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10 jaw-dropping walks in South West England

The South West Coast Path

There’s no better way to explore the South West than to travel on foot.

Choose a pace that suits you, from leisurely afternoon strolls through historic villages to challenging hikes along dramatic coastal paths, the South West’s world-class walking tracks take in some of England’s finest coastal and rural landscapes. Where will you ramble?

1. Tackle the South West Coast Path for an unforgettable experience

South West Coast Path, Cornwall. South West Coast Path, Cornwall. Copyright VisitEngland/ Visit Cornwall

Whether you are looking for a relaxing wander or the challenge of a lifetime, the South West Coast Path offers 630 miles of world-class walking tracks.  Starting at Minehead in Somerset the track runs along the coastline of Exmoor, continuing along the coast of North Devon into Cornwall. It follows the entire coastline of Cornwall, goes across the mouth of the River Tamar and continues into Devon. After running along the south coast of Devon it then follows the Dorset coastline before finally ending at Poole Harbour. Originally created by coastguards patrolling the south west peninsula looking out for smugglers, they literally had to check in every inlet so their cliff top walk was well used and now provides today's Path. There are also many National Trust areas to explore, and inland walks taking in little villages and stunning countryside including Exmoor National Park and heritage sites such as the coastguard cottages which still stand today.

Endurance level = 4 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about the South West Coast Path

2. Ramble along the Cotswold Way

The Cotswold Way sign. The Cotswold Way sign. Copyright VisitEngland

The Cotswold Way sprawls for just over 100 miles, from Chipping Camden to Bath, offering fantastic views as it passes through picturesque honey-coloured Cotswold villages. Along the track, discover famous ancient sites and nearby attractions. Beautiful handcrafted stone markers are located at Bath and Chipping Campden to indicate the beginning and end of the trail.  Break up the journey by stopping overnight at local inns, B&Bs or even eco-friendly StarGlamping pods, to experience a unique night surrounded by the sights and smells of the English countryside.  There are also service providers that will transport luggage each day.

Endurance level = 4 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about the Cotswold Way

3. Be dazzled by the Bath Skyline Walk

A picture of the Bath Skyline. A picture of the Bath Skyline. Copyright VisitEngland/ Bath Tourism

Explore 6 miles of way-marked paths, taking in the views of the Georgian city of Bath in the surrounds of hidden valleys, wild flowers and tranquil beech woodlands. Each season offers a different experience; smell wild garlic in spring, enjoy wildflower meadows in summer, see colourful foliage in autumn , and frosty vistas come  winter. There is the option to explore this National Trusal trail at your own pace or join a guided walk so you can learn more about Bath's history and culture.

Endurance level = 2/3 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about Bath Skyline Walk

 

4. Hike the Dartmoor National Park in Devon

Dartmoor National Park Dartmoor National Park. Copyright VisitBritain images.

Dartmoor National Park is a fabulous place to go walking. Follow trail maps, join guided walks or set yourself a challenge with a long distance hike. Its landscape is as dramatic as its weather and its scenery the star of many famous films. From the striking granite tors to steep wooded river valleys, explore tucked away villages and hamlets aplenty.. Dartmoor National Park provides a dramatic setting and glorious countryside for a whole host of rural activities.

Endurance level = 5 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about Dartmoor National Park

 

5. Explore 600 miles of trails in Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park Exmoor National Park. Copyright VisitBritain images

Not only are there miles and miles of routes through coast and countryside to choose from, there are many great places to eat and stay to make your walking holiday complete in West Somerset and North Devon’s Exmoor National Park. For shorter walks, try the Tall Trees trail in Dunster, the Ancient Tarr Steps and the dramatic Valley of Rocks. Longer trails include The Coleridge Way and Two Moors Way, which link Exmoor and Dartmoor National Parks.

Endurance level = 3 / 4 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about Exmoor

6. Follow the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail in Gloucestershire

Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail. Copyright VisitBritain images

The Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail is 4.5 miles long and was one of the first to open in 1986. It features many interesting sculptures created by artists interpreting the surrounding forest environment. Highlights include a 15ft high suspended stained glass window and a giant chair made of sweet chestnut.

Endurance level = 1 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about the Forest of Dean Sculpture Trail

7. Explore the North Wessex Downs in Wiltshire

Avebury Stone Circle in the North Wessex Downs Avebury Stone Circle. Copyright VisitBritain images

With open downs, ancient woodland and chalk streams, the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is an idyllic area to explore. There are ample opportunities for walkers in this area with the long distance footpath, The Ridgeway, as well as walks along the Kennet & Avon Canal tow path and across the Avebury Stone Circle – a World Heritage Site. Look across at Silbury Hill, the largest manmade mound in Europe and see if you can spot any of the chalk White Horses that dot the landscape. Within this AONB you’ll also discover the market town of Marlborough, Wilton Windmill, Crofton Beam Engines and the Kennet & Avon Canal. 

Endurance level = 2 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about the North Wessex Downs

8. Discover the street art capital of Europe

Bristol Street Art Tours. Bristol Street Art Tours. Credit Richard Perrin

As the birthplace of Banksy and home other iconic artists, Bristol boasts an incredible street art culture and street art tours have fast become established as a "must-do" cultural experience in the city. Expert guides from the street art community at ‘Where the Wall’ provide insights into the life and work of world-famous graffiti artist Banksy and others, revealing the stories behind the ever-changing paintings that adorn Bristol. Tours usually focus on the art around central Bristol and the creative quarter of Stokes Croft. Bristol-born Banksy took to the city’s streets as a youngster and as a result, some of his earliest work is hidden around the city and hunting it out is part of the fun!  Look out for the opportunity to create your own masterpieces with the artists…

Endurance level = 1 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about Bristol Street Art Tours

 

9. Unearth the myths and legends of St Michael's Mount in Cornwall

St Micheal's Mount, Cornwall St Micheal's Mount, Cornwall. Copyright VisitEngland/ Visit Cornwall

Stroll across the causeway at low tide to the island of St Michael's Mount, legendary home of the Cornish giant Cormoran. This diminutive island, steeped in myth and legend, is topped by a fairy-turreted castle, passed down through generations of the St Aubyn family and still a family home today. Adjoining the castle is a medieval priory, built after the island was bequeathed to Benedictine monks by William the Conqueror. Together with the village and its bustling harbour, they make an idyllic place to wander, whatever the season but head down in the summer months for a dip in the glistening azure waters surrounding the island at high tide.

Endurance level = 2 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about St Michael's Mount

10. Take a regency stroll through the City of Bath

Bath Abbey at night. Bath Abbey at Night. Copyright VisitEngland/ Bath Tourism

Follow the bronze plaques set in the footpath along the Bath City trail where residents of Bath have been ‘taking the air’ since Georgian times. Today you can follow in their footsteps through the city's grand promenades, public gardens and cobbled passageways. This trail takes in the main sites of the city including Bath Abbey, The Roman Baths and The Pump Rooms.  Enjoy the views that revived the spirits of Jane Austen and her companions, allowing around an hour to complete the walk at an easy pace.

Endurance level = 1 (1 = easy, 5 = challenging)

Find out more about walking trails in Bath

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