Walking tour

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A walking tour is:

  • (1) A full, partial-day, or longer tour of a historical, or cultural or artistic site, or of sites, in one or more tourist destinations, which can be led by a tour guide, as an escort. This type of walking tour frequently takes place in an urban setting.[1]
  • (2) An extended walk in the countryside, undertaken by an individual, or group for several days. The beginnings of this type of walking tour has its origins in the Romantic movement of the late 18th, early 19th-century.[2] It has some similarities with backpacking, trekking, and also tramping in New Zealand, though it need not take place in remote places. Such tours are also organized by commercial companies, and can have a professional guide, or are self-guided; in these commercially organized tours, luggage is often transported between accommodation stops.
Palazzo Senatorio, City Hall, Rome, Italy

Other sorts of tour[edit]

Both the Grand tour and Pilgrimages resemble the two different kinds of walking tour considered here. A Grand tour was "a long tour of major cities" undertaken in Europe, in earlier centuries, as part of a wealthy young man's education,[3] and involved visits to cities, historic and cultural sites, etc., with pedestrian activity confined to these cities or sites. However, the purpose of a pilgrimage is religious, whereas the two types of walking tour, whatever their spiritual dimension, are undertaken for pleasure, also only a minority of contemporary pilgrimages are on foot. But all are a form of holiday, and Chaucer's 14th-century narrative poem Canterbury Tales certainly indicates that a pilgrimage can involve pleasure.

Canterbury Cathedral (retouched from a black & white photograph)

There are also similarities between walking tours that involve long hikes and backpacking (wilderness), while non-pedestrian backpacking (travel) is a kind of modern, inexpensive Grand tour that makes use of public transport.

Tours of cities, and cultural sites[edit]

With guides[edit]

A walking tour is generally distinguished from an escorted tour by its length and the employment of tour guides, and can be under 12 hours, or last for a week or more. They are led by guides that have knowledge of the sites, or the landscape, covered on the tour, and explanations and interpretations of the site can cover a range of subjects, including places with historical, cultural and artistic significance. Walking tours, of various kinds and length, are universally part of the tourism industry, and can be found around the world.

Self guided tours[edit]

Self-guided tours, utilise a range of methods to aid travel through a place, or landscape, such as books,[4][5] maps, pamphlets, and audio material.[6]

Day tours with specific locations[edit]

History of walking tours (hiking)[edit]

Skiddaw mountain, the town of Keswick and Derwent Water seen from Walla Crag, English Lake District.

The idea of undertaking a walk through the countryside, lasting for several days, for pleasure, developed in the 18th-century, and arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature, associated with the Romanticism.[7] In earlier times walking generally indicated poverty and was also associated with vagrancy.[8] A famous early exponent of the walking tour was the English poet William Wordsworth. In 1790 he embarked on an extended tour of France, Switzerland, and Germany, a journey subsequently recorded in his long autobiographical poem The Prelude (1850). His famous poem Tintern Abbey was inspired by a visit to the Wye Valley made during a walking tour of Wales in 1798 with his sister Dorothy Wordsworth. Wordsworth's friend Coleridge was another keen walker and in the autumn of 1799, he and Wordsworth undertook a three weeks tour of the Lake District. John Keats, who belonged to the next generation of Romantic poets began, in June 1818, a walking tour of Scotland, Ireland, and the Lake District with his friend Charles Armitage Brown.

More and more people undertook walking tours through the 19th-century, of which the most famous is probably Robert Louis Stevenson's journey through the Cévennes in France with a donkey, recorded in his Travels with a Donkey (1879). Stevenson also published in 1876 his famous essay "Walking Tours". The sub-genre of travel writing produced many classics in the subsequent 20th-century.

Cévennes view, France

American Henry David Thoreau's essay "A Walk to Wachusett" (1842) describes a four day walking tour he took with a companion from Concord, Massachusetts to the summit of Mount Wachusett, Princeton, Massachusetts and back. Another early American example is the book, A Thousand Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916) a posthumously published account of a long botanizing walk, undertaken in 1867, by naturalist John Muir.

