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The South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path: essential facts and top tips

The South West Coast Path is currently the longest of Britain’s National Trails, measuring a staggering 1014km (630 miles). It's destined to become an integral part of the developing England Coast Path, which will ultimately measure around 4500km (2795 miles)! Find out all you need to know about this iconic trail.

Walking the south west coast path location map
What?The South West Coast Path (SWCP)
Where?The coastline of England’s south west peninsula.
Start point?Minehead, Somerset
End point?Poole Harbour, Dorset
How long is the route?1014km (630 miles)
How long to complete?Tough: 35 days, Average: 45 days, Easy-going: 65 days
What's the record time for completion?10 days, 15 hours and 18 minutes (set by Damian Hall in May 2016)
How hard is the route?Some stretches are very easy and other stretches include several steep ascents and descents. Most people would enjoy a day's walk almost anywhere on the path in good weather, but it can be exposed in stormy weather. Long-distance walkers should bear in mind that this is a very long trail and good stamina is required.
What accommodation is available?Almost every town and village along the way offers some kind of accommodation and refreshment, but it’s always useful to know what’s available in advance. You could backpack and use campsites or use one of the 15 YHA hostels that are within easy reach of the Coast Path. Walkers who want to travel lightweight and enjoy a bit of luxury can use B&Bs, guest houses and hotels.
What kit do I need?Normal day walking kit is fine, but for extended periods on the trail take a change of clothes. Backpackers will of course take everything they need, but should be aware that food and drink are available at regular intervals, so there is no need to carry too many supplies.
Is the route waymarked?The route is well marked with ‘Coast Path’ signposts and standard National Trail ‘acorn’ symbols.
Best time of year to walk it?This walk is best undertaken during the summer as all facilities will be open. Careful planning is required as tourists flock to the area. However, a short section of the path may be enjoyed at any time of the year if planned correctly. Ultimately, you can choose to do sections at any time, but very careful planning will be required if you wish to tackle multiple or all stages at once.
What direction should the path be walked in?Our guidebook describes the whole trail from Minehead to Poole Harbour, indicating the level of services along the way.
Should you complete the SWCP in one go?Some walkers crave to cover the whole trail in a single expedition, while others take a weekend here and there, and make an occasional week-long trip, to complete the distance over a year or two. You must walk within your limitations, covering distances that are comfortable for you, choosing accommodation that suits your tastes and pocket. Given the nature and complexity of the coast, it makes sense not to rush, but to enjoy the experience.
How to reach the start point?The main regional airports are Bristol and Exeter. Although these are a fair distance from the start of the Coast Path, they may suit those who have to travel from the furthest reaches of Britain, or who are coming from overseas. Trains can be used to reach Taunton, from where there are regular buses to Minehead. If walking the Coast Path in stages, the same train runs all the way to Penzance.
How to travel around the south west?Walkers who plan to break their journey and cover the South West Coast Path in several stages may need to use local bus services. The two most important services are the regular buses from Taunton station to Minehead, before starting the walk, and from Sandbanks to Poole or Bournemouth at the finish.
