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.
This is a short walking day but with good reason as there is just so much to see. The coast path climbs in and out of a skyline of sentinel chimneys, towering cliffs and heather and gorse valleys to St Just.
CLICK HERE to continue reading the route description Pendeen to St Just
Today is the highlight of the Mining sections of the walk as you walk your way through the largest and oldest submarine mining area in the world.
Geevor Tin Mine - Leaving Pendeen you start with a thorough visit at Geevor Mine, centre piece of the World Heritage Site. Mining here has taken place for over 300 years and with your own Hard Hat you are free to explore this 67 acre site at your own pace. Extensive interactive displays in the main mine buildings will give a good understanding of the area you are walking through whilst the now silent machinery sheds and cavernous Mine Head buildings provide the atmosphere and the unexpected as you visit.
This was Cornwall’s last working Tin mine which closed in 1990 and the staff you will meet here are the ex-miners themselves who describe first hand what working Cornish mines meant to them and their communities.
A highlight is the chance to go underground with them into the twisting tunnels of the 18C Wheal Mexico Mine giving a very real sense of the dark and claustrophobic conditions that the original tinners worked in – and believe us you will relish the open panoramas of The South West Coast Path all the more after this!
For some however the lasting memory will be the silent rows of open lockers in the “Dry” room, where the Miners showered, fooled about and relaxed after a dangerous shift, clothes and personal items left exactly as they were on the day the pumps were switched off and the sea flooded the tunnels for ever. The last ever shift of Cornish Miners left the building simply spraying on one locker the message 16/2/90 – The End.
Before getting back on the trail you can fuel up with huge fresh pasties made on site in the excellent Mine Cafe with its panoramic views sraight out to sea over the mine site.
Botallack Mine Count House - Overseen today by the National Trust Botallack Mine is perched just back from the Cliffs on the coast path are the the 19thC offices and Boardroom where miners came to draw their pay from the Purser.
Lavish dinners for shareholders would be laid on here and as you walk through this area you can visit the workshops and walk into the atmospheric remains of the Tin dressing floors and the labyrinthian Arsenic Works where the poison was extracted from the mined rocks and scraped off the walls by the unfortunate workers.
The Crowns Mines - Probably Cornwall’s most iconic and photographed engine houses these sit below the South West Coast Path clinging in an improbable fashion to the jagged rock just above the crashing Atlantic.
Men were carried up and down the shaft in a gig, a purpose-built, wheeled box – today you can descend here to gaze over the boiling ocean and feel at the edge of the world itself.
Levant Mine - Known as the Queen of Cornwall as it ran for over 110 years Levant Mine and Engine is maintained by the National Trust and once again the South West Coast Path brings you straight over the cliffs to it. Here you can climb underground to follow in the miners footsteps through the “dry” tunnel to peer down into half a mile of vertical shafts. This mining is as dangerous as it got, the tunnels running under the seabed here for over a mile, nervous miners having to listen to the rumbling of boulders being shifted by the Atlantic over their heads in Stormy weather.
In 1919, 32 men died in this very shaft when the device used to bring them up and down from the depths snapped – the significance of this disaster for local mining communities is still felt, you may find flowers left here and there are still memorial services for the tragedy nearly a century on. In the mine buildings you can’t fail to find the oldest surviving Cornish Beam Engine a stupendous piece of engineering that has been restored and still powers under steam today.
Other Remains On the approach to St Just your walk continues to pass through a patchwork of enigmatic ruins including water powered tin stamping mills, Iron Age Forts, old arsenic works, drying beds and an unforgettable skyline of haunting Mine Chimneys and shafts.
St Just You will end the day following the paths inland that the miners took to and from their work to stay in the mines capital at the frontier town of St Just. With its rows of granite miners cottages, public buildings Chapels and squares, St Just-in-Penwith, , is often described as the most westerly town in England and very much fits the notion of The Wild West itself
Overnight Stays in St Just on the Mining Heritage Walk
Map of all
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