The Great South West Walks – loving the South West Coast Path!

Last week Bill Brown, one of our intrepid Regional Managers, completed the cottages4you sponsored New Polzeath Coastal Conservation Walk, organised by the South West Coast Path Association.

The event was just one of many organised as part of Great South West Walks 2014, a celebration of the South West Coast Path comprised of 100 popular circular walks around the Coast Path in Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall.

You can see a few of Bill’s brilliant photos below. If you fancy taking part, or learning more about the great work that the South West Coast Path Association do to preserve this beautiful stretch of Britain, then head over to their website and get involved!

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Bill (centre) with guide Justin Seedhouse (red jacket) and other intrepid walkers

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Some of the stunning scenery on offer

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Peppercombe to Bucks Mills is one of the region’s most popular walks

The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge

We teamed up with our friends at Hoseasons and Canvas Holidays to tackle Yorkshire’s Three Peaks this weekend, raising much-needed funds for the Three Peaks Project in the process. Great (dry!) weather made for ideal walking conditions and a really fun (though exhausting!) day. Find more info on the Three Peaks Project on their website.

Celebrate National Walking Month

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Rhossili Bay: “Breathtakingly wonderful” seems like an understatement!

If you want to really feel alive and refresh those senses this summer, it’s time to get outside and start walking. This month is National Walking Month, and here in the UK we are extremely lucky; the terrain makes it the perfect place to walk. Whether you want a gentle, family stroll, or you are an experienced walker looking for your next challenge, our list of favourite scenic walks has something for everyone.

Easy or family walks

Rhossili Bay
Distance: 5 miles circular route
Starting point: Rhossili National Trust visitor centre
Suitable for walkers with little experience and families
Map

Rhossili Bay is such a stunning area it has earned itself the number 1 place to visit in Swansea on the independent review website, Trip advisor. Visitors to the area have left reviews on the website describing the area as “Paradise” and “Breathtakingly wonderful”.

But don’t worry. Despite the fact that 750,000 people visit Rhossilli every year, this beautiful walk never seems too busy and it’s the perfect walk for all the family. It covers moorland and one of the most glorious sandy beaches in the UK. It even has its very own shipwreck visible at low tide, the ill fated Helvetia that has been there since 1887.

From the highest point of this walk, you can see an uninterrupted 360 degree of the entire tip of the Gower Peninsula including Worms Head and Burry Holmes. On a clear day, you can even see as far as Devon.

Getting there: Catch the bus to this beautiful bay from Swansea, or you can drive and park in the National Trust visitor centre.

Wye Downs (using part of the popular North Downs Way)
Distance: 4.5 miles
Starting point: Church in Wye
Map 

Get to know the beautiful Wye Downs by following paths and tracks through open fields and luscious woodland. On this walk you will get the chance to see the fantastic Wye Crown, a massive crest that students cut into the chalk hillside in 1902 to honour the coronation of King Edward VII.

You will also pass through the Wye National Nature Reserve with its beautiful landscape of chalk, woodland and scrub. Moths, insects and orchids that are essential to conservation efforts have made their home here. From the nature reserve you will get the chance to take in enthralling views of the Devil’s Kneading Trough, a 260 feet deep steep dry valley.

On the way back, make sure you take time to look around the historic village of Wye and stop off at one of the pubs for a rewarding, refreshing drink

Ben A’an
Distance: 2.5 miles
Height: 1,491 feet
Start: 200 yards west of Tigh Mhor near Loch Achray
Map

The extraordinary views over the Trossachs and Loch Katrine from the summit of Ben A’an are what makes this walk unbeatable. Although relatively short, this walk involves steep climbs through woodland and steep steps on loose rock, so it’s more suited to those with a good level of fitness. Don’t worry though, it also covers easier terrain you can meander through and enjoy the stunning views while catching your breath.

Along the path there are large rock areas often used by picnickers. You will also find steep, rocky trails that offshoot from the main path, ignore these and stick to the main path. Typically, it takes about an hour to reach the summit, though if you’re really fit you can do it in much less.

The path ends at 1,491 feet at two rocky peaks, both of which give enthralling views across two vast landscapes of Scotland, west over Loch Katrine towards the ‘Arrochar Alps’ and and south east over Loch Achray towards the Campsies. If you’re lucky, you may even see the Sir Walter Scott steamer as she travels across Loch Katrine. One thing to remember is that this walk does get busy at times, but its popularity is just testimony to how beautiful it is.

Getting there: There is a car park A821 near Tigh Mor opposite the track.