What about ferries? Is that cheating?Ferries have to be used to cross tidal rivers, especially on the southern stages, and as these are part of the South West Coast Path experience it shouldn’t be seen as ‘cheating’. If the urge seizes you, it is possible to walk around the estuaries, but this leads well away from the coast and may take several hours – or even days – to reach a point that can be gained by a ferry in mere minutes. Be warned that while some ferries operate all year, others are seasonal or irregular, or are subject to tidal and weather conditions.
Are luggage transfers available?If you don’t want to carry your luggage on the trail, one company covers the whole of the South West Coast Path. Luggage Transfers (tel 0800 043 7927, www.luggage will collect and transfer luggage between overnight stops, leaving you free to carry only a day sack along the Coast Path.
What about tides and safety?If planning a fairly rigid schedule along the route, then be sure to obtain up-to-date tide tables, which can be purchased at shops and tourist information offices. Tide times are often posted at RNLI lifeboat stations and lifeguard cabins, as well as at harbour offices. Do not walk along beaches at the foot of cliffs when there’s a danger of being cut off by the rising tide, and avoid wading across tidal channels if a ferry is available. The River Erme, which has no ferry, can cause considerable delays when walkers have to wait for low water.
Route highlights?Exmoor National Park, abundant AONBs, long stretches of Heritage Coast, fishing, smuggling and tin mining heritage, Land's End, Lizard Point, Plymouth's naval history, Jurassic Coast, Lulworth Cove
Why should I do this trail?No other stretch of British coastline compares for scenic splendour, interest, history, heritage, accessibility, and provision of facilities all rolled into one.
StageLocationsDistance (km(miles))Time
1Minehead to Porlock Weir16 (10)5hr
2Porlock Weir to Lynmouth18 (11)6hr
3Lynmouth to Combe Martin21.5 (13½)6hr30
4Combe Martin to Woolacombe23.5 (14½)6hr
5Woolacombe to Braunton23.5 (14½)6hr
6Braunton to Westward Ho!37.5 (23¼)9hr
7Westward Ho! to Clovelly18.5 (11½)6hr
8Clovelly to Hartland Quay16.5 (10¼)5hr
9Hartland Quay to Bude24.5 (15¼)8hr
10Bude to Boscastle27 (16¾)8hr30
11Boscastle to Port Isaac22 (13¾)7hr
12Port Isaac to Padstow19 (11¾)5hr30
13Padstow to Porthcothan22 (13¾)6hr
14Porthcothan to Newquay18 (11¼)5hr
15Newquay to Perranporth18 (11¼)5hr
16Perranporth to Portreath19.5 (12)6hr
17Portreath to St Ives29 (18)8hr
18St Ives to Pendeen Watch21.5 (13¼)7hr
19Pendeen Watch to Porthcurno25 (15½)7hr
20Porthcurno to Penzance18.5 (11½)5hr45
21Penzance to Porthleven22 (13¾)6hr
22Porthleven to Lizard Point22 (13¾)6hr30
23Lizard Point to Porthallow24.5 (15¼)8hr
24Porthallow to Falmouth26 (16)8hr30m
25Falmouth to Portloe22 (13¾)6hr30
26Portloe to Mevagissey19.5 (12)6hr
27Mevagissey to Polmear19 (11¾)6hr
28Polmear to Polperro21 (13)6hr30
29Polperro to Portwrinkle21 (13)6hr30
30Portwrinkle to Plymouth20.5 (12¾)6hr
31Plymouth to Wembury Beach23 (14¼)7hr
32Wembury Beach to Bigbury-on-Sea25 (15½)8hr
33Bigbury-on-Sea to Salcombe21.5 (13½)6hr30
34Salcombe to Stoke Fleming29.5 (18½)9hr
35Stoke Fleming to Brixham25 (15½)8hr
36Brixham to Shaldon31 (19¼)10hr
37Shaldon to Budleigh Salterton22 (13¾)7hr
38Budleigh Salterton to Seaton27.5 (17)8hr30
39Seaton to Seatown24.5 (15¼)8hr
40Seatown to Abbotsbury19.5 (12)6hr
41Abbotsbury to Ferrybridge18 (11¼)5hr
42Isle of Portland circuit22 (13¾)7hr
43Ferrybridge to Lulworth Cove23.5 (14½)7hr
44Lulworth Cove to Swanage33 (20½)10hr
45Swanage to South Haven Point (end)12.5 (7¾)4hr
Walking the South West Coast Path - Front Cover

Walking the South West Coast Path

National Trail From Minehead to South Haven Point


Guidebook to walking the entire South West Coast Path National Trail. The route stretches 630 miles from Minehead to Poole along the north Devon, Cornish, south Devon and Dorset coastline. Divided into 45 stages, this national trail could be completed within 4 weeks, or walked in sections. Guide includes maps and essential information.

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