South West Coast Path

  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Port Qin to Daymer Bay - © William Mackesy
  • St. Enedoc Church, once buried - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Across Camel Estuary - © William Mackesy
  • From Tintagel - © William Mackesy
  • North coast, looking north-east - © William Mackesy
  • Bude-to-Morwenstow  - © Ruth Livingstone
  • Lands-End-to-Cape-Cornwall  - © Ruth Livingstone
  • south-west-coast-path - © Ruth Livingstone
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Which way does the wind blow from? - © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • © William Mackesy
  • Crumbling cliff, Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Durdle Door - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Jurassic Coast - © Paul Hadaway
  • Lulworth Cove - © Paul Hadaway
  • Coastal hills West of Minehead - © William Mackesy
  • East of Porlock, N Devon - © William Mackesy
  • Lee Bay, N Devon path - © William Mackesy
  • Looking east from Castle Rock, west of Lynton - © William Mackesy
  • Looking west from Castle Rock, west of Lynton, N Devon - © William Mackesy
  • Looking west from Foreland Point, across Lynmouth bay, N DEvon - © William Mackesy
  • West of Heddon Valley, N Devon - © William Mackesy

Key information: South West Coast Path

  • This great walk winds for a total of 630 miles around the cliffs, coves and deep creeks of the beautiful coastline of south-west England.
  • Many think this has everything - exceptional scenery; long and rich history; lovely villages and towns, and a wealth of animal life and vegetation. And delightful places to stay.
  • Most people choose sections to walk and take off for anything from a weekend to a fortnight - some of course tackle the entire trail!

Walkopedia rating

  • Walkopedia rating87.5
  • Beauty31.5
  • Natural interest15
  • Human interest13
  • Charisma30
  • Negative points2
  • Total rating87.5

Vital Statistics

  • Length: 1,013km
  • Maximum Altitude: N/A
  • Level of Difficulty: Variable
Top
North coast, looking north-east - © William Mackesy

WALK SUMMARY

The South West Coast Path follows the beautiful and varied coastline of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset for some 1,000 km (630 miles), through two World Heritage Sites as well as endless National Parks, Nature Reserves, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Sites of Special Scientific Interest. 

Many think this trail has everything - the exceptional beauty of the scenery; the long and rich history of the area, which has left a huge variety or remains and monuments, from (supposedly King Arthur's) Tintagel to tin mines to iron age forts; the lovely villages and towns, the wealth of animal life and vegetation. And delightful places to stay.

Most people choose sections to walk, and take off for anything from a weekend to a fortnight - and some do tackle the entire trail! One of its joys is the ease with which you can select preferred sections; there are many circular walks, and inns, hostels, campsites along the route and firms to take your bags to your next destination.

The appeal of the path is far from restricted to the beauty of the wild northern coast or of the softer, heavily inletted south-west, and to the east chalky-downy, southern coast. The path is a geologist’s dream, passing through the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site, where discoveries were made that led to revolutionary theories about the Earth’s development, as well as a cornucopia of varied wildlife (seals, dolphins, endless birdlife) and ravishing wild flowers. 

The path passes by prehistoric fortified headlands, Roman sites, castles, churches, sheep farms and the often picturesque, sometimes sinister remains of the early mining industry whose remains have become a World Heritage Site. 

Artists and writers: Turner (Tintagel), St. Ives School of the mid C20. Coleridge (the man from Porlock supposedly interrupted the writing of Kubla Khan) – Wordsworth loved Exmoor too. John Fowles (The French Lieutenant’s Women). Lorna Doone.

The path is in many places not a recent creation: the endemic smuggling of the 18thand 19thCenturies resulted in a coast guard service patrolling the coast nightly, and necessarily hugging the cliff tops so as to be able to check the many remote coves and beaches.

Parts of the coast can become horrendously crowded in high summer. The best times of year are May and June, when the wildflowers are at their heart melting best and the days are long, and September. But be prepared for bad weather at any time. Autumn and winter walks can be thrilling – and alone.

It is as impracticable to try to describe the whole of the path, and it is unlikely that you will walk it all, so here are some of the best sections – and some of our personal favourites. (The guidebooks (Trailblazer in particular) make good suggestions for day, weekend and longer walks).

