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South West Coastal Path

Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset

 

Start: Minehead, Somerset

Finish: Poole Harbour, Dorset

Length: 630 miles

Above image is a Sculpture marking start of the South West Coast Path at Minehead
 
Robin Lucas

The South West Coastal Path runs for 630 miles around the coasts of Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. If you were to try and tackle the walk in one go you would need to set aside at least 56 days to achieve this. Therefore it is more sensible to do what most walkers do and trek the trail in manageable sections. Of course there is no reason why you cannot visit parts of it via another means of transport and do pieces of it at your leisure. 65% of its length is within AONB's (5 areas), 56% of it is Heritage Coast, 5% is in National Park, and one third of it is managed by the National Trust, as well as England's first natural World Heritage Site which is between Orcombe Point, Exmouth and Old Harry Rocks, Swanage in Dorset. The coastal path can be navigated by foot all 100% of it, 8% of it is accessible to horse riders and cyclists, although only the Tarka Trail Cycleway section offers a continuous length for cycling at around 13 miles long. It is one of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales.

The landscape is varied and ranges from rugged and remote cliff tops to sheltered estuaries/bays and busy harbours and holiday resorts. Moorlands, steep coastal valley's coves, pebble or sandy beaches, landslips and undercliffs in East Devon and Dorset offer focal points to look out for. The highest point is Great Hangman, on Exmoor at 954 feet. Whilst walking the route you will come across many coastal historic and archaeological features including Iron Age Hill Forts and World War II defences. As well of course as coastal flora, where there is a succession of different species from early spring through to the autumn, and fauna and birds. Of course there are magnificent coastal views and out to sea you may see the occasional seals, dolphins and basking sharks.

For full details on the Path and what you can see on various points visit their website Southwest Coast Path.

Highlights on Route Include:

Location: Quay Street Green, Minehead, Somerset

Grid Reference: SS971467 Ceremonial County: Somerset
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo

Getting there: From the M5 take J25, follow A38 into Taunton and the the A358 to Williton and then turn left onto the A39 to Minehead.

Website: www.mineheadsomerset.co.uk

Other useful websites:

Notes: A seaside resort but also one end of the West Somerset Railway (steam railway), which starts at Bishops Lydeard.

Exmoor National Park  -  Exmoor National Park

Straddles the two counties of Somerset and Devon, total area of the park covering 267 square miles of hilly open moorland which includes 34 miles of coast, the piece of the park that you will go through on this path.

Clovelly

Set into a steep hillside, it is probably one of the most famous villages in England. It has a single cobbled high street which winds its way down to the sea at the bottom. No vehicles are allowed in the High Street and during the summer months you will find both people and donkey's transport goods to the shops, hotels and other local businesses. There is visitor parking at the top adjacent to the visitor centre and you walk on foot down the high street with 16th century cottages on either side to the small harbour. There is plenty to see and do.

Location: Clovelly, near Bideford, Devon

Grid Reference: SS315247 Ceremonial County: Devon
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Map

Getting there: M5 J27, take the A39 to Higher Clovelly and then the B3237 to the Clovelly Visitor Centre before walking down the cobbled street to Clovelly harbour.

Website: www.clovelly.co.uk 

Other useful websites:

Notes: The High Street is steep and can be slippery. It is not suitable for wheelchairs and there is no access for vehicles. You have to walk.

 

Hartland Point

Three miles of the walk goes from Hartland Point to Hartland Quay. There are coves, cliff formations, undulating landscape which in places is quite steep, and in places ruins. On a clear day out to see you should be able to see Lundy Island in the distance. Here there is also Hartland Point lighthouse, on the furthest outcrop, but you can get good views from the headland..

 

Hartland Point Lighthouse

Nicholas Mutton

Hartland Point Lighthouse

 

Location: Hartland Point, Devon

Grid Reference: SS230277 Ceremonial County: Devon
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo 

Getting there: From the A39 take the B3248 to Hartland and then take the road to Tichberry follow the signs to Hartland Point and it's car park.

Website: www.beautiful-devon.co.uk/hartland.htm

Other useful websites: www.bbc.co.uk/devon/outdoors/walks/hartland.shtml

Notes: There are car parks at both Hartland Quay and Hartland Point so you can do this piece of the walk either way round.

Boscastle Harbour

A medieval harbour and village hidden in a steep sided valley. Of course made famous with the BBC series following the life and times of a local parish and a little while back when they had some devastating floods, which they have now recovered from and the tourists are back.

