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.
The gateway town to North Pembrokeshire and the end of the Ceredigion Coast Path trail which is marked with the statue of a bronze Otter quietly gazing out from below the Castle over the River Teifi.
Cardigan (Aberteifi) is the major town in the region and sits above the medieval bridge over the River Teifi, the first inland crossing point of this mighty estuary. At the end of the bridge are the dramatic walls of the castle which forms the heart of this compact town opposite the waterside Heritage Centre.
Cardigan Castle was built by Rhys ap Gruffydd, ruler of Deheubarth, south Wales. To celebrate its completion in 1176, he held the first ever Eisteddfod - a celebration of Welsh literature and music – at the castle. Like so many castles in the region, Cardigan Castle changed hands many times over the centuries that followed before being partially demolished during the English civil war. Afterwards, ‘Cardigan’s forgotten castle’ was neglected for many years and very little of the original structure now remains apart from the outer walls.
In 1808 Castle Green House was built within the grounds. From the 1940s the house and castle were owned by the reclusive Barbara Wood, who initially lived here with her mother, and after latter’s death, alone aside from her many cats, without gas, electricity or water. In the 1980s the house was declared unfit for habitation and Miss Wood moved into a caravan while the house fell into greater dereliction. Eventually, in 1999, she moved into a nursing home and four years later the property was purchased by the local authority. Now, after a major restoration project, both house and castle walls have been renovated and reopened as a visitor attraction, including exhibitions on the castle and Cardigan’s history, on the story of the Eisteddfod and on the story of Barbara Wood, the last private owner of the castle.
The town and port that grew up around the castle prospered in the 18th century, possessing seven times the number of ships that Cardiff owned, but later suffered declining fortunes with the silting up of the Teifi. Now, however, regeneration is giving the town a facelift, and with the castle as a cultural hub, the town is attracting attention for its arts scene and independent craft shops. While you are here, try and check out Theatr Mwldan arts centre, which promotes a diverse range of performing arts including cinema, music, drama and film, at its complex in the centre of Cardigan. There’s also Small World Theatre, a puppet theatre housed in an eco-building and an indoor market at the historic Guildhall from Monday to Saturday.
The busy high street has the biggest range of shops, pubs, cafes and restaurants since Aberystwyth to explore and there are some unusual floating restaurant options in the river area.
A short distance outside Cardigan is the Welsh Wildlife Centre Headquarters in the centre of the Teifi Marsh Reserve. Species you may see include otter, kingfisher, bittern, hen harrier, lapwing, curlew, brown hairstreak butterfly and hornet robber-fly see the Welsh Wildlife Centre. This is an inspiring place with loads of information, short walks with panoramic views of the beautiful Teifi Marshes Nature Reserve which is the centre piece here. The Licensed Glass House Cafe has "tree top" views right over the reserve from the third floor Glasshouse Cafe.
Getting to the reserve from Cardigan is easy for walkers - its only 1 mile from the road bridge in Cardigan which is on the Wales Coast Path. The route is along a purpose made cycle path/walkway by the river part of the Cardi Bach Cycle Route.
If you have a rest day in Cardigan you can easily combine the wildlife reserve with a walk onto St Dogmaels to visit the Abbey ruins and the pretty riverside village at the start of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path again only 2 miles on from Cardigan on an easy trail. You can walk out to both and bus back.
If you’ve still got some energy left at the end of your walk you can also try a host of outdoor activities at Cardigan Bay Active – everything from coasteering, to climbing to kayaking and canoeing. So, if you fancy canoeing down the River Teifi for sunrise or a kayak trip to view the coastline you’ve just walked from the seaward side then why not book a trip – a great way to finish your walking holiday!
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