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: 15.5 miles Grade: 7 miles moderate and 8.5 miles easy - what these grades mean
The gradients are finally gone today as you trek through fine sandy beaches on route to the largest dunes Nature Reserve in the country, full of wildlife and the gateway to the mighty golden Taw and Torridge estuaries that will dominate your final days of walking.
Lose yourself along fabulous Woolacombe Sands this morning or choose to wander inland through the enormous dunes at Woolacombe Warren home to large populations of rabbit and one of the best places for spotting adder.
Then a brief return to rocky promontories and grassland at Baggy point whose near vertical cliffs are a hugely popular climbing destination. Look past the herring gull, fulmar, shag, and shearwaters for the closest and best views of basking seals along this stretch.
The pleasant surfing beach at Croyde a picturesque place gives a good lunch stop, now Devon’s most sought after surfing beach where the laidback surfers' lifestyle collides head on with the thatched roofs and tea shops of the pastoral Devon of the past. Those wanting a dip can join the wave riders for an hour or so on your way through and catch some thundering water – wetsuits and boards available for hire here.
Overnight stops at Croyde on the South West Coast Path
This afternoon the South West Coast Path passes through Saunton Sands and the Braunton Burrows Natural Nature Reserve. Said to be the largest dune and mud flats system in the UK it holds World Biosphere Status from UNESCO for its unusually fine sands created by centuries of crushed shells. Wildlife is everywhere here foxes; hedgehogs, rabbits, moles and other mammals thrive amongst over 400 recorded species of flowering plants. Above you watch for Buzzards, skylarks, stonechats, Kestrels and an array of butterflies swoop above the dunes.
The whole area was an important location during rehearsals for D-day by the US Army who used it as an Assault Training Centre depositing thousands of troops from amphibious vehicles here and you walk along a dune track still known as The American Road, skirting a military danger area where Mock landing craft can still be spotted.
Rounding Crow Point you finally reach the mighty River Taw and you can follow a well placed boardwalk out to dip your feet into the estuaries waters through low marshy meadows and sand and mud flats amongst flocks of curlew, red shank and even spoonbills The panorama is wonderful, on the opposite bank and tantalisingly close is Appledore only around 1000 feet away but yet a full days walk for you inland via Barnstaple and Bideford until you can ford the estuary to head back out here. Following the compact River Caen inland you pass the former port at Velator Quay terminal in past days for welsh coal and limestone to reach Braunton.
Overnight stops at Braunton on the South West Coast Path
As its easy walking on the final sections today on the flat Tarka Trail Cycle Path those that wish to can push on 5 miles to the regional market town of Barnstaple
Alternative Overnight stops at Barnstaple on the South West Coast Path
Map of all
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