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.
A one or two day inland rideway route which is also part of the South West Coast Path trail. Gives the option to head onto the South Dorset Ridgeway from West Bexington or Abbotsbury to enjoy some inland walking and views instead of taking the usual coastal option through Portland and Weymouth.
More information and examples of these walking grades
West Bexington to Osmington Mills or Abbotsbury to Osmington Mills
Distance: 17 miles (West Bexington) or 14 miles (Abbotsbury) Grade: Moderate
Note that it is possible to split the route into 2 sections with an overnight in the Upwey area north of Weymouth
Highlights: Superb Views, Variety from Coast Path, Archaeological sites, Hardy’s Monument
Formally known as the Inland Coast Path and now as the South Dorset Ridgeway this is a superb route in its own right following the high ground on a crest of hills above the coast. These days with the addition of the superb Isle of Portland to the coastal route, the argument for using the Dorset Ridgeway to miss out a dull section at Weymouth is no longer that valid. However, it will suit those short on time by saving a days walking OR suit those who want to vary the South West Coast Path route walking with some inland ridge trail. Those who take the option will enjoy panoramic views of the Dorset Downs and Coast from up high on paths straddling ridges and crossing hidden valley’s linking a huge number of archaeological sites and monuments. Whilst it is possible to split the walk into two days by coming down off the South Dorset Ridgeway to overnight, those walking it in one go need to be prepared as there are no facilities on the route itself.
After leaving the SouthWest Coast Path to the perils of Chesil Beach at West Bexington a gentle climb inland on stony paths takes the Dorset Ridgeway through the gorse bushes of Limekiln Hill and the National Trust restored stone limekiln. Fine views of Chesil Bank, the Isle of Portland, Weymouth and the inland Hardy Monument spur you on to the impressive earthworks and well preserved ramparts of the rather imposing Abbotsbury Castle Hill Fort. This spot also used by the Romans as a signal station.
Abbotsbury looks very inviting from up here ¾ mile above the South West Coast Path route and if you don’t visit fear not as the main Tythe Barn, strip farming patterns and Church are all visible from up on the ridge.
Overnight stops in Abbotsbury 3/4 mile below the South Dorset Ridgeway
A section of archaeological treasures follow starting with the run of Tumuli and barrows at Weares Hill and then a small ritual stone circle at Evershot Farm which was only excavated in 1965 the stones having stood since 1200BC. Next up is the locally well known “Hell Stone or Stone of the Dead”, an impressive prehistoric stone barrow or Dolmen said to have been thrown here by the Devil from Portland Isle. Partially reconstructed after it collapsed, the large original burial chamber which is covered by a single capstone can be entered.
Back on the South Dorset Ridgeway watch out for brown hares and roe deer as you climb through a mix of pleasant woodland, heather, and gorse slopes topping out at the head of the ridge at a 70’ high gothic tower built in honour of Lord Nelsons Captain, Thomas Masterman Hardy who lived below at Portesham. This is the Hardy’s Monument visible from all over this part of the coast and needless to say the views are superb from up here.
After entering the forest of Black Down you hit a section of superb high Ridgeway through the grassy Tumuli along Bronkham Hill. The greatest concentration of Bronze Age Barrows in the UK lies here, a favoured spot for the TV Timeteam Archeological Team and you will pass over more than 150 Barrows on this section. On the hillside to the north you will also see the huge earthworks of Maiden Castle, Europe’s biggest covering over 50 acres, its ramparts over 20m high. The fort housed several thousand in its heyday and can be reached around 1 mile north of the Dorset Ridgeway route.
Those splitting the Ridgway route into short sections will now descend from the ridge to the village of Upwey with its famous wishing well to stay overnight before climbing back next morning to continue along the route.
Descending steadily you pass Bincombe Hill famed as THAT hill that The Grand Old Duke of York marched his 10,000 men up and down! Just off the path you can spot the medieval strip farming patterns easily here as well as yet another hill top fort at Chalbury. A slightly more recent attraction at Whitehorse Hill is the huge hillside chalk carving of George 3rd riding on his horse, the only white horse carving in the UK to have a passenger!
You leave the South Dorset Ridgeway through pleasant trees, fields and chalk tracks to reach Osmington village on the Jordan River and a welcome jumble of pretty thatched cottages. Its here, that the painter John Constable spent his honeymoon and completed several works of art. A short walk below the village brings you back to rejoin the SouthWest Coast Path at Osmington Mills at Day 5 of the standard route description.
CLICK HERE to return to the Dorset Coast Path Route Description from Osmington as it heads on towards Lulworth Cove.
Overnight stops at the end of the South Dorset Ridgeway section of the South West Coast Path are at the coastal hamlet of Osmington Mills usually in the welcoming Smugglers Inn - If you have split the Ridgeway Route with a stop half way you will be able to continue today to the main overnight location further along the South West Coast Path at Lulworth Cove.
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