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: 16 miles - Grade - Easy walking at the start and finish of the day along river valleys – moderate elsewhere with two more strenuous climbs up Hounds Tor Ridge and to Butterdon Down - what these grades mean
Summary: A mixture of everything, River Valleys and Woodland Path, then Sheep farmed uplands climbing to gorse and bracken to cross Butterdon Down before descending into the mighty forests of the Teign Gorge.
The Dartmoor Way leaves Bovey today by passing under the Cromwell Arch, the remains of its 12th Century Abbey and you strike a course for the moors initially through a glorious mixed woodland path alive with squirrels, rabbits and birdsong which breaks in and out of clearings high above the raging Bovey River. Descending to the valley the route follows that of the old railway line passing under the remains of disused arches and bridges before crossing the River Bovey at the tranquil Drakenford packhorse bridge.
The slopes to the moors loom high above now as you enter the Woodland Trusts Nature Reserve at Pullbrook Woods through huge pines climbing away from the rushing Bovey now far below you. Suddenly you break out onto the open moor with Trendlebere Down stretching above you before you descend into more remote sections of rugged forest in an isolated side valley running below Hound Tor.
At Becks Brook you reach a hidden lush glade and cross the gin clear waters by a tiny old packhorse bridge before a strenuous ascent of Hound Tor Ridge on forest tracks. The views get better by the minute as Dartmoor and Black Hill in particular opens up across the chasm like valley which is now far below you.
Having got to the summit of Hound Tor Ridge you arrive in the enchanting medieval hamlet of thatched cottages at Water where you can divert for refreshments at the Kestor Inn. The next section drops on some pleasing little paths through the East Dartmoor Nature Reserves woodlands, every 2 or 3 miles another little clutch of thatched cottages breaking up the trail. Watch for the house with a grass roof – you may be lucky and catch the owner mowing it ! One more crossing of the Bovey River at Dickford Bridge brings a climb to the ridge trail at Barnecourt and the best views yet on the Dartmoor Way, dramatic moorland now filling your horizon completely from North to South - this section really starts to bring home what a circle of Dartmoor is going to entail !
An idyllic river crossing on stepping stones brings North Bovey – nothing like its larger sister this is one of Devon’s finest moorland hamlets. A delightful little village of perhaps 10 stone and thatched medieval dwellings set around a rough village green with its old cross and water pump, the scene completed by a fine pub and the impressive church framed below the high moor. Take away the few cars parked around the green and you could be arriving 500 years ago.
Crossing the next ridge through sheep filled uplands you descend again to a small stream valley to connect with an old track into the larger town of Mortenhampstead with its moorland tea shops, alms houses and famous dancing tree !
Those walking a more relaxed route will stay overnight at North Bovey or Mortonhampstead at this point – follow the links below to read more.
Overnight stops at North Bovey on The Dartmoor Way
Overnight stops at Moretonhampstead on The Dartmoor Way
Leaving Mortonhampstead The Dartmoor Way enters it’s most varied and dramatic section yet. Look out for wild deer throughout this section – last time we walked it we came across deer crashing through the path in front of us four times before Chagford. It’s a steady climb from Mortenhampstead onto the immediate moor along river meadows initially before entering the woods at Coombe Court. These woods and droves are superb here, an untended jumble of moss boulders and granite walled banks from the middle ages, all lost in blankets of moss, lichen and vines.
Its a trail that appears to have stood still in time and the lack of human interference for the last few centuries has left an astonishing and lush ecosystem very similar to the more famous Wistemans Wood in middle Dartmoor. The final sunken path takes a steep climb to Butterdon Down, another wild spot but this time its true Dartmoor Gorse, bracken and brush.
You skirt the edges of the Down to reach a large and lonely ancient standing stone and suddenly views of mid Devon beyond the moor open up before you, stretching right away in endless rich green glades and valleys until you see the National Park at Exmoor on the distant horizon at the North Coast itself. Close by to your left are the impressive Iron age ditches and ramparts of the Cranbook Castle Earthworks a 10 minute detour for those who want to further explore the site of this huge earthwork set it its superb defensive position on the lip of the gorge
Now the fun begins as you drop off the moor and into the dense woodland of the Teign Gorge.
At first you don’t appreciate the enormity of the descent and the ravine (you are dropping 600 feet through the forest to the valley floor). Then suddenly the Gorge itself opens up below you - completely forested, this chasm like ravine disappears below you and extends in each direction below your feet whilst high on the other side clings the Sharp Tor outcrop and the dramatic ramparts of Castle Drogo.
The descent twists and turns steeply through forest and viewpoint until emerging at a spot you could hardly dream about if you tried. Fingle Bridge itself is a single file granite packhorse bridge with deep recesses where those on foot would leap to allow the fully laden horses to pass. It spans the gushing and bubbling River Teign at the foot of the gorge - its only companion in the sea of dense forest is the tiny oasis of the Anglers Rest Inn, all stone fireplaces and huge beams, clinging to the riverside below the summits – For centuries this has been a travellers rest stop and bridging point for the river The Fingle Bridge Inn the current version of the tea shack that was originally sited here for those heading to work in the nearby mills.
You can now choose to take either the Fishermans Path following the river through the forests at the foot of the gorge or ascend to the high level Hunters Path which allows superb views and the chance to visit Sharp Tor and the impressive National Trust’s Castle Drogo before rejoining the Dartmoor Way.
For info on Castle Drogo and how to include it in your Dartmoor Way walk with a short diversion CLICK HERE
For those penetrating through the forests at the foot of the Gorge its a stunning few miles of twists, turns, waterfalls and rapids in waters crystal clear apart from the faint brown tinge of the moorland peat – Pause and look straight to the bottom to watch the trout and salmon lie in wait for food to wash past whilst the Heron, Kingfishers, Woodpeckers and dippers keep busy along the river banks
As you look up the Tors and castle loom out every so often from the forest to remind you they are there. The Dartmoor Way passes by the old pumping houses for the castle on a trail of dams, weirs and wobbly suspension footbridges that span the writhing and gushing waters as you climb the occasional rock staircase on your way to the end of the gorge.
The rocks you pass at Pixies Parlour were named after a rather embarrassing incident – it was here that an overexcited farmhand once managed to catch one of the gorges famous pixies in the dark and furthermore he got the evidence back to his employer, writhing in a sack ....only to discover in the lamplight that he had actually trapped the farmers sons pet rabbit.
Pixies aside just as suddenly as it appeared the vertical sides of the Gorge vanish and you break out far below the ramparts of Castle Drogo into a new land of rich and green river pasture. A thoroughly peaceful picture after the thrashing gorge, where wildflower meadows are interspersed with patches of natural woodland giving a relaxing and level approach to the moorland capital of Chagford which beckons the walker in from above the rivers slow bends.
Overnight stops at Chagford on the Dartmoor Way and The Two Moors Way
Map of all
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