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 miles - Grade: Moderate becoming Strenuous in parts/easy at the end - what these grades mean
Today you finally leave dramatic Exmoor as your coast path walking starts to become gentler on the approach to the golden estuaries of North Devon. A switchback ride of less demanding climbs above cliffs and drops to hidden coves with good chances of spotting seals as well as the welcome town of Illfracombe well located for lunch on route.
This morning head out from the perfect miniature inlet at Water Mouth a fjord like cleft below the Gothic looking Watermouth Castle. Rillage Point gives good sightings of the Caves and tunnels used by past smugglers as well as glimpses of today’s residents the Herring Gulls, Kittiwakes and Fulmars swooping and soaring away to the old hill fort at Hillsborough with its fine views over Illfracombe from robust double earth ramparts. Lunch in Illfracombe which can be at artist Damien Hurst’s “No 11 The Quay” seafood restaurant complete with pickled fish art if you want to push the boat out. A pleasant fishing port trapped between the hills and the Atlantic with a tiny sandy harbour Ilfracombe sits below its Iconic Chapel of St Nicholas standing proudly on top of the former island now known as Lantern Hill (it also doubled as a much needed lighthouse). On the way out look into Tunnels Beach named after the tunnels hewn out of the cliffs by welsh miners who opened up this inaccessible beach. You too can relive the Victorian holiday with a dip here in low tide bathing pools in the rocks.
Overnight stops at Ilfracombe on the South West Coast Path
This afternoon join The Coast Path takes in the Tors Walk hewn from the rocks along the cliffs out of Ilfracombe to Lee valley or “Fuchsia Valley” where the flowers grow wild above a stunning sandy beach framed by rock pools.
Onwards in and out of steep but perfect little salt marsh valleys at Hilly Mouth and Bennets Water whilst inland of the coast path are several prehistoric standing stones guiding you onwards to the lighthouse at Bull Point, built following a petition highlighting not only the terrible storms but the notorious wreckers at work in the area.
At Rockham bay some rather precarious steps give access to the little beach often visited by basking grey seals and final resting place of the SS Collier whose boilers and engine can still be seen at low tide.
The final headland is the heather, pink thrift and yellow gorse headland of Morte Point a Site of Special Scientific Interest for its heath and grasslands which juts out to the dreaded Morte Stone or the Rock of Death a treacherous sunken reef which took 5 ships during the winter of 1852 alone. Magnificent views introduce a changing landscape now of dunes and estuary beyond Woolacombe At little Barricance beach swim amongst its famous tiny tropical shells washed in by the Atlantic Gulf Stream straight from the Caribbean and the Bay of Mexico Then to Woolacombe past Grunta beach... and you guessed it...named after a shipload of pigs was wrecked here.
Overnight stops at Woolacombe on the South West Coast Path
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