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.
Around 12 miles (19km) Generally moderate walking through forest and hillside trails with one long strenuous ascent
It’s difficult to leave the pleasant harbour at Aberdyfi – it’s such a pleasant spot and the way on confirms it’s going to be a long steep climb out this morning…time for one more coffee in the harbour first?
When it’s time to go, there’s a steep climb past houses that cling to the hillside but there are great views over the rooftops to the other side of the estuary and Borth. Zigzag up impressive flights of steps, then gorse lined track and heathland to the slopes of Cefn Rhos. If the tide is racing into the estuary behind you, you’ll still hear its roar up here as you track through a high sided valley, thick with bracken above and ancient woodland below. Crossing the head of an infant stream, make a final push through some high pastures and you reach the ridge summit – time for a last look at the ocean as you are heading inland now and won’t be meeting it again for at least 2 days.
Up on the ridge, you have new distractions – the aptly named Cwm Maethlon or Happy Valley appears on your left far below – a scattering of tiny farms and patches of woodland just specks below the high peaks on the other side of the valley that stare across at you. Follow a well-made farm track along the upper lip of Happy Valley, with huge sloping drops on your left into the pastoral scenery far below. Ahead, the hills close in and after a remote farmstead, take an ancient track across the moorland. On a narrow ridge you are now spoilt for choice with Happy Valley to the left and the wide Dyfi estuary laid out below you on your right, glistening as it snakes its way inland.
You are now on the appropriately named Panorama Walk. This is high sheep-country, and these are your only company as the ridge gets rougher with rocky outcrops poking up from swathes of heather and peat marsh, replacing the bracken and pasture of the lower slopes. Suddenly out of nowhere a stone appears. Although it looks like a gravestone, the carved slate stone marks the place known as ‘Carn March Arthur’, a rock with an indentation close to the track. A short distance from here is the Llyn Barfog or the Beaded Lake where a hairy monster was dragged from the lake by King Arthur’s horse straining on a chain. The marks in the rock are said to be those of his horses’ hoof print.
Well, of course, who could pass on without going to look for the Bearded Lake which lies around 10 minutes wander from the stone across the peaty mountaintop? Once there, it’s a special place where the higher peaks are reflected in the mirror-like, still lake. Here, for the first time on this walk, you can see no farms, no fences no signs of humans – just mountains…and sheep.
Back on the Wales Coast Path – there’s no coast here, of course, and the only way is down; the trackway dropping quickly from the heights through small plantations, gorse and heather until farms appear as you approach the valley floor where, in contrast to an hour ago, you find yourself in a rich arable area. The route diverts in a circle past small wooded knolls of ancient oaks, beech and ash, interspersed by lush green fields. Trek past impressive manor houses whilst enjoying stunning close-range views of the Dyfi, narrower here but still impressive, as it crawls up the flat valley floor, sandwiched by the hills on either side. Pass the 13th century castle, Motte of Tomen Las, an ancient wooded mound just before you reach the only significant settlement today at the pretty village of Pennal.
All who pass through here should seek out the Church of St Peter ad Vincula founded around 6th century…and then the riverside inn (not necessarily in that order!). The church is hugely significant as it was here that Owain Glyndwr, the last leader of an independent Wales, wrote the Pennal Letter in March 1406, shortly after presiding over the last free Welsh parliament in nearby Machynlleth. There, in the presence of envoys from France and Scotland, he was crowned Prince of Wales, claiming he had been appointed by God to release the Welsh from bondage to their English Enemies. The Pennal letter that followed was an attempt to engage armed support from the King of France against the English, who were making determined progress in destroying Owain’s new Wales Nation. To Nationalist Welsh supporters, the letter is hugely significant as it laid out Owain’s plans for Wales, including the foundation of a Welsh Church and Welsh University. While these things happened in part hundreds of years later, the dream was born here at Pennal and a copy of the letter is on display along with some impressive murals. In the churchyard you will find faithfully tended gardens for Owain and a magnificent statue of the Welsh Leader who stares wistfully at the mountains above him…
It’s time for one more climb, up through the big dark forests above Machynlleth, to a height of 800 feet, with fine views all the way of the huge distinctive crags and bowl of Tarrenhendre Mountain, one of the most significant peaks in this range. As you climb, the forest comes up to meet you from the left and you are quickly consumed by it, with occasional views over a patchwork of forested hills and valleys as you near the summit. Just before the top, in an amphitheatre of huge pines, you head into the forest for a short but well- signed final climb on a narrow path to the ridge.
On the other side, the end of the Snowdonia trail is revealed. More rolling hills and plantations drop away at your feet but below you can clearly see the Dyfi Estuary as it follows you inland, and beyond the welcoming market town of Machynlleth, capital of this area of Wales. There follows a final steep drop to the valley floor on sheep tracks and then farm track, which brings you out of the woodlands to the crossing of the upper estuary at the pretty bridge at Pen-Y-Bont.
CLICK HERE for information on your overnight in Machynlleth on The Snowdonia and Meirionnydd Coast Path
At this point – no doubt with some sadness - you leave Snowdonia National Park and enter mid- Wales. For some this signals the end of the road as you take the train out from Machynlleth. For the rest, who are continuing, it’s time to head back to the ocean and the dramatic cliffs and crags of the Ceredigion Coast Path
CLICK HERE for information on continuing your walk on the next section of coast path through the mighty cliffs of the Ceredigion Coast Path.
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