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The South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path

An Introduction to The South West Coast Path

The South West Coast Path is currently the longest of Britain’s National Trails, measuring a staggering 1014km (630 miles) and is 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 astounding experience.

It is not just a long walk, but an astounding and varied experience. This remarkable coastal trail is based on the paths trodden around cliffs and coves by generations of coastguards. The route starts in Minehead on the Somerset coast and quickly moves along the North Devon coast. After completely encircling the coast of Cornwall, it runs along the South Devon coast.

A final stretch along the Dorset coast leads to a conclusion at South Haven Point on Poole Harbour. No other stretch of British coastline compares for scenic splendour, interest, history, heritage, accessibility and provision of facilities all rolled into one.

While some might be daunted at the prospect of walking for weeks on end, staying somewhere different every night, while keeping themselves fed and watered, it is simply a matter of careful planning. 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.

This guidebook describes the whole trail from Minehead to Poole Harbour, indicating the level of services along the way. The route is well marked with ‘Coast Path’ signposts and standard National Trail ‘acorn’ symbols. Read each section before setting out. You might, for example, need to ensure that ferries are running across awkward tidal rivers, or secure accommodation in advance in summer, or you might like to know if the next sandy cove has a beach café. Break the route into manageable sections to suit your own ability. There’s no need to stick slavishly to the daily breakdown given in this book, as there are usually plenty of intermediate places where you can halt.

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.

More information
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How long is the South West Coast Path?

This epic National Trail starts in Minehead and finishes in Poole, a total of 1016km or 631 miles.

The suggested itinerary covers 45 days, and while the author has comfortably completed the Coast Path by following this plan, he first covered the distance in only 28 days. The South West Coast Path Association, however, present a 52-day itinerary. If three achievable itineraries were offered for tough, average and easy-going walkers, they might cover 35, 45 and 65 days. It’s unlikely that any walker would follow a set schedule, and almost everyone will choose a comfortable distance each day, taking into account whether the next stretch is easy or difficult, bearing in mind a good or bad weather forecast, coupled with an assessment of how well they feel.

When should you go?

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.

All services along the South West Coast Path are in full swing during July and August, but that can be a stressful time to walk. Days can be hot and humid; crowds of people mill around the towns and villages, while accommodation for one night can prove difficult to obtain.

Walking in May and June or September and October can be cooler without being too cold and wet. Crowds will be much reduced, although some areas will be busy. Accommodation is easier to obtain, while most places offering food and drink remain open. However, not everything will be open, and some beach cafés may be closed early or late in the season. Check that the smaller seasonal ferries are going to be operating.

Where should you stay?

There are plenty of options along this route so you can choose according to your budget. The South West Coast Path Association produces an accommodation list.

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Stage Summary - The South West Coast Path

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

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