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E-Paths: UK and Europe

Last updated 28th November 2023

Currently 12 European Long Distance Paths have been established that cross several countries and are each several thousand miles in length. The E-Paths (E-Routes) are initiatives of walkers' and ramblers' groups in many European countries, who are members of the European Ramblers Association (ERA). In the UK both the Long Distance Walkers Association and the Ramblers are members of the ERA. The ERA itself and many of its member organisations in mainland Europe are largely run by unpaid volunteers, and this should be borne in mind when contacting them.

E-Paths in the UK and Eire

Currently three E-Paths, E2, E8 and E9, go through the UK and Eire. For a UK overview map see E Routes in the UK, which contains links to each of their Path Pages below.

The E2 runs from Galway to Nice. The 3,554-mile (5,720 km) route starts in Stranraer, then goes through Southern Scotland, with variants through Eastern England and the Netherlands or Central and Southern England and Flanders to Antwerp, then Ardennes, Luxembourg, Vosges, Jura, Grande Traversée des Alpes (this section is the well-known GR5) to Nice. The Irish section is currently non-existent, but in 2023 discussions were initiated on taking the western end of the E2 into Northern Ireland and Eire using existing Long Distance Paths. There are also moves to take a spur section northward from the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh, and from there eventually to John O'Groats.

The E2 in the UK is currently composed of three sections:

E2 Stranraer to Middleton-in-Teesdale

E2 Middleton-in-Teesdale to Dover

E2 Middleton-in-Teesdale to Harwich

The E8 is a 3,877-mile (6,240 km) route from west Cork in Ireland to Istanbul, crossing England from Liverpool to Hull along the Trans Pennine Trail, then via the Netherlands, Gemany, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria to the Turkish Border.

E8 Liverpool to Hull

The E9 is the 'Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea Trail' from Portugal to Estonia. When complete it will be world's longest continuous coastal trail. Currently its total is 6,271 miles (10,092 km), running along or past the coasts of Portugal, Spain, France, England, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. With the development of the England Coast Path (ECP), it has been agreed to make the South Coast section from Plymouth to Dover into the main route of the E9, retaining the existing route from Poole Harbour to Dover as an inland variant. There is also an existing Isle of Wight Variant.

E9 Plymouth to Dover

E9 Isle of Wight Variant

Development of the European Long Distance Paths

The European Ramblers Association (ERA) was founded in 1969 to act as an international umbrella organisation for all the major national walking organisations throughout Europe. One of its first tasks was to link member countries together by means of a series of long distance footpaths, designated as E-Paths. E-Paths link together established paths in member countries / regions to form international routes, with the aim of encouraging cross-border walking, thereby furthering contacts and understanding among the peoples of Europe. At first there were only six E-Paths, but as organisations from more countries joined the number has risen to 12 (E1-E12). There is no European 'standard' for these paths and the designation - waymarking and maintenance of the individual sections is the responsibility of the organisations in the country or region concerned. It has been agreed by the ERA to also identify the paths with a blue shield, the yellow stars of Europe and the corresponding number of the E-Path. The waymarking in the UK is mainly that of the underlying routes.

The E-Paths currently total over 63,000 km in some 28 countries, extending from Portugal to Cyprus and from Norway to Greece. In continental Europe, routes are linked via a border crossing; with countries like the UK, where there are no land borders, the links are via ferry ports.

Since the concept of including European Long Distance Paths in the UK was first raised, the LDWA has not only taken an interest in, but was closely involved in, their establishment. Up to the early 2000s the LDWA was an initial implementing body in the UK. In 2022-23 this involvement has been rebooted, currently focusing on the western and northen extensions of the E2.

Constituents of E-Paths in the UK

In the development of the E-Paths within the UK no new paths have been created: all three paths (E2, E8 and E9) use existing, often well-established, long distance paths that have been linked together, along with a few relatively short linking sections, to create the final route.

The UK Long Distance Paths that make up the E2 (which has two main variants), the E8 and the E9 are as follows.

