England - walks in national parks and cotswalds

My husband and I will be visiting several national parks (Exmoor, Peak District, Lake District and North York Moors), Cornwall (staying near Penzance) and the Cotswalds. We'll be in each area two- three nights. We enjoy both history and geology and like both short and longer walks (though probably not more than 6 hours). If you have favorite hikes that you could recommend, I'd love to hear about them. I have visited the web sites of the parks, but there is so much to choose from. I was intrigued by the Jane Eyre Hathersage Trail in the Peak District. Has anyone done that one? Also, are the Ordinance Survey maps needed? And if so, are they available at the park visitor centers? Or would the centers have their own maps? We'll also be driving through Dartmoor - any suggestions for a short walk there? Thanks! Cathy

Posted by Brian
Los Angeles, California
1986 posts

I am not much into GPS for walking; Ordinance Survey maps are wonderful as they show a lot of sites and points of interest that you may miss without them. I usually buy my OS maps in a big City or Town... if I start in London I stock up there "CotsWOLDS" if you want the correct map

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
907 posts

If your walks follow standard trails, so to speak, they will be well marked and an OS map isn't necessary. But if you want a "feeling" of where you are and what, for example, the ruined abbey you can see on the other side of the river is called, then walking with an OS map would add to your interest. Mostly, a visitor centre will have it's own sketch maps for walks in it's area. They will also commonly sell OS maps.

Posted by Edgar
Medford, OR, USA
1409 posts

Yes, Ordinance Survey topographic maps with metric grid, a GPS and compass are useful along with a water resistant map case. We have done three UK inn to inn walking holidays and found the above useful. At times the correct walking path and a sheep trail look the same and checking my GPS metric grid against my map allowed us to get back on track. A compass or GPS is also useful if you need to follow a bearing in a whiteout. Tracking poles are useful especially on descents. The English don't seem to believe in switchbacks and tracks often follow the fall line. We booked our walking holidays through Contours Waking Holidays who provided the maps, guide books and route directions in addition to overnight accommodations and luggage service.

Posted by Steve
106 posts

Cathy, if you are driving through Dartmoor and are looking for a quick hike, look for Scorhill Circle. It not far off the Motorway, but nestled in the park between the villages of Chagford and Gidliegh. Rick's guidebook has a general mention of this, but it isn't that hard to find despite the narrow roads. Just follow the signs. Finding it on a rainy Sunday afternoon with not another soul around was a highlight of our trip. After, try The Birdcage or perhaps a local pub in Chagford before driving on. All can be easily done in just a few hours if you like. Sounds like a great trip.

Posted by Steve
106 posts

Cathy, sorry, didn't explain. Scorhill Circle is not the route, it is an ancient stone circle off in the moors. Not dramatic like Stonehenge, but it is a good little hike with a totally uncommercialized area for you to enjoy.

Posted by Cathy
Clemson, SC
17 posts

Thanks for the advice! Any other suggestions are welcome.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1376 posts

The Lake District is one of my favorite places on Earth...I've been 5 times and plan to go back for more! A. Wainright is THE author to go to for walks there. He wrote pocket-sized, hand-sketched books that cover every trail in the area. There is a society dedicated to him and his books - http://www.wainwright.org.uk/ - we always use his books when we go. We have favorite walks there...anything around the Lake at Grasmere is beautiful. Make sure to stop for Gingerbread in Grasmere...anyone can point out the tiny cottage they sell it from. The classic walk is to take one of the old wooden boats from the shore in Keswick at Derwentwater, get off at the foot of the Catbells, climb the trail and then go back down the other side, get back on a boat at the dock at the bottom, and then ride back to Keswick. It's usually a busy trail but the view from the top is spectacular! Get a sandwich from Bryson's right on the main square of town before you set out and have a picnic on the top. If you really like to hike, go up Helvellyn or Blencathra. There are also beautiful hikes from Coniston or Buttermere with trails that are far less crowded. You really can't go wrong anywhere that you decide to go. It's stunningly beautiful there! Lots of shaggy Herdwick sheep. The Castlerigg Stone Circle is also a great place to visit on the hill above town. So much to see...enjoy your trip!