A Web of Footpaths Links Thousands of UK Towns

Walking through the Scottish Highlands. Photo: Shutterstock

From the West Highland Way to the South West Coastal Path, Britain’s famous walking routes have something for everyone.

Now a new web of pathways has emerged. The network of 7,000 walking paths covers over 100,000km across the UK and connects 2,500 of Britain’s cities, towns, and villages.

The Slow Ways map. Image: beta.slowways.org

Daniel Raven-Ellison, a geographer and National Geographic Explorer, started the project. He had been pondering the idea for a year, and in the first three months of the UK’s lockdown, he created Slow Ways.

Raven-Ellison wants to encourage people to walk between the places they might otherwise drive to. By removing the need to plan intercity routes, he hopes that people will embrace a slower, greener, healthier way to travel. The project is also bringing life back to historic but forgotten walkways.

The South West Coastal Path. Photo: Shutterstock

Though Raven-Ellison began Slow Ways, it is by no means a solo endeavor. During the first lockdown, he put out a call to walkers across the UK. He wanted them to help create walking routes using online mapping tools.

Within a month, the project had 700 volunteers. “We had about a year’s worth of time volunteered in a single month,” Raven-Ellison told the BBC. “I couldn’t believe how many people signed up, and how much time they were willing to invest in the project.”

The volunteers used existing paths to map 7,000 Slow Ways. Every route logged by a walker added to the ever-growing Slow Ways map. By 2021, the project had over 80,000 volunteers. They are now walking, reviewing, and verifying all 100,000km of mapped walkways.

You can access the maps and route planner here.


About the Author

Rebecca McPhee

Rebecca is a freelance writer and science teacher based in the UK.

She is a keen traveler and has been lucky enough to backpack her way around Africa, South America, and Asia. With a background in marine biology, she is interested in everything to do with the oceans and aims to dive and open-water swim in as many seas as possible.

Her areas of expertise include open water sports, marine wildlife and adventure travel.

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