Legendary and influential personalities from the past were the inspiration for many of the famous hiking trails that we find today scattered all over Europe. Roman emperors, artists, environmentalists and kings & warriors, these famous names have all left their legacy in places that are still attractive to discover on foot today. If you like to follow in the footsteps of legends, below overview of popular hiking trails may bring you some ideas for your next walking holiday.
John Muir, the great bushy bearded man, was born into a strictly religious household. As a child, he developed a deep love for the natural world around his home. He was known to escape from his bedroom window into the Dunbar countryside to enjoy the natural wonders of Scotland.
As a grown up, he moved to the United States where he founded the Sierra Club, convinced politicians to create the Yosemite National Park, and raised the cry for conservationism and environmentalism decades before it was fashionable to do so.
Where? Scotland, this trail is also dubbed as Scotland’s Coast to Coast walk
Distance? 216.2 kilometres / 134 miles
Highlights of the Walk: Beautiful coastal walking around Dunbar and North Berwick, time spend at the city of Edinburgh, pretty Scottish fishing villages and historical sites such as the Antonine Wall, Roman forts and castles.
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Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus as his full name was, ruled the Roman Empire between 117-138. The emperor spent a great deal of time with the military among ordinary soldiers, visited basically all corners of the empire and is known to have been one of the ‘good emperors’. To separate the Romans in Brittania, as the UK was known in the time, from the ‘barbarians’ in the north and to keep intact the empire, he called for the construction of the wall. In this way, trade between the border could be controlled and it also helped regulate immigration.
The wall was built by 15,000 men in under six years and runs from the banks of the River Tyne near the North Sea to the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea. From here the Romans could command their resources and control the raiding skirmishes of the Northern Britons.
Where? North England, an alternative English Coast to Coast route between Carlisle and Whitley Bay
Distance? 133 kilometres / 83 miles
Highlights of the Walk: To start with, the wall itself of which much can still be seen today and along which many other interesting Roman sights such as bath houses, forts and bridges. Then we like this famous trail because of the scenic variety from the modern cityscapes of Newcastle Upon Tyne to the red sandstone hues of medieval Carlisle, from industrial Tyneside to the quiescence of Bowness on Solway.
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Also known by names such as the Swan King, Mad King Ludwig or ‘der Märchenkönig’ (the Fairytale King), King Ludwig was the head of Bavaria in Germany for 20 years until his death in 1886. He never got married or had any heirs and during his reign, he was mostly occupied by the construction of castles and other buildings, as well as art & music. He was so taken by his passions, that he spent all of his royal money on this and even borrowed extra to realise his projects. All this probably explains his nicknames.
Luckily for us, today his legacy can still be admired in the German region of Bavaria by means of, for example, Linderhof Palace, Herrenchiemsee and his architectural masterpiece Neuschwanstein Castle. King Ludwig was a keen walker himself and you will pass the lake where his body was found in 1886.
Where? Bavaria in Germany and close to the border with Austria
Distance? 96.5 kilometres / 60 miles
Highlights of the Walk: Being one of the famous longer walks in Germany, the trail takes you past two scenic lakes, baroque architecture, plenty of castles, gorges, a limestone wall, fine viewpoints and finally King Ludwig’s superb Neuschwanstein Castle.
James Alfred Wight was born on 3 October 1916, in Sunderland, County Durham, England. In 1939, at the age of 23, he qualified as a veterinary surgeon and in July 1940 he took on a position in the town of Thirsk where he spent the rest of his life. The practice was located close to the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, where he spent a lot of his time.
Today we know him as James Herriot and the author of a series of books based on his personal life: ‘If Only They Could Talk’ or perhaps better known as ‘All Creatures Great and Small.’ In 1977 filming started for a TV series of the books and the majority of this was shot in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Where? The Yorkshire Dales National Park in England
Distance? 80 kilometres / 50 miles
Highlights of the Walk: For a fantastic exploration of England’s Yorkshire Dales, this walk brings you attractive fell walking, contrasting Dales (valleys), typical English villages, rivers, waterfalls, mountains and moorlands.
Bishop St Cuthbert
St Cuthbert’s ministry began around 650AD and he became the prior of Lindisfarne where he was famous for his healing powers. In his life, he increasingly craved for more solitude so he decided to retreat to St. Cuthbert's Isle, just off Holy Island, and later to Inner Farne where he lived as a hermit in a small enclosure.
Soon he was appointed Bishop of Lindisfarne and was obliged to travel around preaching the gospel. He eventually returned to Inner Farne to die and, eleven years later, his coffin was opened to reveal such a miraculously well-preserved body that he was canonised. This was also the reason for the extended cult following that has developed and that is known as The Community of St. Cuthbert. The Community was responsible for the Lindisfarne Gospels; claimed by some as the greatest work of art in the Anglo Saxon period. In 875AD, during the times of Viking raids, the Community left the island with the relics of St. Cuthbert for an eight-year jaunt around the borders of England and Western Scotland. The relics were meant to have rested in a spot known as St. Cuthbert's Cave on the first night off the island and you will be able to pass the cave on the famous trail that is the St Cuthbert’s Way.
