The Smugglers' Way is perhaps the most obscure of the British long-distance routes I have walked so far. This coast-to-coast walk across Cornwall, from the historic town of Looe on the south coast to the village of Boscastle on the north coast, was devised by Cornishman Frank Squibb in the mid 1990s and links a number of locations associated with Cornwall's smuggling past.
Leaving Looe, the path heads up the tranquil West Looe Valley before splitting into two alternative routes just west of the busy town of Liskeard. The western branch (the original route) climbs up to the edge of Bodmin Moor, passing near the picturesque Golitha Falls before heading out across open moorland to the large lake of Dozmary Pool, where King Arthur is reputed to have breathed his last on the marshy shore. Beyond the pool, the small village of Bolventor sits in the centre of the moor, home to the famous smugglers' den of Jamaica Inn, said to be haunted by the ghosts of smugglers past.
The longer eastern alternative passes through Liskeard before climbing up to the former mining and quarrying settlement of Minions, the highest village in Cornwall. A more strenuous crossing of the moor visits several granite tors before the alternative routes converge at Jamaica Inn. The route across the northern half of the moor climbs over the peaks of Brown Willy and Rough Tor, the two highest hills in Cornwall, to reach the abandoned World War II airfield at Davidstow, from which the Smugglers' Way heads down the long Valency Valley to end at the sheltered little harbour of Boscastle.
I was fortunate enough to have time to walk both routes across the southern half of Bodmin Moor. The eastern alternative certainly has more specific sights, while the western branch feels a bit more isolated.
The route of the Smugglers' Way is not signposted and does not appear on the Ordnance Survey maps, so some navigational skill is required, particularly when crossing the open moor, and only experienced walkers should attempt to cross the moor when visibility is poor. The weather on the moor can change rapidly, so it is important to be prepared for bad weather, even if you set off under clear skies.
Finally, I would like to thank the good folks at Encounter Walking Holidays, who arranged my accommodation on this walk, transferred my luggage each day, and provided a very accurate and detailed description of the route. While I usually arrange my walks myself, I was doing this walk at the end of a long business trip and couldn't travel light, so the Encounter service was very helpful. I found them to be professional, responsive and very knowledgable about walking and accommodation in the south-west and I had no hesitation about using them a second time for my walk on the Coleridge Way.