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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The start of The Smugglers Way and best option for the night before you start walking.Proudly straddling the estuaries of the wooded East and West Looe river creeks, the bustling quaysides of Looe are linked by its imposing 7 arched bridge or when the tide is in by a short ferry ride across the river divide.
East Looe retains the holiday resort theme built up since the Victorian years when the arrival of the railway in 1879 brought the towns new found fame including the first ever bathing machines. Over in West Looe there is access to quieter beach walking along a rocky foreshore dominated by the offshore Looe Island beyond a protected marine reserve and reached by the Cliffside path known locally as the Khyber Pass (you will see why!) For those who want to end their walk with a dip, East Looe Beach is the centre of the town's waterside activity. The main beach can be rather crowded but the second or Saunders beach offers both swimming and rock pools without the crowds. For those with time it’s an easy place to take to the water, regular boat trips to Looe Island, offshore to fish for mackerel or inland up the wooded estuary all start from the quay.
For the hungry walker Looe is large enough to offer some high quality dining experiences around the harbour as well as the usual array of salty pubs and for fresh fish of course you are in your element. A labyrinth of narrow lanes by the harbour provides plenty of shops, cafés and facilities for those who like to wander and you can take in the Old Guildhall Museum based in the old magistrates court and cells or the Harbour itself, stacked high with lobster pots and the trappings of a small scale fishing fleet that plies in and out of the river mouth. For once there is a strong working fishing fleet left here and a visit to the fish market if you are up in the morning to see the nights catch arriving is well worth it. Back from the coastline are the wooded river creeks of the West and East Looe valleys which provide a quieter home to an array of local wildlife, a tranquil spot for a picnic or an easily accessible evening amble.
Liskeard offers a useful overnight stop location for those splitting the long first day of the Smugglers Way OR for those looking to take the dramatic Bodmin Moor Ten Tors route option through the remotest parts of the moor to rejoin the Smugglers Way at Jamaica Inn.
An ancient stannary and Market town Liskeard with a population today of around 9,000, Liskeard is off the main tourist trail and retains its authenticity as a result of this. The Cattle Market still operates here and this was until recently the adminstrative centre for the surrounding district of Caradon. The dramatic Tors of Bodmin Moor lie a short distance to the North whilst the Town itself has excellent transport connections on both the main London to Penzance railway as well as the stunning scenic Looe Valley Branch line to Looe.
As a bustling market town it has a good selection of unusual and independent shops in its centre many still housed in the old Victorian Shop fronts of yesteryear. Well worth a browse from quality local food, arts & crafts, clothes and books as well as locate more general outlets that will provide for anything the passing walker needs to source.
There is a reasonable range of accommodation for The Smugglers Way walker from B&B's Guest Houses and small Hotels through to a Country House option on the outskirts of the town in lavish grounds. There are a handful of pubs and several popular restaurants giving a choice for evening meals before you head off for the remote moorland stops.
Listed in the Doomsday Book the major expansion of the town came through the nearby copper, lead and silver mining on Bodmin Moor during the 19th Century. This has left a centre of grand buildings with Gothic style stonework from that Industrial era, The Guildhall, Town Council Hall and Forresters Hall - The Foresters still exist and meet in the town at the Public Rooms in West Street indeed this is an unusual place with no fewer than 6 Masonic bodies still meeting at the Masonic Hall in The Parade
The Stuart House a well preserved late medieval town house is now a well preserved Art and Hertiage Centre free to visit It got its name after being taken over by King Charles 1st as he brought his army here during the Civil War. Visitors will find the garden to the rear of the House has been laid out as an intriguing 17th century Gentlemens' Garden. The impressive 15th Century Church of St Martins is also well worth a visit and in keeping with the rest of the towns impressive architechture this is the second largest Parish Church in Cornwall. Nearby is the ancient Pipe Well, an old stone well fed by four springs which have never run dry said to give miracle cures for "weak eyes". The town has a short heritage trail that links all these sites and makes for an interesting pre dinner stroll. The Town Museum is free and is worth checking out if you want to find out more about the history and culture of Bodmin Moor and its mining heritage prior to walking through it on The Smugglers Way route.
