The South West Coast Path is England’s longest trail stretching 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. It runs along the coastline of Exmoor, into North Devon and through Cornwall. The path offers extraordinary scenery, breath-taking views and a walk to suit everyone’s needs. It has strenuous, steep sections, rolling hills and flatter parts. To complete the whole path is the ultimate challenge for any long-distance walker. But of course, you can enjoy the path in smaller, more manageable chunks. It features 115,000 feet of ascent and descent, (according to National Trails), which is the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest four times. Below are ten of the top places to walk from, along and stop in to enjoy the view.
1. Studland Bay and Old Harry’s Rocks, Dorset
Closer to home for me, this slice of Purbeck coastline boasts beautiful white chalky cliffs and miles of gold, sandy beaches. You can also visit Old Harry’s Rocks, a stack and stump formation, and look out towards The Needles on the Ilse of Wight.
2. St. Aldhelm’s Head, Dorset
This was one of my favourite walks of last summer. By starting in the pretty village of Worth Matravers, the walk features Chapman’s Pool, Winspit Caves and Dancing Ledge. Whilst this section is packed full of beautiful sights, it also isn’t too strenuous and a slower, more relaxed pace to take in the views makes it a great walk for all.
3. Durdle Door, Dorset
Durdle Door is a natural limestone arch part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site and is one of the most iconic and most photographed landmarks in Dorset. Whilst it is undoubtedly beautiful, visiting at a quieter hour of the day is advisable – not only will you have more of an uninterrupted view, but it also helps to preserve and protect the surrounding landscape and wildlife, which can get overwhelmed by large numbers of people.
4. Beer, Devon
The walk from Branscombe to Beer is deemed one of the most picturesque walks along the entire path. The 6-7 miles that wind through Devon and its fishing villages are miles that I want to have under my own feet. Beer was also named recently by Countryfile as the Top Picnic Spot in the UK from Jubilee Gardens at the top of the headland – the views span the beach and village.
5. Salcombe, Devon
Salcombe is located on the banks of the Kingsbridge Estuary within the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s not tricky to see why. Salcombe is also a great village for messing about on the water – either sailing, kayaking or paddle boarding.
6. Fowey, Cornwall
After an easy section which follows part of the National Cycle Network around Par Sands, you have to take the ferry across to Fowey, where the path heads steeply up and then down. The rugged beauty of the coastline inspired Daphne du Maurier, Kenneth Grahame and many other writers and artists. It sits on a beautiful estuary with families of birds.
7. Porthleven, Cornwall
I visited Porthleven on a family holiday a few years ago and would love to go back. Besides it being a pretty, seaside village (much like the rest of places in Cornwall on this list), it has a bit more going for it than some. It has a great pub looking out onto the harbour and fab cafes to stop for coffee and cake, or a tasty brunch – perfect walker’s fuel.
8. Penzance, Cornwall
Penzance is the most westerly major town in Cornwall and is a historic port famous historically for its pirates. There are plenty of galleries, shops, cafes, and gardens to satisfy, but the short 2-mile section from Penzance to Marazion provides great views across Mount Bay to St. Michael’s Mount, the Lizard and Mousehole. That is a lot of stunning vistas!
9. Cape Cornwall, Cornwall
A landscape of old mines, mills, forts, and a fifth-century oratory. The village joins the coast path at Kenidjack castle, the area of an Iron Age fort. “From here it travels on around Cape Cornwall, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the English Channel, to Porth Nanven, also known as Dinosaur Egg beach.” – South West Coast Path
10. Padstow, Cornwall
The 10mile section from Port Isaac to Padstow features some undisturbed, stunning views. The first half of the walk to Polzeath is strenuous, but as you get closer to the fishing village of Padstow the views are worth it. Padstow has been the backdrop to a variety of films and is home to Rick Stein’s first restaurant, now a popular chain across the country.