National Trails are the nationally recognised long distance footpaths in England and Wales, designated and managed by the Countryside Agency or the Countryside Council for Wales. They are all waymarked using a standard acorn symbol, and described in a series of official guide books, the National Trail Guides. (Scotland has its own particular system of Long Distance Routes designated by Scottish Natural Heritage.)
They are not the only long distance footpaths in existence. Since a long distance footpath is merely a designation of an existing public right of way, anyone can (and does) map out a particular route. The National Trails are simply those routes that are nationally recognised and where the specified public bodies take responsibility for the maintenance and marking of the routes.
The very first National Trail to be created was the Pennine Way opened in 1965. Since then there have been regular additions to the list to accomodate the growing leisure pursuit of walking in the countryside as well as no doubt to assist in attracting the ever important tourist pound.
There are currently nine National Trails in England, one in Wales and one Offa's Dyke Path that is in both. A further three in England (that is the
Cotswold Way, the Hadrian's Wall Path and the Pennine Bridleway) and one in Wales (Glyndwr's Way) are currently under development.
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