Travel: the world’s fifty best walks Char­lotte Met­calf

From Cotswolds coun­try strolls to Hi­malayan hikes, one man is vis­it­ing the great­est places to stretch your legs, says Char­lotte Met­calf

The Oldie - - CONTENTS - www.walko­pe­

Ex-lawyer-turned-artist Wil­liam Mack­esy, 58, con­fesses to be­ing an ‘ov­er­en­thu­si­as­tic walker’. He grew up walk­ing in Wales and Scot­land and lit­er­ally walked out of the City, quit­ting his Hong Kong firm to go trav­el­ling. He later read in a self-help book that some of the world’s un­hap­pi­est peo­ple are cor­po­rate lawyers in their fifties, be­cause they can’t evolve. ‘That nailed it!’ says Wil­liam. ‘I hadn’t wanted to go there.’

Mack­esy’s first post-ca­reer walks were along the Silk Road through west­ern China and the ’Stans.

‘I be­gan won­der­ing how to iden­tify and list the world’s best walks,’ he says and, in 2008, he launched Walko­pe­dia, with an as­sess­ment sys­tem that ‘only a tragic ex-lawyer could evolve’. The site now fea­tures more than 1,000 walks, rang­ing from a mighty 3,000-mile trek along the Patag­o­nian Way to an hour’s pot­ter through Stowe House’s gar­dens in Buck­ing­hamshire. At the heart of the site is Mack­esy’s project to walk the world’s 100 best walks him­self.

‘But phys­i­cal col­lapse may get me first,’ he says. ‘I’m an over­weight asth­matic with dodgy knees.’

Though Walko­pe­dia is ‘a proudly un­com­mer­cial labour of love’, the site re­ceived around 900,000 page views last year. ‘It’s about fas­ci­na­tion with the world, its peo­ple, land­scapes and wildlife, and I’m con­fi­dent that it is thrilling enough to count as walk porn.’

This year, he plans walks in Lan­zarote, Cor­sica and Ice­land, on the Cur­zon Trail in In­dia’s Hi­malayas and in his beloved Cairn­gorms.

‘I still think the best walk in the world is the cir­cuit of Mount Kailash in Ti­bet,’ he says. ‘It’s got ev­ery­thing – ex­tra­or­di­nary beauty, pil­grims tramp­ing round the sa­cred kora. They can wipe away a life­time’s sins with one cir­cuit.’

His top fifty ‘doable’ walks (see over­leaf) are of vary­ing dif­fi­culty but none is mis­er­ably de­mand­ing. ‘I’m rea­son­ably fit, but my body is def­i­nitely no tem­ple,’ he says. ‘If I can do these, so can most peo­ple. And walk­ing is a bril­liant way of re­fresh­ing your mind as the mun­dane world seeps away.’

Leader of the pack: this kora, or de­vo­tional cir­cu­lar walk, on Mount Kailash in Ti­bet, is Wil­liam Mack­esy’s favourite

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