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Hilltops, gorges and lowlands — Samaritans Way South West

Kitiara Pascoe

Hilltops, gorges and lowlands — Samaritans Way South West

Hiking Collection by Kit P

8-16

days

3-6 h

/ day

112 mi

10,675 ft

10,375 ft

This stunning route takes in the rugged beauty of Exmoor National Park as well as the rolling Quantock Hills and Mendip Hills Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Between these dramatic upland regions, you explore the pancake-flat Somerset Levels, magnificent gorges, luscious river valleys and ancient history that is embedded into the landscapes. It’s nothing short of extraordinary.

The Samaritans Way South West opened in 2004 and was devised by Graham Hoyle, taking decades of effort to create. The trail was inspired by the desire to spread awareness around the struggles of local farmers and to raise money for the Samaritans. Now under the maintenance of the Bristol Ramblers, this wonderful route continues to be an excellent adventure for day hikers and ambitious long-distance walkers.

The route begins at Bristol’s majestic Clifton Suspension Bridge and winds through varied and often breathtaking countryside to the coast at Lynton. Here, you can link it to the South West Coast Path and continue walking until your boots wear out. There’s nothing to stop you from hiking in the opposite direction or undertaking stages in isolation, and Bristol is a fantastic place to finish as well as to begin.

With several distinct areas of hills, this hike is undulating in all stages excluding those that explore the Somerset Levels, which are marvellously flat. The hilly sections can be steep in places but there’s nothing technical and all are manageable for hikers of reasonable fitness. Most ascents are accompanied by glorious views and there’s everything from ancient woodlands to open heathland awaiting on the tops.

A rural adventure, you’re never far from a village or small town on this hike but accommodation can be difficult to find in the more remote areas. As a result, plan where you’ll stay carefully and always book in advance. During the summer months, the area benefits from a boost in tourism and accommodation can get booked up quickly.

You can technically walk this route at any time of year, but I highly recommend hiking it from late spring to early autumn. Exmoor is particularly exposed and winter conditions can be challenging. In addition, the Somerset Levels are liable to extensive flooding after winter storms and periods of heavy rainfall. In contrast, spring brings bluebells, raucous birdsong, and wild garlic flowers. The trail gets greener and more vivacious as you hike into summer.

The start of the trail in Bristol is easy to access. The city has a mainline train station with direct connections to Exeter, London, the Midlands and the North. It is also well connected by regional bus routes. To leave from Lynton, catch the 309 or 310 bus to Barnstaple to access its trainline to Exeter, which has a mainline station.

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Samaritans Way South West

108 mi

10,025 ft

9,825 ft

Last updated: November 4, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Bristol to Chew Magna — Samaritans Way South West

    Intermediate
    04:11
    9.37 mi
    2.2 mph
    900 ft
    925 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The first stage of the Samaritans Way South West begins in spectacular fashion, at Clifton Suspension Bridge. It quickly works its way away from the city and heads south into the undulating landscape south of Bristol. You reach Dundry Hill and benefit from outstanding views before descending to the Chew

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:03
    13.4 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,325 ft
    1,400 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This glorious, 13.5-mile (21.7 km) hike explores the Mendip Hills AONB, taking you right through the middle. As you’d expect from the name, this route is hilly and there are several steep ascents and descents. The views are correspondingly excellent however, and you finish in the thriving village of

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:25
    14.6 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,175 ft
    1,150 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage takes you away from the Mendips AONB and down onto the Somerset Levels. The Levels comprise a vast wetland plain, which you explore by footpaths, lanes and farm tracks. There are several isolated hills on the Levels, rising like islands in this immense, flat landscape. The most notable is

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    05:11
    12.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    A gently undulating route, this hike leads you south from Glastonbury and along the Polden Hills, a low range rising out of the Levels. You cross King’s Sedgemoor, a large area of wetland and hike to the village of Sutton Mallet. There are some wonderful views of Glastonbury Tor on this hike, particularly

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:13
    10.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    275 ft
    100 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This hike is the final flat walk before you get into the Quantock Hills and the dramatic landscapes of Exmoor. Ramble along King’s Sedgemoor where the fields stretch out on either side, explore the winding canal path through Bridgwater and head across farmland towards the edge of the Quantocks AONB

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:13
    9.05 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,375 ft
    1,100 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This hike shows you some of the most beautiful parts of the Quantocks AONB, including its highest point, Wills Neck. Ancient forests, drove roads, far-reaching views and historic buildings all play a part in making this walk a fantastic expedition.

    

    Ascend from Cobb’s Cross Farm using a footpath heading

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:57
    10.4 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,850 ft
    1,275 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Leaving the Quantocks and heading into Exmoor National Park, this hike has varied landscapes and the serene atmosphere that you come to expect from the Samaritans Way South West. Historic railway stations, quaint villages and rolling pastures are all aspects of this lovely hike.

    

    Walk south from Crowcombe

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    04:04
    8.66 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,075 ft
    1,475 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Exmoor National Park is a stunning region packed with contrasting landscapes. Chuckling rivers flowing under packhorse bridges, dense woodland clinging to steep valleys and wild, open heathland combine to make it a magical place to hike. This stage has its fair share of views and secret spots, making

    by Kit P

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  • Difficult
    06:50
    15.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,375 ft
    1,250 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This exceptionally beautiful stage brings out more of the best Exmoor has to offer. Hugging the river valley in shrouded woodland before climbing to open heathland with far-reaching views, every step of this trail is easy on the eyes. At 15.5 miles (25 km) it’s a long one and is adorned by considerable

    by Kit P

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  • Intermediate
    03:46
    8.25 mi
    2.2 mph
    750 ft
    1,075 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Whilst undulating, this final stage of the Samaritans Way South West isn’t as hilly as the previous hike. Instead, it sticks largely to a stunning river valley where secret pools, vibrant woodland and glorious bridges await. That said, there is one steep ascent after Watersmeet that pulls you out of

    by Kit P

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    10
  • Distance
    112 mi
  • Duration
    49:53 h
  • Elevation
    10,675 ft10,375 ft

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