South West Coastal Path
(630 miles, 1 month minimum)
The South West Coast path dwarfs all except the Land’s End to John O’Groats ‘End to End’ epic. The 630 miles winds its way from Poole Harbour, along the south coasts of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall to Land’s End before turning back north east all the way to Minehead in Somerset. The guide describes the walk as passing through the most outstanding coastal scenery in the world; passing through 5 areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, 17 Heritage Coasts and 2 World Heritage Sites. However this disguises the reality of walking the path; taken in bite size chunks is a delight, pick the best stretches and enjoy the undulating nature of the coast with its ever changing views and constant surprises of town, village, industry and estuaries. However it is the sheer length of the walk that is difficult to get a gauge on; for a start you do not actually get anywhere and secondly over such a period of time you would expect significant changes in scenery and landscapes whereas the reality is that there is not. Yes in microcosm each section is great and as an area to explore unbeatable but as a long walk I am not so sure. I have not done it which limits my ability to comment but what I would intend to do is the northern leg as part of the full End to End walk.
However for those who do want to complete the entire walk there is a multitude of places to stay and explore. The links below give an ideal start but being honest the subject is so large that planning the walk should be done in sections. Whatever you do though be prepared for a great deal of ups and downs; the path either takes in the estuaries directly by dropping 100s of feet and climbing out, or moves inland which adds many more miles than is expected.
Suitable For: Achieving the entire length of the South West Coastal Path in one chunk is an exceptional achievement, one that requires a very single minded approach and more than anything a real interest in the area, its history and the landscape. Anyone could and should visit the area for any length of walks up to 2 weeks as the coastal scenery is outstanding.
The 4 maps below are large scale with no route drawn on. However the end points are Minehead in Somerset and Poole in Dorset and the path clings fairly rigidly to the coast. I have added some areas of great interest under each map.
Highlights include Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door, the towns of Lime Regis, Swanage and Weymouth (part of a World Heritage Site) and the flat sands of Studland Bay
The South Hams area offers some of the best beaches in the South West whilst the cliffs at Beer and Torbay are superb. Less happily for walkers the cities of Plymouth and Torquay sit on the route.
Cornwall has the best beaches on the walk, Lizards Point is certainly a major highlight both for beaches and remoteness. Lands End is passed and the cliffs between St Just and St Ives are spectacular. The north Cornwall coast with its pretty fishing villages are my favourite part f the coast.
Passing back in to Devon and through Exmoor in Somerset the coast is wilder and windswept. The beaches near the Ilfracombe Peninsula are great for surfers and the pretty villages continue.
Places to Stay
South West Holiday Cottages 4 and 5 star accommodation in the South West of the UK by Blue Chip Holidays.
National Trail’s Route Planner The official route planner, from ½ days to the entire thing.
South West Coastal Path A good selection of day walks on the route including the authors 10 favourites