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.
Distance - 13 miles, but with an option to cut into Marloes Village after 9.5 miles for a shorter day.
Summary - Moderate Grade walking, (what these grades mean) with a run of climbs and descents, particularly in the sections to St Ann's Head. Then isolated coves, long beaches and windswept headlands framed by dramatic offshore islands to Marloes.
Beyond imposing Dale Fort, the Welsh Coastal Path heads into some strenuous climbs and descents through sheltered and lush ancient woodland, where little valleys hide old limekilns and tumbling streams. As you approach St Anne's Head, take in views across “The Heads”, the narrow neck of the Milford Haven Estuary. As the crow flies, only one mile over the water to the opposing headland of Angle, yet for the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path Walker, its 18 miles and 2 days walk back down the Milford Haven estuary.
A steep scrubland path at Watwick Bay tempts those wanting a remote swim off the path to some beautifully secluded sands, whilst at the 19th Century West Blockhouse Fort, you can rest on a stone seat below three modern radio beacons that look like huge Totem Poles solemnly guarding the entrance to the Haven.
At Mill Bay, you reach the commemorative stone marking the landing here of Henry Tudor on his return from exile in France in 1485, welcomed by the Welsh as the new King Arthur, with his army of 4000 in 55 ships. A hugely significant historical spot, from here he swept through Wales in just two weeks defeating Richard the Third to become King of England, starting the Tudor reign that dominated England for the next 130 years.
Climbing to the tip of the headland, you reach the little lighthouse at St Anne's Head, a stark and windswept spot so remote you find the remains of the huge walled gardens where the lighthouse keepers grew their own food to support themselves. The first lighthouse here founded in the 17th Century had two towers run by coal funded by passing ships who had to pay a toll of one penny per tonne of cargo.
Beyond the lighthouse is a new landscape, battered by the oceans prevailing winds and the next 6 miles is one long and fascinating collision of land and sea.
A world of tumbling cliffs, jagged pillars, fractured outcrops and sheer drops that are devoured by the churning ocean below. Off shore sits the mysterious Islands of Gateholm, Grassholm and Skomer, the whole area is a designated marine nature reserve below colourful clifftop meadows of sea sprayed wildflowers, yellow gorse and pink and red thrift.
From the Iron Age promontory fort at Great Castle Head, a sharp descent down a good hundred steps brings the magnificent beach at West Dale.
Then Marloes Sands, arguably the most magical and surreal beach of the whole Pembrokeshire Coast Path and one of the finest in the UK. Its broad golden sands stretch before you for well over a mile, punctured throughout by a mysterious lunar landscape of huge towering rock pinnacles, dark sea caves and fractured stacks. The most impressive are known as The Three Chimneys, soaring 140ft pillars of mudstone and sandstone strata. To the north is the hog backed expanse of Gateholm Island severed from the mainland at Raggle Rocks by the descriptive “Horses Neck”, a narrow ridge allowing access for only a few hours every day at the right point of tide.
Back in the dark ages, Gateholm Island was an important settlement and over 100 hut circles are still visible on its inaccessible flanks. All told, Marloes Sands is a contoured maze of coastal drama and ocean beauty, well protected from the hordes and the modern world by its lack of road access. Beyond Marloes Sands, you climb again to enter the highest cliffs to date, mighty, sliced bedding planes marked by huge folds and mountainous chunks where the walker feels quite dwarfed as you peer gingerly over them.
Adding to the visual assault, as you approach St Martins Head you will not only see but hear the narrow wild tidal race squeezed between Skomer Island and the mainland known as Jack Sound – this is Deadmans Bay a churning fiery boiling pot of power that has taken many a ship to its doom.
Dwarfed now by the Wildlife Reserve of Skomer Island offshore, you can divert to the very edge of St Martins headland at The Deer Park, a spot so close to Skomer, you feel you could almost jump the channel. A designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest), there are no deer here in this windswept spot but you can look for rare Choughs alongside a plethora of seabirds wheeling and swooping on the thermals as they rise from their roosts on Skomer Island.
At St Martins Haven, you find a beautiful sheltered cove where the high crags tower in a circle over a deep blue bowl of water.
Stop at the tiny Wildlife Trust Information Centre here in an old barn whose wall reveals an inscribed Celtic Cross Stone over 1000 years old that somehow found its way out to this remote spot. Inside, watch some of Skomer's most bizarre inhabitants live on the “burrow Cams”, that monitor a handful of the 80,000 Manx Shearwaters, the largest population in the world, who dig their tunnel homes here.
Now in the huge arc of St Brides Bay distant views across to the rocky mountainous peaks above St David's appear, looking like another world over 3 days walk ahead of you.
An air of calm inside the bay is reminiscent of South Cornwall’s coastline with gentle climbs and falls leading to the untouched Robinson Crusoe sands at Musslewick Bay. Less well known than Marloes Beach but once again its purity protected by a lack of road access and huge sheer cliffs. You leave the coast path here for the short 15 minute walk inland to Marloes Village
Overnight stops and facilities in the village of Marloes on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path South
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