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 : Grade - Strenuous - what these grades mean
Ferry Crossing at Salcombe (Salcombe Harbour)
After yet another ferry ride the walk today quickly thrusts you back into the rocky South Devon Coastline with a switchback of ascents and descents along what we call the “swine trail” passing Devon’s southernmost point at Prawle and the lighthouse out at exposed Start Point. After looking down on the tragic lost village of Hallsands your day ends with the promise of something very different to come as you arrive in Torcross on the shingle banks ready to “walk the line”
From the ferry landing in East Portlemouth you move out of the overnight tranquillity of Salcombe and back into harsh rocky path caught between dramatic drops to the ocean on one side and jagged crags and pinnacles on the other.
Traverse this on the “swine trail” overcoming Pigs Nose, Ham Stone and rocky Gammon Head the best formation of the three. A stark rocky limb thrust out into the ocean it sits high above its own gem of a cove at Maceley (Elander) where two towering pillars of rock guard a near perfect strip of golden sand from the rest of the world. A long way from the road and civilisation this is one place you should have to yourself.With some effort you will arrive at Prawle point (meaning Lookout Hill and it certainly lives up to its name) This is the Southernmost tip of Devon where the offshore island boils with rare cirl bunting, great Skuas, kittiwakes, shags and cormorants. A national coast watch lookout with a small visitor centre focussing on the birdlife sits on the cliffs whilst close by is another impressive natural rock arch.
The walk onto Start Point (steort meaning tail) becomes wilder and wilder, gorse, bracken, pasture and high cliffs frame the path but keep looking down for seals on the rocks along this section. The finger like headland at Start is one of the most exposed on this coast stretching almost a mile into the sea.
The lighthouse at its tip built in 1836 is worth heading for and you can climb the 30m tower, reached along an exposed pinnacled spine of rocks the area around it streaked by quartz and schist formations over 395 million years old. Beyond Start after more effort you drop to the Viewing platform for the haunting hollow shells that are all that remains of Hallsands. A village of 37 houses a post office and The London Inn serving a population of 128 which in February 1903 was devastated by a storm that took the first row of dwellings to the sea. A second gale in 1917 took away the rest through the night, somehow everyone survived but the village was abandoned dramatically in the dark gale, the community broken by the waves the houses never to be returned to. Today a few ruins still cling on improbably to the rocky ledge below. Dredging for shingle offshore to be used back at Devonport (Plymouth) was to blame when it lowered the beach by 15 feet. At the time the theory was that the tide would replace the shingle...the theory failed and so the village was lost. As a local paper put it The beach went to Devonport and the cottages went to the sea.
The final descent today is to Beesands now hiding behind huge defence boulders and rock walls to prevent it going the way of Hallsands. The Cricket Inn is a welcome break and still kept in good use by the local shell fisherman. If the tide is out you can walk along the pebbles to reach your overnight stop in nearby Torcross if you are unlucky grab a second drink as it’s an inland diversion around the remains of Beesands Quarry.
Overnight stops in Beesands or Torcross on the South West Coast Path
Map of all
for this walk
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