the country. They are signposted and marked by an acorn symbol to help you find your way.

There are 15 National Trails in England and Wales. They consist of footpaths, bridleways and minor roads, and total about 2,500 miles. You don’t have to do the whole trail – there are plenty of short circular walks. Some walks are also suitable for buggies and wheelchairs.

In Scotland there are four National Trails, known as 'long distance routes'.


Cycling in the countryside can take you past some of England’s most beautiful locations. You can cycle on public roads, byways, cycle paths and cycle tracks. There are also 29,000 kilometres of bridleways which cyclists can use, though they must give way to horse-riders and walkers.

Read ‘Public rights of way’ to find out about the symbols used to show bridleways. The National Byway website has details of signposted cycle routes around the UK.

You can plan your cycle route using the Journey Planner cycle route tool.

Dog walking

Having a dog provides a great excuse for taking a walk, and a good way to get fit.

You don’t have to put your dog on a lead on public paths if it’s under close control. But keep your dog on a lead if you can’t rely on it to be obedient. On a bridleway or byway this is especially important, as you may meet horses. You could be liable for damages if your dog causes an accident, and your dog could get hurt.

The Countryside Code has a special section dedicated to dogs called ‘Keep dogs under close control’. For further ideas on enjoying the countryside with your dog, read the leaflet 'You and your dog in the countryside'.


There are many routes in the countryside for horse-riders to use, including byways, bridleways and quiet lanes. On bridleways you may encounter cyclists, who can use them too, provided they give way to horse-riders and walkers.

The British Horse Society (BHS) offers advice and information about access and rights of way, as well as leaflets that you can download on off-road riding.

The BHS has created the National Bridleroute Network. You can find more about the network and get help choosing the best rides in your area by visiting Ride-UK. You can find national routes suitable for horse-riders on the Bridleways website.


If you want to go rock climbing or abseiling, there are many possibilities in the UK. Visit the UKClimbing website or the British Mountaineering Council to find out about all aspects of climbing, as well as climbing centres and courses.

Other outdoor activities

There are plenty of other activities you can enjoy in the countryside on land and in the water.

The rivers and lakes of the UK are ideal for a whole range of water sports, from canoeing and rowing, to kite surfing and angling. Find out more from the articles on enjoying waterways and water sports.

Volunteer for nature

There are thousands of ways in which you can actively help to protect wildlife. You could give up an afternoon to help clean a beach, volunteer at a nature reserve or train to become a registered bat warden.

To find out more about volunteering for nature projects, read the ‘Green volunteering’ article.

Access for disabled people

Visiting the countryside can have a positive effect on everyone’s health and wellbeing. There are many opportunities for disabled people to join in and enjoy these benefits.

To find out more about countryside access for people with disabilities, read the article on ‘Countryside access for disabled people’.

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