For the more experienced walker

Dunskey Castle at Portpatrick

Dunskey Castle at Portpatrick

Southern Upland Way
Distance: 214 mile (340 km) coast to coast
Starting point: Portpatrick
Map 

Often overlooked for other Scottish walks such as the West Highland Way, The Southern Upland Way is a stunning, if rather tough, walk. It begins in Portpatrick, a small fishing village on the Scottish west coast and finishes in Cockburnspath on the east coast.

At 214 miles, this walk isn’t the longest in the UK, but is known as one of the toughest. Overwhelming mountains, thick forests and beautiful moors make up this enchanting walk. There is accommodation en route, however this walk is rather isolated and you won’t stumble across many day trippers or holiday makers on your way. The walk visits stunning spots such as Castle Kennedy, St John’s Town of Dalry, St Mary’s Loch, Galashiels, Lauder and Longformacus en route.

It’s worth remembering that on the Southern Upland Way the path can be challenging with a loose, steep, rocky and muddy surface. Hill walking boots are a must!

The UK’s Best Spring Walks

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Beautiful landscapes and history await

With winter over and warmer, sunnier weather on the way, spring is a fantastic time of year to blow away the winter cobwebs and get out into the countryside for a spring walk.

From woodland to open countryside, coastal walks to picturesque villages, the UK is home to a number of fantastic walks that will allow you to enjoy the region’s abundant flora and fauna while getting a healthy dose of fresh air.

Lovers of spring flowers will enjoy the Daffodil Walk in Farndale, North Yorkshire. This one and a half mile walk sees around 40,000 daff lovers each year, all keen to see the carpet of bright yellow flowers that are reputed to have been planted by medieval monks who lived at the nearby Rievaulx Abbey. The walk takes you past both pubs and cafes that are perfect for a spot of refreshment.

For a longer walk through the countryside of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire, the Three Shires Way is a 49 mile walk with plenty of accommodation en route, making it the perfect leisurely walking break. The walk is a bridleway walk that passes through beautiful rural areas and the remains of ancient woodlands, and takes in picturesque historic villages including Shelton, Knotting and Lavendon.

Alternatively, head west and enjoy all that Gloucestershire‘s Cotswold Way has to offer. The route is 100 miles in total, running all the way from Bath to Chipping Campden, and features not only beautiful rolling Cotswold landscapes, but a great deal of history too. Depending on which part of the route you choose to walk, you will be able to visit Snowshill Manor, Sudeley Castle and Hailes, which is home to the ruins of a stunning abbey.

Those looking for lowland walking may enjoy a trip to the South Downs in Sussex, and the popular South Downs Way. The village of Steyning makes the perfect starting point for a number of circular South Downs walks that start from the village, with a huge number of old drovers’ paths scattered across the rolling landscapes and beautiful chalk cliffs. One of the most popular South Downs Way routes is the ascent up to Chanctonbury Ring: the remains of a hill fort from the Iron Age which is circled with a ring of beech trees.

If you would prefer a bracing coastal walk, head to Wales and the Millennium Coastal Path in Llanelli. This 22 mile stretch of pathway is completely traffic free, open to pedestrians and cyclists only, and takes in both coastline and stunning woodland. The walk starts at Llanelli’s Discovery Centre, where bikes can also be hired, and takes visitors through an old steelworks that has now been converted into a water park complete with lake and a variety of wildlife. The walk continues through a nature reserve and past Burry Port marina before reaching Pembrey Forest – a sand dune forest that is home to a plethora or wildlife and which offers a variety of walking routes of different difficulties.

Bird watchers should head to the north west of England to Sizergh Castle, where they may, in spring, be able to catch a glimpse of the haw finch. Shy by nature, the haw finch lives at the very tops of the trees – and when foliage is more sparse in spring, it’s a great time to try and spot them. The Sizergh Wildlife Walk also gives walkers a chance to see the estate’s hornbeam trees and various woodland flowers – including Wordsworth’s daffodils.

Those who enjoy walking but also need to entertain children could visit the Wyre Forest, located on the border of Worcestershire and Shropshire. The forest is one of the largest ancient woodlands that is still in existence in England today, and spring sees the forest come to life with seas of celandines, daffodils and bluebells carpeting the area. You may even see kingfishers or fallow deer if you are lucky! The forest is home to a variety of trails to suit all ages and abilities – and if the children get bored, it is also home to zip wire adventure park Go Ape.

