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 to Strenuous grade with steep climbs and descents in places - what these grades mean One section of open and exposed moorland over Exe Head.
Today is the final leg of your journey crossing the high ground of mighty Exmoor and from the off you follow uninhabited and remote moorland, broken up by increasingly rare patches of pine woods as you climb from Withypool.
En route, Chibbets Cross, the sombre site of the old Gibbet where criminals, outlaws and deer poachers would be left chained to the posts in this most desolate of spots.
You leave the now gushing and snaking moorland River Barle to cross the ancient fortified site of Cow Castle said to date back to 500BC or earlier and the stupendous views open up over the moorland heights, classic Exmoor National Park carpets of purple heather and bracken clad slopes.
This is a wild and windswept land of buzzards, old copper mines and wild Exmoor ponies. The isolation is briefly broken at the high level village of Simonsbath where dark silent glades of beech woods lead to the river crossing by a triple-arched medieval bridge. All in all it has an end of civilisation air to it.
Overnight stops in Simonsbath on the Two Moors Way
This is the last chance for a drink before you climb out through dark brooding forest plantations to Exmoor’s heights on the open moor over Dure Down and onto Exe Head. The source of this river is just a trickle from the mire here but one flowing back behind you, retracing your steps to empty all the way over to the other side of the land mass as a huge estuary in South Devon.
The landscape is simply breathtaking and you feel yourself on the top of the world up here, watch out for birds of prey, hare, herds of wild ponies and of course grazing deer as you join the route of the Tarka Trail which follows the habitat and wandering of Gavin Maxwell and his otters.
The final and dramatic descent to the coast starts here down a deep V shaped heather valley following the tiny gushing Hoar Oak Water which quickly picks up volume from the marsh and starts to bound with intensity seaward passing ruined sheep shelters and occasional standing stones.
The lonely Hoar Oak Tree still serves as your guidepost off the moor today as it has since the 13C when it marked the ancient boundary of old Exmoor Forest and it now stands in solitary guard of your re-entry to Devon from the moor. In a final brief burst of upward effort you now ascend the line of Cheriton ridge an ancient highway which opens up vast panoramic views now across the sea to Wales. Drawing you past ancient hut circles and cairns that peer out of the purple heather and bracken the ridge takes a steady descent down the moorland flank to reach the first habitation for many miles at the houses of Cheriton.
The Two Moors way now climaxes at Gorge Country on the superb woodland trails around Coombe Park high above the Waters Meet waterfalls where the now bounding Hoar oak Water and East Lyn River meet at the head of the gorge. The forest here is another protected site of special scientific interest recognised as one of the most varied and largest natural areas of Woodland in the region. Its an assault on the senses in Spring, with an abundance of wild flowers, bluebells and primroses poking out from beneath rare sessile oaks all surrounded by the heady aroma of wild garlic and living forest. After the Iron Age Hill Fort at Myrlteberry South the trail finally releases you and you drop dramatically through a series of switchbacks as the coastline beckons. In this area known as the Cleaves, you hang high above the steep sided drop of the main river gorge 1000ft below you.
Finally, the fascinating Cliffside towns of Lynmouth and Lynton – north Devon’s “Little Switzerland” emerge to greet you as you almost tumble down the hillside off the trail. Here, the foot of the breathtaking gorge collides with the ocean where it empties from a small harbour into the Bristol Channel, surrounded to the left and right by huge imposing cliffs and coastline. It’s a fitting spectacle for the end of a superb walk, or for those heading off along the South West Coast Path an impressive starting point for the next leg of your adventure.
Overnight stops in Lynmouth at the end of the Two Moors Way
If you have time - Continue your walking adventure along the South West Coast Path to Barnstaple or Minehead.
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