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Hiking England’s Southwest Coast Path

Hiking England’s Southwest Coast Path

Last summer my daughter spent three weeks attempting to hike England’s 630 mile Southwst Coast Path. I say attempt because she gave it her best shot for three weeks.

"Beautiful and rugged cliff side walking"

Beautiful and rugged cliff side walking

The Southwest Coast Path is what one would call an epic adventure as it follows the scenic coastline of Cornwall, Devon, Somerset and Dorset.

But after rain, rain and more rain, ferry schedules that didn’t mesh with my daughter’s timetable, expensive plus hard to book B&B’s (because of Bank holiday weekends), plus a loneliness on this trail that she hadn’t experienced on any of Spain’s long distance trails, she called it quits and headed by ferry from Plymouth to Santander, Spain and hiked the whole of the Camino del Norte – a long distance trail across the top of Spain. And she thoroughly enjoyed herself there.

What the South Westcoast Path is really like

Still looking back over her pictures she had plenty of good things to say. The scenery is fantastic – even if it’s tough going and treacherous in places. B&B owners are friendly and the food is much better than what you typically get in Spain on the trail.

But there were cows that cornered her and made her fear for her life, cliff side walking where a fall would result in death, loads of biting insects and very few people. That – and the rain – is why she decided to head for Spain.

She recommends doing it with a friend and picking a section rather than the whole trail. In three weeks she met only one other hiker planning to do the whole path but lots of people out for a day, a weekend or a week.

When I look at her pictures it absolutely makes me want to hike it. But I think I’d take her advice and go with a friend or my husband so there is someone to share the experience.  And with England’s notoriously wet weather, a week in the rain would be okay but  6-8 weeks, the time it takes to do the whole trail, wouldn’t be any fun with constant rain.

All of her photos below were taken with a phone – so the quality isn’t quite as good – but the coastal beauty of the Southwest Coast Path still shines through.

"The start of the Southwest Coast Path in Minehead, England"

The start of the Southwest Coast Path in Minehead, England

"Pastoral scene"

Pastoral scene

"Caribbean like colour to the sea on a sunny day"

Caribbean like colour to the sea on a sunny day

"Funicular on Day 3 on the south west coast trail"

You have a choice – wait for the funicular or zigzag your way up this steep slope; the town of Lynmouth is at the bottom, Lynton is at the top

:Snake warning sign in England"

I don’t associate England with snakes

"Beaches off the southwest coast of England"

Beaches off the southwest coast of England

"Moody skies under constant threat of rain"

Moody skies under constant threat of rain

"Quite the contrasts in the colour of the fields"

Quite the contrasts in the colour of the fields

"Lonely looking building on a deserted beach"

Lonely looking building on a deserted beach

"muddy path"


"Walking in a scene that's close to black and white"

Walking in a scene that’s close to black and white

Trail lined with heather"

Trail lined with heather

"Very pretty walking the further south you go"

Very pretty walking the further south you go

"Surfing in England is big. Who knew?"

Surfing in England is big. Who knew?

"Nothing but heather as far as the eye can see"

Nothing but heather as far as the eye can see

Impressive colours for the middle of summer"

Impressive colours for the middle of summer

"The sea is your constant companion"

The sea is your constant companion

"Pastoral scene that looks like a painting"

Looks more like an artist’s rendering than the real scene that it is

Does hiking the whole of the Southwest Coast Path have any appeal for you?

Click on the photo to pin.

Hiking England's South West Coast Path

Leigh McAdam


Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 13 Comments
  1. Walking the entire South West Coast Path “seems” like an attractive idea, but I’m glad we have your daughter for a reality check. And, I’m very disappointed to see that “be aware of snakes” sign. (Actually, I’m not sure I would know what to make of that sign. Is “Be Aware” of snakes, different than “Beware” of snakes?) In either case, I don’t like snakes, whether I’m being aware or beware of them and I believed (for no particularly good reason) that there were no snakes in England. Several years ago, we wanted to hike a portion of the Coastal Path in Cornwall near Lands End. We started at an abandoned tin mine (if that rings any bells). We had the same experience—lashing rain and “cows”, except it was pretty clear that the “cows” were bulls and they were none to happy to have us in their field—apparently, they didn’t get the memo about the right of way for hikers.

    1. @Suzanne I certainly don’t think of England and snakes but they are there. The hike really does sound wonderful when the weather cooperates and the views are quite sensational. Bulls wouldn’t have been any fun to be around.
      And I guess rain just goes with the territory in England.

  2. Wow! The photos are gorgeous! Camino de Santiago has been on my wishlist for a very long time, but alas, Europe has largely been out of our reach budget-wise. I’ll be adding this southwest coast trail! One day. . . Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. The scenery is beautiful and glad she was still able to capture its beauty with the smartphone. I love that your daughter inherited your sense of adventure. It sounds like a great hike but I’m not so sure about all that rain and solitude. I don’t know about that cliff side walking too. Thinking about it makes me nervous already.

  4. Lovely photos – and a good reality check reminder for us all: know when to give it up. (I’ll join in with the group surprised at the thought of snakes there – urrgghh!)

  5. Interesting article and useful advice! I live just 10 minutes walk from Valley of Rocks (Lynton, North Devon), which is the top photo in this article.

    Whilst sections of the South West Coast Path (SWCP) can be done as short walks or half/full day hikes, walking the whole trail is a serious undertaking. Most people do it in sections over a number of years; only a few hardy souls take the SWCP on as a single walk, taking between 4-6 weeks to complete (depending on their level of fitness and preferred walking speed).

    The sections from the start at Minehead along the fabulous Exmoor coastline are some of the toughest of the trail, but also some of the most stunning and rewarding, as can be seen from the pictures. Last year we did experience record rainfall; in fact it was rainy across most of Europe, but it’s the rain that gives us our beautiful green scenery! And as our German visitors tell us, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes!

    Finally I must add that there are lots of lovely B&Bs along the route, in fact my husband and I own one (Lee House, Lynton)!

    1. @Caroline My daughter stayed in B&B’s along the route and loved them. Overall she found people to be arm and friendly. She did run into problems booking over weekends though – and that’s hard when you don’t know exactly how far you’re going to hike 3 and 4 days out. Still the area is beautiful and I would enjoy doing sections of it at a time.

  6. What England lacks in elevation they certainly make up for in beautiful scenery. That’s too bad the trip didn’t work out for your daughter. Beautiful photos!

    1. @Tim My daughter looks at the photos with some longing but then the thought of all the rain slips into her reality check. She has done three of the long caminos in Spain and loved each one of them.

  7. Morning! It’s a glorious sunny day today her on the south coast of England. Those photos do look very beautiful but the weather is unpredictable any time of year here. Today it may be lovely now but who knows what it will be like in a few hours! Britain is much more suited to a holiday where some days are spent walking, others exploring her beautiful cities and others enjoying a country pub – what you choose to do each day dependent on the weather forecast!

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