South West Coast Path

Sunset near Lester Point, Combe Martin
Sunset near Lester Point, Combe Martin

In 1997 we shouldered our rucksacks for the first time and set off on a journey into the unknown. We’d walked a long-distance trail previously in the shape of the the North Norfolk Coast Path, but that was quite a different story, being relatively flat and undemanding. We soon learned that walking in the south west was a completely different matter, and our first trip out saw us forced to cut our prospective mileage by more than two-thirds, learning a few very sharp lessons about organisation and common sense as we did so. In the end we went home feeling profoundly grateful just to have managed the 35 miles across Exmoor without doing ourselves a serious mischief – as you can read below. But we weren’t put off for long. Oh no.

More than 10 years later and we’ve made it all the way round from Minehead in west Somerset along the coast of North Devon, round the entire coast of Cornwall (a profoundly satisfying achievement in its own right), and through a good deal of south Devon too. We’ve now got to Kingswear, a charming settlement a short ferry-ride from Dartmouth – that’s roughly 475 miles out of the 630-mile total. Each year has offered different challenges – severe valleys, meandering inland detours, dodgy knees, peculiar accommodation, driving rain, vertiginous drops and viral epidemics in livestock to name just a few. Or even just finding the time to visit the south west proving to be a significant challenge.

But the pleasures of this path are so great that each year as we finished we would look at each other, conclude that we needed our heads examining – and immediately start planning the next year’s walk. Inevitably events started to get in the way – family issues, health problems, all the things that life throws at you while you’re busy making plans. But, with roughly 150 miles left, we’re confident of being able to say one day soon that we’ve walked the entire South West Coast Path, the country’s longest, most challenging and most spectacular national trail.

If only we can work out how to tackle Torbay…

You can read the full story of how we got on below: