Discover challenging and dramatic walking trails shaped by the footsteps of traders, smugglers, saints and pirates. Cornish walking trails will reveal ancient tin mines, clifftop castles, timeless fishing villages and wild moors as you travel through a landscape of huge cliffs and hidden coves that goes back to the depths of time itself. In between the coastal drama, iconic harbours such as St Ives and Padstow give walkers access to some of the UK‘s best restaurants and coastal hotels. A county encircled by the wild Atlantic ocean, there is over 330 miles of spectacular world class coast path here taking you around the farthest corners of England - put simply it feels like walking on the edge of the world.
Stretching from coast to coast across the southwest of England, Devon is a richly diverse county with rugged shores and cliffs in the north, and classic Victorian seaside resorts in the south. In between you'll find tranquil green pastures, wooded gorges and the two dramatic wild moors in the National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Choose Devon for its walking variety, and you'll find that the popular image of cream teas and thatched cottages is true - but that Devon is so much more once you explore it on two feet. Coast to coast routes like the Two Moors Way will offer a journey through it all from the wild northern shores that inspired the Romantic poets to the maritime ports of the south coast.
Free your soul and clear your mind! Walking on the wild moors of these National Parks is a wonderful antidote to modern living. England's last true wilderness, Dartmoor offers 365 square miles of virtually uninhabited freedom with high moors and twisted dramatic granite tors a land of myths, ghosts and legends. Exmoor, its smaller and more gentle neighour, is 250 Square miles of near perfect and unique beauty, with high uplands swathed in heather and steep, wooded gorges and rushing streams. See Dartmoor ponies and Exmoor stags in these wildlife rich areas, home to 30 species of mammals and over 240 types of bird. The moors offer a unique opportunity for more challenging walking where the only human sound you will hear is the rhythm of your own breath.
Avoid the crowds and discover “Secret Somerset” missed by so many rushing headlong for the far South West. The 'land of the summer people' was named in a time when this area could only be visited in the summer months as the sea receded. Today its a rich, fertile and 'for real' landscape crowned by the fine walking ridges of the Mendip and Quantock Hills both protected areas of outstanding natural beauty. Rising up over King Arthur‘s Vale of Avalon along with the magical Tor at Glastonbury, walkers will find hidden gorges, wooded combes and the best inland panoramas of the South West. Also boasting its own Jurassic Coast Path, providing a gateway into the wilds of Exmoor National Park, Somerset offers walking routes without the crowds for those who want to find..... what the rest miss.
Dorset has a comfortable old world “English” feel to it and its walking routes traverse a rather more green and agricultural land of thatched cottages, cream teas.... and fossils ! Walkers here will find the more gentle rolling farmland, pretty villages and chalk ridges beloved by Thomas Hardy that sweep down to end abruptly at the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Here, alongside the sea, those after more challenging routes can take a walking holiday through time itself amongst the dramatic chalk stacks, cliffs and arches of the Dorsetshire fossil coast. An area that can be very busy in high season but often suits walkers looking for more gentle and less exposed walking than the far west of the region.
Wales offers some of the best walking and outdoor activities to be had anywhere in the world. The 870-mile Welsh Coast Path was only fully opened in 2012 and is the world's first walk along the entire coast of a nation. The terrain is on an equally grand scale with towering cliffs, vast stretches of unspoilt golden sands, imposing castles, offshore islands and to the north there is the backdrop of Snowdonia National Park with its stunning mountains. Wales in general offers walkers great value for money compared to more popular areas like Cornwall with walking options to suit everyone, from those who want the cosmopolitan restaurants and facilities of towns like Tenby and St Davids, through to isolated and remote forests and coastal hills that sit on the very cusp of the Snowdonian Peaks. Bursting with confidence and pride in its “Welshness”, its Celtic history, language and culture there has never been a better time for walkers to enter Wales.
