The South West Coast Path is the grand-daddy of Britain’s long-distance footpaths, being the longest by a factor of two. It stretches for 1014 km (630 miles), running from Minehead in Somerset, round the coasts of Devon and Cornwall to Poole in Dorset. Since it rises and falls with every river mouth, it is also one of the more challenging trails. The total height climbed has been estimated to be 35 031 metres (114 931 feet), almost four times the height of Mount Everest.
The path has been a complete National Trail since 1978. It now forms part of the developing England Coast Path, but I expect it to retain its own identity and structures for a good while to come.
Many of the landscapes which the South West Coast Path crosses have special status: the path passes through two World Heritage Sites – the Dorset and East Devon Coast, known as the Jurassic Coast, was designated in 2001; and the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape in 2007. The route passes through a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the Exmoor National Park, and at least five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
My first visit to the path was a holiday on the far west of the path, from St Ives around Cape Cornwall and Lands End to Penzance, at Easter 2008. Inspired by that, my 2009 walk was from the start (or end) of the path at Minehead along the northern coast to Woolacombe, and in 2010 I had a summer (albeit a bit damp) walk from Padstow to St Ives. In the spring of 2011 Lucy and I and the dogs had a holiday near Falmouth and that gave the opportunity to continue eastwards from Penzance. The two of us having enjoyed the Falmouth area, we planned to return together another year, but in the meantime I returned alone in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017.
Sadly I didn’t find the opportunity to visit in 2018 or 2019, but in the temporary respite from Covid-19 I managed to fit in a visit in October 2020, and another short visit from 12 April 2021, the day self-catering visits were permitted again. Lucy and I visited later in 2021 between south-coast dog shows, and I fitted in a day-trip in June 2022. More still to come!
Total walked so far: 811 km or about 80% of the National Trail