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 : 11 miles (12.5 if taking the high moor option) - Grade Moderate Walking with some strenuous sections in Belstone Cleeve and for those choosing to take the higher moorland route into Okehampton. What these grades mean
Summary : Today you reach the higher moors with options to visit Tors and Stone Circles above Belstone, hidden moorland stream valleys take you up to and from the moor with abandoned mines and forges in the valley sections to explore.
After crossing the 12th Century Packhorse bridge below Chagford the Dartmoor Way starts today with a more testing section of repetitive small climbs and ascents through the Woodland Trust Trail at the boulder strewn and moss covered Blackaton Woods. Using Stepping stones to navigate over tranquil moorland streams and under fine views back to the dark moorland at Meldon Hill you eventually join one of Devon’s finest ancient bridleways to Throwleigh. Hemmed in by a huge granite walled trackway you are on a sunken trail that once entered is so untouched it feels like you have wiped out the last Millenium. Close to the trail here don’t miss the Northmore Arms. Over 400 years old it prides itself on being one of the most traditional pubs in England, just two small rooms with open fires, tiny windows, no music and only board games and alcohol for entertainment – its certainly a welcome time warp but be warned ....don’t start flashing your mobile phone or GPS in here !
The moorland is now tantalisingly close with superb views towards Cosdon Hill and to complete the medieval picture the trackway emerges in the stunning village of Throwleigh, a clutch of thatched farmstead dwellings clinging to the hillside and a towering church marked with its strange three eared rabbit carvings an emblem of the early moorland Tin Miners. Beyond another steep crossing of a moorland stream the terrain is now increasingly gorse and rock before you emerge onto the moor itself. At Throwleigh Common you join a section of easy unfenced open road but up here its the wandering sheep that have the right of way and thundering white water becks and bright yellow gorse clumps sit below the expanding heights of the high moor that now tower right next to you.
Further on you enter a patchwork of little smallholdings and field systems approaching South Zeal and there is a brief interlude into mining country as you climb past the spoil heaps, ventilation chimneys and crumbling remains of the mining gear buildings at the Ramsley Copper Mine – headlong rush of prospectors here in 1850 left it known as Irish Town.
A handy viewing platform here allows you views that stretch out as far as Exmoor before you head into the closely linked “Beacon villages” of South Zeal a former Wool Town. Just beyond this at Sticklepath the route descends to an absorbing spot where you can visit the National Trusts Finch Foundry to see the last working water powered forge hammering away at metal plates. Check out the restored waterwheels whilst you rest at the National Trust Tea Shop or try the real ale at The Taw River Inn.
You now join the Tarka Trail Walking route towards Okehampton and this leads you up the Belstone Cleave – an untouched valley, to your first proper section of high moorland. Whilst it’s another river Gorge this one is high ground, the trail boulder strewn, the river a raging force straight from the moor.
You cross back and forth on small wooden footbridges carved with quotes from Henry Williamsons classic tail Tarka the Otter as it was here that the otter fought off a band of stoats beside the crashing steam. Criss crossing the narrow ravine your steady climb becomes peppered with towering rock faces and crumbling Sub Tors that cling to the sides of the bracken and gorse valley. You emerge with a final steep climb to the isolated but welcoming village of Belstone and this really is High Dartmoor.
At Belstone the Moorland surround you on all sides in a weather beaten village that feels like and indeed in the modern world is the last possible spot for human habitation with its old stone stocks on the village green grazed by wild Dartmoor ponies. It’s a fascinating place with its Old Zion Chapel and the stark 15th Century St Marys Church towering against the moorland and it was here that the novel 'The Ballad of the Belstone Fox' was based.
Take a rest at the infamous Tors Inn still the haunt of those returning from the high peaks above the village with walking tales to tell and you can seek fortification from one of the 35 varieties of Malt Whiskies on offer here.
For those who want to climb higher you can choose an alternative route for the next 3 miles moving on up to the open moor on the Tarka Trail and passing below but with superb views of The Belstone Tors, Scary Tor, abandoned farmsteads and finally a sharp descent into the East Okement River Valley.
Look carefully as you cross Belstone Moor and you can find the enchanting Nine Maidens Stone Circle a beautifully isolated spot below the Tors where the unruly maidens were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath (Sunday).
Strangely if you count them there are actually around 17 stones though some of them are part of a Bronze Age Burial Chamber - some mischief at work no doubt, its said after all that witches still gather on the Harvest Festival of Hunters Moon at which point the dancing maidens come back to life for one night a year.
The rapid descent from the tors is an absolute highlight from wild moorland walking that feels at the top of the world through one of Devon’s most powerful gorge walks with huge waterfalls and racing rapids as the river crashes off the moor to Okehampton.
Whichever route you take, the High or Low route takes you to the outskirts of Okehampton and the final few miles offer a gentle woodland walk into the old market town arriving via the impressive 18th Century water wheel at Town mills.
Overnight stays in Okehampton on the Dartmoor Way
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