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.
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Pronounced Tre-fean meaning “Village on the rock outcrop”, this is a remote Pembrokeshire coastal village in an exposed spot set around ¼ mile inland from the Welsh Coast Path.
With only around 150 residents an overnight stop here is a real insight into Welsh life on the extremes of one of its wilder coastlines.
A smattering of cottages line its main road along with a solitary café and The Ship Inn an old stone country pub that has stood up to the gales for 200 years.
A welcome refuge therefore, providing hearty meals for walkers where you will find the locals ordering their beer in Welsh yet taking an active interest in the few overnight visitors that reach this spot. There is little to visit in the hamlet itself but take an atmospheric circular amble in the evening to watch the sun go down at the tranquil old ruined mill that sits in the rocky cove below the village or the lonely ruins that cling to the cliffside above it.
Goodwick and Fishguard are separated by little more than a mile and which one you stay in is generally dictated by whether or not you walk around Stumble Head in one or two days.
Goodwick comes from the old Norse words Goor (good) and Vik (bay or cove) and this is the more modern railway town which developed to support its impressive deepwater harbour.
The setting for the film ‘Moby Dick’ starring Gregory Peck, it's forever incorrectly referred to as Fishguard Harbour. Much of the town clings to the steep hillside of the Strumble Head Peninsula overlooking the huge 900m long breakwater which arcs out into the ocean, though the more modern parts now stretch inland behind the back of the bay.
The Breakwater is an impressive structure built up from nearly 2 million tonnes of stone excavated from the bay in attempts to deepen the moorings for larger ships. The modern day result of those efforts is the Stena Line Ferry to Rosslare in Ireland which departs from here several times a day and the Pembrokeshire Coast Path Walker will witness the huge ships gliding in or out of the bay at some point or other on their walk past. For those that have toiled the 18 miles from Trefin the Fishguard Bay Hotel is usually the chosen place to stay as it’s the first thing your reach after descending from Strumble Head though further into Goodwick there are a couple of other small hotels and Inns for those that can make it further. Goodwick's other big benefit for those finishing the walk in this area is that it has the only place on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path north of Milford Haven that has a train service which runs from its tiny station connecting with the Ferry arrival twice a day.
A mile or so further round the bay and you reach Fishguard – derived from the Norse words for a “Fish Catching Enclose”.
Like Solva further back down the Pembrokeshire Coast Path, this is split between its upper village – the main part of the town and the smaller lower village called simply Cwm by the Welsh. Cwm is the more scenic and timeless spot spreading back from the old harbour wall to the narrow 18th Century stone bridge which spans the Gwaun River Valley .
If it looks vaguely familiar it could be because Lower Fishguard was the location for the village of Llareggub in the film version of Dylan Thomas seminal book Under Milk Wood, that starred Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. The old harbour was originally a Herring Fishing Port and the pretty coloured cottages remain, as does the little flotilla of boats, mainly leisure craft these days though a few fishing vessels still head out in the early morning to sea.
Upper Fishguard may be less picturesque but has good facilities and some fascinating history on tap for the overnight walkers. Here you will find banks, supermarkets, a post office, art and craft galleries tourist information and even an Indian Restaurant if you are missing that kind of thing by now !
The busy market hall often has local farmers and produce markets running and at the Town Hall you can visit the impressive Last Invasion Tapestry.
Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy the Welsh model tells the story of the doomed French Invasion of Fishguard in 1797 and there are over 30 metres of intricate cloth embroidered panels.
© Crown copyright (2013) Visit Wales
Across the market square from the Town Hall you should visit The Royal Oak Inn where you can still view the table where the surrender treaty was signed in this very Inn by the hapless Colonel Tate as well as all manner of other “last invasion” artefacts.
Finally at St Marys Church the British can give thanks at the much visited gravestone of local heroine Jemima Nichols, the farmers wife who single handedly captured 12 of the hapless French soldiers armed only with her pitchfork.
Most accommodation is found in the upper town with a choice of inns and Guest Houses though there are one or two smaller B&B’s with rooms in the lower harbour.
After St Davids for anyone looking for a rest day on the Northern Pembrokeshire Coast Path then Newport provides the best option. Still not as well known as the South Pembrokeshire holiday resorts like Tenby, it nevertheless retains a small but very loyal band of holidaymakers who return year after year for its golden beaches, rugged Moorland interior and general laid back and friendly disposition.
There are two main areas to the village, The Pembrokeshire Coast Path walker arrives first at the older Parrog (beach) where higgledy-piggledy old fishing cottages line the very edge of the bay looking out to the magnificent sands of the Newport Sand Bar on the other side of the estuary.
