If you love the sound of crashing waves, salty sea air and magnificent coastal views, not to mention a challenge, then this is your trail!
The awe-inspiring South West Coast Path follows the beautiful rugged coastline of England’s southwest peninsula for practically all its 630 miles. Historically, the path was walked by coastguards searching for smugglers between the lighthouses, which is why it offers so many spectacular views of hidden bays and coves. The area is renowned for its dramatic scenery and stunning countryside, some of the finest in the country; 450 miles of the path are through areas with special protection status. One of the UK’s most testing trails, it constantly climbs and falls; be prepared for 115,000 feet of elevation over its whole course – the equivalent of scaling Mont Blanc seven times! A year round trail, each season is different; autumn and spring will see migrating birds, winter, fierce sea storms and summer, flowering heather and gorse. Designated a National Trail in 1978, it is a world class long distance trail. Most frequently walked anti-clockwise, although it is well signed in both directions, the trail begins in the Somerset seaside town of Minehead and finishes in Poole Harbour, Dorset. It can also be walked in segments of varying length.
The ragged route
The first part of the trail leads along the coastline of Exmoor and passes Great Hangman Point, the highest cliff in England and the highest point on the trail at 1044 feet. Continuing down the coast of North Devon it passes many well known places, such as Tintagel, with its King Arthur legends and Padstow, the famous Cornish fishing village. From there it winds along the jagged Cornish coastline to St Ives, recently crowned the happiest place to live in the UK. Advancing along the gentler South Devon coast, classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty the trail finally reaches the world heritage Jurassic Coast, with its impressive geological formations before reaching its end in Dorset.
Where to stay?
As this is a tourist area, there are plenty of options for accommodation. Hostels, hotels, B&Bs and campsites, all within easy reach of the path. In high season, booking is advised; this area does get busy. Wild camping is only permitted if you have the landowners’ permission.
Aside from the walking…
This area, often used as film and television series settings, (think Poldark), has also been the inspiration for many an artist and author. An area naturally rich in wildlife, geological formations, archeological sites and history, walking the trail will also be a learning experience. Food lovers will not be disappointed; there are many traditional pubs, starred restaurants, beach cafés and street food vendors throughout, meaning you can easily replenish your calories – and more! Sample a famous cream tea, made with local clotted cream, no trip to the South West would be complete without this indulgence.
For an exceptional challenge, the trail can be walked in 30 days, but expect to take eight weeks or so to fully appreciate the beauty and delights of this difficult but feel good trail.