There are few places in the world with a better network of public footpaths than Britain. And there are few companies better at sharing their passion for walking in the English countryside than The Wayfarers.
In early June, I headed to South West England for a picture-perfect, eight-day walking vacation across Dartmoor and Exmoor National Parks. We were a small convivial group: Four of us, all repeat walkers. It is my fourth walk. Longtime friends, Pat Renucci and Wendy Kersman had joined up for their sixth. And Glen Sullivan, a retired San Diego lawyer, boasted an impressive 14, soon to be 15, Wayfarers’ walks beneath his boots.
Our days on the trail settled into a comfortable routine. Early each morning we’d congregate in the hotel dining room for breakfast. By 9AM we were traipsing over Hill and Dale, ambling alongside chattering rivers, across ancient footpaths, and through thatched hamlets and deep valleys eons in the making.
By our stomach’s first grumble—seemingly at the very moment when we needed a break— the intrepid walk manager, Jaime Daniell, would arrive in the Wayfarers’ van with a bounty of local fruits in the boot and a refreshing glass of Elderflower or Lemon Barley water.
Lunches were low-key pub affairs: Local, fresh, and delicious. We enjoyed salmon and sea trout from Devon Rivers, wild Exmoor venison, and organically reared lamb and beef, with vegetables supplied by the farmer down the road. Hearty fare to fuel a few more hours of walking.
In the evenings, we’d recap the day’s adventures over multi-course dinners and bottles of wine at the country house hotels and elegant inns where we stayed, selected as much for their tranquil location and gracious hospitality, as their fine cuisine.
Our final days were spent journeying across Exmoor National Park, the pastoral cousin to the more rugged Dartmoor, where Britain’s oldest breed of pony runs wild. Our route took us across emerald-green sheep pastures and steeply wooded combes, down narrow green lanes, alongside rushing streams and bracken-fringed paths up to high open moorland and sweeping views of the Bristol Channel, our end point, with the pale blue line of the Welsh coast on the horizon.
Read more, and view a photo slide show, featuring walk highlights in my recent article, South West England, published online at NationalGeographic.com.