The South West Coast Path is the longest National Trail in the UK, stretching from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset.
Walking all 630 miles of this undulating trail is an enormous challenge, and we suggest tackling the walk in bite-size pieces so you can relax and truly enjoy your spectacular surroundings.
I previously walked the first 88 miles of the trail from Minehead to Westward Ho! – a wonderful introduction to the path and a taste of what was in store for me. I could not have imagined that the following 78 miles would trump the first 88, but believe me, they did. I discovered staggering scenery, wonderful wildlife, and most of all – pure peace and tranquillity.
Walking from Westward Ho! to Padstow reignited the attraction and desire I have to continue returning to this pristine, charming, and pure part of the world.
My adventure started in Westward Ho! – the only English town named after a book – and continued past the remote and windswept point at Hartland, finishing in the cosmopolitan town of Padstow. What lies between is a hugely inspiring and unspoilt coastline full of wildlife and history.
I made some wonderful memories along the way which I will hold forever, and here are some of my favourites …
The Westward Ho! to Padstow stretch is considered to be one of the toughest sections of the entire South West Coast Path, with a constantly undulating path cut by deep valleys. The saving grace of the steep ascents is the superb views from the top – making your efforts completely worth it.
The first challenge kicks in on the approach to Hartland Quay – a section of path with a number of very steep inclines. Here, the enormous power of the sea as it crashes against the cliffs below will soon distract you.
The stretch between Bude and Boscastle involves climbing up and down more valleys, but at the end of this Crackington Haven awaits – a peaceful village hidden between huge crags at the mouth of a spectacular valley which eradicates any difficulties this section may have caused.
The path has so many gems to discover along the way like the tiny hamlets of Minock, Rocky Valley, Hawker’s Hut and Trebarwith Strand, to name a few. The beauty of the scenery which stretched out before me was heightened as the adrenaline rushed through me.
The coastal path took me past hidden coves, ginormous cliffs, vast beaches and abandoned shipwrecks, however the thing that I loved the most were the idyllic villages.
Clinging to a 400 foot cliff, the charming village of Clovelly is a unique and incredibly picturesque stop off point. This traffic-free, cobbled village is composed of a main street which plunges down past cottages covered in flowers. Privately-owned by the same family since the 1730s, Clovelly has maintained its picture-postcard atmosphere.
Port Isaac was another favourite of mine, and is quickly becoming a ‘must-visit’ destination in Cornwall. The hit TV show Doc Martin was filmed here and has attracted fans from all over the world.
More recently, this tiny port is becoming known as Cornwall’s new ‘foodie’ haven, which seems to be thanks to acclaimed chef Nathan Outlaw’s two restaurants – Outlaw’s Fish Kitchen and Restaurant Nathan Outlaw. The latter recently reached the number one spot in the Good Food Guide, scoring a perfect 10.
On my final day I came across the alluring village of Port Quin. Only 2 miles south of Port Isaac, this sheltered National Trust fishing village has a mysterious history behind it. On a peaceful summer’s day this is a haven of serenity, however, during the winter it is prone to savage storms – one of which killed the entire fishing fleet, giving rise to the eerie nickname ‘the village that died’.
There are some fascinating sights scattered along the path for those who wish to learn about Cornish history. Immerse yourself into the legend of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle, which is said to be the birthplace of the mythical man who led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the 5th century.
The Museum of Witchcraft and Magic is another memorable place to visit whilst passing through the harbour town of Boscastle. The museum gives a wonderful account of witchcraft through the ages, and you’ll find objects dating back to the time of the witch hunts, and collections of charms, curses and healing witchcraft. Be sure to look out for the ‘dark mirrors’ that supposedly allow you to see into your future.
This section of the South West Coast Path offers so much more than a good stretch of the legs. The scenery that unravels as you take each step provides a spectacular long-distance walking experience.
From cliffs to coves, beaches to valleys, lively seaside resorts to abandoned fishing villages – this walk introduces you to one of the most breathtaking coastlines in the world.
P.S. If you’re inspired to take to the trail yourself, Absolute Escapes offer self-guided walks from Westward Ho! to Padstow which include accommodation, baggage transfers, guidebook/map, and everything you’ll need to enjoy a wonderful walking holiday.