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) 6 miles moderate to strenuous grade in upland Sheep Pasture then Easy and flat on the coastal plain finishing with 4 miles along the sands
Leaving the little village near the pretty church of St Celynnin’s, its straight back up the hillside with a steep climb, thankfully broken partway by the Iron Age fort at Castell Y Gaer. Huge piles of rocks and gorse smother a stony ring of ancient earthwork, on a site clearly chosen for its outlook over to the estuary in the north. Watch out for the red kites that hunt here and the views are well worth the extra scramble into the fort.
The next few miles are classic Welsh sheep country - bracken clumped scrubland, eerie farm ruins, tiny streams and upland pastures, with views out over the sea to keep you moving and only sheep for company. Rising and descending but always high above the sea, eventually there’s an enjoyable long, steady descent through fields, tracks and some lovely high walled old pathways, bringing you to the last two hills before the coast at Bwlch. Here, the path enters a stretch of rich and fertile coastal farmland, passing directly between the two mountainous mounds which form a final gateway to the extending coastal plain.
The path re-introduces you to our old friend the railway which trundles between you and the water as you pass the isolated station at Tonfanau. It’s an empty place and the station now apparently serves nobody but in 1972 this was a busy place - over 1000 Ugandan Asians escaping Idi Amin were given asylum in a camp here – only the hut foundations remain.
Inland, the hillsides reveal huge mountain quarry workings, but your pathway is an easy wander on flat coastal plain. Approaching the first sizeable habitation since Fairbourne at Twywn there’s the opportunity to enjoy the new bridge over the River Dysynni, opened as part of the Wales Coast Path, which saves several miles of walking to a crossing upstream. Now walkers and cyclists share a crossing point right by the coast over the narrow estuary beyond which there is a huge coastal saltwater lagoon, known as Broad Water, once used as a safe place for shipbuilding. It’s empty of human activity now and is another SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest which supports a huge number of wetland birds. If you want to explore then a short diversion takes you past its waters.
Sitting at the foot of a range of mountains stretching inland, Twywn appears, its long sandy beaches covered in wooden groynes. This cheery place offers a range of facilities for the walker. Look inland to spot Cadair Idris in the distance, and much closer, the crag of Craig Yr Aderyn (Birds Rock).
After Twywn there is a magnificent 4-mile stretch of wild sands as you enter the Dyfi Estuary– the last coastal stretch before a 2-day journey inland to cross the river, so enjoy it! At low tide it’s a huge golden expanse flanked by turbulent and fast-moving water continually rushing in or out of the wide estuary but apparently never slack. At the back of the sands, a shingle bank and thin line of sand dunes offer alternative options at high tide. The dunes here are smaller than the ones around Harlech and look like they have been peeled back by the wind and ocean that confronts them from the west. You have around 2 hours of vast, open, beach to enjoy with just the sound of the urgent waves for company. The farther you walk, the higher the inland hills rise, and you start to notice patches of forest and rocky crags, helpful reference point to your progress down the sands.
Eventually you are forced east by the entrance of the estuary. The golden sand at Ynslas on the opposite side looks deceptively near - the end of the Ceredigion Coast Path is a mile from you here. But to reach it you need to trek inland as far as Machynlleth to find a crossing of the Dyfi Estuary and it will be another 30 miles before you reach the other side. To your left, a new range of hills appear, which you’ll climb tomorrow!
Ambling on, you arrive abruptly at the impressive tall houses that line the road to the harbour at Aberdyfi where you climb off the beach into the town. A well protected spot in the lee of the estuary, the lobster pots and fishing boats that greet you make it feel rather like Cornwall – it’s a welcome place to stop for the night before you trade the wide sands for the green hills and valleys tomorrow.
CLICK HERE for information on your overnight in Aberdyfi (Aberdovey) on The Snowdonia and Meirionnydd Coast Path
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