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.
Grade - Moderate Grade Walking, Strenuous on the high moor quickly becoming Severe if caught in Poor Weather - what these grades mean
A complete change of scenery to start with today as your drop down to the delightful swift flowing river Dart through a deep wooded valley clung to by rare sessile oak trees. A Devon Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve you pass impressive Horseshoe Falls and wildlife here is prolific, kingfishers, dippers, pied flycatcher and wood warbler in the sky and even the River Dart Otter for the stealthy or lucky.
You cross the churning waters at the ironically named Newbridge, a classic Dartmoor medieval parapet bridge which was actually constructed in 1413.
After a further stretch of more open river meadow and marsh, often a carpet of wild flowers, it’s back to the challenging stuff with sharp climbs on the Two Moors Way route over the twin rocky heights of Leigh Tor and Ash Tor from where you reach the High Level carriageway known as Dr Blackwalls Drive.
A perfect walking route it was built by the Lord of the Manor in the 19C as a dramatic and panoramic carriage drive to impress and amaze his guests with, the views over the Dart Gorge to the middle distant moor still demonstrate his projects success.
From Mel Tor a welcome descent into woodland serenity at the thin strip of riverside forest that lines the lovely West Webburn River and you breeze through the timeless waterside hamlet of Pondsworthy, its picture postcard row of perfect thatched cottages, old mill and bakehouse delight along with the “Pondsworthy Splash” the local ford over the Webburn.
The return to the moor beckons you out of this watery tranquillity though, if time allows or for those on shorter itineraries, a detour gives you the chance to explore the much loved village of Widecombe on the Moor dominated by its impressive church of St Pancras which is known as the 'Cathedral of the Moors’ home to the grave of Sir Henry Baskerville of Sherlock Holmes Fame.
Overnight stops in Widecombe on the Moor on the Two Moors Way
The Two Moors way meanwhile climbs to the cairns and barrows of Hameldown Beacon. Look back on the way up for superb views over Widecombe to the famous Haytor Rocks and then on a clear day beyond as far as the Jurrasic Coast in Dorset. Once on the moor proper the ground flattens and the Two Moors Way snakes along a winding ridge walk over a succession of antiquities included the huge Broad Barrow site and Hamble Down Cross.
This is superb open moor once again and the highlight of the run of rocky Tors is ghostly Grimspound, one of the best preserved Bronze Age enclosures in the South West. A huge 4 acre site holding the remains of over 20 semi restored hut enclosures inside huge granite walls, the old paved entrance and megaliths are still visible.
This eerie and most remote of settings was the location of the prehistoric hut in which Sherlock Holmes spent the night keeping away from the black “hell hound” in The Hound of the Baskervilles. Thankfully the deadly Grimpen Mire also based on this location in the book, whose “bogs are capable of swallowing a pony” is not evident these days on the Two Moors Way route!
The old mine workings of Birch Tor and Vitifer line a sunken path through the old water courses to a wild moorland road where stands the medieval 13C Bennett’s Cross said to have been erected by Monks as part of a safe waymarked trail between Abbeys. Close by you should take a break at the Warren House Inn, the highest and loneliest pub in Southern England at 1,425 feet, its very existence, in the most isolated and unlikely windswept position, a result of the long departed tin mining activities nearby. The claim is that the fire is never allowed to go out here and is said to have been burning continuously since 1845 - we suggest you divert to check this with the current landlord over a welcome pint.
Dropping off Dartmoor's heights you enter more gentle woodland and rough pasture and join the green lane route of the Ancient Mariners Way the old path of seamen crossing the county from Bideford on the north coast to their ships on the South Hams at Dartmouth. Narrow, winding, tree lined back lanes bring you to the impressive River Teign and the pair of splendid granite arched bridges at Rushford and Chagford both dating back to the 17C.
Overnight stops in Chagford on the Two Moors Way
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