One of the world’s best long distance walks is in my own backyard! It’s the longest of England’s National Trails, (and multi award-winning) the South West Coast Path is 630 miles (1,014 km) in length showcasing some incredible and ever changing coastlines around the SW of England starting in Minehead and finishing at South Haven Point.

 

 

I had already walked small parts of it over previous years but when Covid hit, it suddenly became something that I could do between lock downs that was close to home, was tough enough to make it challenging and offered beautiful scenery on every turn.

Covid made it harder in that I couldn’t use taxis or buses to get back to my starting point meaning that I had to do circular walks or simply A-B and return. In 2020, between lock downs and local tier systems, I walked hundreds of miles of the path on different days and barely saw anyone every day.

 

south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

 

If you enjoy the walks, please consider donating to the South West Coast Path Association who are a registered charity that promote, improve and care for the entire route. You may also wish to consider joining the National Trust whose land some of the path crosses with the additional benefit of then being able to use their car parks for free!

Below are my Strava maps, Instagram posts and thoughts from the sections I’ve done so far. I’ll be regularly updating this post.

south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Quick jump to different sections of the route of the South West Coast Path hikes

Mortehoe to Ilfracombe

This is one of my favourite sections of the South West coast path. Starting in the small village of Mortehoe, you walk through the houses initially before following a narrow track to Bull Point lighthouse. The SW coast path then follows the sea all the way to Ilfracombe with a short road section at Lee Bay. If the tide is out, then you can descend onto Sandy Cove and walk between the large rocks on this very pretty beach. Approaching Ilfracombe, there are several alternative paths which all head in the same direction and you can easily visit the Tunnel Beaches if you fancy a swim!

Paid Parking and toilets are available at Mortehoe

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

 

south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Kimmeridge Bay to Chapmans Pool

A stunning yet quiet section of the Jurassic Coast. Avoid the hordes at Lulworth and go for a paddle at both of these lovely spots. Park at Kimmeridge Bay, wander down to the beach and see how many fossils you can see on the slate rocks, before turning your attention to Clavell Tower sitting on the hill above. The South West coast path climbs up to that and then winds along the cliffs before going up sharply to Houns Tout which offers incredibly views back down the coast. Keep following the path around and you’ll soon see the gorgeous Chapmans Pool below. There are several paths down; one easy but longer, one steep and a bit tricky but much shorter. The beach provides a perfect place for a lunch stop.

Paid Parking and toilets are available at Kimmeridge Bay

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Woody Bay

Woody Bay is one of those semi secret beaches that you can’t believe you’ve never been to before. The short, but steep, walk winds down the zig zag footpath through some lovely woods and across several small streams before coming out onto the pebble and sand beach which is sheltered by the steep cliffs. At low tide, there is a natural swimming pool created by rock pools with views down the coast towards Lynton and across to Wales on a clear day.

Free Parking can be found at the top of the roads/paths

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Ilfracombe to Watermouth Cove

We parked at the Harbour near to the Verity statue which offered a quick and easy start to gaining access to the South West coast path but there are plenty of other places available as well. Verity is well worth a quick look (remember to look at both sides) and keep an eye out for dolphins in the harbour on a sunny day. Our route took us around the harbour then up a steep hill which offered a great view back to Ilfracombe before winding slowly down to Hele Bay. After this there is a section along a busy road which isn’t the best but it soon drops behind hedges before descending back down to the cliffs. Rounding a corner, you get a lovely view of Watermouth Cove and the castle (keep an eye out for the alpaca). At low tide you can drop down and walk across the estuary past the boats before following the path onto the small peninsula which is a nice place to stop for a snack.

Parking and toilets available at the harbour.

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Combe Martin to Holdstone Hill

Combe Martin is one of the small villages nestled on the North Devon coastline with a small sandy cove. The footpath quickly gains height from literally sea level, passes Wild Pear Beach (if you know, you know) before climbing further to Little Hangman and Great Hangman which are two of the highest points on the entire path. The view from Little Hangman is spectacular in all directions. We carried on and dropped down into Sherrycombe valley where you can cross over on a little wooden bridge before climbing back up to Holdstone Hill/Down for lunch with a view across to Wales.

Paid parking and toilets are available by the beach.

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Mortehoe to Morte Point

Starting in the small village of Mortehoe, you walk through the houses initially before following a narrow track to Bull Point lighthouse. The South West coast path then turns left and goes past some extremely nice beaches before finally reaching the jagged Morte Point rocks. On the day I was there, the wind was so strong that we had to clamber up behind the rocks rather than going around the point! The loop continues towards Woolacombe before turning left again back into Mortehoe village. Watch out for sea foam on a windy day and all sorts of birds of prey.

