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 10 miles Grade - 3 miles moderate, 7 miles strenuous -what these grades mean
Highlights: Climbing Golden Cap, scouring the Fossil Beach at Charmouth, the lost church at St Gabriels
Overnight stops in the Fossil Fever Town of Lyme Regis before you start your South West Coast Path Walking Holiday
Your first section today to Charmouth introduces the living and moving coastline as you skirt the remains of the largest coastal mudslide in Europe by heading inland over the soft Black Ven cliffs and uphill through the woods of Timber Hill. Enjoy fine early views over the cliff face of the collisions and debris in Lyme Bay below you as you descend to the town of Charmouth for an early refreshment stop. The beach here is famous for its fossils and you should not leave without a quick hunt before you drag yourself away to start an ascent of the ominous Golden Cap.
After crossing the River Char you gain height immediately climbing above the crumpled under cliff at Cairnes Folly. You can follow the hanging stream valley at Gabriels Mouth inland to find the atmospheric, ivy drenched ruins of the tiny 13th C St Gabriels Church. Said to have been built after a shipwrecked sailor prayed to the Angel Gabriel to deliver him from the mercy of the sea – these spooky remains on the flanks of Golden Cap are evidence he kept his promise. The ascent now begins in earnest with 600ft to climb through heather clad slopes to scale mighty Golden Cap, the highest cliff summit on the South West Coast Path between Lands End and Poole and named after the yellow gold sandstone adorning the top of the peak. It’s a twisting and toiling trail with a rope handrail in one section to help but all is forgotten as you break out of the bracken and gorse to top out on the grassy trig point an old Napoleonic look out station with absolutely breathtaking views in all directions. You will still be smiling as you arrive back on the beach at Seatown after a long and welcome descent through the woods and pastures on the eastern slopes of the Cap. Seatown is where a drunk Henchard sold his wife at the village fair in the Mayor of Casterbridge and after conquering Golden Cap you may well wish to celebrate with your own drink at The Anchor Inn.
Smaller climbs now take you over the grassy flanks of Ridge Cliff with some testing trail past Doghouse Hill to Thorncombe Beacon where you will spot the lofty fire beacon, first ignited to send the message along the coast that the Spanish Armada had been sighted. After satisfying views back to Golden Cap above you, descend to Eypes Mouth, the brave crossing the stream by stone steps just above the “Dragons Teeth” on the beach –old World War 2 tank traps that remain here. The last section of the Jurassic Coast Path today passes old quarries and lime kilns as views of the world famous Chesil Ridge Bank open up ahead. You finally arrive in the fascinating old harbour of West Bay, skirting the fishing boats via a little quayside path in a location famous until the late 19th Century as the coastal entrance for nearby Bridport which you can reach by following the river Brit inland.
Overnight stops at West Bay on the South West Coast Path
Map of all
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