With most UK Covid restrictions limiting us to local exercise, websites and apps listing the best walks close to home have been booming.
The National Trust has seen visits to 1,300 walking trails pages on its website double already this month, while the Ramblers, which offers more than 3,000 routes on its website, has recently seen its social media following soar, too.
Millions of families who usually jump in the car for 50-mile weekend outings have had to think again, and some new sites and apps for walking days out have been popping up — many proving extremely useful.
Annual leaves: With most UK Covid restrictions limiting us to local exercise, websites and apps listing the best walks close to home have been booming
Some of the best places to find local walks are the least glossy websites. For example, GPS-Routes (gps-routes.co.uk) looks rather amateurish at first but offers a superb range of more than 3,000 UK walks, from all the big National Trails to strolls along the nearest canal towpath.
The great thing is that you do not have to sign up or subscribe. Simply click ‘Walks Near Me’ and take your pick. Each route is available for free download in a choice of formats with maps from Google or Ordnance Survey.
When I tried, the site presented me with an interesting set of choices around my home in Wiltshire, many of which I had never walked before. The closest was just three miles away.
Or else try the app Walkingworld, which has a massive database of 6,500 British walks, each with step-by-step instructions and OS mapping. There’s a free version allowing access to one map at a time or an £18 annual subscription with unlimited walks. When I gave it a go, my closest walk was an excellent choice, again about three miles away.
A slick app called AllTrails boasts more than 100,000 ‘hand-curated’ hiking routes across the globe. Searching for local walks in my neck of the woods provided a huge list of 500, all with downloadable maps. Watch out though: quite a few of these recommendations were 30 miles away.
But the closest was five miles from home and clear directions were offered to get to the starting point.
A free walking map was provided, plus weather reports, as well as advice from other users.
For some well-selected classic walks, take a look at the National Trust website
It is possible to filter the options by length, difficulty and popularity to choose the type of walk you fancy. Paid subscribers (£2.50 a month) get the opportunity to download maps, otherwise walkers must stay online during the walk.
There are many other apps and sites out there for dedicated hikers tackling serious mountain trails, but if a stroll with an inn at the end of the route is more your thing, there is a solution.
The cheery Pub Walks app offers hundreds of free circular strolls of between two and ten miles. Don’t forget, of course, that this month, pubs that do remain open are only able to sell takeaways.
Sadly, my closest pub walk was 12 miles away, and — when I checked — firmly shut. Perhaps this is one to check out after the lockdown.
There is another option: many people simply type ‘Walks near me’ into Google. This is not, in fact, a bad tactic.
Near my home, it came up with 20 walks within a ten-mile radius. The closest was just 100 yards away, although this was a rather obvious one: the local park.
The cheery Pub Walks app offers hundreds of free circular strolls of between two and ten miles
For some well-selected classic walks, take a look at the National Trust website (nationaltrust.org.uk/walking) to search more than a thousand routes. The map system is clunky, yet the walks are particularly picturesque.
Meanwhile, when I checked the the Ramblers’ site (ramblers.org.uk/go-walking.aspx) it suggested 19 routes within ten miles, with the closest just four miles away.
That was when the problems started, however: you can’t see the route map until you verify your identity via email, fill in some forms, including your date of birth, and even then you only get access to walks of three miles and less. All the others you must pay for by subscribing for £36 annually.
Finally, the Ordnance Survey ‘Get Outside’ website (getoutside.ordnancesurvey.co.uk) and app has beautiful maps, but only offers free walking routes posted by other users.
Our verdict? Scout about online — do your homework! — and there are some great ideas for walks out there, so you can go local for adventure during the lockdown.