Paid Parking and toilets are available at Mortehoe

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Welcombe Mouth to Higher Sharpnose Point

Welcombe Mouth is another of my favourite parts of the coastline. The car park is down a dirt pot hole filled track with a stunning view over the beach which is loved by surfers. There is a small river running next to the road that separates the two hills with a small waterfall down onto the beach. We saw bats flying around in at dusk. The path, from the car park, climbs sharply up giving incredible views across the beach, cliffs and the rocks hidden under the water. It winds around several points, past Ronald Duncan’s writing hut, into Cornwall (there is a little boundary sign) and past a collapsed church (which we hid in to eat a snack during gale force winds). Higher Sharpnose Point, as the name suggests, is a small point accessed by a ridge giving excellent views up and down the coast line. If you are lucky to get this to yourself then this is wonderful lunch spot.

Free parking is available at the Welcombe Mouth National Trust car park

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Bucks Mills to Blackchurch Rock

All sorts of emotions about this hike. I got utterly soaked and finished deep into the dark but had Clovelly village literally to myself, saw hundreds of pheasants and got some very bleak photos & video of Blackchurch Rock which can be seen further down. Bucks Mills is a very pretty little village consisting of a handful of cottages next to a small stream that runs down from the woods to the sea. The South West coastal path climbs out of the valley before following several woods, very muddy fields and finally a fire road into Clovelly. It was on this day that I found out that my waterproof hiking shoes, weren’t waterproof. Clovelly is a gorgeous cobbled village where no cars are allowed and normally very popular with tourists. Its well worth the detour and you can do a loop through the village before regaining the path which continues through a manor house estate and then back onto the cliffs once again. The path drops down to another stream which you can follow to the rocky beach on which sits Blackchurch Rock. If you want to see this in all its glory, then ensure that the tide is out first!

Free car parking at Bucks Mills (just follow the signs and don’t go into the village)

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

County Gate to Valley of the Rocks

County Gate was (when I was there twice) a bleak spot between Somerset and Devon indicated by two stones at the side of the road and conveniently a car park. There are several foot paths which cut down to the South West coast path which then winds through several woods before coming out onto the cliff paths with stunning views in both directions. I followed the path to Lynton, down into the small town and back up the other side to eat my lunch at Valley of the Rocks surrounded by feral goats. On my way back, I detoured to take a look at Foreland Point lighthouse which is worth a quick visit if you have time. It’s a long full day walk but well worth it for the views in both directions.

Free car parking and toilets are available at County Gate.

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

County Gate to Culbone Church

Another shocking day weather wise with incredibly strong winds and horizontal rain but a good loop walk starting on the Exmoor hills looking down onto the sea and across to Wales (I’m guessing – I couldn’t see anything). I followed a foot path that cut across fields, through several farms and a green lane before dropping down through the ancient woodland that surrounds Culbone Church. This very small church sits beside a small river surrounded by trees and I saw precisely zero people both times I had my lunch here. There is a lot of history in the woods including rumours of a witch, bona fide stories of prison camps and a leper colony. There are also some fallen down tunnels that once belonged to a grand house further down the coast. After lunch, I picked up the South West coast path and followed it along to Sister’s Well before turning left and following the steep climb back to the car park.

Free car parking and toilets are available at County Gate.

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Welcombe Mouth to Speke’s Mill Mouth Waterfall

I had the car park to myself when I arrived – even the surfers weren’t braving the forecast rain today. The coast path crosses over the river on giant stepping stones before kicking up sharply to the top of the cliffs. The view back down to the beach and beyond is fabulous from here. The path then continues along the cliff edges (several parts have fallen away) before cutting inland briefly past some huge radio aerials. Back on the coast edge, it continues all the way to Speke’s Mill Mouth Waterfall which has got to be one of the prettiest parts of this coastline. The waterfall is viewable from both sides and I was lucky to see a kingfisher flash by as well. There are steps and stairs leading down to the massive beach below where I ate my lunch (cheese and marmite sandwiches of course) before heading back. Avoid the lower path in both directions if you can. It becomes extremely boggy and muddy.

Free parking is available at the Welcombe Mouth National Trust car park

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

East Titchberry to Speke’s Mill Mouth Waterfall

I actually found this place by accident – I wanted to park at Hartland Point lighthouse but the private road was closed due to Covid so I ended up parking at the National Trust East Titchberry farm and walking up a foot path that then joined onto the South West coast path. This is another stunning part of the route with small coves, an end of the world type lighthouse and incredible views in all directions. Parts of the walk can get quite exposed in high winds so take care though. From this direction, Speke’s Mill Mouth Waterfall is completely hidden right until the last moment which gives a bigger sense of drama to the landscape.