Location: Boscastle Harbour, Boscastle, Cornwall

Grid Reference: SX099912 Ceremonial County: Cornwall
Map Link: StreetMap Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo 

Getting there: From the A39 at Camelford take the B3262 to Boscastle

Website: www.boscastlecornwall.org.uk

Other useful websites: www.cornwall-online.co.uk/north-cornwall/boscastle.htm

Notes:

Tintagel Castle

Location: Tintagel, Cornwall

Grid Reference: SX049890 Ceremonial County: Cornwall
Map Link: StreetMap Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo

Getting there: From A39 at Camelford take the B3266 towards Boscastle, after 2 miles take the B3314 to Delabole and at fork take right on B3263 to Tintagel.

Notes: See our featured location page on this

Landís End and the Lizard

The most westerly point of mainland England. As well as the tourist attraction situated at the end of Cornwall, there is also the stunning sea views across to the Isle of Scilly, the Longships Lighthouse and Wolf Rock as well as wildlife to catch up on. The RSPB have a Wildlife Discovery Centre on the cliff top where using powerful telescopes and binoculars you can see sea birds, owls, grey seals, basking sharks, dolphins and more.

Location: Lands End and the Lizard, Cornwall

Grid Reference: SW343251 Ceremonial County: Cornwall
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo 

Getting there: Follow the A30 to it's end. You can go no more by car.

Website: www.landsend-landmark.co.uk

Other useful websites: Wikipedia

Notes:

The Cornish national bird, the Choughs had been extinct in Cornwall for 50 years until 2001 when a small number of them appeared on the coast of the Lizard. They are now breeding successfully and can be often seen on the peninsulas.

A Chough - The Cornish National Bird, can be seen on the Lizard

The Minack Theatre - an outdoor theatre in a Roman Amphitheatre style overlooking the harbour. Theatre productions still take place today, mainly evening performances, but also some matinees on Wednesday's and Fridays

Location: The Minack Theatre, Porthcurno, Cornwall

Grid Reference: SW387220 Ceremonial County: Cornwall
Map Link: StreetMap Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo 

Getting there: From Porthcurno go up the winding hill and the theatre entrance is on the left.

Website: www.minack.com 

Other useful websites:

Notes: Open daily all year from 10am-5pm. Last entry in winter is 3.30pm (closing at 4pm)

 

Logan Rock (a rocking tor)

An 80 ton granite boulder perched on the edge of the cliffs on a rocky headland one mile south of Treen. The rock is finely balanced due to weathering and overlooks Cripps Cove beneath.

 

 

It's the one on the right which rocks

Jim Champion

The context of the Logan Rock at Treryn Dinas

 

Location: Logan Rock, Treen Castle, Nr Porthcurno, Cornwall

Grid Reference: SW397219 Ceremonial County: Cornwall
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo 

Getting there: From the B3315 at Treen take the village road to the Visitor Car Park and then follow the footpath to the headland point where Logan Rock is situated.

Website: www.cornwalls.co.uk/Porthcurno/logan_rock.htm 

Other useful websites: Wikipedia

Notes:

Harbour town of Fowey

With its ruins of St Catherine's Castle, and Readymoney Cove supplying it's local beach.

Location: Fowey, Cornwall

Grid Reference: SX122515 Ceremonial County: Cornwall
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo  

Getting there: From A38 at Dobwalls take the A390 to St Austell. At Lostwithiel turn onto the B3269, after about 6 miles you reach Fowey.

Website: www.fowey.co.uk

Other useful websites: Wikipedia

Notes: It has ferries across the river to Polruan (foot) and Bodinnick (vehicle).

The World Heritage Coast in Dorset stretches 95 miles and includes the Jurassic Coastline at Lyme Regis (see grid) and Charmouth where you can see fossils in the cliff faces and under foot.

Location: Lyme Regis, Dorset

Grid Reference: SY338922 Ceremonial County: Dorset
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo 

Getting there: Off the A35 take the A3052.

Website: www.lymeregis.com

Other useful websites: Wikipedia       www.jurassiccoast.com

Notes: Situated in Lyme Bay at the Dorset/Devon border. Famous for it's harbour "The Cobb" dating from around 1300.

