Walking From Home

Last week I walked the 125 miles of the North Downs Way (the southern route). Because of lockdown restrictions, there’s currently no accommodation available so I couldn’t do it as one long continuous trip. Instead what I did was to get the train to the start, do a day’s walk to finish at another station and get the train home. The next day I got the train back to where I started and repeated until I got to the end of the walk. I did the same thing last year when walking the Vanguard Way.

Previously though, I have walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path and the Cleveland Way stopping off at hostels and B&B’s on the way (although camping could be an option for future walks). I thought I’d do a comparison of the two approaches. (Note: I’m talking back-to-back walking days here, rather than some walks like the London Loop where I’ve just done sections on random days over a number of months/years.)

Walking distances

Both methods have similar problems in that a walk can only start or stop at a suitable point, whether that’s accommodation or public transport within a reasonable distance of the path. The accommodation or transport options also needs to be reasonably spread out throughout the length of the route with no large gaps. Ideally there should also be multiple options. This is probably the hardest part of planning a walking itinerary.

Winner: Tie


Once the accommodation is booked, the route is pretty much fixed. It could be possible to adjust or rebook, but this would have knock-on effects on other overnight bookings. However, unless train tickets are booked in advance, the transport approach provides a much more flexible option. For example, last week on the North Downs Way, my legs were sore and I decided last minute to take a rest day halfway through the week. This was fine as I hadn’t pre-booked anything. Another day, I chose to walk further to the following station because I knew the next day would be wet and I could then walk less far in the rain. That’s just not an option with fixed accommodation (although it does rely on their being a “next” station to walk to).

Winner: Transport approach


With the accommodation approach, everything for the whole walk has to be carried for the whole walk, even if it won’t be needed until the last day. With the transport approach, things can be left at home if they won’t be needed that day. For example, there was a wet day last week when I decided there was no point carrying sun cream. I was however grateful that I kept my waterproofs on the “sunny” day as a surprise thunderstorm would have caught me out otherwise. Walking with less weight is definitely a good thing.

Winner: Transport approach


Accommodation can be expensive. There’s also the additional cost of meals (normally in a local pub) and beers (why wouldn’t you, if you’re already in a local pub?). However, trains are also surprisingly expensive, especially when you have to get two a day, and you probably can’t get a return ticket because the return journey is the following day. It’s probably not as expensive as accommodation, but it does all add up.

Winner: Transport approach (just)


When you have to add on two hours in the morning to get to the start of the walk, and two hours at the end of the day to get home again, there’s no way that the transport approach is going to do well here.

Winner: Accommodation approach (easily)


As well as being able to leave things at home on days when they’re not needed, there are other benefits to staying overnight at home. You can sleep in your own bed. You can do laundry. There are downsides though. All the usual household tasks such as cooking and washing the dishes are all still there. It definitely isn’t as much of a break as being away from home. On balance though, being home is a good thing (although some accommodation can be quite nice too).

Winner: Transport approach

Distance from home

Whilst the transport approach could be used for any walk, there’s only a reasonable distance that can be travelled every day. I guess it could be possible to operate from a friend/family member’s house or to rent a holiday home, but then that’s not what I’m comparing here. The accommodation approach can be used geographically anywhere (assuming there is accommodation available).

Winner: Accommodation approach


I mentioned it already, but visiting local pubs is one of my favourite things of doing a long-distance walk. Whilst I could stop off at pubs on the walk itself (which I have done once or twice), I’m really talking about going for a meal (often a pie) and a pint in the evening once the walk is done. Especially in some of the more remote pubs, there’ll often be other walkers around who you can compare journeys with, or local people who will want to share some of their local knowledge. You just don’t get that when you’re spending the evening on a train and then in your own house.

Winner: Accommodation approach

The other part of being at home is having to leave again the next morning, knowing that whilst you have been at home, you haven’t really had much free time there, and it’s quite an effort to force yourself to go out again first thing in the morning day after day. It’s not impossible to do, but it’s not a problem I’ve ever found when staying away from home.

Winner: Accommodation approach


On my fairly arbitrary scoring system, it’s a tie between both approaches! (I may have fixed it slightly.) But I think that both options have their advantages. I personally think I prefer the accommodation approach, mainly because it feels like more of a break as it gets away from home more. But I’m not ruling out doing another walk from home in the future.

What do you think? Have I missed anything out from either of these comparisons? Have you tried either of these? Let me know in the comments.