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.
One of the unique options for walkers on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path is the chance to take a day out from the walk to visit one or two of the offshore islands. Not only will you be gazing at them from the path for several days during your walk but on a week spent walking beside the Ocean you really should try to experience a short trip across it !
Skomer and Grassholm will appeal to those with a special interest in Bird watching, consider Caldey to visit its monastery or Ramsey Island for wild walks, seals and dramatic views. General information follows on the options and just tell us when asking for a quote if you want to look at building one or more of them into your walking holiday.
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Ramsey Island dominates the Pembrokeshire Coast Path one mile offshore of St Davids and is reached by a short and exhilarating sea crossing over “The Bitches” tidal flow. With it's impressive peaks and wild moorland, Ramsey is an intimidating place with huge 300ft cliffs protecting much of its West side whilst the Bitches guard the Eastern approach.
Yet visit in the Summer and it’s idyllic, resplendent in a carpet of colour with bluebells, pink thrift and huge tracks of purple heather.
Effectively uninhabited these days, the island was farmed in a few places until the middle of the 20th Century but these days has been returned to its wilderness.
The higher peaks offer you spectacular views back across the causeway to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and there is little more satisfying than climbing to the heights to gaze back over the trail that brought you here as you spot the mainland locations you passed on the week long walk around St Brides Bay.
The future of this unique place was finally secured in 1992 when it was bought by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) to protect and support the huge array of birdlife on the island. Peregrine Falcons and rare Choughs breed here along with springtime swarms of nesting Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and Shags.
Away from the skies you will spot roaming herds of Red Deer whilst below the cliffs the remote location provides a habitat for Grey Seal and this is one of the largest populations in the UK. In late summer hundreds of pups are born here in the coves and caves.
A visit to Ramsey starts from the space like St Justinian's Lifeboat Station on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path around 1.5 miles from St Davids In season there are minibuses every ½ hour down here from the town or its a pleasant hours walk via the ancient fort at Clegyr Boia Rocks.
Regular boat crossings to the Island run every day in season and once on the Island you will be met by RSPB wardens who will provide the background to Ramsey before you head off on a network of trails to explore it yourself.
Refreshments are available at the end of your walking adventure at the Island's solitary farmhouse now headquarters for the RSPB staff.
Easily accessible during your time staying at St Davids this makes an excellent final day if you have just completed the West Section of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path or an easy warm up walking day if you are arriving to head off into the tough North Section of the Coast Path to Cardigan.
Take an extra night at St Davids and you can split the “rest” day between a visit to Ramsey Island and time exploring St David's Cathedral and Bishops Palace
Use the following links to read more about the various trips to walk on Ramsey Island run by the main operators Thousand Island Expeditions and Voyages of Discovery.
Both based in St Davids they also run combined trips to Ramsey with Whale and Dolphin spotting in the deeper Western Waters or adrenaline Jet Boat Trips to explore the narrow caves and tidal white waters off Ramsey Sound.
Skomer Island is the largest of the chain of offshore Volcanic Islands at the foot of St Brides Bay and is the second most popular option for an Island visit whilst on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.
A high table topped and cliff lined Nature Reserve, Skomer is around 700 acres in size all managed and protected by The Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales. This is “Puffin Island” – around 6000 breeding pairs live here and this is probably the best place in the UK to watch these fascinating birds at close quarters. Population wise they are dwarfed however by the Manx Shearwater that live their strange existence nesting in burrows on the island -this is the largest colony in the world of this bird – over 100,000 of them
You can see them at first hand on the island and “live” underground on the Burrow “Cams” on the mainland at St Martins. There are over 30 other species of birds to encounter on a visit here including rare Choughs, Guillemots and Razorbills as well as the chance to spot Grey Seals on the rocks and coves below the cliffs.
You will also find rabbits galore as the island was used as a Breeding Warren by the Norman Invaders who were fond of eating them in the 13th Century. Today the descendents roam free from the cooking pot, in huge numbers.
The island has a four mile walking trail taking you through its wildlife, archaeological sites, hidden coves and wild headlands.
