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Nine of the Best: Cathedral Walks

Cathedrals are an intrinsic part of the history of many of our cities. The sheer scale and elaborate design of these buildings demonstrates the status once held by the church and the efforts that were made in dedicating buildings to faith. Whatever your faith (or none), today they remain glorious landmarks within our cities demonstrating the skills of stonemasons past and present. Here we present nine of the best walks in England that allow you to visit some of our best-loved cathedrals…



cathedral yorkminsterMany people think the best cathedrals are to be found across the rest of the world (think Notre-Dame in Paris or Duomo in Milan), but there is a fair share of these magnificent buildings to be found closer to home. Celebrated in paintings, song and poetry, cathedrals hold an important place in the history of the nation and still make an imposing statement, often visible for miles around.

Combining a walk with a cathedral visit is a great way to discover some fascinating history and to find time for contemplation and resting your mind. Many of the cathedrals are open for sightseeing every day and charge no entrance fee (although voluntary donations are normally collected). Just take your pick...



Dick Turpin’s Dog Walk (York)

A 2 mile circular walk in York, North Yorkshire. This city trail around York, follows in the fictitious pawsteps of Little Nell, the dog owned by Dick Turpin. Along the way you will visit the magnificent York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals of its kind in Northern Europe. The first recorded church on this site was in 627, but the present building is around 800 years old, an impressive show of stained glass and carved stone. Did you know that York Minster is one of only seven of the 3,000 cathedrals worldwide that has its own police force?

Winchester and St Catherine’s Hill

A 5 mile circular walk in Winchester, Hampshire. This walk explores both the city and the surrounding countryside including riverside water meadows and an iron age hillfort. There’s chance to visit Winchester Cathedral after your walk. Fifteen centuries of English history lie behind the massive cathedral you see today. It stands at the heart of historic Winchester, once the seat of Anglo-Saxon and Norman royal power. Did you know that Jane Austen was buried at Winchester Cathedral in 1817?

Salisbury Cathedral and Water Meadows

A 2 mile circular walk in Salisbury, Wiltshire. This lovely walk follows in the footsteps of the artist John Constable, taking in the cathedral as well as the local water meadows. In 2017 the cathedral was home to the pair of nesting peregrines that featured on BBC Springwatch. With one chick hatched naturally in the nest, the parents also successfully reared a foster chick rescued by the RSPB from another nest where the parents had been poisoned. Both chicks, Dene and Wylye, fledged successfully. Did you know that the spire of Salisbury Cathedral is the tallest in England, reaching 123 metres above the ground?

Exeter City Walk

A 3 mile circular walk in Exeter, Devon. This classic city trail takes you around the highlights of Exeter, including the old city walls, the quayside, the castle and the cathedral. There’s even chance for a trip on the pedestrian chain ferry. Completed in about 1400, the cathedral has several notable features, including an early set of misericords, an astronomical clock and the longest uninterrupted vaulted ceiling in England. Did you know that in 2016, Exeter Cathedral began a project to build a 300,000 piece model of the cathedral from LEGO bricks?

cathedral elyEly Cathedral and River Trail

A 3.5 mile circular walk in Ely, Cambridgeshire. This route gives you chance to explore the cathedral itself, plus a waterside nature reserve and a beautiful stretch of the River Great Ouse. Ely Cathedral, being England’s third longest cathedral with 100 stained glass windows and a unique octagonal lantern tower, is counted among the marvels of the medieval world. Did you know that Ely Cathedral houses a Stained Glass Museum, the only museum of its kind in the UK where you can learn all about the history and art of stained glass?

Chester City Walls

A 2 mile circular walk in Chester, Cheshire. This simple walk follows the historic walls around this medieval city, with chance to visit Chester’s many attractions including the castle, racecourse and cathedral. Founded as a Benedictine abbey in 1092, Chester Cathedral has a rich and varied history. Within the cathedral grounds is a falconry, with birds of prey flying displays every day. Did you know that the carved choir stalls in Chester Cathedral date from 1380 and include some of the country’s finest wooden carvings, some humorous and some grotesque?

The George and Dragon Stour Valley and Canterbury Trail

A 6 mile circular walk to Canterbury, Kent. The walk begins in nearby Fordwich, allowing you enjoy a stretch of countryside alongside the River Stour before arriving in the city of Canterbury for a visit to the cathedral. Canterbury Cathedral is part of a World Heritage Site and has been a place of worship for more than 1,400 years. Did you know that Canterbury Cathedral employs 20 stonemasons, including 6 apprentices, that work continuously to slow the decay of the stone and replace those parts that have lost their battle with the elements?

Ripon and Studley Royal

cathedral chichesterA 7 mile circular walk from Ripon, North Yorkshire. The route begins from the doors of Ripon Cathedral, giving you chance to explore this historic site before or after your walk. The walk itself is a true joy, enjoying the Water Garden of Studley Royal Park and the banks of the River Skell. Founded as a monastery by Scottish monks in the 660s, Ripon Cathedral has a particularly impressive west front added in 1220, with twin geometric towers. Did you know that Ripon Cathedral became a fully-fledged cathedral fairly late, in 1836?

Chichester and East Lavant

A 6 mile circular walk in Chichester, West Sussex. The route follows an old railway to reach the pretty village of East Lavant with its cricket pitch, pub and clear-flowing river. The return leg follows quiet tracks, lanes, parks and roads to return back into the bustling city centre where the cathedral is waiting to be discovered. As well as its plentiful ancient treasures, the cathedral is unique in its collection of 20th-century paintings, sculpture and glass. Did you know that Chichester Cathedral’s tall spire and proximity to the sea means it is the only medieval cathedral in England that is used by sailors as a landmark?

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Length

The length (in miles) of a walk is an approximation of the overall of the walking guide, not a measure of the distance "as the crow flies" between any two points. This is based on the GPX file that was created when the author walked the route and rounded to the nearest mile.length

Grade (Boots)

The grade of a walk is an indicator of how difficult it is to walk. This does not take into account the walk length but does suggest how challenging the walk will be. An easy walk, graded as 1 (and shown as 1 walking boot) indicates a walk that is essentially flat, has no sharp hills to climb, has no stiles or other obstacles, is easy to navigate (probably along a well-worn path) and is suitable for most levels of fitness. Do be aware that the level of stamina required will vary and you should only walk within your limits - the indication of walk length will help with this. A difficult walk, graded as 5 (and represented by 5 boots) indicates a walk that is strenuous and involves steep ascents and/or descents. It may be technically challenging involving difficult terrain or obstacles.

Please note that the grading for walks is subjective and open to interpretation and should only be used as a guide when selecting a walk.

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