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 – 15.2 miles - Grade – "Easy" start to St Cleer becoming "moderate" to reach the moor at Minions. Thereafter strenuous walking on open moorland that would be "severe" in bad weather and should only be undertaken by experienced walkers able to navigate with a compass. What these grades mean
Type - Short section on back lanes before steady climbing through The World Heritage Mining Site on old trackways and footpaths to Minions Village at the edge of the Moor. From here wild open moorland and rocky Tors ending with a final section through forest and upland pasture to reach Jamaica Inn.
Today’s Tors - Stowes Hill Tor (The Cheesewring - 360m), Sharp Tor (378m), Bearah Tor (367m), Kilmar Tor (396m) Trewortha Tor (318m)
Overnight stops in Liskeard before your Bodmin Moor Adventure.
It’s an easy start from the pleasant market town of Liskeard this morning on leafy back lanes - you can catch a bus to avoid this but walking out is a good warm up for the day as you head for St Cleer Down to enter a thick wooded and bracken smothered upland. The trail here snakes through scrub, gorse and woodland clearings on an open access down bursting with wildlife including deer.
On the other side is the pretty village of St Cleer, several pubs on offer here along with an impressive 13th Century church, its 100ft tower a useful landmark in these parts.
A little further down the road you pass the beautiful little stone shelter and courtyard that protects the St Cleer Holy Well. The waters drew pilgrims from all over Cornwall as it was said to cure insanity – once you hit the tors you may feel like you should have had a passing sip.
The Monks path, an ancient sunken trail, leads to Trethevy Quoit - An impressive Neolithic era stone slabbed burial chamber know locally as “The Giants House”. A kind of mini Stonehenge, its three metres high with a 10 tonne capstone supported by huge slabs and is large enough for the passing walker to enter.
At an age of between 5000 and 7000 years, here you are looking at Cornwall’s oldest structure. You leave the last of the lowlands shortly after to start a climb onto the Moor from the Crows Nest Pub which was the former Counting House for the huge Caradon Mine system you are now entering.
You now follow a fascinating section of trail climbing the route of the former Liskeard and Caradon Tramway up a hidden valley to the moor - huge trucks filled with quarried stone were run down the mountainside here to the Liskeard and Looe Canal in the valley below.
On one side you are flanked by fascinating mine relics and engine houses, on the other a desolate moonscape of spoil heaps and your route is right through the middle of all this in a lush wooded stream valley. This is the Gonamena Incline, a deep cutting where you follow a surreal trail of old granite sleepers left from the now long silent tramway. This whole area was given World Heritage Status for its Mining Remains in 2006 and yet is rarely walked these days except by those on the Bodmin Moor circular route known as The Copper Trail.
Finally reaching the moor at the exposed village of Minions this is the last habitation today, which evolved to support the prospectors and workers at the nearby Copper Mines.
A hardy but pleasant village high on the moor where wild ponies and sheep wander loose around the village green. Make use of The Cheesewring Inn or the Hurlers Halt Tea Stop which claim to offer Cornwall's highest pint of beer and cream tea respectively - whatever, this is the last chance for any refreshments for the next 10 miles or so.
It’s this immediate section around Minions with its Stone Circles and Cheesewring Tor that are the only place today you will be aware of other visitors.
Just beyond the village you can divert to see the huge iconic Engine House of Houseman's Shaft, which was part of the South Phoenix Mine System whose ghostly remains lie scattered around you. Standing bleakly on the moor this huge Engine House is the last sign of human defiance against the elements. You can enter the building which has been superbly restored and is now Minions Heritage Centre with a series of free displays on the moor in a unique building.
Beyond Minions the route now arrives at a set of three well preserved Bronze Age Stone circles known as The Hurlers. The local tale is that these are all that is left of a group of hapless men who decided to “profane the lord” by playing with a Cornish Hurling ball on the Sabbath. Completing this rich site are the forlorn Pipers - two huge 2 metre standing stones - musicians turned to stone for playing an accompaniment to the festivities.
Reality of course is these are much older than any notion of “the Sabbath” sited here around 1500BC –they are a superb set of remains and demonstrate the power and significance this part of the Moor had over prehistoric ancestors and whatever strange ceremonies were performed here.
