The North Downs Way was opened in 1978 from Farnham to Canterbury. It closely follows the path of a prehistoric trackway across the dry chalk hills: the famous Pilgrims’ Way (surprisingly not called as such until the 18th century, long after pilgrimages had ceased).
In his entertaining 1904 book ‘The Old Road’, Hilaire Belloc popularised the theory that this was the route taken by medieval pilgrims from Winchester to the shrine of St Thomas Becket. He made many questionable assertions – and it seems more likely that pilgrims mostly went up to London from Guildford and then, like Chaucer’s immortal band, onto Canterbury.
Whatever the facts of the path’s heritage, today’s walkers can enjoy the pure pleasure of a quiet and easy route among some of the best countryside in southern England. A range of delightful villages, towns, and viewpoints are covered over its 124 miles.