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.
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Distance : 13.6 miles - Grade Generally easy walking with some short sections of moderate open Moorland - what these grades mean
Summary: Gentle ascent of the Moor via impressive Meldon Viaduct before returning to drove roads and ancient track ways through woodland and upland pasture to Lydford. Options to explore Lydford Gorge and climb to the iconic Tor Church at Brentor.
The Dartmoor Way leaves Okehampton through the Old Town Nature reserve by the bubbling banks of the West Okement – if the river is full watch for Atlantic Salmon leaping the natural rock weirs.
A gentle climb through pleasant bluebell woodland offers good views of the impressive Okehampton Castle Ruins, built to protect the medieval route from London to Cornwall and left in ruins since Henry VIII had it destroyed in revenge for its owner’s treason
– it’s easy to visit the castles remains as part of today’s walk.
With the moorland closing in on your left you swing to climb to the old Okehampton Railway line and the dramatic metalwork of Meldon Viaduct, a 305ft masterpiece and a superb example of Victorian Engineering spanning the deep gorge like river.
Its unique in construction and certainly in setting with views up to the highest Tors on Dartmoor over Meldon Dam and Reservoir - all the more breathtaking from the middle of a former railway viaduct.
You divert at this point for a steep climb through the woods to then cross the viaduct itself with stunning high level views of the moors - this route now part of The Granite Cycle Way. Beyond this enjoy a section of the disused railway line which cuts impressively through rocky ravines before you start a steady climb on the historic Kings Way track that eventually takes you past standing stones and boulder litters onto the open moor itself below the easily recognisable Sourton Tors.
Passing first below South Down Tor you get to see into the deepest interior of Dartmoor from here – towards its highest point at High Willhays over the restricted Army firing ranges.
Its a vision of an endless, vast and desolate moor very unlike the forested slopes of earlier sections of the Dartmoor Way – here you really are treading the edge of the northern limits of the moor.
Ahead loom the dramatic Sourton Tors and the route takes you just below these impressive features (its an easy option to climb them as you pass) through boulder stone and gorse covered moor with superb views north and east to Exmoor and the north coast.
A dramatic drop from the moor on the old Corpse Path (used to bring the dead off the moor for burial) brings you to the lovely valley church at Sourton and the most bizarre Inn in Dartmoor if not the UK itself at The Highwayman.
Gothic arches, doors rescued from whalers and a huge wooden sculpture of a serpent that was dragged from a bog on Dartmoor sit in amongst a myriad of bizarre curiosities - you have not seen a pub like this anywhere and a pause for a cider and pasty is well recommended.
An easy section of fields and track ways follows with glorious views on your left of the disused granite way railway viaducts and the lofty Tors beyond. You cross little streams on tiny clapper bridges before breaking out into a beautifully green, gorse peppered stretch of high ground across Fernworthy Down before dropping into the village of Lydford.
Those on a relaxed itinerary will overnight at Lydford right beside its castle as well as anyone keen to explore the National Trust Lydford Gorge just outside the town.
Overnight stays at Lydford and information for the passing walker about its Castle and Church
Having explored the ruins of 12th Century Lydford Castle on your way through, The Dartmoor Way takes you into the enchanted valley that holds the huge rocky cliffs and the gin clear churning waters of the carved out Lydford Gorge, the deepest gorge in the South West.
Managed by The National Trust, this hidden valley is truly unique and completely out of place with the rest of the scenery today – we urge everyone not to miss this place with its whirlpool like Devils Cauldron and huge 100ft White Lady Waterfall.
CLICK HERE to read about including Lydford Gorge in your Dartmoor Way walking itinerary.
Beyond the Gorge and back on The Dartmoor Way you break onto the open moor to traverse the slopes of Black Down on a steady climb over springy moorland vegetation.
The views behind stretch up to the highest points of Dartmoor at Yes Tor and Higher Willhays whilst away from the moor on your right is the island like hummock of Brent Tor with uninterrupted views of its amazing church of St Michael precariously clinging to the Tor summit as close to heaven as it would seem one can get.
On good days as you climb you can now see right over to Bodmin Moor in Cornwall many miles to the west and Dartmoor’s smaller but equally rugged sister.
CLICK HERE to read about diverting to climb to the unique Tor church of Saint Michael of the Rock at Brentor
Passing a small cairn marking this superb panorama you then quickly drop off the moor below Gibbet Hill. Spare a thought as you reach the cattle grid on the Brentor Road, here back at his lonely spot, criminals were left swinging in cages as this was the "Iron Cage Gate" where they used to keep the prisoners before taking them to be hanged at the top of Gibbet hill – a policy to discourage the highwaymen that operated on the Tavistock to Okehampton road. Thankfully today its now the gate into the welcoming village of Mary Tavy
Overnight stops at Mary Tavy or Peter Tavy on the Dartmoor Way.
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