E2 (Central/Southern Variant: Stranraer - Dover)

Southern Upland Way: Stranraer to Melrose; St Cuthbert's Way: Melrose to Kirk Yetholm; Pennine Way National Trail: Kirk Yetholm via Middleton in Teesdale, where the Eastern section leaves, to Standedge; Oldham Way: Standedge to Mossley; Tameside Trail: Mossley to Broadbottom; Etherow - Goyt Valley Way: Broadbottom to Compstall; Goyt Way: Compstall to Disley; Gritstone Trail: Disley to Rushton Spencer; Staffordshire Way: Rushton Spencer to Cannock Chase; Heart of England Way: Cannock Chase to Bourton-on-the-Water; Oxfordshire Way: Bourton-on-the-Water to Kirtlington; Oxford Canal: Kirtlington to Oxford; Thames Path National Trail: Oxford to Weybridge; Wey Navigations: Weybridge to Guildford; North Downs Way National Trail: Guildford to Dover.

Some short linking sections are not yet waymarked.

E2 (Eastern Variant: Stranraer - Harwich)

Southern Upland Way and St Cuthbert's Way (as above); Pennine Way National Trail: Kirk Yetholm to Middleton in Teesdale; Teesdale Way: Middleton in Teesdale to Middlesbrough; Tees Link: Middlesbrough to Guisborough; Cleveland Way National Trail: Guisborough to Filey; Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail: Filey to Hessle, Humber Bridge, Hessle to Barton-upon-Humber; Viking Way: Barton-upon-Humber to Rutland Water; Hereward Way: Rutland Water to Ely; Fen Rivers Way: Ely to Cambridge; Fleam Dyke and Roman Road Walk: Cambridge to Linton; Icknield Way Trail: Linton to Stetchworth; Stour Valley Path: Stetchworth to Dedham; Essex Way: Dedham to Harwich.

Trans Pennine Trail from Liverpool to Hull.

E9 Plymouth to Dover

South West Coast Path National Trail: Plymouth to Studland; Sandbanks Ferry; Bournemouth Coast Path: Sandbanks to Lymington.

From Lymington the E9 has mainland and Isle of Wight (IoW) variants.

Mainland variant: Solent Way: Lymington to Portsmouth.

IoW variant: Lymington to Yarmouth Ferry; Isle of Wight Coastal Path: Yarmouth to Needles; Tennyson Trail: Needles to Carisbrooke; local route: Carisbrooke to Newport; Bembridge Trail: Newport to Bembridge; Isle of Wight Coastal Path: Bembridge to Ryde; Ryde to Portsmouth Ferry.

Mainland variant (contd.): Solent Way: Portsmouth to Havant; Staunton Way: Havant to Queen Elizabeth Country Park (QECP); South Downs Way National Trail: QECP to Jevington; 1066 Country Walk: Jevington to Rye; Saxon Shore Way: Rye to Dover.

In 2023 it was decided that once the England Coast Path is fully open between Sandbanks (Poole Harbour) and Dover, this would become the main route of the E9 along the south coast of England, retaining the existing inland route from Havant to Rye as a variant.

Sources of Information on E-Paths

The LDWA informs its members about updates as new publications are produced for the constituent routes, through the LDP News features that appear regularly three times a year in its members' journal, Strider.

The website of the European Ramblers Association (ERA) gives information on E-Paths, both in the UK and the overall European network. It includes schematic maps of the full European network and of each E-Path individually, indicating which sections are completed.

Acknowledgement is given to the ERA for material from the ERA's website used above.

A significant part of the E-Paths in the UK comprise sections of several of the National Trails, as named above. There is a common entry website for these National Trails at that links to the sites for each trail, where publication and accommodation information can be found.

Many of the other major constituent routes have websites of a user group or association for the route, while many are covered on the sites of their local authorities. The links on our paths pages will take you to useful sites that provide one or more of the following: outline route information, sources of guides, maps – sectional or route schematics.


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