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 - 9.5 miles Grade - Moderate - what these grades mean
Highlights - Trekking the World Famous Chesil Beach before an inland walk to historic Abbotsbury
A complete contrast in scenery and walking today as the rolling hills and sheer cliffs from Lyme Regis disappear to be replaced by smaller compact sandstone faces leading you steadily into the graceful arc of Chesil Bank.
Your last climb for some distance takes you over the steep grassy slopes at East Cliff above the run of famous sandstone cliffs a vivid display of different layers and colours. It was here that local records report a mermaid was washed up in 1760 though this was more likely one presumes to have been a sea cow. The brave can then ford the mouth of the River Bride while the rest of us head inland along its banks to cross below Burton Bradstock. Burton Bradstock is a delightful resting spot, a simple and very unspoilt village of thatched cottages with its old spinning mill house, interesting 14C church and triangular green. If you worked up a thirst there is a 300 year old thatched pub on hand.
Back on the Jurassic Coast Path, cross the diminishing cliffs and look out for peregrines above and dolphins below. At Bind Barrow you pass a Bronze Age burial Mound and then a much more recent World War Two pill box before finally arriving on level ground at Chesil Bank. Chesil is the old Saxon word for stone....and you are now going to walk a lot of them!
This immense pebble ridge is one gigantic strip of living geology which is on the move heading 5m further inland every year. It’s the finest example of a barrier beach in the world and rightly a protected site of scientific interest at the core of The Jurassic Coastal Path. Formed over 8,000 years ago and stretching over 17 miles in a perfect crescent, 100 million tonnes of rock reach up to 25 metres high in places but never wider than a few hundred metres. It’s quite surreal, unique and ever changing, the rocks starting the size of peas in the West slowly turning to huge potato sized pebbles at its other end in Portland. This natural feature used to their advantage by the local smugglers as they could gauge where they had landed in the dark by the size of the stones. . Expect to hear more in the public realm about Chesil as the screenplay for On Chesil Beach , the novel set here by the Booker Wining Author Ian McEwan began filming here in 2011.
The Dorset coast path then collides with the stones near the much loved Cogden beach - sometimes on and sometimes off the stones for the next miles as you head landward onto wooden boardwalks at the tranquil, tiny lagoon of Burton Mere source of the local thatch and reed and now a well know site for wading birdlife.
The next walking section takes you along the shingle bank to West Bexington and as you tackle the pebbles you will come across patches of thrift, sea spinach, sea kale, sea holly & yellow-horned poppy as well as the chance to spot wild carrot and wild parsnips. Through the West Bexington Wildlife Reserve (Dorset Wildlife Trust) contrasting patches of reed bed & scrubby wet meadow hold Cetti's and Grasshopper warblers, snipe and little owls attracted by the rare presence of dormice and voles here
Some respite from the pebble ridge comes at the fishing village of West Bexington with its handy hotel for refreshments and here there is a choice of routes as the Inland South Dorset Ridgeway option takes off inland.
For those short on time the South Dorset Ridgeway option which is an official Inland option, can save one day on your itinerary by missing out Weymouth and the Isle of Portland. The route description and full details are at the end of this section. CLICK HERE if you want to jump to it now.
For the rest of us, the Jurassic Coast Path continues on the stones past "Labour In Vain" farm, which apparently refers to the poor soil here rather than your efforts to complete the Chesil Beach scramble.
The path suddenly then heads inland to the beautiful village of Abbotsbury, after the stones the glorious green pasture and hill ridges are a superb contrast. Cross Chapel Hill below the stark and iconic 14C St Catherine’s Chapel with complete panoramas now for miles back over the Chesil Bank, ahead to the Isle of Portland and in the foreground at tomorrows walking twist ....the Fleet.
Overnight stops at historic Abbotsbury on The South West Coast Path
Map of all
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