Just west of Halifax, Yorkshire, you can enjoy the Hardcastle Crags woodland wildlife walk – and spring time is the perfect time of year to fully appreciate the natural beauty of the area. With beautiful birds returning from warmer shores, animals coming out of hibernation and trees and flowers coming back to life, you can enjoy a gentle ramble through the beech, oak and pine woods with their tumbling streams and stunning views.

Lovers of Scotland should use spring as a time to enjoy the Knoydart Peninsula in the Scottish Highlands: a remote peninsula that is separated from the rest of Scotland by an imposing ring of mountains. Visitors must make the sea crossing from Mallaig to enjoy the area, which offers guided walks and tours for those unfamiliar with the location – the weather can be unpredictable and safety is paramount. Walks in the Knoydart Peninsula include more gentle options such as meandering coastal walks, as well as more challenging ascents that can sometimes require specialist equipment. Those who do take the more challenging options such as Sgurr Coire Choinnichean will be rewarded with some fantastic views across the whole peninsula, and will be able to enjoy a drink at the one and only pub in Inverie – The Old Forge – a truly remote location where the population is just 80 people.

Alternatively, head east to Norfolk and a bit of sea air as you walk the Norfolk Coast Path – the perfect place in which to dust off those winter cobwebs and come out of hibernation. The bracing sea air can be enjoyed on the journey through sand dunes and salt marshes – and if you want to try different stretches of the Norfolk Coast Path without walking the whole lot, the Coasthopper bus service can take you from location to location. Bird watchers can also enjoy guided bird walks arranged by the RSPB.

Why not stay at…

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The Cottage at Greyfriars

The Cottage at Greyfriars nr. Olney is situated in the village of Cold Brayfield with easy access to the lovely Three Shires Way. It sleeps 4 and offers Wi-Fi. Take a look at the listing on cottages4you.

Britain and Ireland’s Best Winter Walks – part 2

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The Grey Mare’s Tail: one of Scotland’s hidden treasures

We’re focusing on wilder walks for part two, with a host of suggestions to take you off the beaten track and past some of the UK and Ireland’s most stunning vistas. Read part one here.

Sheringham to Cley-next-the-Sea, Norfolk

This eight and a half mile walk is for people who like to feel as if they have entered the wilderness. It starts along rugged sandy cliffs, which then merge into wild shingle beach and salt marshes, where you can expect to spot some interesting birds. Further along the trail there are also cley marshes, softly undulating hills and great views of Cley’s windmill and Blakeney’s Church tower. The walk comes to an ideal end at the village Cley-next-the-Sea, where you can enjoy a well-earned cup of tea and slab of cake.

Allen Banks woodland walk, Northumberland

Northumberland is often overlooked as a tourist destination but the options for walkers are impressive. One lesser known but beautiful walk is the Allen Banks woodland walk, which snakes along the River Allen’s valley. This is a three mile, moderate walk. The River Allen is one of the south Tyne’s tributaries. This is a trail with diverse scenery as it also entails trekking through Northumberland’s woodland, which hosts a range of fungi, flora and fauna. This is a great walk for birdwatchers- look out for the dippers and grey wagtails. On summer evenings you can sometimes even spot bats diving for insects on the surface of the river!

Tintagel Church to Trebarwith Strand, Cornwall

This three mile, easy-to-moderate walk takes you through one of the quieter areas of Cornwall. It may not be on the radar of most visitors to Cornwall but this is a truly beautiful trail. It starts off at a picturesque church on Glebe Cliff and then takes you along a coastal path, which offers jaw-dropping views of dramatic cliffs and coastal slate quarries as well as sandy beaches. The beach at Trebarwith Strand is also a great place to take a break for lunch or even go surfing. You can then follow a quarryman’s trail into the town of Treknow and round off your day by visiting the local castle.

The Grey Mare’s Tail and Loch Skeen, Scotland

This isolated area of Scotland, east of Ayr and south east of Glasgow, is one of the country’s hidden secrets. At less than three miles, this walk can be completed in two and a half hours. The Grey Mare’s Tail is one of Scotland’s most impressive waterfalls, cascading 60 metres in the Moffat hills. The view even inspired poet Sir Walter Scott to write verse about it. This walk allows you to not only drink in the vistas of the spectacular waterfall but also take in wonderful views of Loch Skeen and the rugged hills that surround the lake. There is some interesting wildlife to experience on this trail too, such as peregrine falcons.

