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: 13.5 miles Grade: Strenuous - what these grades mean
Today is spectacular throughout and one of the finest stretches of North Devon Coast Path. A steep climb from Lynmouth opens into cliff walking through the infamous valley of the rocks before a contrasting stretch of moorland below Trentishoe and Holdstone Down on route to the long ascent of Great and Little Hangman.
Start the day on the 19th Century water powered cliff railway to reach the North Walk (a throwback to the Victorians obsession with promenades) and the entrance to the magnificent Valley of the Rocks.
Dumped by the Ice Age “a huge terrifying reeling mass – the very bones and skeleton of the earth” was how Poet Robert Southey described it.
Huge Tortuous Twisted and contorted rock formations, pass the Devils Cheesewring, Ragged Jack the Cave of Mother Meldrum and the White Lady to lead you on past Castle Rock which proudly stands towering over precipitous drops to the sea. In amongst the rock towers and formations the mysterious air is fuelled by the packs of wild goats bounding around the desolate scene.
Past Duty Point Tower, Lee Bay Abbey and the Red Deer at Woody Bay before the South West Coast Path enters the steep sided and dramatic ravine of gorse and scree at Heddons Mouth one of the deepest valleys in the UK. There is a good inn and the Heddons Gate Hotel here for those that want to break this section and spend a night above this stunning valley.
Divert to the isolated Hunters Inn at the head of this most dramatic of ravines –(these days the coaching house also has a welcome National Trust Ice Cream Parlour) as you have now have a challenging 900ft switchback climb to the dramatic rocky scree platform and viewpoint at Peters Rock. Up here raven, buzzard, kestrel, peregrines and sparrow hawks glide and swoop past Bronze Age Hut Circles last used over 2,500 years ago.
You now start the big climb through gorse and heather moorland up to the imposing humpback of Great Hangman its cairn at 318m (1043ft) the highest point on the whole 630 miles of the South West Coast path and the reward being the best views over Exmoor yet. Locally said to be named after a sheep thief who strangled himself having tethered his stolen ewe around his neck there is also evidence of a Gallows up here in this desolate spot in Tudor times. Up in the heights you will pass disused mine workings along the old miners track from where the ore was dropped hundreds of feet over the huge cliffs to the shore below to for loading onto Welsh sailing boats. It’s then a long but welcome descent over the lesser lump of Little Hangman all the way back to sea level at Combe Martin.
Overnight stops at Combe Martin on the South West Coast Path
Map of all
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