Great Britain: Biking and Walking

Great Britain has long been a haven for walkers, thanks to the abundance of footpaths and trails, some of them in use for centuries, that crisscross England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For years both local and international operators have offered walking vacations for travelers.

Now the destination is increasingly attractive to bicyclists. A number of new long-distance cycling routes have been opened, and work on a 2,500-mile signed National Cycle Network, planned for completion by the year 2000, is ahead of schedule.

Bicycling in Great Britain is mostly along country roads and lanes, though there are also a number of off-road trails that bikers share with walkers and horseback riders. Among popular long-distance bike routes are the Scottish National Cycle Route, a 402-mile trip from Inverness to Carlisle, and a 140-mile route that stretches from England's Lake District to Newcastle upon Tyne. Many shorter and circular routes are available as well.

As for Britain's suitability for walking vacations, Tricia Dowhan of Country Walkers, a tour operator based in Waterbury, Vt., said, "It really lends itself well to walking because there are footpaths everywhere. It's a very intimate way to experience a country."

At VBT Worldwide Active Vacations in Bristol, Vt. (formerly Vermont Bicycle Touring and Hiking Holidays), marketing director Brooks Elder said that the firm's strongest growth in 1997 was in its bicycle and walking tours to Europe.

Most escorted biking and walking trips include van backup and give travelers a choice of longer and shorter routes.

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Resource Tips

The British Tourist Authority this year issued a new map-folder called "Britain for Cyclists" that provides information on nearly 70 bicycling routes, equipment hire and Britain-based firms that offer escorted bicycling tours.

Additional route maps and information are also available from the National Cycle Network Information Dept., Sustrans, 35 King St., Bristol BS1 4DZ;

(011) 44-117 929-0888 (24 hours a day);

The BTA also publishes a pamphlet titled "Britain for Walkers," that provides details on various walks in Great Britain.

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In Print

Essential Scotland, by Barnaby Rogerson with section "Peace and Quiet" by Paul Sterry; Passport Books, a division of NTC Publishing Group, Chicago; 1997.

Easy-to-use and carry, "Essential Scotland" tells readers all they need to know for the perfect trip. The 128-page color guide lists all the popular sights, with star ratings plus out of the way places for the best viewing of wildlife and the countryside. Other sections include dining, shopping, accommodations and night-life. Also helpful are tips on budget, weather, the best time to travel and even a chapter on "How to Be a Local" (do not wear a kilt while walking through town), plus detailed maps of each area.

Frommer's 97 England, by Darwin Porter, Danforth Prince, Suzy Gershman; Macmillan Travel, a Simon & Schuster Macmillan Company, New York; 1997.

This "Complete Guide to London and the Countryside" is a 610-page, up-to-date reference book featuring a wealth of practical information. The guide covers the best places to stay for every budget, as well as the top attractions, including palaces, medieval villages and castles; shopping; dining; pubs and other suggestions. Detailed maps are provided for every region.

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