British Hike - South West Coast Path

Hike time:

around 52 days

Approx dist:

1000 km (620 miles)

Start:

Minehead, Somerset

Finish:

South Haven Point, Poole

Profile:

between sea level and 320m

Hilliness:

Astonishing 35 km climb, 35 km descent

Summary

The South West Coast Path is a hugely-long footpath in England, running (as its name suggests) around the south-western coast. Starting from Minehead, in Somerset, it runs anti-clockwise around Devon and Cornwall, to finish in Poole Harbour. Despite following the coast, the vertical climb and descent are impressive, covering almost 4 Everests up and down (115 thousand feet of climb, and the same amount of descent!). However, the trail is extremely long too, so the overall hilliness "only" reaches 330 milliEverests per marathon.

In various places, there is a choice of route, but these sections are short and don't make too much difference. It's possible that certain areas are temporarily closed due to firing ranges being operational, in which case diversions should be signposted.

Getting there and back

The route follows long stretches along remote coastline, so it's not always easy to plan public transport routes outside the main towns. One option is to plan circular tours where the coastline is not so linear, such as in Cornwall or on the Isle of Portland. Or research the local bus routes for individual sections.

Also note that there are a few short ferry sections which are more or less required. It would be very advisable to check the running times of these ferries before setting off, to avoid surprises.

map of the hike
Map of the main route, from Minehead anticlockwise to Poole

The walk

Minehead - Ilfracombe - Bude - Newquay - Hayle - Penzance - The Lizard - Penryn - St Austell - Plymouth - Dartmouth - Exmouth - Lyme Regis - Isle of Portland - Weymouth - Lulworth Cove - Swanage - South Haven Point (Poole)

The following is an example of how to split up the route, offered by the southwestcoastpath.com website. Distances and altitudes are approximate and obtained from the official published coordinates together with SRTM data.

Note that some might find days of up to 26 km somewhat tiring, and depending on where exactly you find your accommodation your stages may be slightly longer. So you may want to split up these stages even more than described here.

So, starting from Minehead, ...

Stage Goal Distance Climb Descent Stage Goal Distance Climb Descent
1

Porlock Weir

14.1 km

400 m

400 m

27

Coverack

16.3 km

700 m

700 m

2

Lynmouth / Lynton

18.5 km

1100 m

1100 m

28

Helford

21.1 km

600 m

600 m

3

Combe Martin

21.9 km

1250 m

1250 m

29

Falmouth

16.0 km

400 m

400 m

4

Woolacombe

21.9 km

950 m

950 m

30

Portloe

21.0 km

700 m

700 m

5

Braunton

23.9 km

350 m

350 m

31

Mevagissey

19.2 km

800 m

800 m

6

Instow

18.4 km

50 m

50 m

32

Par

17.2 km

650 m

650 m

7

Westward Ho!

20.1 km

200 m

200 m

33

Polperro

22.8 km

850 m

800 m

8

Clovelly

17.4 km

900 m

800 m

34

Portwrinkle

20.6 km

800 m

800 m

9

Hartland Quay

16.3 km

950 m

1050 m

35

Plymouth

20.5 km

700 m

750 m

10

Bude

23.7 km

1250 m

1250 m

36

Wembury Point

24.9 km

550 m

550 m

11

Crackington Haven

16.0 km

700 m

700 m

37

Bigbury on Sea

21.9 km

750 m

750 m

12

Tintagel

17.8 km

950 m

950 m

38

Salcombe

20.7 km

700 m

700 m

13

Port Isaac

14.6 km

900 m

900 m

39

Torcross

20.1 km

750 m

750 m

14

Padstow

19.5 km

700 m

700 m

40

Dartmouth

15.9 km

550 m

550 m

15

Porthcothan

21.3 km

500 m

500 m

41

Brixham

16.9 km

900 m

900 m

16

Newquay

17.0 km

550 m

550 m

42

Babbacombe

21.9 km

700 m

650 m

17

Perranporth

18.8 km

450 m

500 m

43

Exmouth

21.9 km

750 m

800 m

18

Portreath

19.1 km

850 m

850 m

45

Sidmouth

21.1 km

600 m

550 m

19

Hayle

19.0 km

500 m

500 m

46

Seaton

15.6 km

800 m

850 m

20

St Ives

11.0 km

250 m

250 m

47

Seatown

22.6 km

950 m

950 m

21

Pendeen

19.4 km

900 m

850 m

48

Abbotsbury

19.7 km

350 m

350 m

22

Sennen Cove

14.3 km

500 m

500 m

49

Ferrybridge

17.0 km

250 m

250 m

23

Lamorna

18.6 km

750 m

750 m

50

Isle of Portland

21.4 km

450 m

450 m

24

Marazion

15.4 km

250 m

250 m

51

Lulworth Cove

23.3 km

700 m

700 m

25

Porthleven

15.8 km

550 m

600 m

52

Worth Matravers

18.6 km

850 m

800 m

26

The Lizard

22.1 km

750 m

750 m

53

South Haven Point

26.3 km

600 m

700 m

(The additional stage 44 is an alternative shortcut along the South Dorset Ridgeway, quite a way from the coast).

More info

The page at nationaltrail.co.uk diverts immediately to southwestcoastpath.com where detailed information including descriptions of each stage and kml downloads can be found. There's also a small amount of information at Wikipedia.

The route is also available in OpenStreetMap, stored as a super-relation 2376086 with each of the 52 stages as separate relations within. So for example you can use JOSM to download the OpenStreetMap coordinates given the relation ids.

Snowdon // Cader Idris // South Downs Way // South West Coast Path