This majestic, long-distance trail joins the English Channel with the Bristol Channel – the South Devon coastline to the North Somerset shore. Seeking out rolling countryside, river valleys and sleepy villages, you hike amongst landscapes that have barely changed in hundreds of years.
The route was developed by the Rambler’s Association and shows you Somerset’s secret side. First you explore the East Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) with its wonderful woodlands and soaring sea views. Then, you make your way into the Blackdown Hills AONB where sweeping vistas of folded valleys, pockets of forest and colourful farmland await. Skirting the Quantock Hills, you wander the valley separating the AONB from Exmoor National Park and wend your way steadily north to the sea at Watchet.
Both the starting point at Seaton and the end at Watchet are fascinating communities. Seaton saw much Iron Age activity before becoming an important port for sailors and fishermen. With the arrival of the railway, it developed into a beach resort and, today, it’s a relaxed town with a lovely shingle beach.
Watchet was also an important port, although for much more industrial purposes, including mineral transport. One of its most notable claims to fame is the harbour: the inspiration for Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Another is Yankee Jack, a 19th-century sailor hailing from the town who went on to become a founding voice in the practice of sea shanties.
Between these friendly coastal towns are miles of rolling hills and river paths. Old churches pierce the skies and pubs are tucked into the wings of thatched villages. You hike along peaceful lanes, along field footpaths and past grand, historic houses.
At 53 miles (85 km) long, this route makes for a very doable hiking holiday if you walk it in one go. It’s also easy to break down into two separate adventures, one from Seaton to Taunton and another from Taunton to Watchet. Some stages can be easily walked as day hikes, using buses and trains in the area.
Accommodation along the route requires planning, as the path purposefully seeks rural pastures. Seaton, Taunton and Watchet have plenty of options, but you will likely have to deviate a little for accommodation in between. I’ve provided options in the stage descriptions.
You can hike this route throughout the year but late spring to early autumn are the best seasons for the sheer romance of the landscape here. You’ll soon see what Coleridge loved so much about this area. Take sturdy hiking boots and waterproofs as you can never be too sure what the weather will get up to.
To reach Seaton, it’s best to take the train to Axminster and catch the 885 bus to the coastal town. At Watchet, take the 28 Quantock Line bus to Taunton, which has a mainline train station and more regional bus links.
You begin the Channel to Channel Path, perhaps obviously, by a channel. The English Channel to be exact. This hike takes you north through the East Devon AONB and into the edge of the Blackdowns, finishing between Kilmington and Axminster. A hilly stage, you can enjoy magnificent views across Lyme Bay as well as inland, across rural landscapes.
Begin on …
This stage leads you further into the Blackdown Hills AONB and gradually gains altitude. Despite this, it’s easier going than stage 1, as the hills are slight and there’s nothing particularly steep. A very rural expedition, it’s wise to take your lunch and any water you need, for there’s little on the route.
The River Coly is your constant companion …
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This is a walk of two halves: one in the Blackdowns and one in the Tone Valley. You start high at Bishopswood and climb gently to Staple Hill before descending out of the Blackdowns and towards Taunton. Old churches and historic country houses combine to make this hike a real blend of natural and human influences.
Leave Bishopswood and hike …
The shortest of the five stages, on this hike you leave Taunton and the River Tone behind and head to the very edge of the Quantock Hills AONB. The first half is fairly flat, with a gentle, steady ascent in the second but certainly nothing very challenging. This is a walk of winding lanes, historic buildings and hedgerows filled with …
The final push for the Bristol Channel leads you between the Quantock Hills AONB and Exmoor National Park. It’s not a valley per se, rather lower-lying ground that passes underfoot. As a result, this marvellous hike is undulating with some lovely views of both sets of hills.
Hike west from West Bagborough and cross Williton Road at the hamlet of …