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.
Machynlleth is the main rail point for entry and exit to the Meirionnydd (Snowdonia) or the Ceredigion sections of the Wales Coast Path and as such this is for most walkers this is their first overnight in Wales. The mainline runs from here all the way to Birmingham New Street connecting to the rest of the UK splitting at this important junction to head North to Porthmadog or South to Aberystwyth.
For the new arrivals Machynlleth is an entertaining and welcoming introduction to the country – largely off the usual tourist track it’s a place you will find “real Wales” from the off. If Cardiff is the administrative capital of Wales, and St David’s is its spiritual one, then Machynlleth or simply ‘Mach’ is its alternative capital! Since the 1970s the modest town has attracted its fair share of artists and alternative lifestyle followers - which has led to it now being one of the most cosmopolitan and unique places in Wales. One consequence of this is the high number or independent retailers – from locally produced crafts to local produce – which makes for a far more interesting high street than the usual chains and national outlets.
The centre of the town is dominated by the Victorian Gothic clocktower, erected in 1873 to commemorate the coming of age of Charles Stuart Vane-Tempest, son of the Fifth Marquess of Londonderry, who owned the Georgian mansion of Plas Machynlleth, now an art gallery and conference venue and café on the edge of town.
The grounds are open daily and are free to visit.
Opposite the clock tower, Maengwyn Street is the location of the produce market which has traded here for 700 years since Edward I granted the town a charter to hold a market here every Wednesday in perpetuity – if you are here midweek take a look!
It was in Machynlleth that the coronation of Owain Glyndr took place in the year 1404 and for a while it seemed he would be successful in his dream to break the country away from the English. At Parliament House you’ll find the Owen Glyndr Centre – and here you can learn about the man, about his ambitions and the ultimate defeat of his attempt to create a free Wales. Nevertheless he remains a significant and symbolic figure, whose struggle for Welsh independence still inspires nationalist groups today.
Located in the former Machynlleth Wesleyan chapel, MOMA – the Museum of Modern Art has grown since its inception in the 1980s into a flourishing centre for the arts with seven separate exhibition spaces displaying work from over 300 Welsh artists. The centre has a holds a continual succession of exhibitions by Welsh artists as well as theatre, comedy and concerts throughout the year. The gallery is open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm and entry is free.
For those who have taken an extra day here, there are some fantastic places to visit in the surrounding area.
Three miles out of town, built in an old slate quarry CAT – the Centre for Alternative Technology – utilises 3 hectares of space to demonstrate with displays and working examples of ways to move to renewable energy and sustainable living with everything from organic gardens to sustainable buildings after arriving in style on the water-powered cliff railway. The Quarry Trail through broadleaved woodland offers great views of Snowdonia from the top of the hill. You can reach here by bus from Machynlleth or, if your legs are still up to it, then you can walk here along the Dyfi Cycleway which takes around an hour.
Five miles from Machynlleth through a twisting steep forested valley but accessible by bus Corris is home to an excellent craft centre with 9 workshops producing everything from glassware to gin, and a number of other visitor attractions including the Corris Mine Explorers, a chance to don hard hat and lamp and explore deep into the labyrinthine workings of Braichgoch - a Welsh slate mine complete with abandoned machinery and hear stories about what life was like working these mines. The trips are physically demanding but should present no problem for fit coast path walkers! Its possible to walk here and bus or taxi back if you prefer.
For those who want a serious mountain to climb at the start or end of their walk then its from here you can base yourself and take an extra day and night to access Cadair Idris and an unforgettable 6 mile climb up one of Wales most iconic Mountains. Its around 10 miles from here by taxi (or occasional bus) to the starting point for the climb on the Minffordd Trail.
The area surrounding Mach has also seen it become the Mountain Bike Capital of Wales – for organised adrenalin fuelled guided trips into the mountains from nearby Corris see http://www.bikecorris.co.uk/ride/#spacer not for the faint hearted but not to be forgotten !
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