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 15 miles on the full Waterfront Walk OR 10 miles taking the Barbican Ferry Option
Grade - Easy - What this grade means
Ferry Crossing at Mount Batten Plymouth (Cattewater) if taking the shorter route of 10 miles
Ferry Crossing from Wembury to Noss May (River Yealm)
An absorbing first mornings walk through the Maritime past and present of Plymouth prepares you for an afternoon amble along gentle cliffs and beaches in the gateway to the South Hams area of Devon. By the end of the day you will have experienced both the bustle of the City and the emptiness and isolation of the rural Coast Path. A great introduction to the Devon Coastal Path which will have you well and truely inducted into the astonishing variety of environments to come over the next weeks walk.
Overnight stops in Plymouth on the South West Coast Path
The mistake of many is to see the section out of Plymouth as something to be avoided or rushed through – have patience ...there are more than enough wild cliffs and hidden coves to come. Here in contrast, the South West Coast Path treads the Waterfront Walkway a ten mile trail linking Plymouths stunning viewpoints with a rich variety of maritime history, architecture, poetry and sculpture along what is rightly claimed to be the finest urban seascape in England.
For those arriving from Cornwall or embarking from Plymouth the walk begins at the Cremyll ferry which has linked the Devon and Cornwall since 705AD. En route to the Hoe you will pass an array of impressive 19C Naval yards, barracks and docks as views open out over Devils Island and the Plymouth Sound. Pause at the Wall of Stars commemorating the famous who landed here, Isambard Brunel’s Four Foot Dock Spanner, a life-size sculpture of a stack of gold heading for the American Fort Knox reserve. At the open grassy West Hoe you find a fantastic sea panorama where the red and white Smeaton's Tower dominates, a miracle in itself as it used to stand 14 miles away on the deadly Eddystone rocks before being dismantled and rebuilt brick by brick on its present spot. Next, the Royal Citadel a massive fortress built to protect the town and within which the infamous bowls game took place as Drake waited for tide to come in so he could set out to tackle the Armada.
The Devon Coast Path now enters the oldest part of the City the former Saxon Fishing Village at the Barbican with its cobbled streets and quays now offering cafes and art galleries in timber framed houses laid in a jumble of jetties and small boats Everyone passing here should step onto the The Mayflower steps. Plaques commemorate this spot where the Pilgrim Fathers set sail to “discover” the new world in 1620, Charles Darwin left for his voyage of discovery on the Beagle and Captain James Cooke headed out to his infamous pacific adventures. It was also the embarkation steps for
thousands of convicts in the 19th Century marked for transportation to the new lands of Australia. So much of the modern world began from such a small flight of steps. For the impatient a Ferry service here to Mountbatten point can be used to cut short this section by five miles for the rest of us stay on the Coast Path and leaving the centre on a disused railway you will stumble across the almost landlocked Hooe Lake where St Walter Raleigh rowed his last and possibly shortest journey on the water before he went to be beheaded at the scaffold. The Devon Coastal path crosses below Radford Lake on a narrow causeway underneath the archways of Radford Castle.
To Mountbatten point former Iron Age fort, Civil War battleground, the hotel here was a guano processing plant in a former life. Pass below what looks like an old Martello / artillery Tower at Jennycliff with its swimming beach and onto Bovisand Fort. Its sturdy harbour was built to provide ships with Fresh Water saving them from having to sail through tricky Devil’s Point to the city. Built in the early 1800’s, 23 huge gun casemates sit within hefty granite walls said to be up to 30ft thick in places.
The trail now opens out and its easy walking for the rest of the day wandering a gorse and bracken lined run of low cliffs crossing little streams on small footbridges as you head towards Wembury. Offshore is the steep sided triangular looking Mew Stone (Mew meaning Gull) now owned by the MOD you can still spot the remains of a ruin - home to a prisoner incarcerated there for 7 years for some minor offence in 1744....his daughter Black Bess stayed on and reportedly brought up 3 children out there. In later years one Sam Wakeham ran a rabbit warren on this outcrop and would take curious visitors out to the rock for 2 pence or some snuff if they waved a white handkerchief from the mainland. You end the day entering the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area at the sandy village of Wembury and overnight either here or on the other side of the Yealm River in part of “the Noss Mayo triangle of villages”.
Overnight stops in Noss Mayo on the South West Coast Path
Map of all
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