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E-Routes: UK and Europe


Currently 12 European Long Distance Paths have been established that cross several countries and are each several thousand miles in length. The 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.

The following sections summarise the development of the three E-Routes (E2, E8 and E9) that include sections in the UK, listing the constituent paths that make up these UK sections. E-Routes are marked, in part, on new editions of OS maps.

E-Routes in the UK

Currently three E-Routes, E2, E8 and E9, go through Britain.

The E2 runs from Galway to Nice. The 3014-mile (4850 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.

The E8 is a 2728-mile (4390 km) route from west Cork in Ireland to Istanbul, crossing England from Liverpool to Hull along the Trans Pennine Trail, then via Rotterdam, Aachen, Regensburg, Vienna, Bratislava, through Southern Bulgaria to the Turkish Border. There are missing sections in Poland, Romania and Bulgaria and is currently non-existent in Turkey.

The E9, the 'Atlantic and Baltic Path' from Portugal to Estonia, includes a section along the South Coast of England giving a total distance of 3418 miles (5500 km).

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-Routes. They link together established routes 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 6 routes but as organisations from more countries joined, the number has now risen to 12 (E1-E12). There is no European 'standard' for these routes 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 routes with a blue shield, the yellow stars of Europe and the corresponding number of the E-route. The waymarking in the UK is mainly that of the underlying routes.

The E-Routes 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.

Ever since the concept of establishing these European Long Distance routes in the UK was raised, the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) has not only taken an interest in, but was closely involved in the establishment of these routes up to  the early 2000s as an initial implementing body in the UK.

Constituent Paths of E-Routes within the UK

In the development of these E-routes within the UK no new footpaths have been created: all three routes (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 paths that make up the two E2 main variants, and the E8 and E9 sections comprise:


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.


E8
Trans Pennine Trail, section 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.

For the E9 from Lymington there are 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.

Solent Way: Portsmouth to Havent; Staunton Way: Havent 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.

Sources of Information on E-Routes

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 at www.era-ewv-ferp.com gives information on E-Routes, both in the UK and the overall European network. It includes schematic maps of the full European network and of each route 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-Routes in the UK comprise sections of several of the National Trails, as named in the lists above. There is a common entry website for these routes at www.nationaltrail.co.uk 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 take you to useful sites that provide one or more of the following: outline route information, sources of leaflets or guides, maps – sectional or route schematics.

Version information: Updated June 2020.

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