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 then easy through Newquay - what these grades mean
Superb coastal scenery with easy walking today as your trail hugs the edge of the cliffs high above a seemingly endless procession of rocky coves, craggy stacks and sea carved caves.
Before reaching the Iron Age Fort at Trescore Island you pass man made caves in the cliffs still displaying huge iron spikes and hoops a legacy of the “free trade” gangs that cleaned up the wrecks in the area.
A short steep drop brings the lovely Porth Meor Valley, a little rock pooled cove with reed beds and small ponds before a steady climb back up the cliffs to the National Trust protected heath land at Park View, stay observant, this wonderfully open space is Peregrine Falcon and oystercatcher country.
Beyond it you reach the wild and tortured rocky stacks of Bedruthan Steps the iconic Victorian Cornish Postcard image popular with the arrival of the first travellers via the new railway at nearby Newquay. The rocks retain their stunning panorama the name referring to the exhilarating flight of steps that lead you down through the cliffs to the beach below. Local legends tell of The Giant Bedruthan who was said to have used the stark offshore islands as stepping stones. Whilst the Queen Bess stone no longer resembles Queen Victoria after a vicious winter storm took off part of her head she remains a prized climb for the countries best rock climbers. Another gigantic stack, the Samaritan rock refers to The Good Samaritan a ship wrecked here in 1846 at the time of the potato famine, its plundered goods seen as a godsend by scores of hungry locals though many of them paid for their scavenging with a spell in the fearsome Bodmin Jail. When the tide is out descend the steps as this a great beach for exploring the caves, stacks and rock pools below the cliffs.
The Southwest Coastal path then passes over the remains of an ambitious but doomed attempt to build a sea canal before it drops to the dunes and beach at Mawgan Porth a popular spot with its acres of sands and welcome facilities.
Overnight stops at Mawgan Porth on the South West Coast Path
It’s nothing however compared to the next jewel at Watergate Bay a fantastic sweeping section of beach with over 2 miles of golden sands, caves and rocky cliffs. Surfing and other extreme sports including sand kites and sand buggies are the modern additions to the striking scenery here. For those wanting some luxury consider an overnight stop at the fabulously positioned Watergate Bay Hotel For those not able to afford the stay the clever walker can always make a late start and stop off for lunch at the restaurant or the excellent Beach Hut Cafe below the cliffs - try the hot chocolate - one of the best in Cornwall.
Overnight stops at Watergate Bay for those who want to "Splash Out" ...in more ways than one!
High cliffs end the day as you follow the tops to Trevelgue Head where a short detour allows you to cross the footbridge onto the exposed island headland which boasts the most fortified iron age castle on this coast with a series of seven ramparts protecting it. Search here as well for the huge cave known as the Banqueting Hall and a dramatic blow hole well worth seeing when the waves pick up. From the headland Newquay beckons and it’s easy walking, the path taking you alongside the first of the 9 beaches that cushion the town.
Overnight stops at Newquay on the South West Coast Path see the next days information page for stays at Crantock
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