South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path National Trail is Britain's longest long distance path.
At around 630 miles long it dwarfs even the mighty Pennine Way in the north of England.
With many high cliffs to negotiate, the walk can be physically challenging, despite never being far from 'civilisation', unlike many other trails.
Few people walk the entire South West Coast Path in one go, as it demands a great deal of time as well as a high level of fitness.
More so than with the other National Trails, the South West Coast Path tends to be regarded as a series of adjacent smaller trails, from which shorter walks can be chosen to best suit the individual walker's needs and availability, if required.
- Somerset & North Devon
- South Devon
The South West Coast Path was a working path right up until the early 20th Century. In addition to use for every day travelling by locals, it was principally used to patrol the coast for smugglers.
At the height of the Napoleonic Wars, it's estimated there were some 100,000 people involved in smuggling in the area, with some of its less scrupulous exponents even luring ships onto the rocks from where they could plunder the wrecks.
Reminders of its customs role can still be found periodically along the route with many of the old coastgaurds' cottages still standing today.
The terrain along most of the route is remarkable, and testament to various geologies behind it. From metamorphic to granite to the harsh and jagged Iron Coast, there is a huge range of rock formation to be seen.
It's an overused phrase, but the South West Coast Path National Trail genuinely does have something for everyone.
An overview of the four sections mentioned above follows:
Somerset & North DevonPadstow, where the next section begins.
Taking you from Padstow to Falmouth, this section of the South West Coast Path offers rugged scenery of rock and cliffs, with much to engage your interest along the trail. It's the kind of landscape you could imagine pirates and smugglers plying their trades through years ago.Lands End, mainland Britain's most westerly point, is also to be seen in this section. The mix of interest is partly what makes Cornwall such a popular section of the path.
In addition to the craggy cliff faces, there are seals and birds, sandy beaches, castles and relics and even dolphins to be seen. The walking can be taxing but the rewards are worth making the effort for.
This section sees you meandering through classically picturesque, Cornish towns and villages, some of which can be very busy with tourists.Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site, revered for it's unique illustration of life and development from Triassic through to Cretaceous periods and beyond.
The historically significant nature of this National Trail continues on this section, with key elements of the 'Jurassic Coast' being found in the rock arches at Durdle Door, in the fossils of Lyme Regis and in the impressive rock banks of Chesil Beach.
There are many larger resorts on this section, but also much stunning scenery to be savoured. The trail winds its way round headlands and lagoons and through well known towns before finally arriving at South Haven Point, across from Poole harbour, and the end of the South West Coast Path National Trail.
The South West Coast Path Association suggest the following 8 week itinerary for those planning to tackle the entire trail in one go:
Minehead to Westward Ho! - 87 miles
Westward Ho! to Padstow - 78 miles
Padstow to St. Ives - 66 miles
St. Ives to Lizard - 69 miles
Lizard to Par - 72 miles
Par to Torcross - 94 miles
Torcross to Seaton - 72 miles
Seaton to South Haven Point - 92 miles
You can continue reading about other National Trails and Long Distance Walks using the links at the bottom of the page.