The solitary ruined farmhouse, Neolithic hut circles and Bronze Age standing stones are reminders that over the centuries some have braved a harsh existence here. Visit in late spring and you will find it in a glorious technicolour of Bluebells, Pink Campion and Sea Thrift.
How to Visit Skomer - Day Trips - There are daily departures in season from St Martins Bay close to the overnight stop of Marloes on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path (West). Evening Cruises to see the swarms of Manx Shearwater take a route around both Skomer and Skokholm in high season.
Overnight Stays on Skomer - If you have the time these are magical experiences in one of the most isolated spots in Wales and you will witness the mass return of the Manx Shearwaters at dusk to find their burrows - one of the worlds most astounding daily migrations.
Visitor numbers overnight are strictly limited and facilities are fairly basic but there is a hostel that can sleep up to 16 people in 5 rooms. Its pretty much self catering however but for the adventurous it’s a unique and totally remote experience – book early to get in. Visit the 'Skomer Overnight' section on the Wildlife Trust of South and West Wales for details.
Skokholm (also Stokholm) Island, is protected by impressive red sandstone cliffs and is a smaller sister to Skomer at around 240 acres and just under one mile in length. It was here that the first British Bird Observatory was established from abandoned buildings in 1933 by Ronald Lockley and the island holds an equally impressive array of birdlife to that on Skomer. Skokholm is included on many of the Skomer Cruises allowing the chance to view its wildlife from the ocean. Landing access is restricted to residential visitors and these tend to be strictly for the very keen birdwatchers as stays are for a minimum of 3 nights – contact the Wildlife Trust for South and West Wales for options. If visiting Skomer as a day visitor however try and ensure your trip out there includes a chance to circle Skokholm Island on the way back.
For more information on trips to the islands of Skomer, Skokholm and Grassholm see the Pembrokeshire Islands Boat Trip Website
The “Iced Island” gets its name from the 40,000 pairs of Gannets that breed here -from boats the swirling birds give the appearance of clouds of smoke or white icing ! A key location for the Gannet, over 10% of the world's population live here in a huge colony that dominates this small isolated rocky island – the remotest in the Skomer Volcanic Chain sitting 11 miles offshore. No landing is allowed on Grassholm to protect the Gannets but there are regular sailings by rigid inflatable boats and more sedate crossings by ferry from St Martins Haven close to Marloes on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path West. The journey out and back is an experience in itself with regular sightings of Porpoise, Sunfish and Dolphins en route and for the lucky occasional Minke and Pilot Whales in the deep water. At the island itself intrigued Atlantic Grey Seals will stare back at you from the rocks once you start to circle – to visit add a rest day at Marloes to your itinerary.
Situated around 3 miles off the Pembrokeshire Coast Path south of Tenby is the Monastic Island of Caldey which can be easily reached on regular ½ hour ferry rides. A stunning location of sandy beaches and headlands where you have a good chance of spotting grey seals within a little haven of tranquillity and peace.
Settled by Celtic Monks in the 6th century, for the last 1000 years the holy men have retained the island as a place of prayer and quiet living despite occasional incursions by Vikings and Pirates, the dissolution of the Monastery in 1536 by Henry the Eighth and the on-going assault of the sea itself on the exposed shoreline.
Today around 15 Cistercian Monks remain to live a frugal life here along with around 60 other hardy residents producing perfumes and herbal potions from the wildflowers in the white washed Monastery Gardens.
There is plenty to see as you walk around the island, the remains of The Old Priory and the tiny chapel of St David with its Celtic stone as well as the little museum in the Village Post Office and the impressive lighthouse where views extend as far as the Preseli Hills.
Those looking to soak up the religious atmosphere can attend one of the monks daily chanted services in the Abbey Church. We suggest ending up at the islands Tea shop to refuel for the Coast Path by soaking up some tea with the chocolate and shortbread produced here by the monks themselves.
With regular sailings every day from Tenby harbour, for Pembrokeshire Coast Path walkers the best way to see the island is to take a “rest day” in Tenby giving time to explore its medieval streets and ruins before heading to Caldey for lunch and an afternoon walk around the island.
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