The South West Coast Path
From Minehead to South Haven Point
By Paddy Dillon
Guidebook to walking the entire South West Coast Path National Trail. The route runs for 630 miles from Minehead to Poole along the north Devon, Cornish, south Devon and Dorset coastline. Divided into 45 stages, this long-distance coastal trek could be completed within 4 weeks, or walked in sections. Guide includes maps and essential information.
SeasonsThis National Trail may be walked year-round: be aware that winter accommodation availability may be limited, while high summer will be extremely busy and the weather often hot.
CentresMany centres are passed along the route, including Minehead, Lynmouth, Westward Ho!, Clovelly, Bude, Padstow, Newquay, St Ives, Penzance, Falmouth, Mevagissey, Polperro, Plymouth, Salcombe, Brixham, Portland, Swanage and Poole.
DifficultyThe South West Coast path is a long walk! Most paths are easy to moderate, with some walks along rugged and exposed coastal cliff paths and some steep gradients.
Must SeeExmoor National Park; 5 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; the Jurassic Coast Natural World Heritage Site; numerous Heritage Coasts National and Local Nature Reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Trust holdings.
Britain's longest waymarked trail, the South West Coast Path (SWCP) measures a staggering 630 miles (1015km) from Minehead on the Somerset coast right round Devon and Cornwall to Poole in Dorset. Although the route is long, it should be accessible for any well-prepared backpacker. The weather conditions, which can make clifftop walking dangerous, are an important factor.
This epic route takes in Exmoor National Park, several designated Areas of Outstanding National Beauty and the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, numerous Heritage Coasts National and Local Nature Reserves, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and National Trust holdings. No other stretch of coastline compares for scenic splendour, historical sites and availability of refreshments, accommodation and public transport: this last amenity makes it easy to split the SWCP into week or weekend-long sections.
Written by prolific outdoor writer Paddy Dillon, this guide provides a wealth of detailed knowledge to help tackle this immense route with confidence, with lots of information for planning a trek, including public transport links, accommodation and facilities along the way. To assist forward planning the guidebook divides the coast path into sections beginning and ending where amenities are available. Also described is the 17-mile South Dorset Ridgeway, from West Bexington to Osmington Mills, which can be used as a scenic way to shave 42 miles off the total distance.
Planning your trip
When to go
Travel to the South West
Travel around the South West
Accommodation en route
Facilities en route
Baggage transfer services
One man and his dog
What to take
Planning day by day
Using this guide
Maps and GPS
Time and tide
Waymarking and paths
Safety on the Coast Path
All about the region
Plants and wildlife
Coastal walking through history
A protected coastline
The South West Coast Path
Stage 1 Minehead to Porlock Weir
Stage 2 Porlock Weir to Lynmouth
Stage 3 Lynmouth to Combe Martin
Stage 4 Combe Martin to Woolacombe
Stage 5 Woolacombe to Braunton
Stage 6 Braunton to Westward Ho!
Stage 7 Westward Ho! to Clovelly
Stage 8 Clovelly to Hartland Quay
Stage 9 Hartland Quay to Bude
Stage 10 Bude to Boscastle
Stage 11 Boscastle to Port Isaac
Stage 12 Port Isaac to Padstow
Stage 13 Padstow to Porthcothan
Stage 14 Porthcothan to Newquay
Stage 15 Newquay to Perranporth
Stage 16 Perranporth to Portreath
Stage 17 Portreath to St Ives
Stage 18 St Ives to Pendeen Watch
Stage 19 Pendeen Watch to Porthcurno
Stage 20 Porthcurno to Penzance
Stage 21 Penzance to Porthleven
Stage 22 Porthleven to Lizard Point
Stage 23 Lizard Point to Porthallow
Stage 24 Porthallow to Falmouth
Stage 25 Falmouth to Portloe
Stage 26 Portloe to Mevagissey
Stage 27 Mevagissey to Polmear
Stage 28 Polmear to Polperro
Stage 29 Polperro to Portwrinkle
Stage 30 Portwrinkle to Plymouth
Stage 31 Plymouth to Wembury Beach
Stage 32 Wembury Beach to Bigbury-on-Sea
Stage 33 Bigbury-on-Sea to Salcombe
Stage 34 Salcombe to Stoke Fleming
Stage 35 Stoke Fleming to Brixham
Stage 36 Brixham to Shaldon
Stage 37 Shaldon to Budleigh Salterton
Stage 38 Budleigh Salterton to Seaton
Stage 39 Seaton to Seatown
Stage 40 Seatown to Abbotsbury
Stage 41 Abbotsbury to Ferrybridge
Stage 42 Isle of Portland circuit
Stage 43 Ferrybridge to Lulworth Cove
Stage 44 Lulworth Cove to Swanage
Stage 45 Swanage to South Haven Point
South Dorset Ridgeway
West Bexington to Osmington Mills
Appendix A Useful contacts
Appendix B Facilities along the route
Appendix C Topographical glossary
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Stage 5 - Horsey Island - The coastal embankment has been breached, so stay on the road, which slightly shortens the route to Braunton.
Stage 8 - Mouth Mill - A footbridge has been installed across the river.
Stage 9 - Henna Cliff - Cracks in the cliff have resulted in a diversion inland to Morwenstow, adding about 1km (½ mile) to the route.
Stage 23 - Coverack and Rosenithon - Floods damaged the path approaching Chynhalls Point near Coverack, as well as the path approaching Rosenithon, after Coverack. The route has been diverted inland past both places.
Stage 22 - Loe Bar - A cliff fall between Porthleven and Loe Bar now requires walkers to divert inland through the Penrose Estate.
Stage 24 - Durgan - A damaged section of cliff near Durgan, on the Helford River, requires a short diversion inland.
Stage 31 - Sutton Harbour Plymouth - The swing bridge is being repaired. Either walk round the harbour or use the ferry provided.
Stage 34 - Slapton - The A379 coast road is being rebuilt and the coast path will be moved to the seaward side during 2018.
Stage 36 Hollicombe
There is some missing text in the original print run of this book. The final paragraph on page 249 of the printed book should read;
Leave through the main gate and turn right up the busy main road. Descend gently along the pavement beside the road, cross a railway bridge, pass houses and continue beside the sea. [There are hotels along the road, as well as toilets on a green space at Corbyn’s Head.] Avoid the road by walking along the sea wall promenade into Torquay, or explore the grassy spaces around Torre Abbey. Continue towards the harbour and marina, passing a circular garden and crossing a footbridge to join a road on the other side.
it then continues as printed with
Continue walking from the harbour up Beacon Hill to the Imperial Hotel.
Stage 39 - Seaton to Seatown - Culverhole Point and the Undercliff
A stretch of the South West Coast Path at Culverhole Point was closed by a landslip in 2014. A detour is now in place, passing high above Culverhole Point, then descending to the Undercliff to continue to Lyme Regis. The text printed in the sidebar on page 269 can be ingnored. There is no longer any need to detour far inland.
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Paddy Dillon is a prolific walker and guidebook writer with over 90 guidebooks to his name, and contributions to 40 other titles. He has written extensively for several outdoor magazines and other publications and has appeared on radio and television. Paddy is an indefatigable long-distance walker who has walked all of Britain’s National Trails and several European trails. He has also walked in Nepal, Tibet, Korea, Africa and the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the US. Paddy is a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild and President of the Backpackers Club.