Walks And Walking – Winter Walks In The South West
The South West of England is one of my favourite places to visit for walking. Cornwall is a particular favourite for stunning coastal paths, inland countryside tracks across the moors and no winter walks are complete with a visit to a small cosy pub with a log fire to help warm up. The South West is full of great places to visit, with many all wonderfully looked after by the National Trust. You’ll see a familiar pattern with all of these walks and walking routes and special places to see; beautiful gardens, havens for wildlife, spectacular coastlines and intriguing woodlands.
The wooded gorges and waterfalls at Watersmeet offer a fabulous walk in Devon. Heddon Valley has towering cliffs, coves and a wooded valley within Exmoor National Park and is a favourite landscape for many walkers all year round. Once notorious for smugglers and wreckers, the peninsula walk along the Devon coastline at Morte Point is a great place to look out for seals towards Bull Point and enjoy the coastal heathland and maritime grasslands.
Lundy Island, perhaps better visited in the milder times of the year, is an unspoilt oasis and the largest island in the Bristol Channel, lying 12 miles off the coast of Devon. You can also enjoy a walk across two superb blue flag beaches from Woolacombe along the sand dunes or cliff tops to Putsborough Sands, then on to the headland at Baggy Point to the picturesque town of Croyde and Croyde Bay.
The Teign Gorge Circular Walk to Castle Drogo and Chagford is one of the best walks in Dartmoor National Park. Other great walks in the area include Lydford Gorge with its 30-metre-high Finch Foundry waterfall, Plymbridge, Widecombe and the relaxing riverside walks along Parke.
There are some great National Trust properties in this area including Saltram in Plymouth, A la Ronde near Exmouth, the medieval manor of Bradley, Coleton Fishacre, Greenway, Overbeck’s in Salcombe and Compton Castle, a fortified manor house in the village of Compton, about 5 miles west of Torquay. You can enjoy a great walk along Bolberry Down cliff tops to the headland of Bolt Tail.
I’ve got plenty of experience of walking in Cornwall but these 4 walks like like great fun. Firstly, there’s the Hawker’s Hut Walk from Bude to Morwenstow, then there’s the Fowey Hall Walk from Fowey Estuary to Pencarrow Head – I did a similar Fowey walk a few years ago – the most southerly walk in Cornwall is from The Lizard to Kynance Cove and finally the Porthcurno Walk from Sennen to Penberth.
No visit to Dorset is complete without a visit to Corfe Castle, with Swanage, Purbeck, Studland Beach, Dorchester and Weymouth all great for long or short walks by the coast or across the hills.
Often overshadowed by the marvel that is Stonehenge, Wiltshire has plenty more to offer with some wonderful houses and gardens to visit. Stourhead and The Courts in Holt, near Bradford on Avon both offer lovely gardens with Lacock village, Mompesson House, Avebury Manor, Great Chalfield Manor and Garden,Westwood Manor, and Little Clarendon all worth a visit.
Tarr Steps is my favourite place in Somerset but there is also an abundance of places to visit in North Somerset including the Holnicote Estate Exmoor, Dunster Castle and Brean Down on the coast. Inland there are Coleridge Cottage, Cheddar Gorge, Glastonbury Tor, Fyne Court, Stembridge Tower Mill and on the top of the Blackdown Hills you’ll find the Wellington Monument.
In South Somerset there’s Barrington Court and the Elizabethan Montacute House, Tintinhull Garden, the medieval houses of the Great Hall of Stoke-sub-Hamdon Priory and Lytes Cary. Towards Bath and Bristol is Victorian Tyntesfield with its Palladian bridges of Prior Park Landscape Garden, the terraced garden at Clevedon Court, the elegant Bath Assembly Rooms, the picturesque cottages of Blaise Hamlet, tranquil Leigh Woods and the 15th-century Westbury College Gatehouse… to name but a few!
There are plenty of amazing places to visit in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds including Snowshill Manor, Dyrham Park, Newark Park – with the views to the Mendips being truly breathtaking - Chedworth Roman Villa, the 13th-century former Cistercian abbey, Hailes Abbey, and Horton Court, once a Norman hall and now a manor house. Hidcote and Westbury Court Gardens are wonderful but if you’re looking for a really good walk then idyllically set in a wooded valley is Woodchester Park with Lodge Park and Sherborne Estate also recommended.
If you want a longer walk then just head out across the Cotswolds, the Severn and Wye valleys, Crickley Hill, Rodborough Common, the Stroud and the Severn vale or May Hill.