About the Trail
What is the South West Coast Path?
The South West Coast Path is perhaps the UK’s ultimate challenge for the long distance hiker – a 630 mile (1,014 km) adventure around the coastline of England’s southwest peninsula.
You don’t have to walk it all at once though! The National Trail offers everyone the opportunity explore some of the most inspiring and spectacular coastal walking anywhere in the world.
How long does it take to complete the Trail?
In terms of walking days, a fast walker can complete the whole Trail in around 30 days, but a more leisurely pace with time to stop to see some of the sights just off the path is between 7 and 8 weeks. As few people have enough time to be able to walk it in one go, most split it between several holidays and complete the path over several years.
How hard is it?
If you are new to the Coast Path, a key tip is don’t plan to walk as far as you would normally. It is a challenging route, with in total over 115,000 feet (35,000 metres) of up and down, and it is far better to be ahead of schedule and have time to explore, than having to rush to reach your planned overnight stop.
Exploring the Trail
How do I get to the South West Coast Path?
The nearest airports to the Trail are Exeter (approx 11 miles/18 km from the Trail), and Newquay (1 mile from the Trail) in North Cornwall. Visitors can also reach the Trail by ferry, Brittany Ferries serve Plymouth and Poole.
Both ends of the Path can be reached from London by a combination of train and bus and many of the towns along the Trail are served by coach services.
Local buses run a fairly regular service along most of the coast.
For detailed rail information please see www.nationalrail.co.uk
You can find up-to-date public transport information including a journey planner at www.traveline.info
Where can I stay on the Trail?
There is a good choice of accommodation close to the Trail and it can be viewed here.
Many places fill up quickly, we recommend that you book in advance.
Can I camp along the Trail?
There are plenty of campsites along the Trail and they can be viewed here. If you plan to camp please note it is not legal to wild camp in England or Wales – you will need to stay on official campsites.
Can I get my bags carried or my accommodation booked?
What is the best time of year to walk on the Trail?
Whilst the spring and late summer are the best times to walk the path, summer and winter can also be great. Here are our highlights of each season:
Spring is the start of nature’s year. Lambs are in the fields, trees come into leaf, wild flowers are appearing and migrant birds and basking sharks are returning from warmer climes. The fresh weather is great for walking, and the occasional shower merely sharpens the view.
Summer brings warmer temperatures, meaning you can often walk in a T-shirt and shorts, and stop off at beaches for a cooling dip. Flowers are in full bloom, and the sunshine brings out drifts of butterflies. In late summer, much of the north coast turns purple and yellow and smells wonderful, thanks to the heather and gorse coming into bloom.
Autumn means the crowds have gone home, but the weather and sea temperature often remain warm enough for swimming. At this time of year headlands are great spots to see migrating birds making their back south. As the weather terms chillier, trees take on their lovely red and gold Autumn colours.
Winter means you have to choose your days to go walking with more care to make the most of the shorter days and more unsettled weather. However there is nothing like wrapping up warm on a blustery winter’s day and walking along the Coast Path to watch (from a safe distance) storm waves pound the cliffs.
Which direction should I walk it in?
Most people walk start at the Minehead end and head towards Poole, but that is mainly because that is the direction most of the guidebooks are written.
What should I take with me?
We recommend that you take a map and/or guidebook with you, or a copy of the walk leaflet if you are doing a shorter walk. You may also find a compass useful.
If you are walking solo you may want to tell someone where you are going as there can be mobile black spots along the Trail. Ensure your phone is fully charged before setting off.
Weather in the UK can be changeable so it’s wise to be prepared. You’ll need good footwear, waterproofs and warm layers. Take plenty of water and just in case, pack a few plasters for your feet. In the summer you may need sun cream.
Will I have mobile phone and internet access?
Mobile phone coverage along the coast is patchy with no signal in many of the valleys but generally OK on headlands and in towns and villages. Mobile data is available in most places with mobile signal.
Many accommodation providers, pubs and cafes offer Wi-Fi.
Is there signage on the South West Coast Path?
The UK is unique in having a network of paths that the public can use, this is the Public Rights of Way network. You can see these paths on Ordnance Survey maps.
National Trails are signed with an acorn symbol and/or the Trail name which you will see on stiles, gates and signposts. This is the symbol used by all the English and Welsh National Trails.
As you are walking along the Trail you will also see waymarkers pointing to other paths. You can use the public rights of way network to leave the Trail to explore places of interest, reach your accommodation and find places to eat and drink.
You will often find a coloured arrow on signs which indicates the status of that section of path. The most common are yellow arrows which are footpaths and blue which are bridleways.
Can I download a GPX file?
You can download a GPX file of the whole Trail here.
Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise
Can I get a guidebook and map for the Trail?
The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.
Can I get a certificate if I complete the Trail?