The South West Coast Path stretches for an impressive 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset all the way to Poole in Dorset.
With it being the longest National Trail in the UK, it can be tricky deciding which section to walk. Some people run the entire path (the current record stands at 10 days, 15 hours, and 18 minutes), while a very fast and determined walker can complete it over 30 days.
As the entire Coast Path has 111,000 feet of ascent (more than three times the height of Mt. Everest!) we like to make things much more leisurely and split the path up to make sure each section is appreciated as much as it deserves to be.
I was fortunate enough to embark on the first 88 miles (142 km) of the path between Minehead and Westward Ho! Here are my top reasons as to why this section of the trail should not be missed …
The novelty of beginning this walk from the official starting point in Minehead is an impressive 12 foot steel sculpture on the seafront. The gigantic pair of hands was beautifully designed by an A-Level student who unexpectedly won a local competition, completely oblivious to the vast number of walkers that would flock here to be pictured beside her artwork.
The hands grip an open map of the trail – a unique photo opportunity before commencing my memorable journey.
A truly wonderful aspect of this walk is the way that every twist and turn offers extensive views out to the Bristol Channel and down the steep cliffs to pristine beaches below.
On the first day you’ll walk past Selworthy Beacon which provides clifftop views out to the turquoise sea and the swell crashing against the rock below. This point has been voted the best picnic spot on the entire coast path, and it provides you with a flavour of the spectacular scenery that the rest of this path has in store.
Another joy is the abundance of wildlife and natural beauty that awaits you every day. The extensive stretch of coast includes a number of National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
On day two I walked along the coast of Exmoor National Park. The Valley of the Rocks awaits on a remote and quiet stretch of path, which I recommend leaving enough time to explore and admire. This unique, dry valley runs parallel to the coast, where you can admire fossiliferous Lynton beds which are said to be some of the oldest Devonian rocks in the area.
Further along the path, I walked through North Devon’s UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This is a wonderful environment to explore, and this rare habitat is home to a number of wonderful species that may come out to say hello!
The peace that I experienced whilst walking the trail will be a lasting memory for me.
The simple act of walking from one destination to the next is deeply therapeutic no matter which path you are on, however, the beauty of the South West Coast Path is that it dips and dives into every nook and cranny of the coast – reaching places inaccessible to motor vehicles. This leaves crowds and queues behind, allowing time to remove yourself from the rest of the world and focus on yourself and your tranquil surroundings.
Walking from Minehead to Westward Ho! is a stretch of path that I highly recommend completing. Not only is the notion of starting from the official start extremely satisfying, it is also very motivating. I have returned to the office with the South West Coast Path ‘bug’ and am already planning my return to this pristine, charming and pure part of the world!
Wherever your interests lie, the South West Coast Path is for you. The challenging incline and descent will appeal to avid long-distance walkers, but there’s also beautiful wildlife, tasty food, friendly locals, castle ruins, and charming villages. This path manages to incorporate it all quite spectacularly.
P.S. If you’re inspired to take to the trail yourself, Absolute Escapes offer self-guided walks from Minehead to Westward Ho! which include accommodation, baggage transfers, guidebook/map, and everything you’ll need to enjoy a wonderful walking holiday. Click here to see all of the sections we offer on the South West Coast Path.