The Great Wall of China can take a hike. Experts judge St Bees to Robin Hood's Bay a better walk

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The Independent Travel

A trek along the Great Wall of China or the Inca Trail of Peru might rank among life's most essential experiences but neither can hold a torch to northern England's Coast to Coast walk, according to a new list of the best walks in the world.

A trek along the Great Wall of China or the Inca Trail of Peru might rank among life's most essential experiences but neither can hold a torch to northern England's Coast to Coast walk, according to a new list of the best walks in the world.

The 188-mile trek, from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire, has finished runner-up in a list compiled by Britain's best-selling walking magazine, Country Walking. It was also placed ahead of a circuit of Mount Etna in Italy or a forage in the Ecuadorian Amazon Forest.

The walk was comfortably ranked as the finest long-distance walk in England, the magazine concluded. "The route has superb scenery and drips with history," a spokesman said. "Around 90 per cent of our readers say it is a walk they want to tackle one day."

To chose the top 50, the magazine drew on a panel of four: the photographer and writer Bill Birkett, and the international walking specialists John Merrill, Pete Hawkins and Rob Dixon. It also consulted with individuals such as Chris Smith MP, president of the Ramblers' Association.

The walk encompasses three national parks - the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Three-quarters of it runs through areas of outstanding natural beauty.

It takes around 13 days to complete, walkers traditionally setting off from St Bees Head near Whitehaven on the Cumbrian coast. The time-honoured tradition is to paddle in the sea and pick up a pebble to throw in the North Sea at the other end.

The journey takes in viewpoints around Wasdale, Buttermere, Patterdale and Grasmere before stretching across the Pennines, and the Vale of York, to finish at the North Sea. The Coast to Coast Pack Company has become a part of the experience for many, transporting bags along each day's section.

The route, which many consider best tackled in autumn, was made famous by the late Alfred Wainwright, the fell-walking chronicler. His pictorial guide to the route was reprinted last year, 30 years after the original.

Foreign visitors adore it. "In the end what I most remember is the brusque kiss of coastal sea breezes, the wafting aromas of wild grasses and flowers," enthused one Canadian writer.

In the magazine's top-50 walks, England only featured three times, with the Pennine Way at number 29 and the South West Coast Path at number 12. Top place went to Milford Track on New Zealand's South Island, with the panel effusive in praise for its valleys, forests, flowers and waterfalls.

The listing is no surprise to devotees of the Coast to Coast Walk, many of whom consider it far finer than the Pennine Way (running up the spine of northern England) by virtue of its kinder terrain. The only source of contention is whether it should be tackled from east or west. Many prefer the latter, since the prevailing wind is from the west five days out of six, and the view of the North Sea, with the end in sight, is arguably its most beautiful of all.

TOP 10 WALKS

1. Milford Track, New Zealand

2. Coast to Coast Path, England

3. Everest Base Camp

4. Tour of Mont Blanc

5. Drakensberg, South Africa

6. Inca Trail, Peru

7. Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon, United States

8. The Rocky Mountains, Canada

9. Abel Tasman Trail, New Zealand

10. High Tatras, Slovakia

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