The North Exmoor Coast:

  • Minehead to Porlock; Lynmouth (or Lynton) to Combe Martin. Stunning coastal cliffs and charming towns. Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan near Porlock. Walkable in 3 days. 
  • Combe Martin, to Woolacombe, to Croyde. 
  • Westward Ho! to Bude (3 days).                                                                        
  • Around Clovelly.
  • Westward Ho! to Bude (3 days).                                                                        

Cornwall:

  • Tintagel to Port Isaac to St. Enedoc.
  • St. Ives to Zennor.
  • Porthcurno to Mousehole.
  • Mullion Cove to the Lizard.
  • Fowey or Polruan to Looe.

South Devon:

  • Bigbury-on-Sea to Salcombe.

One of the finest stretches is the Jurassic Coast, not only geologically world famous but gorgeous to boot.

  • Exmouth to Sidmouth to Seaton to Lyme Regis (Trailblazer consider the latter possibly the best single stretch on the entire trail).
  • Weymouth to Lulworth Cove to Kimmeridge Bay.

Have a look at TripAdvisor – there are tens of millions of reviews, so you may get good, current views on the area.    

This page is at an early stage of development. Please HELP US by making suggestions and sending photos! THANK YOU!

WILLIAM MACKESY'S ACCOUNT
of this walk

Tintagel to St. Enedoc

From the dreary nearby car park, you suddenly  find yourself across a cove from Tintagel Castle, on its almost-island, as magical as its reputation leads you to expect, indeed so magnificent that it survives having the horrendous Camelot Hotel and Tintagel Village opposite it on the mainland.

A flat-topped headland surmounts sheer cliffs, its grassy upper slopes dotted with the low remains of the castle buildings. It is a natural.....

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Other accounts: share your experiences

Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist. Walkopedia encourages responsible travel.

See also expedition planning, including our universal expedition checklist.

Walkopedia encourages responsible travel

Books and Maps

Suggest books and maps

Books on this walk (support us: find these and many more using our Amazon search box)

South West Coast Path Association’s Annual Handbook 

Exmoor & North Devon Coast Path, South West Coast Path Part 1 (Minehead to Bude)HenryStedman & Joel Newton / Trailblazer Publications

Cornwall Coast Path, South West Coast Path Part 2 (Bude to Plymouth)- Henry Stedman & Joel Newton / Trailblazer Publications 

Dorset & South Devon Coast Path, South West Coast Path Part 3 (Plymouth to Poole Harbour)- Henry Stedman & Joel Newton / Trailblazer Publications 

South West Coast Path: Exmouth to Poole (National Trail Guides) – Roland Tarr /Aurum Press Ltd

South West Coast Path: Padstow to Falmouth (National Trail Guides)- John Macadam/Aurum Press Ltd

South West Coast Path: Minehead to Padstow (National Trail Guides)- Roland Tarr /Aurum Press Ltd

South West Coast Path: Falmouth to Exmouth (National Trail Guides)- Brian Le Messurier//Aurum Press Ltd

Walking the East Jurassic Coast: Portland to Studland- Robert Westwood/Coastal Publishing.

The South West Coast Path: From Minehead to South Haven Point(British Long-distance Trails) - Paddy Dillon/Cicerone

The Official Guide to the Jurassic Coast: Dorset and East Devon's World Heritage Coast - Denys Brunsden/ Coastal Publishing.

A Boot Up Dorset's Jurassic Coast – Rodney Legg/Pixz Books 

Walking the West Jurassic Coast: Orcombe Point to the Fleet - Robert Westwood/Coastal Publishing.

Other books (support us: find books using our Amazon search box)

Find these and other books on Amazon

Geology of the Jurassic Coast: The Red Coast Revealed Exmouth to Lyme Regis - Richard Edwards /Coastal publishing. Companion to the official guide.

The Dorset Coast– Adam Burton/ Frances Lincoln. 

Professor P and the Jurassic Coast – Peter James Davidson, Alicia Tara Royce/ Positive Books. Fun children’s romp through prehistory.

Jurassic Coast Monsters – Jurassic Coast Team (Author), Darrell Wakelam/ Coastal Publishing. A children’s guide to the finds on the Jurassic coast

Time Out Devon & Cornwall- Time Out Guides Ltd

Maps 

Excellent Ordinance Survey maps cover the entire route and are easily bought locally. 

South West Coast Path 1: Minehead to Bude (Route Maps)- Harvey Map Services Ltd. 

South West Coast Path 2: Bude to Portreath (Route Maps)- Harvey Map Services Ltd.

South West Coast Path 3: Portreath to Lizard Point (Route Maps)- Harvey Map Services Ltd.

South West Coast Path 4: Lizard to Plymouth (Route Map)- Harvey Map Services Ltd.

South West Coast Path 5: Plymouth to Sidmouth(Route Map) – Harvey Map Services Ltd. 

