Hiking the South West Coast Path

Sea and cloud, view from cliffs on the South West Coast Path at Start Point.

I’ve hiked the South West Coast Path twice. This time I chose to go the “wrong way”, starting in Dorset and ending at Minehead in Somerset.  At 630 miles, it’s the longest national trail, but the challenge of completing it is not the reason why I picked it as a celebratory hike in my seventieth year.

The scenery is stunning and incredibly varied, from the gleaming white limestone of South Dorset to the red earth of Devon and wild granite cliffs of Cornwall. I love the peaceful river valleys of South Devon, with their little ferry boats. Luckily, there’s only one river, the Erme, which you have to wade across, if you can time it right to get there at low tide. Otherwise, you sit and wait on the beach, or set off on the long walk round.


It’s not an easy hike, though: some parts are very steep. As for the weather, there were times when the rain seemed never-ending, or the views were shrouded in sea mist. Once we gave up, drenched by the storms, and headed home early.

It’s easy to get to, with good public transport links from our home near Bath. That meant we could complete it in stages, returning home to catch up with family or work at the vineyard. And out of season, there’s usually a good choice of places to stay, especially in the pretty little fishing villages.

White limestone rock and cliff emerging from the sea
Old Harry Rocks, Dorset
Sheer white limestone cliffs, ochre beach and deep blue sea
Limestone cliffs, Dorset
Example of steep climbs on the South West Coast Path
Steep climb
Portloe, Cornwall. Good B and B, but book for supper at the only pub.
The red cliffs of South Devon. Sidmouth.
Coastal erosion as the red earth is washed out to sea from bare fields.
River Erme: wade across or walk the very long way round.
Small passenger ferry across the Helford River, boats in the background
Elsewhere there are little passenger ferries, as on the Helford River
The sand tractor at Salcombe: so you don’t get wet disembarking from the ferry.
Helford River
Hidden coves
Granite cliffs and tin mines of Cornwall
Walking thourh beechwoods with bluebells
Bluebell woods
Tall trees with sun shining on bracken and path
Ancient woodland
The vast expanse of Hayle Beach
Endless expanse of Chesil beach pebbles, with waves
Chesil Beach, Dorset
Storm clouds massing

You can see lots more photos on my instagram account

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