Frequently nowadays walking tours are undertaken along long distance paths, including the National Trails in England and Wales, the National Trail System in the USA and The Grande Randonnée (France), Grote Routepaden, or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Holland), Grande Rota (Portugal), Gran Recorrido (Spain) is a network of long-distance footpaths in Europe, mostly in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain. There are extensive networks in other European countries of long distance trails, as well as in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nepal, and to a lesser extent other Asiatic countries, like Turkey, Israel, and Jordan. In the Alps of Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Germany, France, and Italy walking tours are often made from 'hut-to-hut', using an extensive system of mountain huts.

In the late 20th-century there has been a proliferation of official and unofficial long distance walking routes, which mean that walkers now are more likely to refer to walking a long distance way (Britain), trail (USA), The Grande Randonnée (France), etc., than setting out on a walking tour. Early examples of long distance paths, include the Appalachian Trail in the USA and the Pennine Way in Britain. Pilgrimage routes are now treated, by some walkers, as long distance routes, and the route taken by the British National Trail the North Downs Way closely follows that of the Pilgrims' Way to Canterbury. Also Stephenson's 1878 walk with a donkey, has become a literary pilgrimage route, GR 70 "Le Chemin Stevenson".[9] With these created routes have come guide books and maps that not only show rights-of-way, but also long distance paths.


  • Alan Booth, Roads to Sata: A Two-Thousand-Mile Walk Through Japan (1985).
  • Patrick Leigh Fermor, A Time of Gifts (1977) and Between Wind and Water (1986), describe a walk across Europe in the 1930s.
  • John Hillaby Journey to the Jade Sea (1964), which is an account of an African walking tour using camels as pack animals.
    • Journey through Britain (1968).
    • Journey through Europe (1972).
    • Journey to the Gods (1991), which describes a tour through the mountains of Greece.
  • Rory Stewart, The Places in Between (2006), a walk across Afghanistan in 2002, after the Russians had left.

See also[edit]

Map of European long-distance paths


  1. ^ http://oxforddictionaries.com/view/entry/m_en_us1304940#m_en_us1304940 Oxford Dictionary 1
  2. ^ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Penguin Books, 2000, p.104.
  3. ^ The Canadian Oxford Dictionary (1998), and New Oxford American Dictionary.
  4. ^ Frommer's walking tours. Paris, Prentice Hall Travel, 1993, ISSN 1081-3381 
  5. ^ Legarde, Lisa (1993), Frommer's walking tours. San Francisco, Prentice Hall Travel, ISSN 1081-3403 
  6. ^ Wooldridge, Denyse. (Narrator); Dee's Audio Walking Tours (1996), Manhattan Midtown West, Dee's Audio Walking Tours, retrieved 19 April 2013 
  7. ^ The Norton Anthology of English Literature, ed. M. H,Abrams, vol.2 (7th edition) (2000), p. 9-10.
  8. ^ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking. New York: Penguin Books, 2000, p.83, and note p.297.
  9. ^ <http://www.gr70-stevenson.com/en/trail.htm>.


Further reading[edit]

  • MacCannell, Dean. The Ethics of Sightseeing. University of California Press, 2011.
  • Pond, Kathleen Lingle. The Professional Guide: Dynamics of Tour Guiding. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1993.
  • Ruitenberg, Claudia W. "Learning by Walking: Non-Formal Education as Curatorial Practice and Intervention in Public Space." International Journal of Lifelong Education 31, no. 3 (2012): 261-275.
  • Wynn, Jonathan R. The Tour Guide: Walking and Talking New York. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2011.
  • Wynn, Jonathan R. "City Tour Guides: Urban Alchemists at Work." City & Community 9, no. 2 (June 2010).

External links[edit]