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Conquer Britain’s longest trail — South West Coast Path

rumpelstiltskin1 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Conquer Britain’s longest trail — South West Coast Path

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

41-94

days

3-6 h

/ day

637 mi

57,950 ft

57,875 ft

The South West Coast Path is the longest national trail in Britain and explores some of its most cherished coastal landscapes. Stretching 630 miles (1,014 km) along the coast of Somerset, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, the trail offers the ultimate challenge for long-distance walkers.

Variety is the very essence of the Coast Path. From craggy cliffs to golden beaches, remote fishing villages to bustling seaside destinations, wildlife havens to idyllic harbours, majestic moorland to marine habitats, epic rock formations to chalk grasslands – there truly is something for everyone.

Along the trail, you wander through some internationally-important habitats and see the only place in the world that displays 185 million years of geological evolution in the cliffs and rocks, the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.

You also see evidence from thousands of years of people living, working and battling along the coastline, whilst exploring some of the finest cliff-top trails, best beaches, cleanest seas and most picturesque fishing villages Britain has to offer.

In this Collection, I split the route into 52 stages of between 6 and 17 miles (10 – 27 km), starting at Minehead in Somerset and ending at Poole Harbour in Dorset. This itinerary is essentially the standard way to complete the South West Coast Path.

You can, of course, break the route down into as many days as you feel comfortable with, walk individual sections and complete it in the opposite direction. In fact, due to its length, the vast majority of people tackle short sections and complete the route over an extended timeframe. Many of these Tours make excellent day hikes, too.

On balance, the Path is a challenging hike. The overall ascent totals 115,000 feet (35,000 m) – the equivalent of scaling Mount Everest four times. You’ll need good fitness, stamina and technical ability to take on this challenge.

For the most part, you’re never too far away from civilisation. However, the trail gets very remote at times as you head east. As such, ensure you have enough water and snacks to keep you sustained. Sturdy footwear and waterproofs are essential. Be sure to pack sunscreen in the summer months. You can hike this route at any time of year and each season offers a unique perspective on the scenery.

Public transport links are fairly good along the trail. To get to the start, the nearest train station is Taunton. From there, you can catch the 28 bus service to Minehead. The end of the trail, in Poole, has good public transport links including a train station.

On The Map

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South West Coast Path

634 mi

58,100 ft

58,125 ft

Last updated: September 20, 2022

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

    Stage 1: Minehead to Porlock Weir — South West Coast Path

    Intermediate
    04:15
    9.23 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,050 ft
    1,000 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The start of the 630-mile (1,014 km) South West Coast Path is marked by a magnificent metal sculpture of a map held between two hands.

    

    As you leave the sculpture and pretty coastal town of Minehead, it’s a challenging climb to the summit of Selworthy Beacon, where you are afforded wonderful views over

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:31
    11.5 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,825 ft
    1,825 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    After an easy introduction to the South West Coast Path, stage 2 is more challenging but richly rewards your efforts. Expect exhilarating trails, breathtaking views and world-class scenery.

    

    From Porlock Weir it’s a steep ascent through Yearnor Wood to Culbone. Here, you can follow the cliff-top route

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:51
    13.7 mi
    2.0 mph
    2,650 ft
    2,650 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The highlights come thick-and-fast along this superb, yet strenuous, section of the Coast Path. Taking you to one of the most dramatic sights, Valley of Rocks, to the highest point along the trail, Great Hangman, there’s plenty to experience.

    

    The stage begins with a steep ascent to grassy cliff tops before

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    06:34
    14.0 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,950 ft
    1,950 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage of the Coast Path is packed with wild charm and beautiful scenery.

    

    After some challenging stages, you will find this hike to be a little more easy-going, albeit with some challenging ascents to contend with.

    

    From the picturesque beach at Combe Martin, the trail undulates through patchwork fields

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    06:12
    14.7 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    625 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stunning stage explores a wildlife-rich and geologically-significant section of the Coast Path.

    

    Much of the trail along this stage is managed by the National Trust and also follows part of the Tarka Trail; a 163-mile (262 km) trail that follows the journey of Tarka the otter through picturesque countryside

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Intermediate
    04:44
    11.6 mi
    2.5 mph
    150 ft
    125 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    You continue to follow the Tarka Trail on this stage of the Coast Path as it clings alongside the estuary of the River Taw.

    

    The route passes through some internationally-significant areas of marshland and mudflats that are home to many rare species of birds and other wildlife.

    

    Once you have crossed at

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:52
    11.7 mi
    2.4 mph
    375 ft
    375 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage gives you a chance to breathe in the fresh sea air and spot rare wildlife — before the challenging terrain returns.