Your walk is now over the open moor to the first of your Tors at Stowes Hill (360m), easy to spot with its huge and iconic Cheesewring rock sculpture, a dramatic tower of contoured circular discs that clings improbably to the side of the hill and has been drawing admirers since the Victorian times. As you start to climb the steep sides of the Tor there are good views over the dramatic quarry below with its gin clear pools. It’s reassuring to note how in 100 years the moor has been taking back mans interference and is slowly returning this into an idyllic spot.
If you look carefully on the climb you can find the remains of Daniel Gumb’s Cave in the rocks, a man made rock shelter which housed an eccentric stonemason and his family in the 1730’s (it had several rock walled rooms in its day). Somewhat incredibly he was apparently a vociferous mathematician when not chipping away at the rocks and you can still see his equations carved into the stone slab roof – said to be a mathematical equation that proves Pythagoras’s theorem.
Beyond the Cheesewring are more twisted formations and the whole of the upper Tor is part of a massive Bronze Age stone wall compound and circular fortification – your route takes your through the middle of this before you scramble over the high stone boulder ramparts that mark the boundary of this ancient habitation.
On the other side of the Pound you emerging into another world with little sign of any human interference and you descend through heather to cross one last valley that holds the old moorland Tramway before a lung busting ascent of Sharp Tor (378m) a two pinnacled summit with its own parody of the Cheesewring on its high left flank.
Beyond this you are now on a high moorland plateau - wide open moor stretches ahead with barely a stunted tree in sight, an almost primeval place and for the next few miles it’s you, the wilderness and a succession of short climbs topped by huge elongated ridge Tors and boulder stacks that appear to stretch into infinity.
You navigate from tor to tor like a giant game of hopscotch pausing to take in the superb views at each summit before carefully selecting the best looking route on to the next peak. There is no path and no “correct route” up here and the joy of this walk is you lose the footpath signs and the shackles of the ‘path well trodden’ and can strike out instead using your own initiative and instincts, tor by tor to search for the best “way on”.
Over Bearah Tor (367m) with its quarry before another climb to Kilmar Tor where you will need to look carefully to find a route through the tumbling boulder piles and rock faces to reach its western col and a route over this most imposing of ridges.
Kilmar is by far the most impressive of today’s “wild” tors – a real power place that feels a long way from anywhere and yet holds an outstanding ½ mile long sculpture of rock and boulder formations that is nothing short of breathtaking. At 396m its actually only around 20 metres lower than Cornwall’s highest peak Brown Willy, which you will climb tomorrow – psychologically however this is by far the remotest of the two with none of its views looking over any obvious evidence of human habitation - a very rare thing in Cornwall.
After a careful descent picking your way through the rocks from Kilmar you now make a crossing of the wide plains at Twelve Mans Moor which took its name from a deal made in the 13th Century to allow 12 tenant farmers the rights to try and farm this wild spot - clearly not much progress was made on that front.
On the far side of the expanse an easier climb to the huge globe shaped rocks on the east side of Trewortha Tor (318m) before finally something from the modern world appears – an unmanned water pumping station that allows a crossing point of the moorland marsh at Withy Brook.
For a short section you join a track past two remote farmsteads before heading back onto the East Moor – deep green forests now begin to surround the edges of the moor on all sides as you cross via Carey Tor (270m) and Greymare Rocks to enter Halvana Plantation with huge pines stretching along the horizon and a completely new environment as you enter a dark and towering forest to cross the plantation on long straight tracks and firebreaks.
After leaving the forest you get your first views of Brown Willey Tor beyond the A30 Trunk Road Corridor, a rather unwelcome slice of the modern world which scythes through the moor at this spot Here the sight of your first “Footpath” sign after all those miles of unmarked moor is likely to amuse. The route now enters rough sheep pasture in a rapid descent to a stunning wooded glade crossing the infant River Fowey at Carneglos - dragon flies everywhere here and in the trees a few hundred metres north of one of Cornwall’s better known wild Otter populations is to be found. An ancient trackway climbs back to the moor from the Fowey valley but it’s an easy passage now along an unfenced moorland road into some habitation at last in the village of Bolventor and the infamous Jamaica Inn. - Five Tors down and Five to go tomorrow.
Overnight stops at the Jamaica Inn in Bolventor
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