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.
Now taking bookings for all dates in 2023........
Distance 13 miles Grade - 13 miles moderate / easy grade - what these grades mean
Highlights – Inland Ridgeway Walking and then the full length of the serene and peaceful Fleet lagoon before crossing the causeway to imposing Portland Island.
A morning climb through scrub and woodland leads to open, rolling fields and a fine minor ridgeway over the small summits of Linton and Merry Hill. The whole way the South West Coast Path offers superb vistas across the east end of Chesil beach and the imposing looking Isle of Portland ahead. After some pleasant woodland descents from the ridge you rejoin the coast and reach the focus of the days walk, The Fleet.
The largest inland saltwater lagoon in the UK, The Fleet is hemmed in from the ocean by the ever moving barrier of Chesil Bank (Fleet comes from the Saxon word ‘fleot’ meaning shallow water). The coast path faithfully follows the lagoon edge gently tracking in and out of picturesque bays holding dragged up boats, past tranquil willow beds and looping peninsulas. Its an absolute joy to walk the calming blue waters of The Fleet and happen across the hidden hamlets and villages en route along this unique section of the Dorset Coast Path.
There is a huge variety of wading birds on the waterside, Curlew, Dunlin, Ringed Plover and Redshank mix with exotic Little Egret, Oystercatcher and Heron. Visiting migratory birds such as the Brent Geese are attracted by the rare meadows of eelgrass and Thrift locally known as Sea Pink, indeed Fleet is the second oldest nature reserve in the UK protected since 1393 on account of its swans.
The whole lagoon is not only a protected area of scientific interest, it’s also culturally rich in legend and seafaring history. At Lanton Herring, stop for a drink at The Elm Inn and note the beam in the bar, fashioned from an old ships mast which was used to hang a wanted fugitive in 1780. Perhaps this was done at “Gore Cove” where the Jurassic Coast Path takes you below the famous Moonfleet Hotel with its old Bell tower and boat house. This is the setting for J Meade-Faulkner’s famous novel Moonfleet, a tale of the local smugglers battles with the authorities in these parts. In the next bay, all you will see of East Fleet village is half a church, literally. The hamlet was ravaged by a huge storm in 1824 that was so vicious a boat was deposited in the churchyard and the sea left just the chancel behind. In the novel Moonfleet these church vaults were the secret store for the Smugglers Kegs. The annual pagan May Day ritual here is the casting of flowers from a flotilla of boats into the Fleet to protect the local fisherman at sea hereabouts
More easy walking over small creek crossings and bays dotted with isolated fisherman’s huts bring you to Chickerall where you pass the Army Camp and firing range (The Fleet was one of the locations used for testing of the legendry bouncing bomb as it happens). The guard in the sentry box will divert you inland on a short detour if the army are on training amongst the yellow gorse covered shore.
Finish the day passing through Pirates Cove before arriving in the built up area of Ferry Bridge at the end of your peaceful journey down the Fleet. This is the entrance to Weymouth but first the enticing Isle of Portland to the south is your next challenge looming above you, 5 miles in length and 2 miles across and in the words of Thomas Hardy “ stretched like the head of a bird into the English Channel”
Those not undertaking the Isle of Portland section will save a day by walking into Weymouth this afternoon and continuing from Section 5 Weymouth to Lulworth Cove
Overnight stops on the Isle of Portland on your South West Coast Path Holiday
Overnight stops at Weymouth for those NOT taking the Portland Circle Option
Map of all
for this walk
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