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.
In total around 8 miles (12.8km) – so adds around 3 miles to the standard coast path route. Strenuous Grade all the way as you cross the Mountain Pass with a very stunning but very steep final descent to Barmouth. Experienced Walkers only this would be Severe grade in poor weather.
A superb alternative which avoids the section which follows the road into Barmouth and where you experience wild terrain with some of the best views to be had in this part of Wales.
There is no better way to meet Cadair Idris and the Mawddach Valley then, having toiled up over the drover’s pass, you suddenly see it laid out before and below you. In past times, drovers would take over 400 animals over the pass on their way to the English Markets with shouts of Heiptro Ho as they toiled along the droves. Farmers would bring out animals for the drive when the drovers passed, cattle were shod, a mix of sand and tar applied to the feet of geese and pigs were given wool and leather socks for the climbs.
You must climb to around 450m (1200 ft) so there is significant effort involved and you won’t pass a dwelling or be anywhere near a road for the ridge ascent. However, for fit and regular walkers, confident with a map and with a sense of adventure, then it is easily doable and a hugely satisfying route into Barmouth. The ascent from this side is steady and the views just get better and better as you climb.
Are you convinced? If so, leave the coast path at the little village of Tal-Y-Bont, with the last chance to stock up with refreshments at the riverside gardens of the Ysgethin Inn - formerly the old woollen mill.
The path leaves from here with a wonderful walk up the bubbling Afon Ysgethin. Little more than a large stream, walk for two miles alongside waterfalls and pools, surrounded by sturdy oak and ash woodlands, through pleasing glades, beneath cliff banks, in a fertile world of green moss-covered trees and boulders. At times you are forced to climb above the river cliffs and at one stage you find yourself on a lovely wide woodland drove track. All too soon the adventure ends and you reach Pont Fadog, where an ancient bridge still stands over an infant mountain river, the last structure before the mountain itself.
Emerge from the woodlands via a short section of track into a different world on the slopes of the mountainside. Suddenly peaks tower around you, with huge scree slopes and barren cliffs - welcome to the Ardudwy Way.
You now have an hour’s climb up the flank of one ridge on the old green drovers’ road, aiming for the significant pass between peaks at Bwlch y Rhiwgyr – ‘The pass of the Drovers’. It’s a steady climb, with the views just getting better and better as you rise. Now you can see more and more ranges of mountains. Only the occasional bubbling stream and the bleating of distant sheep breaks the silence and there’s a feeling of isolation, with no road or house in sight in any direction, as you enter the final bowl of the Rhingogs, wild and heathery hills stretching into the interior with a real taste of the Welsh mountains – look up as you reach the top of them and watch out for the feral goats that cling on here.
Towards the top, things narrow and steepen – just imagine trying to drive flocks of sheep over this –but after a final push you emerge at the summit of the pass. The giant mountains of Snowdonia are behind you now as you gaze straight across the lush Mawddach valley. This is your first sighting of the mountain of Cadair Idris and what a sight it is from up here.
It’s a steep descent down the top of the pass, pausing to visit the three Cerrig Arthur Stones, part of a lonely ancient stone circle –who put them here and why? Herds of hardy sheep accompany you as you walk along the high flank of the Mawddach valley, still following the green grassed drovers’ tracks.
Far below you, the tidal river becomes forest then grassy mountainside. Above you are the moraines and screes of the highest peaks on the ridge. Climb up to the second pass of the day at Bwlch y Llan through an area of peat and boulders and finally the reassuring sight of the sea returns, far below you down the mountainside. The views stretch out as far as Bardsley Island, several weeks walk away at the end of the Lyn Peninsula.
The final descent into Barmouth is steep and dramatic. On the way down you pass ruins, old forts and mine workings before a dramatic plunge, snaking down the cliff paths on an impossibly steep and craggy hillside, before tumbling onto the golden sands of the estuary.
Barmouth…well…it’s Barmouth and you are likely to arrive into holiday madness, but what a contrast for you, having travelled from one of the remotest passes in the area to get here.
CLICK HERE for information on your overnight in Barmouth on The Snowdonia and Meirionnydd Coast Path.
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