    From Instow, you follow the old railway line along the Tarka Trail to the well-preserved station at East-the-Water, and onto Chudleigh Fort, which is nearby.

    

    You cross Bideford

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:24
    11.5 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,650 ft
    1,450 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    After a break from the tough coastal landscape on previous stages, the terrain becomes more of a challenge once again. However, your efforts are richly rewarded.

    

    The treat at the end of this stage is the one-of-a-kind village of Clovelly, which has a long history of smuggling and shipwrecking. Clinging

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:42
    10.2 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,125 ft
    1,225 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage showcases the beautifully-contrasting landscapes of the Hartland Peninsula.

    

    From Clovelly, descend to Mouthmill and Blackchurch Rock. This magnificent natural rock arch is filled with fossils and is situated in an area with a rich smuggling heritage. Next, emerge into lush farmland pastures

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    07:09
    15.1 mi
    2.1 mph
    2,175 ft
    2,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage of the Coast Path is said to be the most challenging section of the entire trail. As ever, though, when the going gets tough the highlights are abundant.

    

    With unabated and unforgiving ascents and descents, rocky terrain, and an isolated landscape to contend with, there’s no easy way to complete

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Intermediate
    04:41
    10.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,250 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Throughout this strenuous stage, you are afforded awe-inspiring views over the Atlantic as the trail heads high onto crumbling cliff tops and down into deep valleys.

    

    After a leisurely start, the trail soon becomes challenging and numerous rough and narrow sections will test your skills. The trail plunges

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:24
    11.5 mi
    2.1 mph
    1,625 ft
    1,525 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    History, legend, abundant wildlife, breathtaking scenery and classic cliff-top hiking combine on this memorable stage of the South West Coast Path.

    

    Taking you to the highest point along the Cornish section of the trail, High Cliff, to the serene Boscastle Harbour, the hidden coastal cove at Bossiney

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:49
    8.76 mi
    1.8 mph
    1,200 ft
    1,300 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This stage begins as a leisurely saunter but soon becomes a challenging hike with steep descents and some gruelling climbs. It might be short, but this Tour packs a lot of punch.

    

    The reward for all the hard work is the quaint fishing village of Port Isaac. With its narrow and winding streets — lined

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:34
    12.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    900 ft
    975 ft
    Ferry
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels. The Tour includes a crossing by ferry.

    The highlights come thick-and-fast along this picturesque, unspoiled and leisurely stage of the South West Coast Path.

    

    Beginning with an awe-inspiring view over Port Isaac from Lobber Point, to the serene yet ghostly village of Port Quin, onto the impressive sea cave of Lundy Hole, to the Iron Age fort

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:46
    13.4 mi
    2.3 mph
    800 ft
    775 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores a landscape of glorious golden beaches, crystal-clear seas, hidden coves and rugged headlands.

    

    From the picturesque harbour town of Padstow, the trail winds around the headland of Stepper Point, where you are afforded breathtaking views over the coastline.

    

    Trevose Head boasts extensive

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    04:37
    10.5 mi
    2.3 mph
    875 ft
    800 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage of the Coast Path takes you deep into holiday heaven. In high summer, it’s easy to forget you’re in England.

    

    Whilst it can feel crowded in places, especially around Newquay, you will still find plenty of serenity and solitude as, like always, the trail takes you where many tourists never tread

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:09
    11.8 mi
    2.3 mph
    800 ft
    925 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Hidden caves, golden beaches, spectacular wildlife and stunning coastal walking all combine on this Tour.

    

    From Newquay, the trail clings to the cliffs of Towan Head and then crosses the famous surfing spot, Fistral Beach.

    

    Holywell Bay is a real treat along this stage. With a dramatic and beautiful beach

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    05:33
    12.1 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,300 ft
    1,275 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    This tough route tackles rugged cliff tops and craggy coves. Expect technical trails and exhilarating hiking.

    

    The trail explores a landscape of ancient mining works along this stage; the evidence of which is evident today, especially as you explore the iconic Wheal Coates.

    

    The Path is challenging in places

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Difficult
    05:08
    12.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    675 ft
    700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage explores a dramatic coastal landscape where nature flourishes and the sunsets take your breath away.

    

    From Portreath, follow cliff-tops past the hidden-gem that is Porthcadjack Cove and onto the more sinister cove that is Hell’s Mouth, a foreboding beach backed by cliffs.

    

    The trail winds around

    by Dan Hobson

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  • Intermediate
    02:30
    5.83 mi
    2.3 mph
    325 ft
    325 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.
    View
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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    52
  • Distance
    637 mi
  • Duration
    283:32 h
  • Elevation
    57,950 ft57,875 ft

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