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.
9 miles Moderate Grade with Strenuous options on Dunkery Beacon then a further 2 miles easy grade walking for those continuing to Porlock Weir - what these grades mean
Now lock horns with Exmoor National Park proper on the slopes of its highest point at Dunkery Beacon. Today the Coleridge Way throws everything at you. The climb to the moor is nothing to be rushed. On “Toms Path” you scramble through increasingly deep and steep sided ancient forest, breaking out here and there into brief sub moorland hanging valleys that soar upwards to the heather clad slopes ahead.
A medieval forest track plunges you into Mansley Combe and the River Avil valley, now well beyond the last habitation with the forest becoming increasing wild. Crisscrossed by crashing moorland streams that you continue to ford the path then makes a steep ascent to abruptly break out onto Exmoor proper at Span Gate a breathtaking exit where the whole world suddenly seems to open up around you.
Those keen to scale the heights of the mighty Dunkery Beacon can divert here up the expansive slopes to outstanding views. At 1,705 feet (520 m) Dunkery is the highest point in the whole of Somerset, never mind Exmoor National Park, and at the top you can rest to take in the 360 degree panorama on the huge stone cairn that also marks the site of a Bronze Age Cemetery. On the way back down watch out for large herds of red deer and you are also bound to meet up with the tiny Exmoor Ponies that roam free here.
The less exuberant walkers head off instead around the flanks of the peak on The Coleridge Way which follows an exhilarating path over the open moor, through a purple heather carpet broken up with bright yellow gorse, forests of bracken and wide views now over the Vale of Porlock to the sea.
A steep descent and climb follows through the silent and rather primeval valley at Hanny Coombe before you drop down through the ancient walled woodlands of Brockwell. You now follow the northern slopes of the heath on the fairly level Dunster Path the moor on the left, heather stretching to the heavens and on your right the ground dropping away into the pastures of the Porlock Valley and rippling waters of the bay beyond.
Little villages and stately churches appear far below on one side whilst on the other only the chance of a lonely stag and the call of a curlew break a glorious silence. Inevitably you eventually reach a moorland road at Webbers Cross and the regret at leaving the moor is tempered by the start of a quick and invigorating descent through a woodland trail enriched by a wooden sculpture trail and ornate stone seats – the sign that this point is as near as the casual walker gets to Dunkerry.
The descent now is nothing short of thrilling as you hurtle down the Coleridge Way from the moor along some glorious forest paths oaks parting here and there to reveal the deep forested valley and ridge above Horner Water, home to an impressive 14 of the 16 UK bat species.
The final drop is a steep bridleway fringed with deer fences ...known locally as the 'Judges Ride' and you suddenly emerge into the tranquillity of a lowland woodland village at Horner with its tea shop, water mill and medieval Packhorse bridge known hereabouts as the 'Hacketty Bridge'.
Ending today with a sense of serenity The Coleridge Way now tracks the onward rushing Horner Water River as it heads for the coast. A final descent brings the pretty thatched cottages of Porlock to greet you and you slip through The Drang and other medieval back paths past the fine squat like Porlock Church to finish at The Porlock Visitor Centre.
Here at the outdoor art installation you will find Coleridge’s "person from Porlock" emerges out of the garden wall interrupting your walk, fitting perhaps as it’s just as the original intruder from Porlock did at Coleridge’s Home resulting in his lost train of thought and the sudden unfinished end to Kubla Khan.
Overnight at thatched village of Porlock on your Coleridge Way Walking Holiday
Those continuing on the full route to Lynmouth will often prefer to continue for two miles onto the coast at Porlock Weir - you get to stay by the sea which is always a bonus and this cuts the mileage down tomorrow. Its an enchanting run through the deep forests and coombes (hanging valleys) around West Porlock and those who love gardens can fit in a quick visit to Greencombe Gardens which sits right on the path just outside of Porlock. Emerging from the woodland around 1/2 mile before the coast, the full vista of Porlock Bay lies before you with its immense shingle ridge holding back the waves from the flat marshes. At the end of the ridge you reach the timeless little harbour of Porlock Weir and the end of a day that for those that climbed Dunkerry Beacon saw you walk from the highest to the lowest points of Exmoor National Park in the space of one unforgettable afternoon.
Overnight at the harbour in Porlock Weir 1/2 mile off the Coleridge Way route
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