Chesil Beach Shingle Ridge (aka Chesil Bank)

A well known 18 mile shingle beach stretching from Portland to West Bay. It is separated from the mainland by an area of salen water called Fleet Lagoon. There is also the Fleet Nature Reserve, and a visitor centre at the Southern End of Fleet Lagoon between Weymouth and Portland.

Location: Chesil Beach, Dorset

Grid Reference: SY634784 Ceremonial County: Dorset
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Map 

Getting there: From Weymouth follow the A354 to Portland, as you approach Portland the Chesil Beach visitor centre and car park are on your right.

Website: www.chesilbeach.org

Other useful websites: Wikipedia     /www.jurassiccoast.com

Notes: The seaward slope is closed every year from 1st April to 31st August to protect nesting birds.

Durdle Door

Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch on the Jurrasic Coast near Lulworth, between Swanage and Weymouth. Probably the most photographed and painted landmark on the Dorset coast. A walk down to the beach is very steep, or walk around the contour of the hill towards Scratchy Bottom and view it from the high ridge.

 

 

Michael Robinson

Durdle Door

 

Location: Durdle Door, Lulworth, Dorset

Grid Reference: SY804803 Ceremonial County: Dorset
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Map 

Getting there: from the A352 take the B3071 to Lulworth Cove at West Lulworth take the road to Daggers Gate follow the signs to the Car Park and then follow the footpath.

Website: Durdle Door

Other useful websites: Wikipedia      www.jurassiccoast.com 

Notes:

Lulworth Cove

Lulworth Cove is a natural horse-shoe shaped harbour, has a pebble beach and is very sheltered. Lulworth has it's very own butterfly the 'Lulworth Skipper'.

Location: Lulworth Cove, Lulworth, Dorset

Grid Reference: SY826799 Ceremonial County: Dorset
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo 

Getting there: From the A352 follow the B3070 through West Lulworth and it ends at the cove.

Website: www.lulworth.com/education/lulworth_cove.htm

Other useful websites: Wikipedia   www.jurassiccoast.com  

 www.lulworthonline.co.uk

Notes: Car Park next to the Lulworth Heritage Centre

Old Harry Rock Stacks

Chalk stacks located east of Studland, below the cliffs at Ballard Down. The cliff is chalk with bands of flint and have been reduced over centuries by the sea.

The downland habitat is home to a variety of chalk flora which is complimented by many species of butterfly including Chalkhill Blue and Adonis Blue.

 

Old Harry Rocks

John Tomlinson

Old Harry Rocks

 

Location: Old Harry Stacks, nr Studland, Dorset

Grid Reference: SZ055825 Ceremonial County: Dorset
Map Link: StreetMap   Aerial photo: Google Aerial Photo  

Getting there: Take the A351 to Swanage, at Corfe take the B3351 to Studland and follow the footpath out to Old Harry.

Website: www.jurassiccoast.com 

Other useful websites: Wikipedia 

Notes: There are a number of car parks within Studland and the Studland Bay area.

 

Poole Harbour

Poole Harbour and quay is 3 miles of golden sands. A large natural harbour,  at it's entrance is Sandbanks where it's chain ferry takes passengers across to the Isle of Purbeck and in it's centre is Brownsea Island, a haven for the British Red Squirrel. It is also a gateway to the Solent with ferries leaving for the Channel Islands and France.

Location: Poole Harbour, Poole, Dorset

Grid Reference: SY994891 Ceremonial County: Dorset
Map Link: StreetMap  Aerial photo: Google Aerial Map 

Getting there: From the A35 take the A350 into Poole and follow the signs.

Website: www.phc.co.uk

Other useful websites: Wikipedia  www.pooletourism.com 

www.pooleharbourweather.com    www.directferries.co.uk/poole_ferry.htm

Notes: Also contains Poole Marina with it's large number of pleasure boats

 

Poole Harbour is the final point on the South West Coast Path going in this direction. There are many highlights beyond those listed here, this is just a selection. All along the route there will also be many more lighthouses than the ones we have mentioned here, take a look at our Lighthouse Map of England and Wales within the Lighthouses section to pinpoint others you can see.  You may also glimpse some of the many Islands that lie off our coast as well. I hope you enjoyed this journey and it inspires you to get out and have a walk of at least part of it.

 

See Also:

World Heritage Sites     

World Heritage Sites - Further Information

World Heritage Sites in the UK

 


 


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By: Tracey Park Section: Walk Section Key:
Page Ref: SW_Coast_Path Topic: Walks Last Updated: 02/2012

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