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.
Portmeirion is truly unique - a whimsical, surreal, folly Italianate village built on a beautiful remote Welsh headland. The site is only a couple of miles outside Porthmadog and sits right on the Wales Coast Path. It’s an ideal place to walk to on a “rest day” from Porthmadog though there are plenty of buses if you prefer. Those who really want to push the boat out should consider staying here a night or two and enjoy the village and headland in isolation once the day visitors have gone. There is a hotel and plenty of options to take rooms in the village see https://portmeirion.wales/.
It was the creation of the wealthy and eccentric self-taught architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who lived nearby. His vision was to demonstrate that a naturally beautiful place could be developed without destroying that beauty. He took inspiration for his new village from the Italian fishing villages of the Mediterranean, rebuilt the derelict mansion Aber lâ and renamed it Portmeirion.
Clough’s new village opened in 1926 although additions continued right up until the 1970s. Many classical buildings were saved from demolition by being dismantled, brought here and rebuilt, including the beautiful Bristol colonnade, dating back to 1760, which had fallen into disrepair. The buildings sit amidst wild and isolated headland of woodlands and manicured gardens, with the mountains and golden sands of this beautiful corner of Wales as a backdrop.
There is a surprise awaiting around every corner and you never know what you will find next - a lighthouse, a castle, a watchtower– you’ll find columns and cherubs, fountains and follies of all kinds here. The magnificent Pantheon or Dome was introduced by Clough to rectify what he termed ‘a dome deficit’ and there is even a giant Buddha, salvaged from the set of the 1958 film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness.
Aficianados of the 1960’s cult TV series The Prisoner will recognise the village as the place from which Patrick McGoohan, ‘Prisoner Number 6’ could not escape and today every year a Prisoner Convention brings devotees here. There are no signs of ‘Rover’, the coercive balloon, bouncing down the streets, but you can visit the Prisoner Shop where you can buy a replica ‘Rover’, get yourself an ‘I Am Not A Number’ T-shirt, or a ‘Prisoner’ pair of socks. Look for the giant chess game, a scene from the series, which is often recreated in the central piazza.
There is plenty of natural beauty here too. Wander along twisting paths through the Y Gwyllt (The Wild Place) home to hidden delights such as the Ghost Garden and the Chinese Lake. Some of the largest trees in the area can be found here as you walk though exotic vegetation to the headland where you’ll find windswept beaches and fantastic views of the village and estuary.
Add in a relaxing spa at the end of the day and you may not want to leave this most curious of places!
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