Free parking is available in a small layby at National Trust East Titchberry farm

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Bossington to Culbone Church

Everyone has been to Bossington Beach right? No? You should – it’s a huge pebble beach where every step echoes as you walk across it. The drive into Bossington is via Allerford which is a very pretty village full of very pretty thatched cottages and (normally) a fantastic tea rooms at Bossington village itself. My walk took me down the quiet lanes to the beach which I then followed for as long as I could until the estuary break point forces the footpath inland before looping around and back onto the beach into Porlock Weir – a sleepy small harbour town. The South West coast path then continues up between houses onto the hills above giving brilliant views back over the sea and Bossington. Several big landslides over the past few years have rerouted the path a bit so it now zig zags up and then back down the hill on the way to Culbone Church going past several fairytale tunnels which were once part of the grand Italian garden at Ashley Combe House. Culbone Church is a lovely spot for lunch beside the quiet river before retracing my steps.

Paid parking and toilets are available at the National Trust car park in Bossington

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Lizard Point to Kynance Cove

Another place that has been on my to do list for ever but never got round to it until now. And boy oh boy did I pick a stunning (yet windy) day for it. The South West coast path is a few meters from the car park and its worth taking a quick look at the old buildings and slipway as well first – I saw a feel seals nosing around and hundreds of sea birds. The well worn path then follows the coast all the way along to Kynance Cove with stunning views and the sound of crashing waves at all turns. I timed it badly arriving at Kynance with the tide being in so I didn’t get to see the white sand beach that it’s famed for (another visit is needed) but that still didn’t take away from the impressive beauty of this lovely location. It’s well worth a visit and you really feel like you are abroad!

Paid parking and toilets are available at Lizard Point National Trust car park

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Hartland Point to Blackchurch Rock

I wanted to see Hartland Point lighthouse first so parked at the farm, joined the South West coast path and headed in the opposite direction than I intended first of all. The wind was absolutely howling at the view point above the lighthouse with not another soul in sight. Retracing my steps, I headed back then past the farm and onwards to Blackchurch Rock. The path follows the cliffs for sometime before cutting in and out of fields before dropping down into a deep valley and then back up the other side. Finally you drop down another valley and can follow the river down to the pebble beach where the massive rock stands – stupidly I hadn’t looked at the tide times and whilst I could see the rock, I couldn’t see the beach around it (see my other post on this location). There is a hut/church on top of the hill on the other side which looks out over the sea which was a perfect place for lunch before heading back. This was another finish in the dark day but totally worth the effort.

Free parking is available in a small layby at National Trust East Titchberry farm

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Valley of the Rocks

Always on my list but never visited until forced to stay local, Valley of the Rocks is a stunning area to spend an afternoon exploring. The official South West coast path follows the ridge of rocks between the valley and the sea but there are plenty of other foot paths up into the hills and woods that easily create a loop which gives you amazing views down into the valley and over the sea and coastline. After clambering up onto the jagged rocks, we followed the path back down to the road and headed towards one of the coves and beaches below – to be faced with a bunch (gaggle?) of nuns and a Wind in the Willows type old car complete with hat wearing driver! No I’m not making this up. After a late lunch on the beach, we climbed back up to the road and followed it south for a bit before joining another footpath which zig zagged up through the woods and onto the hills above the valley before circling back down just as it got dark.

Paid parking and toilets are available at Valley of the Rocks

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

Lulworth Cove to Mupe Bay

Lulworth Cove is very popular for a reason – it’s absolutely stunning. On a sunny day you’ll be forgiven for thinking that you are overseas! We walked along the beach initially before then cutting up and away from the sunbathing hordes back onto the South West coast path which follows the Jurassic coast with incredible views, landscape and seas in all directions. There are several very steep climbs in each direction but each climb just leads to better and better views. We had lunch sat right on the top of one of the cliffs looking back over the bright blue sea and white beach below before pushing on (and up) to another cliff overlooking Mupe Bay. Retracing our steps, we stayed on the high path and walked back to Lulworth via the firing range which is open to the public on certain days. We took a quick detour up and over to Durdle Door which has absolutely heaving as normal so stayed up on the coastal path rather than venturing down onto the beach.

Paid parking is available at Lulworth Cove and toilets are available in the village. Both get very very busy.

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south west coast path, South West Coast Path hikes, Bens Travels

South West Coast Path distance calculator is designed to help you plan your walk – just enter your start and finish point to find out the distance you will be walking

See more of my hiking around the world such as around the small islands of the Isles of Scilly in the UK, through the mountains in Ethiopia, or the Causeway Coastal hike in Northern Ireland

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