Where? From the Scottish borders to the coast of Northumberland in northeast England
Distance? 147 kilometres / 91 miles
Highlights of the Walk: This hiking trail includes unspoilt countryside and the broad horizons of the Northumberland coast, small historic towns, grand castles, Tweed Valley (from where the famous tweed cloth origins), and the holy island of Lindisfarne.
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Offa, King of Mercia
Offa, King of Mercia in 757 to 796 AD, may have taken some inspiration from Hadrian's Wall (which would have then still have been moderately intact) when ordering the construction of Offa’s Dyke. Originally it was about 27 metres wide and 8 metres from the ditch bottom to the bank top.
King Offa wielded a tremendous amount of power over a kingdom that effectively made him an early English monarch. His domain included the Trent - Mersey River line in the north and south to the Thames. Kent and East Anglia were also included, and although Wales, Wessex and Cornwall were all ruled by different kings, Offa strategically created a series of alliances with the Kings of Wessex and Northumbria by marrying his daughters off to them. He had diplomatic and trading links with Charlemagne, the powerful King based in Francia, and communicated with the Pope.
King Offa is famous for having established the penny as the standard monetary unit in England, with the same silver content as coins in circulation in Francia, thereby assisting both national and international trading.
Distance? 125 kilometres / 79 miles
Highlights of the Walk: One of Wales’ most famous hiking trails follows the boundary of Mercia and brings you to walk past historic castles and abbeys, the Wye Valley and more than 10 crossings of the border between England and Wales.
We know about the Coast to Coast Trail today thanks to British fell walker, illustrator and guidebook author Alfred Wainwright. He was the founding father of one of the world’s most popular and famous hiking trails when between 1955-1966 he published the seven-volume Pictorial Guides to the Lakeland Fells. In fact, the books have been available ever since. His Coast to Coast Walk guidebook (still available and a great souvenir of the trip) was the first to describe “one of the world’s great walks” and is used as a base for other publishers today. As a child, little Alfred already drew his own maps of his local area and England and at age 23 he first saw the Lakeland Fells. There are 214 of these described in the Pictorial Guides and visiting them all is a famous way of peak bagging.
Alfred Wainwright was born in 1907 and passed away in 1991 after a heart attack.
Distance? 315 kilometres / 195 miles
Highlights of the Walk: The feeling of accomplishment after crossing a country from coast to coast can hardly be beaten. Along the way, appreciate classic English countryside, the dramatic landscapes of the Lake District National Park and lakes, rocky coastline, and welcoming English village pubs.
Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of the British author & fell walker Alfred Wainwright >>
The name Santiago is linked to the apostle James (Santiago means Saint James) who was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus. He travelled to the most north-western part of Spain to preach and convert people to Christianity. After his passing in 44AD, his tomb was placed in the city Santiago de Compostela. In the 9th Century this was unearthed at which point early Christian pilgrims started to walk from their own homes to the city in Spain. Today, this famous pilgrimage is known as the Camino de Santiago, or just Camino.
Where? France, on the old pilgrim’s route between Le Puy and Conques
Distance? 200 kilometres / 124 miles
Highlights of the Walk: This ancient pilgrims’ route goes through the Auvergne and Languedoc to let you explore rural France, the Massif Central and the green hills of the Aveyron and the legacy of the Hundred Year War.
Read more about this hiking trail made famous because of Saint James or known as Santiago >>
Rob Roy MacGregor
Rob Roy MacGregor became a well-known cattleman at a time when cattle rustling was a commonplace means of earning a living. Defaulting on his loans he became an outlaw and a price was placed on his head. Escaping capture several times turned him into a Scottish folk hero and in later life, due to his fame or notoriety, King George gave him a pardon.
Where? Scottish Highlands
Distance? 124 kilometres / 77 miles
Highlights of the Walk: The walk begins in the pretty village of Drymen, whose Clachan Inn is the oldest registered licensed pub in Scotland and would have been known by Rob Roy as it was run by his sister! From there, highlights of this famous hiking trail include attractive lochs (or lakes), a Victorian spa town, forests, river paths and of course the Scottish Highlands.
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Vincent van Gogh
In 1888 Vincent van Gogh moved from Paris to Arles in Provence where, after a 16-hour train journey, he started the most ambitious and productive period of his life. He worked under luminescent skies and the bleaching Provencal Sun painting the fields, drawbridges, cypress trees, cafes, local folk and ancient Abbey Ruins.
Living at Arles, his technique modified as he began to use the swirling brush strokes and intense colours that you see in works like ‘Bedroom at Arles’ (1888), and ‘Starry Night’ (1889). He seemed to imbue visible phenomena with vitality. In his enthusiasm he encouraged the painter Paul Gauguin to join him, but within weeks they began to have violent disagreements, culminating in a quarrel in which van Gogh threatened Gauguin with a razor. It was on that night, when in deep remorse, Van Gogh famously cut off part of his own ear.
Where? Provence, France
Distance? 48-56 kilometres / 30-35 miles
Highlights of the Walk: The reason why Van Gogh spent so much time in this part of France becomes obvious when you walk along vineyards and olive groves, medieval villages, beautiful Avignon and Arles, and the small massif of Les Alpilles.
Read more about this area in France made famous because of painter Vincent van Gogh >>
Inspired? Contact our team of travel experts with all queries you may have regarding these famous hiking trails and we are happy to assist you more.