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 15 miles (24km) – options to split the route at Tre’r ddol
Grade - Generally moderate grade but with some strenuous climbs and 4 miles Easy Grade over Borth Bog to finish. Forest, Low Mountainside, high Sheep Pasture, ancient woodland & wetland
This is an optional section of the Wales Coast Path but one worth including if you can. The Ceredigion Coast Path starts at Ynyslas, north of Borth, (see Section Two). The Wales Coast Path links to Borth from the inland location of Machynlleth, the “interior capital” of this part of Wales and the point where all trains to the region stop. Starting from Machynlleth gives a first day of inspiring and very different inland walking on the Wales Coast Path to reach the Ceredigion coast
The other bonus for the experienced and adventurous of walking from Machynlleth is the option to take an extra day there and climb the mighty Cadair Idris – click here for details on that option.
We think it’s well worth starting at Machynlleth as it’s the natural split between the Ceredigion and Snowdonia sections of the Wales Coast Path and gives you some lovely variety to your walking. However, if you are short of time or only want to walk by the sea then ignore this section and start from Section Two at Borth – Click Here for Section Two
Click Here for information on overnight stops at Machynlleth before the start of your Wales Coast Path Adventure
Quiet hills and forested ravines take you from the Welsh Interior to the coast, with plenty of stunning views and mountainside vistas as well as some challenging climbs and descents. A mix of high hillside, forest and woodland tracks with short stretches of back lanes, all well-signed and wonderfully varied. Towards the end of the section, there’s a complete change of terrain as you reach the great ‘Bog of Borth’. Crossing this final hurdle before reaching the sea is a unique experience.
Leaving the ornate clock tower in the sleepy high street of the town of Machynlleth, the sea feels a million miles away as you push up into the bowl of forested hills that surround the town. This is very much the heart of Wales – but by the end of the day you will have reached its edge at the ocean. The first few miles are shared with another National Trail – the (Owain) Glynd'r Way, an apt exit from the town that housed Owain’s Parliament buildings and you can swing by the Welsh leader’s monument and the Old Parliament building as you depart.
The first climb up the hillside is on the ‘Roman Steps’, a relic from when the Romans mined minerals in the hills here, in a far-flung outpost of the Roman Empire. At the first ridge, Owain’s route departs for the inland mountains, while the Wales Coast Path continues steadily climbing through green rolling valleys and occasional sheep farms, up to the forest ahead. Already you’re a long way from noise and bustle. There is a respite from the climbing below the peak of Cyfarthfa, an angry looking hill, half-stripped of forest while the steepest crags cling on doggedly to what remains.
The first of several descents today starts here, where a logging track takes you into the bubbling Llynfnant Valley, a great reward for the toil up here from Machynlleth. Far below, a surging, youthful mountain stream tumbles through a forested v-shaped valley, whilst Tarren Tyn y Maen looms over you on the other side of the valley.
The swish of the tall pines is gradually replaced by the roar from distant waterfalls as you descend towards dense forested banks. It’s a good place to spot the forked tailed red kite, swooping or hovering skilfully in the skies above. As you get closer to the river, look for dippers plying the waterfalls and rushing waters. Much of the site is owned by the RSPB and is an SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) enveloped by ancient twisted oak and mountain ash in a woodland full of rich green ferns and mosses. It’s a delightful stretch and as you get towards the end of it, look out on the right for the open mining tunnel dug into the hillside but long since abandoned.
The pattern of climb and descend repeats, with a steep climb to the next ridge through more woodland and fine views over the Afron Dyfi valley to the Snowdonia section of the Wales Coast Path – a day’s walk away, heading north from Machynlleth. A tranquil descent through bracken and conifers brings you to a lonely farm track with the larger mountains still framed above the pine trees above you.