Tonfanau to Tywyn, Wales

Tywyn is not an obvious choice when it comes to walking in Wales but it offers some fascinating routes. This particular one, which is eight miles and takes between three and five hours to complete, follows the Dysynni river and there are some colourful landmarks from the start. Tonfanau has an interesting history as it used to be an army camp and also took in Ugandan refugees during the 1970s. There are some spectacular views once you start this trek- for example at Craig-yr-aderyn (Bird’s Rock) and at the Broadwater lagoon. The wildlife to look out for includes oystercatchers, wallards, wigeons, skylarks, buzzards and red kites. The end of this walk leads you to Tywyn, where you are highly recommended to stop at Halo Foods Factory for its famous honey ice cream!

Ballyconnell walk, Republic of Ireland

Ballyconnell, in County Cavan, is famed for its fishing and golf activities. Less well known is the fact that it is also a starting point for some of the most beautiful walks in the Republic of Ireland, which are dotted with archaeological sites. This includes the site where the Killycluggin stone was found, an artefact which dates back to the iron age. Although the real stone is now in the National Museum, there is a replica on site. One walk option is to start from the town’s bridge and then trek along the Woodford River and Annagh Lough Woods, which is home to ash, beech and oak trees as well as a wildlife reserve. This is an easy three mile walk.

Slievenamon mountain walk, Republic of Ireland

This is a walk up the 721 metre mountain of Slievenamon. Although it is a mountain trek, Slievenamon is an easy mountain to climb and even suitable for beginners due to its wide and clearly marked path, which lasts up to the summit. The views from Slievenamon mountain are wonderful, allowing you to take in vistas of the other mountains nearby as well as the ancient burial cains, the highest of which was once believed to be the entrance to the Celtic hell. Slievenamon is itself a mountain steeped in folklore; its name is translatable as “Mountain of the Women”, which ultimately derives from the legend that the most beautiful women across the land once raced to the summit in order to become the bride of a warrior called Fionn Mac Cumhail.

Find holiday cottages in the UK and Ireland with cottages4you. 

Britain’s Best Winter Walks – part 1

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The Peak District: perfect for dusting off the cobwebs

The advent of the New Year signals the beginning of millions of resolutions across the nation, doubtless many of them to include good intentions for a healthier lifestyle.  There cannot be many more invigorating ways to greet the New Year whilst embarking on a more active 2014 than to enjoy a winter walk in the beautiful British countryside. This is the perfect opportunity maybe to ‘dust away a few cobwebs’ whilst getting away this winter to explore some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe.  Here are some great options for winter walking in 2014.

Walking in Cornwall – Holywell Bay to Porthtowan

Coastal walking in winter can be dramatic and perhaps nowhere are they more spectacular than in Cornwall. The mesmerising winter swell produces an impressive demonstration of nature’s unrelenting pounding of the Cornish Atlantic coast. Whether it be a crystalline blue winter’s day or a breezy afternoon, walkers (and surfers!) are drawn to one of the most enigmatic stretches of coast in the country. Holywell Bay with its famous Gull Rocks lies just to the south of Newquay on the north Cornwall coast. The walk following the coastal path south to Porthtowan passes delightful coves, expansive beaches and imposing cliffs and takes about 5 hours. The route will take you through Perranporth, St Agnes and the emblematic Wheal Coates, a former tin mine which looks down on this majestic coastline. This historic landmark has come to symbolise ‘Kernow’ and man’s essential link to land and sea. With a plethora of great pubs along the way, there is plenty of opportunity to ‘rest’ on this popular winter walk.

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Walking in South Wales  –  Rhossili Bay

The Gower peninsula is an area of outstanding natural beauty and like its Cornish cousin the coastline on ‘The Gower’ is unforgettable. This ancient terrain is blessed with natural good looks and is also dotted with Iron Age and Norman monuments to explore in an area that has been treasured for centuries. A great way to take in this fabulous vista is to walk from Worms Head along the coast and then into a circular route around Rhossili Bay. This eight mile route provides some fantastic vantage points that on a clear day will allow you to glimpse the North Devon coast. The rugged countryside is bordered by a large beach at Rhossili Bay providing an opportunity to follow the tideline as part of your journey across some of the most delightful scenery in South Wales.

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Walking in Scotland – Loch Morar

Scotland is synonymous with walking and the famed Munro’s and Corbett’s are of course will trodden. If you are looking for something not quite as strenuous whilst equally picturesque, then Loch Morar is a great option for a memorable winter walk. This part of Scotland is considered a paradise for walkers, with elevated views of some of the most stunning Scottish mountains including Ben Nevis and across the water towards the Hebrides. One of the most scenic and popular routes is the 5 mile route along the loch to Tarbet. With a snow capped backdrop against the still, mirror-like waters and on a crisp winter’s day, the views are simply breathtaking. The wild landscape provides a variety of habits to a fascinating array of wildlife. Look out for otters, roe deer and even sea eagles, which can be seen fishing for salmon!

