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 - Around 14 miles (23km) Grade – 6.5 miles moderate and 7.5 miles easy grade walking – Low shingle banks & short cliff sections before coastal uplands and woodlands cut by deep stream valleys
An easier day today after the strenuous efforts since Aberystwyth, much of which is on long sections alongside shingle and mud bank, through an area of flat, wide coastal plain. There are a couple of climbs over high cliffs, but nothing like the ups and downs you have endured so far – or those to come.
Start by clunking over the stones at the back of the beach for a short distance on a pebble banked storm ridge.
You quickly pass an unusual set of 4 stocky old lime kilns in woods at Craig-Las. These were significant in their day, with coal and limestone stores adjoined, as well as the remains of a beer store for the thirsty workers. As you emerge from the wood you can still see parts of the old jetty where materials for the kilns were offloaded from ships.
Gentle walking to Llansantffraid follows, across lush green coastal fields and pasture just inland of the shoreline where the medieval towered church dominates the scene. It is dedicated to St Ffraid, the patron saint of dairy maids, which reflects the more arable nature of the land you are walking through. A glance around the graveyard reveals a less pastoral history however – it is said that there are over 70 graves here of local sailors who died at sea, most on voyages to the other side of the world, far away from this quiet corner of Wales.
Near the hamlet of Llannon you will pass through Morfa Esgob or ‘The Bishops Strand’, a well-preserved and complex system of medieval strip-farming known as slangs: narrow strips of land given over to feudal peasants – there are over 140 here that survive intact. It’s at this point that you are forced to cross the River Cledan where it snakes and spills out over the pebbles to the sea and there is a short walk along the pebble ridge to enjoy as you approach.
There is a medieval feel to this area and at low tide it’s incredible to be able to spot the remains of ancient fish traps or goredi, – low walled enclosures out at sea which trapped hapless salmon and mullet as the tide fell. Still visible are the footings – these had removeable wattle fences fixed to them as the tide went out. The back of the beach is eroding year on year…but these medieval fish traps have remained in place since the 6th Century!
Beyond Llannon you briefly leave these fertile plains and the nearby foreshore to climb into a section of high cliffs at Graig Ddu. At the height of the traverse massive cliffs suddenly appear from the gorse and you find yourself very close to large drops but after carefully rounding them you descend back to the low shingle banks at the larger village of Aberath, where the Strata Florida Monastery had its water mill and fishing activities. Here you travel inland but gladly so, as it’s a place of pretty cottages and a lovely bubbling river, the Arth, crossed by a footbridge below a series of cascading waterfalls and steps. From here you can make a ½ mile diversion to the church and see the Viking hogback stone – the only one in Wales.
The push is now on to the vibrant harbour at Aberaeron, firstly along low clay cliffs, before you are dumped onto the shingle to crunch along on the final approach to town.
Click Here for information on overnight options in Aberaeron on The Ceredigion Coast Path
Arriving on foot from the coast, you head inland past the colourful stately buildings which brighten up any traveller’s day as you traverse first the outer and then the inner harbour. There are great eating places here, making it the perfect lunch stop. Note the pink Limestone Weighing House - just one of many functional industrial buildings, ordered neatly around the grid-like harbour and town that seems to ooze quality and order – in distinct contrast to the fun and disorder of anarchic New Quay at the end of the path tonight!
Happily, refuelled at Aberaeron, it’s good to feel the path rising again through grassland, interspersed with occasional patches of woodland, before reaching Cilfforch, where the first of two steep valleys (cwm’s) are crossed by little wooden bridges.
The dramatic descent today is into and - of course - back out of the second cwm at the Afron Drywl valley, a stunning spot with steep sides, some dark forest and a lively stream that tumbles in front of your feet, over the rocks to oblivion (well, presumably to the inaccessible beach below!) The rocks revealed by the charging steam have amazing block patterns – it’s a lovely hidden vale. The cliffs in this section have lots of birds swooping, landing and resting on the ledges so keep a sharp eye out.
Thoughts now are ahead to New Quay, which appears in the distance across the bay and wide grassy tracks through the gorse and brush above the cliffs take you towards it. But divert briefly to Llanina Point, where the pretty Afon Gide stream tumbles out of the woods and over the beach to meet the sea. You can visit the lovely church dedicated to Ina, 7th Century King of Wessex and the master builder of mighty Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. This tiny church was built after locals rescued King Ina from a terrible shipwreck and nursed him back to health. He vowed to build a church in thanks and was good to his word, although shifting coastlines mean it has moved inland several times - this is now the 7th version. It is said you can still hear the bells at night tolling from the sunken predecessors. It’s a lovely little church, dating from around 1850, with a graveyard full of bluebells in the spring and it sits right above the beach.
The final mile or so into New Quay now depends on the tides. If you are lucky and its low to mid-tide, you can walk right around the bay on the sands and arrive in the harbour on foot from the foreshore. At high tide you must divert inland to arrive through the higgledy-piggledy little lanes and backstreets of New Quay, but it’s a pleasing introduction to the place, passing through the garden of the Black Lion Inn, a favourite haunt of Dylan Thomas – and it seems rude not to have a quick drink on your arrival in his honour.
Click Here for information on your overnight in New Quay on The Ceredigion Coast Path
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