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.
6 miles - Easy grade walking
Having dropped off the central plateau to reach Wells, the Eastern Leg of the Mendip Way provides a sharp contrast to the high uplands, with gentler grade walking through remoter woodlands, deep river valleys and rich arable lands. You are unlikely to encounter many walkers at all on this section and outside of Shepton Mallet very little traffic or facilities on the route, leaving a walk that is particularly peaceful, unusual and tranquil. If you want to be quietly wandering your way through the “real” daily life scenery of the laid back and rolling hills of Somerset then you will find it on The East Mendip Way.
The walk out of Wells is an iconic start however from the majestic cathedral via the archway at Penniless Porch so-named for the beggars who plied their trade here. Then past the pretty cobbled Market Square to arrive at the Bishops Palace. The Mendip Way follows the edge of the moat at this impressive castle like structure which makes for a historic and appealing exit from the town on a route that passes no dull housing suburbs whatsoever.
Instead you are quickly climbing up the wooded slopes of nearby Tor Hill on a honeycomb of paths managed by the National Trust, that climb through oak, ash and sweet chestnut. Partially hidden in the ivy and moss you can spot remains of the medieval limestone quarries that provided the stone for the Bishops Palace. At the top you reach a fine and lengthy stretch of wild grassy meadow dotted with patches of wildflowers including birds foot trefoil, wild thyme and lady’s bedstraw. Beyond this the Mendip Way uses a former 18th Century coaching road frequented by those who preferred to risk the dark woods than pay the higher tolls on the main route to London. At Kings Woods enter another thick forested nature reserve where the trees rise up below an old hilltop Iron Age settlement that long pre-dates the town of Wells. When the forest opens up, you can often see roe deer and from here there are good views all along the first part of the walk today - initially back over the Cathedral behind you and then later over the Levels to the iconic tower at Glastonbury Tor.
The thick forest now surrounds you on all sides as you cross a huge and untouched medieval clearing in the woods to make a long and peaceful gallop over open meadows where it feels like Robin Hood and the Merry Men could emerge from the undergrowth on either side at any minute.
Sadly, instead at the end it’s a huge glistening Solar Panel Farm that suddenly appears and the Mendip Way takes immediate offence at the arrival of the modern world and heads south through a stretch of rustling maize fields and cereal crops towards Shepton Mallet.
This is now a section of huge fields, deep hedgerows, ancient stone styles and a rich peace and quiet for the wanderer.
Ham Woods comes as somewhat of a surprise after a good many miles of fairly level walking and you descend sharply into a deep wood but this time on a criss-cross trail of narrow paths that climb and descend over little hillocks and glades on what feels like little more than a goat track leading to the foot of a huge disused quarry that appears from nowhere. The woods around the rugged limestone cliff faces are now completely returned to nature making it look like a mini gorge and it’s a haven for wildlife. The mini clearings here are often full of deer and you are quite likely to surprise some at the base of the impressive cliffs as you emerge from the trees. What you won’t see is Nancy Camel and her Donkey both (so the locals say) big gin drinkers who inhabited the cave in the woods here until 1703, when the Devil himself arrived to take them away to hell as punishment during a thunderstorm so intense that it is claimed it melted the bells in the nearby church!
Shepton Mallet appears laid out below you after leaving the woods and it’s a pleasant descent to the town through pastures that pass the huge equestrian centre where the Mendip Way gives a front seat view of the jumps and inventive fences used by the cross country riders practising here.
Click Here for information on overnight stops in the market town of Shepton Mallet.
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