Another descent to the valley floor follows, crossing another wooded ravine, before climbing onto the flanks of the more mountainous Foel Fawr and with a new-felt sense of freedom you now track the lower mountain slopes below scree and crags through bracken and heather. At the highest point of the walk on a rocky outcrop, a well-placed topograph helps identify points of interest in the expansive Dyfi Estuary laid out below. Beyond lies another range of hills - the Tarren Mountains.
The next valley is the Afgon Einion, long known here as Artists Valley for the artists who have been attracted here for over 150 years. A steep descent into a deep, isolated, forested gorge is followed by a climb out the other side. Look for the lonely mountain yurt, built on the edge of the forest by someone who evidently could not bear to leave the beauty of this place.
If time allows, you can divert a short distance to visit an 18th century charcoal burning furnace, sited here due to the fast-flowing waterways and the abundance of trees for charcoal – it took an incredible 16 tonnes of wood to produce just one tonne of Iron. The furnace was built in 1755 by iron producers from the West Midlands. Previously, there was a smelting works here for processing silver and lead from the local mines. Later it became a sawmill, and it’s a picturesque spot now with its remaining waterwheel.
The next stages are through gentle woodlands and pasture as the mountains recede and you head towards the twin villages of Tre r Ddol and Tre Tailiesin which sit on the main Aberystwyth to Machynlleth road and bring the first and welcome hint of a larger settlement and a pub!
The path criss-crosses a myriad of bubbling streams via little wooden bridges in shady glades, while inquisitive sheep look on. At a more defined stretch of woodland the path descends for the final time today to the valley floor where the forest blends into ancient oak woodland alive with the sounds of birdsong.
The villages of Tre r Ddol and Tre Taliesin which almost run into one another, are prospecting settlements, built on the income from nineteenth century lead, copper and silver mining - although mining has taken place in the area for more than 4000 years. Note the Wesleyan Chapel Yr Hen Capel in Tre’r ddol, which would have been the centre of the village 200 years ago.
There are some basic refreshment options here - a pub and an excellent community café - but unfortunately there’s no accommodation so you will either push onwards to Borth or take a bus to Aberystwyth and return tomorrow to continue.
After your glorious switchback of woodland ravines, the day ends with a complete contrast as you stand at the edge of the mighty Borth Bog, the last barrier to finally meeting the sea. No walk in Wales would be complete without a peat bog and this one happens to be one of the most significant and valuable environments in Wales. Be assured, the way through avoids you sinking up to your knees, and the flatness of the next 4 miles will be something of a relief after the climbs and descents from Machynlleth!
The Bog of Borth (Cors Fochno) is said to be the home to Llyffant the Great Toad of Wales, an important character in Welsh Mythology. Part of the Dyfi National Nature Reserve, this is one of the largest estuarine peat bogs in lowland Britain, a vast area of shimmering reed beds, dark pools and peat bog, a raised peat mire, now a designated UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Look out for curlew, snipe and redshank as you cross. It’s also home to a healthy population of otters, polecats, rare moths and dragonfly, and many adders!
While there are views of mountains on both sides to enjoy, it is the draw of the sea now that will spur you on as you wander along narrow watercourses banked by high waving grasses and an array of rare plants that thrive in this isolated place. Partway along, the path diverts through a low marsh forest before joining the main watercourse along the edge of the bog, but you get the chance to take a wander out over a section of boardwalk to experience what the rest of the peat bog is like…without sinking into it.
On the far side of the bog and after crossing the Afon Leri you finally reach green, firm and relatively higher ground at St Mathews Church, built in 1879 and locally known as “The Church of the Bog” standing isolated on a little knoll above the surrounding marshes on the first piece of dry land for 4 miles and unusual for its touching pet cemetery set in solitary pines just outside the main cemetery.
Crossing the tiny Cambrian Railway line beyond, you finally reach Borth, strung out along the sands marking your rendezvous with the coastline of Wales and The Ceredigion Coast Path proper.
Click Here for information on your overnight in Borth on The Ceredigion Coast Path.
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