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Walking in the Peak District – Eastern Moors

The stillness across the frozen Peak District moorland transports the soul into the sense of another world (if not another century). The landscaping is awe-inspiring, whilst haunting at the same time.  The central location of the Peak District National Park makes it eminently accessible and perfect for a walking short break. To get a real sense of wilderness and the essential raw beauty of the Peaks, the Eastern Moors is offers varied range of vistas to immerse yourself during a winter moorland walk.  The circular route from Curbar Gap, through Froggat, White Edges and then back to Curbar Gap, takes in some of the most strikingly rugged parts of the Peak District. Expansive moorland home to timid red deer offers vantage points across Derwent Valley and on to the heartland of the Peak District.

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Walking in the Cotswolds –  Winchcombe

Perhaps there is nowhere that best exemplifies the essence of England’s green and pleasant land than the rolling Cotswolds. Home to the quintessential English village, during the winter months the landscape takes on a magical, almost ethereal flavour as the morning and early evening mists hang over timeless Cotswold valleys. The attractive gentle inclines offer an extensive variety of footpaths and bridleways across historic sites, rivers and past tempting old Inns!  Winchcombe which lies at the heart of the Cotswolds is a great starting point for a variety of walks around some of the most beautiful and historic landscapes in the area.  Many options encompass parts of the Cotwolds Way and you can choose from leisurely two mile routes around Sudeley Castle to more challenging hikes from Winchombe to Hailes, taking in great views of the Malverns and the Vale of Evesham. With the early winter nights make sure you plan your journey allowing for plenty of daylight to complete your walk. What better way than to round off your winter hike than coming home to light your woodburner in your cosy Cotswolds cottage!

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The UK’s favourite footpaths

We’ve teamed up with Walk4Life to find the UK’s favourite footpaths and encourage families and walkers of all abilities to take to their feet and enjoy a walking weekend.

With late autumn the perfect time of the year to get out and see Britain in all its beauty, this collection of best loved routes will suit everyone from budding ramblers to families looking to make the most of a healthy break in the countryside! And in the interest of ultimate rest and relaxation, we’ve also added holiday cottage suggestions under each one.

Now, without further ado, here are the UK’s top five favourite walks…

1. Bath Skyline (See route in walk4life)

The most popular walk on the National Trust website.  The route takes just under six miles of stunning views over the historical city of bath.  Walkers can make a weekend of it by staying in Rose Cottage in Bathampton (ref EKH). A delightful 45-minute walk along the towpath from historic Bath.  This attractive and comfortable property enjoys lovely private views over the Kennet and Avon canal from its patio garden.

2. Alderley Edge (see route on walk4life)

This walk is a four mile route for the more sure-footed walker, taking in spectacular views over the Cheshire landscape with woodland and steep slopes.  The Hoseshoe Cottage in Somerford (ref RBBY) offers a welcome retreat for weary walkers.  Set within two-acres of landscaped and unspoilt natural grounds with paddock, the property enjoys views over open countryside and offers walking and cycling from the doorstep.  This luxury holiday property even has its own hot tub perfect for resting tired feet!

3. Boudicca Way (see route)

A long distance footpath that is perfect for discovering history in the Norfolk countryside. If you don’t have time to make it round the full 36 mile route, why not try a section to whet the appetite.  Tucked away completely off the beaten track, Turnpike Cottage in New Buckenham (ref CRW) compliments the rich historical surroundings.  The 18th-century thatched cottage exudes immense charm with an open fire and exposed beams, making it an ideal romantic retreat.

 4. Furzton Lake (see route on walk4life)

This is a circular 1.5 mile route around Furzton Lake in Milton Keynes. Yew Tree Cottage (ref 26115) in the village of Yardley Gobion in Towcester makes good use its rural location with easy access to the city amenities and walk at Milton Keynes. The perfect base to explore the surrounding area with many good walking and cycle routes available, Yew Tree Cottage was originally three cottages built in the 1850s, maintaining its historic charm.

5. Cheddar Reservoir Circular (see route on walk4life)

This is an easy three mile stroll providing a perfect loop around the picturesque reservoir with its boating and wildlife. Why not stay at Hollie’s Cottage in Draycott near Cheddar (ref 90141).  Cosy and charming, this stone holiday cottage, complete with beams, a woodburner and spiral staircase, boasts much period character.  The area is famed for its gorge and caves and for those looking for a more robust walking experience, offers access to excellent walking on the Mendip Hills.