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.
The walk was very good particularly the western section and the places visited en-route including Wells , Glastonbury, Cheddar, Frome added a historic dimension. The accommodation was as always very varied but very good and it was always fairly easy to find a place to eat on an evening. Luggage transfers went smoothly. It got a bit hot towards the end of the walk but that was true of most places in the UK but at least there was quite a bit of woodland shade. Thanks again Encounter for another well organised trip.
Regarding the walk as a whole, we were more impressed with the West Mendip Way than the East. We loved Wells and Cheddar Gorge and gave Wookey Hole a wide berth due to the "hundreds" of small children running around!
We had fabulous weather, a bit too hot for walking, but not complaining.
Accommodation was pretty good and hosts friendly and helpful. Special mention to the Penscot Inn who put us in their coolest room, which was much appreciated.
Regarding walk notes, there is an error in the West Mendip script. At Loxton the notes say "on reaching the road turn right...." actually you need to turn left. There is no waymark on the junction to help either.
Coming out of Wells for about a mile all the waymarks have been broken off. You can see little bits of plastic where they should be. Presumably this is vandalism, but we found the way after a short diversion. Route was very overgrown in places particularly the first couple of miles after Shepton Mallet. A number of fields in this area have had the footpaths ploughed over and planted out, so very heavy going.
Our highlights were the lovely City of Wells and walking from Crook Peak to Wavering Down. The views are wonderful.
Thanks for all your arrangements, everything worked like clockwork as usual
Maggie and Pat
We enjoyed our holiday.
I offer you some brief notes that may be of help to you and to future walkers.
The baggage transfer was first class.
Absolutely first class. Told us everything we wanted to know. However some of the distances were under estimated.
West Mendip Way notes
Generaly good but some misprints. One mistake. At point 4, first paragraph, the instruction after the reference to "the old school house" to "turn right and walk along until you shortly take a right turn down Church Lane" should read "turn left and walk along until you shortly take a right turn down Church Lane".
Glastonbury Pilgrimage Way
Again the notes were generally good but after leaving the route of the Monarch Way some of the paths were very neglected and overgrown. Moreover, some of the paths on the ground were not on the correct line according to the OS. (We had three GPS devices, two with the OS 1:25,000 and one with the OS 1:50,000 so could be quite sure of this.)
East Mendip Way notes
Again some misprints ("filed" for "field" being the most common). Generally good but not up to the standard of the West Mendip notes.
Refreshments on the route
You may like to know that the Penscot Inn at Shipham was closed. This notwithstanding that their website and a board outside both said that it was open. We used Lenny's Cafe instead which we would heartily recommend. The other pubs we used on our walk were excellent. We would particularly recommend The Queen Victoria Inn at Priddy and The Red Lion at West Pennard.
As I said at the outset, we enjoyed the holiday. Thank you for all your work to make it work for us.
This is a very pleasant easy walking tour of Somerset, England. Lots of history here and some beautiful architecture. Accommodations were perfect and like always the reliability of luggage delivery was spot on.
Firstly, we really enjoyed the walk; we had not walked in this area before and found the scenery beautiful and the route very varied from the spectacular section around Cheddar Gorge to the lovely woodlands. The accommodation was also fine but we do have the following comments, which I hope will prove helpful for future walkers.
We found the distances given for each day slightly deceptive. I think we covered at least one extra mile per day than that stated on the itinerary.
On the whole the route is very well signposted and the accompanying route notes were generally very clear and easy to follow apart from a minor blip on the West Mendip Way shortly after leaving Wookey Hole. In line 4 of paragraph 18 there seems to be an extra two sentences beginning "Turn right in the field .... keep straight ahead until you come to the road." In actual fact you only need the last line "Turn right down the road until the junction at the bottom."
We did, however, encounter very misleading instructions towards the end of paragraph 12, 4th line down on page 8 of the East Mendip Way notes. This reads "At the road junction go left along the road and at the next junction turn right until you come to a footpath sign on your left." We tried to follow these instructions and they took us a long way in the wrong direction. There was also no way marker at this point. All the notes need to say is "Turn right at the road until you come to a footpath sign on your left."
On the final section, Shepton Mallet to Frome the itinerary warns that the path can be quite muddy. In actual fact it proved to be extremely muddy and several of the paths through the woodlands were obstructed by fallen trees.
Otherwise all the arrangements went well and we would thoroughly recommend this walk.
I chose to walk the West Mendip Way on the same weekend that the Beast from the East 2.0 decided to pay Somerset a visit. I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads station and purchased my ticket to Weston Super Mare with a quip from the ticket attendant that ‘it’s cold down there and I hope you brought some thermals with you’. I had not. Once I arrived in Weston I decided to walk the first two miles to Uphill along the beach before following the route into Bleadon. The first part of the walk into Compton Bishop was glorious, I had warmed up nicely and the occasional snow flurries made everything look particularly pretty, I passed group of walkers walking in the opposite direction with a cheery hello (walkers are a very friendly bunch) before pausing to eat a chocolate bar under a WMW sign so that I could take an obligatory selfie. Some words of advice- Lion bars are not the best choice when it is freezing cold, there is a real danger of chipping a tooth.
I reached Shute Shelf in good time and started my ascent up to Crook Peak. This part of the route is steep but the climb was worth it for the views alone. It was at Crook Peak that I started to notice how cold it was, my hands were a weird colour and I had to put on another layer. As I was applauding myself for the climb and putting on my fleece whilst jumping up and down to try to stop my legs going numb, I watched in awe as a young guy ran past me in shorts. I very quickly felt less smug.
The next section of the walk was my favourite, I passed moorland ponies as I descended through Cross Plain into Kings Wood. I admit I mostly enjoyed it as it was all downhill but I do have a soft spot for ponies and woodland. Once I reached the main road I made a quick stop at the petrol station for supplies before continuing up the wooded Winscombe Drove and along a public footpath. It was at this point that I left the Way to walk the last few miles to my campsite for the night. With numb hands I made a rough job of pitching my tent for the night before putting on all of my clothes and ordering a well-deserved pizza which was delivered directly to my tent by a very nice delivery man who called me crazy. The next morning I woke to the sight of several inches of snow and a very concerned campsite owner who ushered me inside her house to warm up by the Aga with a cup of coffee. After checking that bus services were still running and that I wasn’t completely stranded I walked back down a now snow covered Winscombe Drove in fairy tale like surroundings with a short stop to make a snow angel before catching the bus back to Weston.
Overall I would highly recommend walking the Mendip Way. The scenery is varied and the views are beautiful, especially from the top of Crook Peak. There are also plenty of towns and villages to visit along the Way and quaint pubs for that much deserved pint of ale at the end of a hard days walk. I will definitely be walking it again so that I can complete the whole route into Frome, but probably in warmer weather next time!
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