Half a mile inland, the main centre by contrast is a former medieval village that serves its walkers well, there are some excellent locally run restaurants with lots of fresh seafood as well as a Bank, Chemist, Supermarket and Post Office.
Added to that are art and craft outlets as well as a couple of curiosity shops that are well worth a delve in. Good accommodation is fairly plentiful here with a couple of high class restaurants with their own rooms as well as the excellent Golden Lion Inn and several B&B options.
A quick wander through the village will reveal the remains of its stout Norman Castle sitting next to the 12th Century Church, the latter well worth viewing with its fine Norman Font and huge tower sitting at the top of the village right under the Preseli Hills.
The wild and overgrown meadow like graveyard is so much more atmospheric than the usual green mowed lawn variety and it has fine views from this height over the golden sands of the estuary.
For a short evening stroll head to The Iron bridge just below the town which replaced an earlier crossing point of the Nyfer Estuary said to have been destroyed to protect Newport from plague.
Just upriver from here at low tide you can see the ancient Pilgrim steps where the only option to ford in the centuries between bridges was to leap from stone to stone. This area is a superb spot for watching the waterfowl and passing birdlife amongst rich and sheltered marshes in the Nyfer Estuary that are teeming with wildlife. On the way back into town a 2 minute diversion will reveal the surreal sight of the ancient Carreg Coetag Arthur Burial Chamber sitting just behind a modern housing estate where you can visit the very well preserved Neolithic Tomb - this one around 5500 years old with its capstone resting somewhat improbably on just two of its 4 uprights.
For a longer walk and spotted from the town from all angles head for the rocky peak of the Mount of Angels (Mynydd Carn Ingli) standing proudly above the town and the first of the Preseli Hills. Its from these moors and peaks that the Bluestones for building Stonehenge were dragged and if you arrive with the energy, it makes an excellent evening walk or better still a rest day adventure that is an excellent contrast to the Coastal Path. The magical name has stuck since the 6th Century when St Brynach found that this lofty mountain was a spot he could climb in order to communicate with the Angels. The inevitable Iron Age Hill fort is here if the Angels are not and the views over Dinas Head and the Nyfer River are certainly heavenly and well worth the 350m climb. If you are lucky you can spot Ireland itself and according to the old folklore if you also happen to be a young maiden and remain there overnight then King Arthur will appear before you ! Let us know on that one then. With a variety of watersports in the Parrog area of town, good food and a sheltered location, Newport makes an excellent rest day before the final push to the end of The Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
St Dogmaels is the village at the very end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and indeed the end of Pembrokeshire itself. Set several miles inland up the Teifi River Estuary its only one mile from the larger town of Cardigan which is the border with Ceredigion County. It’s a pretty place to end your walk, the winner of Welsh Village of the year in 2006 with three pubs, tea shops and a useful local store and after the wilds of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path a beautifully sheltered location hidden up the estuary in a little valley.
St Dogmaels himself was a Celtic Monk with an aristocratic background (he was the son of a local prince) and he founded his monastic cell here in the 5th Century. This place remained a sacred spot which by the 12th Century had a flourishing Abbey run by Benedictine Monks from France.
You can visit the impressive and extensive remains of the abbey and walk through the North and West Walls of the Nave which are still standing strong amongst the foundations of many of the other buildings. In Summer months if you are lucky with your dates you can watch open air Shakespeare plays here in a most atmospheric outdoor location.
Run by and for the local community, The Coach House below the abbey is an excellent café, small museum and visitor centre that displays a collection of early Christian and Medieval stones that once adorned the abbey.
The Victorians not to be outdone by the abbey decided to build the impressive Church of St Thomas on the same site and its well worth the short walk to view both.
The Abbey Monks were keen fishermen using single person coracle boats as well as more cunning traps based around the tides and sand bar to trap their food. They devised a tidal fish trap to catch Salmon and Sea trout that is so huge it can easily be picked out from aerial photographs of the Poppit Sands End of the River.
In later years after the Abbey was destroyed the village grew in status as the first sheltered inland stop for boats loaded with coal and limestone that had made it across the treacherous Cardigan Bay Sandbar at the mouth of the Estuary.
At the little grassy Quay on the West Side of the village in a very pretty spot you will find the commemorative marker plaque for the start/end of the Pemborkeshire Coast Path reminding you that its an impressive 186 miles you have walked here from Amroth at the southern end of the trail.
Accommodation here is in small B&B’s though there is a good hotel option midway between Poppit Sands and St Dogmaels around 1 mile before the finish of the trail as well as further options nearby in the larger regional capital town of Cardigan.
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