The Pilgrims&' Way - Walking the Surrey Hills
There’s a lovely buzz amongst the team here at Macs Adventure, following BBC2’s Pilgrimage with Simon Reeve; if you didn’t yet catch it, then you’ve a limited time to watch it again on BBC iPlayer…. It makes us all realise why we’re so passionate about long distance walking holidays, particularly when it comes to pilgrimages and Caminos. Having moved to Scotland from Southern England in April this year, the programme brought back fond memories of growing up pretty much slap bang on the Pilgrim’s Way in Surrey, surrounded by undulating hills, great expanses of shady woodland, charming market towns with cobbled streets and of course some excellent pubs. Bravo BBC2 for yet another entertaining natural history gem. I can’t wait for next week. The Pilgrims' Way is the ancient path that was said to have been walked by thousands of pilgrims from Winchester in Hampshire, stretching through Surrey and following the entire length of the North Downs, finally reaching the city of Canterbury in Kent. Here, pilgrims worshipped at the shrine of Thomas a Becket; a story retold by Simon Reeve at the cathedral on last night’s programme. Apparently, the ‘Pilgrim’s Way’ has only been so-named in recent years, as it follows an ancient trail believed to have existed from 500-450BC (according to archaeologists). Nowadays, this track is sympathetically echoed by the fantastic national trail, the North Downs Way (look out for the acorn trail symbol). Sadly, much of the ‘original’ Pilgrim’s Way is a busy traffic corridor and not a particularly pleasant walk. The Surrey Hills have been named an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and for good reason. I may be biased, but the gently rolling countryside which characterises England’s most wooded county, offers rewarding gentle walking. The highest ‘pull’ on the North Downs Way is Box Hill, which affords spectacular views across to my former home-town of Dorking. Bizarre fact: a man is buried upside down on Box Hill! Dorking boasts England’s largest vineyards at Denbies Wine Estate. Trust me, a short diversion to take a tour and sample some of the acclaimed sparkling wine, is well worthwhile! All this is within a hop, skip and a jump (or around an hour by train) from capital city of London. So, if you’re looking for a pilgrimage route close to the big smoke which gives you a real sense of achievement, then why not try the North Downs Way and kick-start a walking habit!