South West Coast Path 6:  Sidmouth to South Haven Point(Route Map) – Harvey Map Services Ltd.

Purbeck and South Dorset, Poole, Dorchester, Weymouth and Swanage (OS Explorer Map)– Ordnance Survey

Lyme Regis and Bridport (OS Explorer Map)- Ordnance Survey

Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk.  An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).

Best times to walk/weather

Best times to walk

Parts of the coast can become horrendously crowded in high summer. The best times of year are May and June, when the wildflowers are at their heart melting best and the days are long, and September. But be prepared for bad weather at any time. Autumn and winter walks can be thrilling – and alone. 

Weather

The UK is generally blessed with a mild climate, but be prepared for rain at any time. Hardy types who like a good sea-storm will probably get a kick out of Winter, bearing the short daylight hours in mind.

For detailed weather information, have a look at: www.worldweather.orgor www.bbc.co.uk/weather/world/country-guides

Getting there/transport/permits/fees

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Train: There are many stations along the coast. Try National Rail Enquiries for times and tickets (tickets bought 48+ hours ahead are generally very significantly cheaper).

Car hire is reasonably easy. Beware narrow roads.

Buses go to most start-points: try Traveline South-West for details.

Local taxi services generally exist in the towns and can (eg) take to or pick you up from a roadhead, or transport luggage.

No permits are needed to do this walk.

Possible problems, health, other warnings 

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  • Weather: lots of it, at all times of year. Come prepared for rain and cold at almost any time. 
  • Heights: much of this coast consists of cliffs not all of them 100% stable. If in doubt, stick to the paths, especially in the Lyme Regis Undercliff, which is both isolated and riddled with hidden crevasses.
  • Southern England’s moors and heathlands are home to venomous adders, though they’re not exactly swarming. But take appropriate precautions and wear boots.

See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

Make sure you have appropriate insurance.

Guided or independent?

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Independent

You can do this walk independently, and you can slackpack: Luggage Transfers will carry bags between pretty much every overnighting point along the South West Coast Path. There are other companies that provide bag-transfer services – see the guidebooks.

Guided/supported

While this walk can be done independently, a number of companies run organised trips, guided or self-guided. They include: 

See the guidebooks for other companies.

Accommodation

There are endless hotels, pubs, B&B’s and campsites along the route. The guidebooks have suggestions.  

Hostelbookersusually has a good selection of cheaper-end accommodation.

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Other information and tips

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Useful websites and information

There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.

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Other things to do in the area

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Other walks

Coast-to-coast, this is one of the narrower parts of the UK. Inland lie among other areas, Dartmoor and Exmoor, the rich ancient farmlands of rural Devon and Dorset and, further on, the Somerset levels, the wilds of Cornwall and, beyond Bournemouth, the pony-filled New Forest.

Other activities

Castles, fishing, swimming, diving, birdwatching, museums, many old market-towns and their churches, a range of great places to eat…

Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.

Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.

COMMUNITY COMMENTS AND PHOTOS

Name: PamD
Posted on: 31/08/2010
The one essential web address is http://www.swcp.org.uk/ for the splendid South West Coast Path Association (OK, conflict of interest declaration, I've been a member for about 15 years, 8 of them while we did the path at a week each year, and the rest out of gratitude). They not only did and do a lot of work in battling to develop and defend the path, but also produce an annual handbook which is an invaluable travel companion (ferry times, bus line phone numbers, accommodation details and much more as well as path notes).

Name: Ruth Livingstone
Posted on: 08/12/2014
The South West Coast Path is England's longest marked trail and a staggeringly beautiful walk, with over 600 miles of some of the most scenic coastal scenery in the world. The walk includes two World Heritage Sites, five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and part of one of Britain's National Parks. The route is well signed and takes you past fossil cliffs, unspoilt beaches, tin mines, iron age forts and ancient woodlands. You walk across steep slopes, over rocky outcrops, along sand-dunes and climb beautiful cliffs. (I gather the total climb is equivalent to more than 3 times the height of Mount Everest, assuming you would begin climbing Mount Everest from sea level, which you don't!) The two principle sources of information are: http://www.southwestcoastpath.com/ - the official website. http://www.southwestcoastpath.org.uk/ - the association website which is, in my opinion, more informative if you are planning on doing the whole route.


Walkopedia says: Thanks, Ruth


Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.

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© William Mackesy

OTHER ACCOUNTS
share your experiences

Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).

Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.

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south-west-coast-path - © Ruth Livingstone ...
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