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 - 13 miles Moderate Walking Grade with an Easy Grade finish inland to St Davids - what these grades mean
Summary - Walk wilder and more remote areas as you reach the St David's Headland with some short strenuous scrambles around Ramsey Head. Superb scenery all day with fabulous views from the trail of Ramsey Island.
Climbing out of Solva is rewarded by the impressive natural sea arch at the huge Gewni Island, before a surprising easy start on wide tracks through blankets of flowers.
As ever with the Pembrokeshire National Park coastline, it can’t last and the steep descents and climbs arrive beyond Porth Y Rhaw where you can spot the defence ditches and ramparts of an ancient promontory fort high above a wonderful crashing stream.
Then the strange pink cliffs at Caerfai lead you into magical St Non’s Bay. St Non was the mother of St David and it was here in this wonderfully rugged spot that he was born circa AD462.
The Wales Coast Path passes the ruins of St Non's Chapel; atmospheric and mysterious it’s forever been a place of pilgrimage and some of the stones you will spot surrounding the ruins were left here by pre Christian tribes, part of an ancient stone circle. Nearby in a small hollow below the modern day Pilgrims Retreat, is St David’s shrine and Holy Well said to have sprung forth from Non herself at St David's Birth during a mighty thunderstorm. The waters still flow today, said to heal those with a variety of ailments including rheumatism and eye infections.
At Porthclais, you are thrust far inland around a lovely snake like harbour set in a deep ravine and perfectly hidden from the ravages of the sea by its simple quay, this long twisting glacial backwater popular today with climbers and kayakers.
During the Middle Ages, this was the port for St Davids with a stream of disciples and pilgrims landing here from Bristol, Cornwall, Brittany and Ireland. It’s another place of legends, where St David received his Baptism and in The Mabinogion, the book of ancient Welsh legends, the Giant Boar TwrchTrwyth, an evil beast with shears between its ears came ashore here pursued by King Arthur from Ireland, who hunted the beast north to the Preseli Hills. The restored lime kilns here along the old quays need special attention as the coast path passes right above them and several are open topped, so don’t get too close!
The final section onto St Justinian's is unlike anything walked so far but provides a taste of the effort and wonder to come on the Northern Sections of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
Immediately the path feels wilder as heather springs up broken by patches of bright wild flowers, Squill, Sea Campion and Kidney Vetch, along with regular rocky outcrops and little peaks. As the path winds between them around Porthlysgi Bay, the offshore backdrop is a delightful scattering of tiny islands, tantalizingly close and you feel more like you are in the Scottish Hebrides than mid Wales. At Lower Treginnis, you are forced on a rocky scramble over one of the volcanic crags…nothing too demanding but when you look back at what you have just climbed over from the other side you can’t fail to be impressed.
Then Ramsey Island emerges in all its impressive glory across the narrow Ramsey Sound below you. Like a huge sleeping crocodile dominated by its bleak looking Carnillundain Mountain, the sight is marvellous and this truly is the end of Wales laid before you at the most Westerly mainland location.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path now treads a precarious path around the headland, the best views of Ramsey Island from an old abandoned 19th Century Copper mine. Here, if the tide is rushing in or out, you can see and hear the powerful charge of water known as The Bitches, where the collision of coastal currents and ragged offshore rocks creates a devilish set of churning sea rapids often hitting 7 knots and beloved by adrenalin seeking kayakers.
At the largest rock, "The Great Bitch", watch for basking seals, porpoises and dolphins that rush playfully through on the boiling currents whilst feeding Gannets and Cormorants find rich pickings with the fish being brought to the surface by the rapids. Don’t forget to look to the skies either, as this is Chough and Falcon territory.
A mile or so on and you leave the The Pembrokeshire Coast Path to head inland to St Davids passing the ruined chapel of St Justinian, another 6th Century Saint who lived a very strict existence on Ramsey Island where he felt he would not be disturbed. His existence was so puritanical and fanatical that his followers apparently got fed up of the 'austerity measures' and beheaded him, but were shocked to see him pick up his head and cross over the Bitches to die on the mainland where his chapel now stands.
There are several ways to make the 45 minute walk into the holy city of St Davids. Frequent minibuses run down the narrow lanes during the season though we also offer a more satisfying option walking in via the old hill fort on the rocky peak at Clegyr Boia to enter the town on a wonderful ancient sunken trackway beneath an avenue of trees, the perfect contrast to the harsh headland you have just conquered to get here.
Whether you are Welsh or Christian or neither, St Davids is a truly special place.
Read about why and view the facilities and overnight stays at St Davids - the capital of The Pembrokeshire National Park.
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