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 - 13.5 miles Grade - Easy - what these grades mean
Information about overnight stops in Padstow before you start your South West Coast Path walk
Leaving bustling Padstow a gentle start to your walk as you pass the old fortifications at Gun Point on your path along the sheltered Camel Estuary heading for the brooding and foreboding coastline ahead.
As you cross the boardwalks through the orchid marshes at Harbour Cove across the Camel you glimpse Betjeman’s tiny St Enodoc church peeping out from the sands beside the conical Brae hill.. If the tide is out you can shortcut across the golden sands and dunes to Hawkers Cove the site of the old Lifeboat station with its isolated row of pilot and coastguard cottages. This was the outpost for those who guided vessels in and out of the estuary trying to avoid the deadly Doom Bar which now sits on your right side. The Doom bar is a constantly shifting sand bank said to have been created by a dying mermaid who cursed the town after being fatally wounded by one of the fisherman. Cursed the town was with over 300 vessels lost here since records began. At Stepper point the estuary dramatically ends as you hit the open coastline a point marked by the lonely 40ft daymark tower built to prevent loss of life on the Doom Bar by the rather bizarre association for preservation of life and property.
On the coastline now Razorbills, guillemots, kittiwakes and fulmars accompany you as you walk above a series of serrated holes and inlets. Pass Pepper Hole, said to refer to a smugglers cave used to store the spice, the multicoloured rock strata of Butter Hole and the dark caves at Fox Hole. The dark rocks and inlets are broken up by steep crossings of small coombe's and valleys before reaching the strange stack formation at Chimney Rock and the spectacular and vertigo inducing double arched Porthmissen Bridge cliff formation. Beyond this the rather sinister Round hole set back from the coast is a huge meteor like depression in the ground which is the top of a collapsed sea cave. Gaze down hundreds of feet to see the crashing booming blow hole below you.
Reaching your first "classic" cove at Trevone which has plenty of rocky nooks and crannies as well as a beautifully enclosed corridor of golden sand. You can pause at the excellent beach cafe for refreshments or enjoy some fresh seafood for lunch from the small restaurant. If you need instead to burn off what you had in the Padstow restaurants last night then you can always take a refreshing dip in the surf.
After a break at Trevone an easy amble over small cliffs as you wind you way around the fresh and open coastline brings you to the first long stretch of sands at the hamlet of Harlyn Bay.
Overnight stops at Harlyn Bay on the South West Coast Path
For those continuing on today to Porthcothan you climb another series of serrated zawns and inlets to round Mother Ivey’s Bay named after a witch who cursed the local fields here. Trekking a heavily fractured coastline you approach the jagged Merope rocks a dramatic home to flocks of ravens and since 1967 Padstow's lifeboat station (open for visitors) which over the years has saved over 400 lives from the Doom Bar.
At Cat’s Cove magnificent views reach as far back as Hartland Quay 7 days walking away to the east and onwards towards Cape Cornwall close to Lands End, a good 100 miles in all. The trail meets the striking 60’ lighthouse at Trevose head and then leads you into the ominously dark sounding Stinking Cove. At Booby’s Bay (a boobie is another name for a gannet - a type of seabird) and just beyond another round hole look for the remains of the Carl a German ship visible at low tide and wrecked on route to Cardiff in 1917. From here you cross the back of another superb sand and surfing beaches at Constantine Bay and Treyarnon Bay before crossing the run of three coves, Pepper, Warren and Fox cove to descend to the hidden little beach at Porthcothan.
Overnight stops at Porthcothan on the South West Coast Path
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