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.
13 miles Easy grade walking
The Mendip Way skirts around the north of Shepton Mallet on a trail that climbs a rough grassy hillock before descending through the woods to run immediately below the towering multiple arches of the disused Charlton Railway Viaduct that looms above you at the back of Kilvey Court Gardens.
An easy ascent through rich farmland now takes you over The Fosse Way, the ancient Roman Road that ran an incredible 230 miles in a virtual straight line from Lincoln to Exeter.
After climbing over the rough grassland on Ingsdons Hill, the tiny hamlet of Chelynch offers the one option of a pub on the Mendip Way today at the Poachers Pocket, a traditional Somerset pub way off any beaten track that will reward the thirsty walker with good cider.
Beyond Waterlip you start the climb to Cranmore Tower initially using the old Roman Road at Funtle Lane to rise above the patchwork quilt of farmland into more open and extensive sheep pasture and then, as you approach the summit, an untouched wild grassland alive with butterflies, small birds and bobbing rabbits that provides extensive views over the rolling hills and vales of East Somerset. A huge plantation greets you at the top which is very different to the woods encountered so far. This is shady and cool walking below huge sturdy beech trees that reach up below the tower itself as you pass through on wide earthy tracks.
Cranmore Tower a bizarre, 150 foot 19th Century folly which is now a Grade 2 listed building, sits right on top. At 916 feet above sea level, it’s actually the highest point on the Mendip Way although it won’t feel like it when compared to the likes of Crook Peak in the West Mendips.
In World War II it was used as a lookout tower by the Home Guard and during repairs in the 1980’s the remains of a Roman fort with a hoard of coins was discovered adjacent to the tower confirming this place has long had a significance for those travelling across Somerset.
At weekends the tower itself is open to the public and has a small tea room so if you have climbed up here on the Mendip Way don’t miss the opportunity to take the last 184 steps up the tower for the best views you can get - you can see across six counties from the top!
The woods as you descend from the tower are a delight. Initially you are walking on huge wide avenues below the trees with everything smelling fresh and cool amongst the huge trees and awash with bluebells in the spring. Look out for badgers, rabbits and deer in this area – as well as the local archery club who operate here in the woods (so best not to stray from the path into the bushes then!)
Having climbed so high to the Tower you now get to enjoy a rolling descent through wide lush pastures to the hamlet of Downhead, through an area known as Bottlehead Springs where water can be heard bubbling up from the ground either side of the trackways and a gaggle of infant water courses follow your descent into the woods all joining you now in heading downhill for Frome.
You return to more ancient woodland and a very large area of it at Asham woods where the Mendip Way follows the streams which are now gathering volume as they slink through the leafy trees. It’s a delightful trail feeling just a bit Amazonian as you join the sluggish stream bed meandering between trailing creepers and long fallen trees poking out of banks of wild garlic and bluebells, it’s a lush humid and jungle-like atmosphere.
Muddy at first as you travel with the stream, the route quickly picks up the hillside to continue on a winding and solid trail above the valley floor. This is ancient unmanaged woodland at its best! This pattern of woods and farmland repeats now onto Frome following increasingly larger streams and rivers broken up by sections of vivid yellow crops fields, stony ancient trackway and green pasture.
The woods at Whatley Quarry are particularly nice rambling alongside a bubbling stream below the lip of the huge working limestone quarry which is almost completely hidden from view. The only tell-tale signs are large moss and lichen covered boulders that have tumbled down through the trees from the workings that you pick your way around as you descend on the path.
After meadows at Railford Bridge you do eventually glimpse the modern quarry operations briefly through stone dust covered trees before climbing away to the rim of the valley on flights of wooden steps that pass under some impressive ancient yew trees over 1000 years old.
Beyond the grisly named Murder Combe you enter the final sections of woodland descending to the Wells Stream Valley at Great Elm. Close now to Frome, these are well walked and maintained trails that drop down to criss cross youthful streams and the narrow quarry railway line that cuts through the woods here. The stream systems finally combine in the Wadbury Valley where you emerge at the idyllic old stone bridge and duck pond at the hamlet of Great Elm. You are finishing now using broad woodland tracks running by the substantial Mells River which passes old mill remains, weirs and disused limekilns below cliffs on a delightful end to the walk.
After several crossings of the water on little bridges it’s time for the final climb into Frome up the side of the steep river valley through tumbled trees before one final open and airy section over meadows to the first houses of the ancient town of Frome allowing you to take a final look at the views back over the rolling hills and fields where you will still spot Cranmore Tower in the distance and get the opportunity to reflect on your journey here.
The final half mile drops through the housing of Frome and straight down its much-loved cobbled St Catherine Street past rows of little cafes and independent shops to Boyles Cross at the centre of the Market Place and the river bridge which is the official end of the East Mendip Way.
Click here to read about overnight stops in the town of Frome at the very end of the East Mendip Way.
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