The South West Coast Path is the longest footpath in England, running for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset, through to Poole Harbour in Dorset. While we can’t visit the coast path at the moment (unless you live near one of the trails of course), here’s everything you need to know about the South West Coast Path for post lockdown visits. After spending so much time at home over the past year, we’re sure you’re eager to get out and about, especially if the weather is good this summer, so read on to find out more about the pathways through Devon.
As the longest waymarked footpath in England, the South West Coast Path offers the ultimate challenge for those that love walking – it isn’t just for serious walkers, there are various paths and trails that can be accessed all across the south west, so you can easily find the perfect walking route for you, your family and even your dog – the whole path is dog friendly!
A heritage treasure
The South West Coast Path follows the 19th century coastguard patrol route, which was once used to try and curb smuggling and piracy along the south coast. Devon was particularly affected by pirates and smugglers and if you follow the pathways through the county, you can find evidence of coastguard posts and the remains of their shelters. As you might expect from a route used by coastguard patrolmen, there are some incredible coastal views that can be seen from all areas of the path.
The path passes through several National Nature Reserves, five Areas of outstanding Natural Beauty, two World Heritage sites, a UNESCO designated Biosphere reserve, a Geopark and a National Park – so wherever you join the path, you can be sure of the finest landscape in the region.
The path in North Devon
The North Devon section of the South West Coast Path stretches around 90 miles and has amazing views over the Bristol Channel. It can be accessed from places like Combe Martin, Ilfracombe, Lee Bay, Morthoe, Woolacombe, Croyde and Saunton Sands, which offer amazing watersports opportunities as well as Blue Flag award winning beaches.
The route also takes in Braunton Burrows, one of the largest sand dune systems in Britain, which is right in the middle of the North Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is part of the UNESCO designated Biosphere Reserve.
The path in South Devon
At the other end of the county, the path goes from Plymouth to Star Cross and offers a varied landscape full of beautiful beaches, estuaries and seaside resorts. This part of the path is around 104 miles and takes in Bigbury on Sea, Bantham and Hope Cove, as well as Salcombe, the English Riviera and Plymouth.
This part of the path gives you access to some incredible maritime heritage sites, such as Plymouth’s historic docks and Burgh Island where you can deviate from the path to take a sea tractor over to explore.
The path in East Devon
The South West Coast Path covers the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Jurassic Coast which is in East Devon. This part of the path is around 95 miles long and travels through East Devon and into Dorset, starting in Exmouth and going through Sidmouth and Seaton before crossing the border into Dorset.
The South West Coast Path is looked after by a charitable organisation. Comprised of members, volunteers and fundraisers, the organisation work together to protect and improve the trail for the benefit of everyone – so make sure to look after the path while you’re visiting! You can find a host of trails and routes of varying difficulty on the path’s official website.
Interested in exploring the South West Coast Path? Please wait until lockdown restrictions have been lifted, you can keep up to date with the latest guidance by visiting gov.uk/coronavirus.