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 12.5 miles - Grade - Moderate - what these grades mean
Enter mining country today and your first taste of The Cornwall Mining World Heritage Site. A fascinating section of path taking you on an another high level cliff traverse, through a rich vein of tin, copper, zinc, lead and even silver mines that were worked from the middle ages to the mid 1980’s. Cliffs here sport colourful shades of red, orange, blue and green stained by the traces of copper and iron running through the stacks and crags.
From the headland at Cligga Head today you find the cliffs punctured by mine adits, tunnels and shafts which were often entered by rope walkways suspended down the sheer cliffs. Today the shafts are covered with strange conical mesh grills preventing walkers tumbling down the gloomy holes whilst allowing colonies of bats access to roost.
Rock Climbers are often spotted scaling the impressive sea cliffs as you pass the remains of the British and Colonial Explosive Company who produced dynamite here, one unplanned explosion in 1902 so big it made the windows and doors in Truro rattle some 20 miles away.
The Cornish Coast Path now skirts the historically significant World War 2 Airfield at Trevallas still with its bunkers, ditches and gun placements now a ghostly quiet backdrop to the handful of gliders that take off here to take advantage of the thermals created by the cliffs. A brief turn inland is needed to negotiate the Blue Hills Tin Steams crossed by the old engine house. For those who want to know more about mining here a member of the current owner’s family takes visitors on a fascinating 1 hour tours of the old and new mining landscape with demonstrations of the tin extraction process from ore to finished ingot.
At Trevaunance cove you pass a few remains of the quays and ore bins of what in its heyday was one of the area’s busiest harbours, abandoned after being ravaged during the great war by the Atlantic waves. Inland for those wanting a lunch break is the welcoming town of St Agnes - don’t miss the Driftwood Spas pub which brews its own beer on site. There is also the excellent and free entry St Agnes Museum with a mindboggling variety of exhibits as well as a handful of well thought of art galleries and shops. Off shore now are the dramatic Bawden Rocks or “Man and his Man” with colonies of guillemots, kittiwakes, razorbills and the odd puffin. Listen quietly and you may hear or spot some of the grey seals that use the caves to breed here in what is now a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area. Along the whole of this section keep an eye out for adders and slow worms as well as the occasional lizard basking in the gorse on the cliff tops.
Overnight stops at St Agnes on the South West Coast Path
After rounding the wild St Agnes Head with its stupendous views in all directions arrive at Wheal Coates mine and its Towanwrath shaft and engine house. Clinging to the cliffs this is one of the most atmospheric and iconic images of Cornwall’s mining past, the trenches and pits around it are even older medieval opencast tin workings following the tin bearing veins to the sea.
Two more stunning beaches arrive in quick succession at Chapel Porth and Porthtowan climbing back through some fantastic meadowland close to the coast with rarities such as Sea holly, wild geraniums and white bell heather and small pools holding damsel and dragon flies. At Nancekuke Common a bizarre section of the path takes you alongside the perimeter fence of the now decommissioned Chemical warfare Research Centre which developed and processed the nerve agent Sarin as well as CS gas - these days thankfully the strange looking dome is nothing more sinister than part of the Atlantic Early Warning Radar Defence System. Pass a coastal waterfall just before the aptly named Diamonds Rock and you finally arrive at The Pepper Pot an atmospheric white daymark above Portreath harbour and the end of the days walking.
Overnight stops at Portreath on the South West Coast Path
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