This moorland village only a mile or so off the Smugglers Way situated in a leafy valley below the Moor northwest of Liskeard. Without argument it is a truely pleasant place - as noticed by the outside world, when it was awarded Village of the year in 2004 and then village of the decade (!) in 2006. Its clearly always been a tranquil spot, founded its said after the Celtic Saint Anietus also decided to reside here and a small monastry existed later in the 11th Century. The impressive 15th Century church stands on that spot and is the place to explore to find out more. Traditions hold strong here and villagers still haul branches of an oak tree to the top of the tower on Oak Apple Day in May to show support for Charles the second who hid from his enemies in an oak tree - and that was back in 1651! Look for the huge granite carved cross in the Churchyard - this is said to have been presented by King Alfred in around 900AD.
For the Smugglers Way walker in search of an overnight stop you will find the homely London Inn, village stores, teashop, an impressive Holy Well with several fishy tails to go with it and if you still have energy you can head underground into the surreal Carnglaze Caverns, formerly a well hidden navy rum store in a cathedral like Cave complex complete with its own subterranean lake - well recommended.
A travellers rest has existed in this foreboding spot since 1412, the current inn dating back to 1750 where after it developed its reputation as a base for smugglers, highwaymen and general “rouges of the highroad”.
This theme was developed into the novel by Daphne du Maurier who happened across here after being lost on horseback in deep fog somewhere close to the route that brought you here.
Whilst disappointing by day due to it being a popular stop with visitors to its smuggling museum, at night with the lack of anything else around the inn, the place regains its solitary and sultry atmosphere.
Rest weary legs by smoky fires in hidden corners of the bars with a few other souls still seeking some respite from the elements and the moor.
The inns name was said to be a reference to its considerable trade in rum, whatever the origin weary and desperate travellers using the high route between Launceston and Bodmin have sought sanctuary here for centuries having failed, like you to cross the full expanse of wild and treacherous moor before nightfall.
Sunsets and sunrises are fantastic up here but you may not sleep completely undisturbed in between. A favourite of the Most Haunted TV series apparitions said to have been seen here include a malicioushighwayman, an anguished young mother and her baby and the ghost of a young smuggler said to have been murdered and who sits on the wall in the courtyard looking angrily back at the inn.
For those surviving the night you can record your efforts so far by signing the Smugglers Way Log Book at reception.
The end of The Smugglers Way and great overnight to finish your coast to coast walking holiday.
Boscastle's medieval Harbour is indeed a dramatic spot, a twisted miniature fjord squeezed into a knife like ravine of crags and cliffs. There is plenty to explore here and it's a worthy overnight stop on your walk for those who want to see more of the Boscastle and Tintagel areas.
Below Penally point above the dog legged harbour is the Devils Bellows a blow hole which blows a horizontal jet of water across the harbour opening about 1 hour each side of low tide. The whole harbour area, promenade and walls are fascinating to wander around but don't miss the excellent Museum of Witchcraft.
An historically focused exhibition with a very un-Harry Potter like collection of fascinating artefacts which explore beliefs and practices whilst tackling the stereotypes often associated around Cornwall's pagan past.
Boscastle became known to an international audience in the summer of 2004 when a 3m flash flood of water funnelled into the harbour area wreaking havoc following freak weather conditions. With over 90 residents and visitors airlifted out in a true battle against time and nature this is now a significant part of the harbours history.
There is lots of information in the visitors centre about the events of that day and the epic efforts of both locals and rescue services that amazingly resulted in no fatalities. Today, with restoration work virtually complete the village is back to its stunning and appealing former self.
For the walker seeking a rest from the path, the harbour area itself has a good selection of art and craft shops, bakers, restaurants and tea gardens and several atmospheric 16th Century inns for some liquid refreshments. If staying visit the excellent Visitors Centre, Cafe and Shop run by the National Trust in one of the restored harbour buildings has exhibitions covering the village and its highlights.
This area is well worth further exploration so for those spending more time or staying overnight here then Boscastle village itself is a bit of an oasis of calm set back up the hill from the harbour area. It's a trip back in time and there is a rewarding short walk (details from the visitor centre) taking in its most interesting spots and excellent views of the harbour and inland valleys.
More exploring will take you to the 42 Forrabury Stitches behind the church one of the best examples left of medieval strip farming and Celtic land use known as Stitchmeal. Combine this with a pre dinner sunset stroll to the viewpoint at Willapark with excellent views back over the village and along the coast in both directions.
You can easily extend the walking from here along the Superb South West Coast Path from Boscastle Harbour. Either East via Crackington Haven towards Bude or West to Tintagel and Port Isaac In season there is a good bus service connecting Tintagel, Boscastle, Crackington Haven and Bude meaning you can spend a couple of nights here and do some Coast Path walking by taking the bus out in the mornings to walk back to your Hotel.
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