The South West Coast Path is the UK's longest National Trail and one of the top ten walking routes in the world. It snakes, dips and rises continuously on its way through a staggering 1014km (630 miles) of pristine coastline, 450 miles of which is through nationally protected areas. It's a challenge too; walking the entire South West Coast Path is the equivalent to scaling Mount Everest four times! From towering cliffs to hidden coves, ghostly tin mines to lush subtropical wooded creeks. One minute a dramatic rock theatre hewn out of the cliffs, the next a prehistoric fossilized forest or a 20thC Art Deco Island Hotel. What sets The South West Coast Path apart from other trails is that around almost every corner is yet another surprise as you retrace the footsteps and histories of the tin miners, fisherman, smugglers, wreckers and the customs men who chased them.
Distance 11 miles - Grade - Moderate - what these grades mean
Leaving the harbour bustle of Newquay behind you head out towards the attractive headland of Towan Head past the white washed 14 Century Huers hut. Huers were the pilchard spotters who gazed out to sea to alert the town’s fishing fleet as soon as a shoal was spotted. You can see the launching ramp here for the old Newquay lifeboat which must have been some sight when it returned from rescues to the town beach as it required 8 horses to haul it back through the streets on its return from sea. Walking round the headland you arrive at legendary Fistral Beach, the last of Newquay’s nine beaches but without doubt its best, home to The Cribber a wave of up to 9 metres high that attracts the country’s top surfers and international competitions – this is the Cresta Run of UK Surfing.
You now need to turn your attentions to crossing the fast flowing River Gannel which charges into the Atlantic here guarded by flocks of wading birds. Cross the estuary by ferry or one of four possible footbridges depending on the tide height. If you have to take the more inland route be philosophical – you get to cross some excellent salt marsh dotted with ancient quays and mooring chains dating back to a time when the Gannel was the main source of incoming trade.
The Cornish Coast Path now takes you back to the coast below the village of Crantock and you choose from the mass of trails winding coastward through the grasses of Rushey Green and alongside the broad sand dunes of Crantock Beach.
Overnight stops in Crantock on the South West Coast Path
At Pipers hole look out the cave which if entered bares the inscription “Mar not may face but let me be secure in this lone cavern by the sea, let the wild waves around me roar, kissing my lips for evermore” Also here listen out for the legendry Gannel Crake a noise “like a thousand voices in pent up misery with one long drawn wail dying away in the distance”. Perhaps it’s the noise of a coast walker who missed the last Gannel Ferry, either way no one has managed to work out its source yet!
Back on the coastline now after the dark inlets at Vugga Cove you round Pentire Point with its collapsed sea cave surrounded with pretty sea lavender and sea pinks and background views back over Newquay Town. Porth Joke is a special place, a sheltered cove known as Polly Joke locally with its little pool and sprays of corn marigolds, poppies and cowslips in summer.
At Holywell bay you drop down to one of Cornwall’s most stunning beaches with its powder white sands and rock pools, the twin peaks of Carters Rocks offshore and the mountainous sand dunes and grasslands behind you. Its most recent claim to fame being its use for the opening scenes of the James Bond film Die Another Day. Holywell’s name refers to its narrow sea cave which can be visited at lower tides. This spot has been a pilgrimage in the past for healing the sick who were brought here to be dipped in the grotto like steps of red and brown stained calcium deposits inside the cave that hold the pools of holy water. At the southern end of the beach a magnificent rock stack dominates in front of huge pristine sand dunes whilst those wanting a break from the beach can rest up at the thatched medieval pub The Treguth. The next climb brings Penhale Point its surprise being the Army Camp and rifle ranges on one side of the trail with fantastic views out to sea and the Gull Rocks on the other. Don’t be caught looking too closely however as Penhale Sands below remains a hot spot for naturists.
The remaining route to your overnight stop at Perranporth gives you a choice, if tide allows follow three miles of magnificent sand along Perran beach, if not the inland route where you can watch the sand yacht, kite surfing and body boarding from the safety of unspoilt and magnificent sand dunes. On the inland trail you pass the last resting place of St Piran buried under the sands three holed granite cross being all that remains above the dunes to mark the spot.
Overnight stops in Perranporth on the Southwest Coastal Path
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