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.
12.5 miles Moderate Grade Walking - what this grade means
Leaving Monksilver you now enter Exmoor National Park. Walking through, it's well worth pausing to take the path through the churchyard of the beautiful little 12th Century Church of the All Saints. Built in the local red sandstone and resplendent with its gargoyles it sits below the first of today's climbs into the little visited Brendon Hills.
The ascent of Bird Hill is steep as you head into yet another medieval cart trail that climbs up and up through eerie badger and fox filled woods. The rewards at the top are some of the best views of the entire day at Colton Cross and the knowledge you have your first “Brendon” under your belt.
A sharp descent through a hidden hanging coombe brings you to The Roadwater Valley and a new land of dark conifer forested valleys below looming heathland heights.
The Coleridge Way sets a course through the middle of this entering an exhilarating run on wide forest trails through the huge dark pines and evergreens of Pitt Wood and then, as you descend further, a change to the leafy avenues of oaks and sycamore plantations now running alongside the route of the Old West Somerset Mineral Line.
This was built in the 1860’s to run Iron Ore down the valley from the hills and the traces of its tracks and crossings accompany you on the descent into Roadwater Village.
It feels very remote here - real Exmoor rather without the tourist trappings and Roadwater itself is a delightful and secluded spot sitting at the meeting point of two bubbling stream valleys. The Valiant Soldier Pub is on hand to cater for those staying here or provide a welcome rest spot for those continuing on to Wheddon Cross
Overnight stays in Roadwater on the Coleridge Way
There are still two more big climbs today between you and your moorland village destination at Wheddon Cross. The first sees you enter the gloomy and imposing Dunster Forest by an old bridleway that climbs and climbs from the river valley to the ridge. Don’t just look for deer but also the spooky remains of the Bronze age 'Langridge Wood Cist' a boulder built burial chamber. Its stone slab “coffin lid” is still in place, a 4,000 year old grave right here in the middle of this dark forest.
This was also the site of the grisly "Felons Oak" where petty thieves and horse rustlers were hung in
the tree and left to die, a local deterrent in Coleridge's day to try and discourage the rising lawlessness in the area.
Above the tree line there's more climbing onto the middle Brendon Hills,
navigating through upland sheep pasture. Bright yellow gorse flanks The Coleridge Way along rolling ridges that now start to give you the first views of Dunkery Beacon and the highest point on Exmoor National Park. Joining an ancient twisting bridleway you descend from the hills to the tiny hamlet of Luxborough. Here you can pause at the Royal Oak Inn one of the last real Exmoor Village Inns, the tiny bar, slate floors and huge open fireplace can just about fit in the handful of shooters, gamekeepers and the odd poacher no doubt, sipping steaming mulled wine in respite from the hills. Michelin recommended for its food (not surprisingly featuring locally caught game and fish) this little treasure is very much a hidden secret of the Brendon’s.
It’s hard to leave the Oak but one must push on and another ascent is required and fuelled by mulled wine you climb up on the long pull to Lype Hill and the highest point of The Coleridge Way at 418m. The trig point summit sits on a cluster of Burial Mounds or Tumului evidence of habitation up here from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.
Lype Hill itself sits on an extensive open area of flat upland and the views are worthy of its height. A 360 degree panorama awaits, stretching from Dartmoor National Park in the far south, through Exmoor to the West, the sea and South West Coast Path ridge to the north and finally back to the Quantocks and Mendip ranges behind you. From here of course it’s all downhill to Wheddon Cross through pleasant glades, sheep pastures and finally an ancient track off the moor so old that you follow the deeply rutted trail, the stones literally worn into tramways by centuries of toiling horse and cart traffic on its way to and from the high ground.
Overnight stays in the moorland village of Wheddon Cross on The Coleridge Way
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