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 - 14 miles from Goodwick or 12 miles from Fishguard.
Summary - Moderate Grade walking for most of the day but with a more strenuous climb to Dinas Head (what these grades mean). The section is remote with few facilities however so be well prepared. A twisting run of high cliffs cut periodically by steep valleys and hidden shingle bar coves before reaching the circle of Dinas Head and the “classic” Pembrokeshire Coast Path Headland Walk.
The Pembrokeshire Coast Path links the neighbouring towns of Goodwick and Fishguard using the “Marine Walk” which skirts the beach and low cliffs along the back of the bay before diving into some switchback descents through thick woodland. There are inspiring views to the huge whale like expanse of Dinas Head before you reach the back of the pretty quay at Lower Fishguard with its multitude of little boats bobbing in the narrow cove.
Having crossed the old stone road bridge you return to the open ocean at Castle Point with its impressive ruined fortress still sporting a set of three cannons standing guard over the harbour entrance.
These have been here since 1781 to protect the town against pirate raiders after it was held to ransom by an American born buccaneer who called himself The Black Prince. Fishguard forced to pay him off after he threatened to subject the town to an all day bombardment from the sea.
Diving in and out of bracken slopes and hawthorn tunnels you pass above Needle Rock a huge oval stack looking like the top of a long submerged stone needle, its base punctured by a huge natural sea arch giving the needle its eye.
The only habitation on this section is the caravan park at Penrhyn – normally the scourge of the coastal environment this one is actually hugely impressive as it clings to the top of a narrow promontory, caravans literally teetering above the abyss below.
An avenue of ancient woodland accompanies you to sea level to cross the idyllic cove of Aber Bach where a wooden footbridge takes you over a small lagoon formed by the shingle ridge bank. It’s an isolated place pinned in by the narrow corridor of cliffs from the wider ocean.
Snaking climbs and descents take you to Pwll Gwylog, a beautiful little horseshoe bay which receives a tumbling mountain stream, this time into a wide amphitheatre of huge cliffs wild and windswept as the horizontal growing trees demonstrate – see them to believe me!
The oval shaped hump of Dinas Island, now no longer cut off from the mainland, stretches out like an angry fist from beyond the ruined limekiln at Pwllgwaelod beach and is the challenge on the horizon.
At Pwllgwaelod you will find the defiant and very welcome Old Sailors Restaurant at the back of a bay that holds nothing but a handful of fishing boats.
In days gone by guiding lights were placed after dark in the windows here for ships to navigate by and avoid destruction on Dinas Head.
For the Pembrokeshire Coast Path Walker it makes an ideal lunch stop with its end of the world views. At its inland end Dinas Head Island is severed from both sides by the Cwm Dewi, a deep glacial meltwater channel that scythes across the headland and now provides a deep lush valley and haven for butterflies, song birds, Falcons, grass snakes, a large population of Dinas Rabbits and other assorted wildlife that shelter here from the ravaged headland.
You can see right across the “island” at the Dewi and could shortcut in 20 minutes but for The Pembrokeshire Coast Path walker there is only one way on, which is to start a switchback climb heading for the heavens and the heights of Dinas Head itself.
It's all big skies, big slopes and big views as you wind through heather, bracken and gorse and a couple of disheartening false summits before finally reaching the trig point at Pen y Fan on the tip of Dinas Island at around 460ft.
If the winds let you linger at the top you can see right back to Strumble Head and onwards to the very end of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path at mighty Cemaes Head.
Inland the mysterious and menacing Preseli Hills loom above you whilst far below your feet look out to sea for pods of dolphins that can sweep past this extremity.
Like hanging onto the bow of the Titanic it’s a breathtaking spot that just opens up to the rest of the world.
It’s a quick and welcome descent on the northern flank of Dinas Head with a nimble traverse down the middle of huge bracken covered ski slopes.
At times it’s a rather daunting trail clinging above huge drops below to the ocean.
A second Needle Rock emerges, this time its ledges writhing with squawking Shags, Razorbills and Fulmars that circle this isolated stack outcrop in constant battles for the best spot to nest.
Finally a sudden drop through lush woodland of hazel, hawthorn and stunted oaks and ash, reveals the beautiful beach and hamlet at Cwm-yr-Eglwys on the other side of the Dewi Meltwater Valley.
Translating as "The Valley of the Church", sitting here above the perfect little beach is the stark and iconic single west wall and lonely bell tower of the 12Th Century Sailors Chapel of St Brynach.
This, along with part of the graveyard is all the great storm of 1859 left standing after a week long battering that saw 114 shipwrecks and the loss of over 500 lives across the Welsh Coastline.
The lush vegetation and solitary Pines seem positively Mediterranean after Dinas Head, the opposite from the ferocity of the storm that destroyed the church and swept away its graveyard.
The next section is a splendid cliff top march into Newport broken only at the twin inlets of Aberfforest and AberRhigian where steep little wooded valleys tumble into the ocean. Tranquil little freshwater lagoons are protected here by hefty shingle bars crossed on little wooden footbridges and complete an idyllic hidden cove scene.
The ragged cliffs continue until you turn the corner into the estuary at Newport and drop through boathouses and little cottages to reach The Parrgog (Beach) at the head of the estuary where the River Nyfer snakes its way past Newport to the sea.
There are fine views across 'The Bennet', the golden sand bar that guides the rushing waters of the Nyfer into the ocean.
A final diversion inland below the Preseli Hills to reach Newport now follows the salt marshes of the estuary through thick woodland to an old Iron Bridge crossing.
On the way, long abandoned boats lie in snaking seawater inlets and sheltered marshy pools - a haven of wildlife and waders.
Information on Facilities and Overnight Stops at Newport at the entrance to the Preseli Hills on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
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