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 11.5 miles Grade - 7.5 miles Severe/Strenuous and 4 miles moderate - what these grades mean
Today you will round the top end of the Wild, West Penwith peninsular and start the long trek towards Lands End. Passing your first disused engine house at Treen Cove Mine you quickly reach the spectacular Gunnards Head – one of the most striking and recognisable headlands in Cornwall and named after its likeness to that of the Red Gurnard Fish. The 2nd Century cliff castle here has an inner rampart said to be designed for the firing of sling stones and inside this spot the remains of 18 hut circles are visible as circular grassy platforms. Inland rising above you now are the daunting and dominating moorland peaks of Carn Galver and Watchcroft, the highest points in the last hill range in England and the natural gateway to the mysterious Neolithic and prehistoric sights and stones of the Penwith moor.
The cliffs are now penetrated by “Zawns” a West Cornwall word for narrow steep-sided chasms sliced out of the cliffs by the sea. Great Zawn the first of these leads you into Bosigran Head where ant like rock climbers are seen at distance crawling up classic climbs such as Desolation Row, Xanadu and Dream in the South West’s best area for sea climbing. A plaque notifies you that you are now entering the imposing humpback known as Commando Ridge the training ground for the Rock Climbing Commandos during the second world war. At Porthmoina well preserved remains of 19C stamping mills lie just below the coast path, further on pass the Holy Well at Morvah. At the end of this run of cliffs you find isolated Pendeen Lighthouse built in 1900 and giving superb panoramas over the rocks and cliffs and towards the mining remains in the surrounding hills. On some days you can take a tour of the lighthouse but a better diversion is inland to fascinating Geevor Mine
Overnight stops in Pendeen on the South West Coast Path
From Pendeen, joining aged trails of tinners and miners that criss-cross the green tinged copper cliffs walk on through ever more prolific and dramatic chimneys, tanks and engine houses clinging to the sides of the precipices. The trail takes you through the dressing floors of the Levant Mine now owned by the National Trust with the oldest surviving Beam engine still working on regular steaming days. One of the few mines to use pit ponies in tunnels that stretched far out under the ocean, miners at Levant would talk of the fear of hearing the rumbling of boulders being shifted by the Atlantic over their heads in Stormy weather.
The collapsing remains of harsh Atlantic digging are all around you now as you follow the trail along the head of the cliffs passing simply awesome mine engine houses at Botallack hanging desperately to the cliffs.
Towards the end of the day you reach the Iron age fort at Kenidjack Castle home now to Buzzard, Falcon and Ravens. Descending quickly into the valley you pass everything from a bronze age cairn, 18C rifle range butts to the remains of water powered crushing stamps used to pound the ore from the mines. The path crosses old leats or narrow water channels dug into the moorland 200 years ago before reaching the remains of an old Arsenic wheel pit and an ancient calciner which removed the deadly powder from the ore by turning it to vapour. Finally some stunning views of isolated Cape Cornwall ahead tell you its time to turn inland to St Just.
Overnight stops in St Just on the South West Coast Path
Close to the coast path where it passes the Carn Galvour Mine is the chance to head inland traversing the boulder strewn peaks of Watch Croft and Caln Glava to reach the high plateau behind and an amazing concentration of ancient sites and stones. The first is the most modern, the Men Scryfa an inscribed granite pillar commemorating the death of Rialobran who is believed to have been a sixth century chieftain. Further on the dramatic nine maiden’s stone circle sits close to the stark and lonely Ding Dong mine engine house. A few hundred metres further is the remains of the excavated Bosiliack Barrow with its huge granite slabs over a dark chamber passageway. The 1984 excavation surmised that topsoil and turf were placed in the chamber probably as ritual deposits associated with fertility of the land.
With fantastic views across the peninsular to St Michaels Mount you will easily spot the gigantic and stunning Lanyon quoit or locally the Giants Table. A classic Megalithic Tomb chamber, its huge 13 tonne granite slab sitting precariously on stone uprights, a mini Stonehenge that is older even than the pyramids.
Heading back to the coast path you then come across Cornwall’s most unique stones the Men-an-Tol also known as the Devils Eye. A set of upright menhirs (standing stones) are separated by a “female” circular stone set on its edge. Throughout time the stones have held a mythical importance to the Cornish here, from the middle ages onwards naked children and babies were passed through the hole 3 times to cure illness and rituals to encourage an abundance of crops , cattle and fertility were practised here for centuries after the original Stone Age communities erected them. If you do try it yourself then any women wanting to become pregnant apparently had to go through 9 times - so don’t carried away. If time allows scale the peak at Watchcroft for fantastic views over the coast path as well as more Bronze Age barrows, a menhir (standing stone) as and several disused mine workings on the slopes back to the coast path.
The walk is around 5 miles and is a great contrast to the coast. If you make an early start you can walk a shorter section of coast path on the day from Zennor and incorporate this 5 mile walk into a fairly strenuous but rewarding day giving a total of 13 miles and an overnight stop at Pendeen.Or take a rest day at Zennor or Pendeen where it is easy to arrange a walk of around 6 miles through the stones and back to either base taking in ever more ancient spots on route as the whole moor is awash with them. Finally anyone keen to visit the best preserved ancient settlement in Britain can wander through the unique stone shells of an iron age village of 8 dwellings with hearths and courtyards still in place at Chysauster. (Click here to see more). Talk to us about taking an extra night in Zennor and we can arrange for you to walk back to Zennor over the moor on a trip of about 6 miles after visiting the impressive remains.
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