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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Grade - Easy start then moderate with some strenuous moorland climb - what these grades mean
If you are regular and fit walkers this day will be one long but rewarding 20 mile trek. For those wanting a shorter day you can opt to split the section into 2 days overnighting at the idyllic moorland village of St Neot OR the little visited Cornish Market Town of Liskeard where there are good overnight facilities – see below for more information.
Overnight in Looe before the start of The Smugglers Way.
The Smugglers Way leaves the South West Coast Path at the South Cornish Coastal port of at Looe, a bustling harbour with a seafaring past enlivened by smuggling and piracy that stretches back to the 12thC. A fleet of fishing boats still operates daily from here so for those staying overnight the bonus is that this is one of the best places in Cornwall to sample truly “locally caught fresh fish” in one of the quayside restaurants.
Starting from the end of the bizarre, rounded Banjo Pier if its high tide you will be accompanied on the first section by the fishing fleet arriving back with the overnight catch as they enter the narrow rocky estuary entrance beside you. Passing the fish market at Buller Quay on your way out of town you can watch everything from John Dory to cuttlefish going under auction before leaving the tiny streets to cross the estuary at the impressive Looe Bridge before you head to the interior.
The contrast from the bustle of the town could not be greater as you now enter the Kilminorth Woods nature reserve This section of ancient creek and woodland is idyllic guiding you alongside the calm tidal waters and climbing above forested hidden inlets accompanied by Kingfishers and egrets. Before long the salt waters recede from their wide millpond like expanse to become the narrow surging freshwater of the West Looe River. Look carefully here and you can still pinpoint occasional remains of an 8 mile defensive dyke from the dark ages –the Giants Hedge – The local legend being that “One day The Devil with nothing to do, he built a hedge from Lerryn to Looe”
The next 5 miles is a delightful mixture of river pasture and forest track following the river inland with barely a house or another walker to disturb you – it is absolute peace. No surprise then that this is deer and otter territory whilst buzzard and kite circle high above you. The only breaks from the serenity are at Churchbridge, a Hansel and Gretel hamlet almost lost in the river and forest and a few miles further down an ancient forest trail at the slightly larger hamlet of Herodsfoot, where the local Giant 'Herod' is said to have planted his foot making the deep valley that you enter today.
Those breaking today's walk into two days and those taking the "Ten Tors" wild moorland route to Jamaica Inn will now drop through a deep valley on tiny back lanes to reach the overnight stop in the market town of Liskeard.
Follow these links to read about overnight stops at Liskeard OR St Neot for those taking two days for this section.
For those on the long day to Jamaica Inn or heading for an overnight at St Neot, after leaving the West Looe Valley a section of road is required to reach Dobwalls and The Highwayman, the first and only pub on the route today before a sharp descent brings you to the infant river Fowey Valley crossing the crystal clear waters by the 15C bridge at Treverbyn. Walkers splitting the long walk at the village of St Neot will finish here today.
For those heading onto Jamaica Inn the Smugglers Way now enters a stunning hidden riverside path alongside the charging Fowey River as it tumbles off the moor before starting the climb to the high ground up an ancient twisting forest trail part of The Two Valleys Walk.
Emerging from the woodland you finally hit dramatic Bodmin Moor and cross through the gorse and open ground on lonely Berry Down with its dramatic Iron Age Hill fort.
A section of open and unfenced moorland backroad then takes you past the Southern Moors lakes and Reservoirs before reaching the last habitation at Lords Park Farm. You now start the days open moorland section as you scale the gentle slopes of Brown Gelly (342m) with its offset tor. The summit reveals 5 desolate tumuli (burial mounds) and some of the most outstanding and far reaching views in this part of Cornwall with the wilderness stretching to Dartmoor one way, the "St Austell Alps" the other, whilst the deep waters of Collingford and Sibley back lakes glisten just below you.
The final section of todays Smugglers Way Drops from the Brown Gelly summit to round Dozmary Pool a circular high ground peaty pool said to be the location of the death of King Arthur and the resting place of Excalibur which was plunged back into the brown waters here. Legend abounds at this desolate and locally feared spot - after a Faustian Bargain with the Devil the ghost of Jan Tregeagle still pays penance for the money and power he enjoyed, damned to this "bottomless" Pool, where he is tormented to this day by trying to empty the freezing waters with a leaking limpet shell. The howling winds that can rise around the shores are said to be his cries of endless despair ! A mile or two further along the expanse of moor and you finally reach the isolated coaching house of Daphne du Mauriers infamous Jamaica Inn. Ahead now looming on the horizon are Brown Willey and Rough Tor Cornwalls two hightest peaks - but for now head for the roaring fire at the Jamaica Inn in this ancient and windswept travellers haunt - wild and remote, there is no higher place to rest in Cornwall.
Overnight stops on The Smugglers Way at Bolventor Village (Jamaica Inn)
Map of all
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