This one came out of a conversation with my father when in 2007 we talked about doing some walking on the Dorset coast, scene of several childhood family holidays. Realising the the SWCP covered all of the area we were looking at, the idea morphed into doing the path itself, although originally we were only really looking at that first stretch and had no firm plans to do the whole thing.
The 4 days my father, brother and I did in June 2008 were hot and sunny and it was a great few days walking – so much so that we decided to continue with the path and to do it in annual chunks. We have broken the path down into sections (completed sections link to write-ups of the walks):
- South Haven Point to Weymouth (2008)
- Weymouth to Sidmouth (2009)
- Sidmouth to Dartmouth (2010)
- Dartmouth to Plymouth (2011)
- Plymouth to St Austell (2012)
- Looe to Falmouth (2013)
- Falmouth to (almost) Penzance (2014)
- Penzance to St Ives (2015)
- St Ives to Padstow (2016)
- Padstow to Bude (2017)
- Bude to Barnstaple (2019)
The sections have been chosen to be 4-6 days walking each year, and so that we can get to the start and end by train, or worst case a decent bus service. A couple of times we’ve taken the car and based ourselves somewhere handy for multiple nights at a time.
The table below shows all of the walks in the order of the path from Poole (South Haven Point) to Minehead – so technically walking it backwards.
Where we bailed out and left a gap, the subsequent return to fill that gap in is in italics. Similarly, additional walks along the coast path that weren’t part of the main project are shown, but also in italics. Where a section was walked backwards, it is still shown in the main order, but the fact it was walked backwards is indicated in the “To” column. The write-up for each day’s walk can be found by clicking on the date.
Wherever possible (as I’m creating this retrospectively), I have included details of where we stayed overnight. However, I’ve decided not to link to them as that brings the burden of keeping it up to date. There should be enough in the Accommodation column to enable a google search,and I’ve indicated any particularly good or bad places in the accommodation note too (views are of course our own and based on our own experience, and reflect our needs of an accommodation provider, which will no doubt differ from yours).
(£) indicates accommodation that was expensive compared with the norm of £35 to £45 per person.
(*) indicates particularly good accommodation. More stars shown the better.
(x) indicates particularly bad accommodation (this may be due to value for money, standard, level of hospitality shown etc).
Most accommodation was considered servicable enough for our needs, so is shown without additional qualification – I’ve only indicated those that vary significantly from the general standard.
Our general rule for accommodation, observed on these walks is as follows. Best to worst types of accommodation:
- Informal/with the family (ie a spare room in someone’s house) – these tend to be places where they enjoy meeting people, and aren’t doing B&B to get rich. The entire focus is on making you feel welcome and nothing is too much trouble: Prime example – Swiftsure at Gorran Haven.
- Farmhouse. Similar to the first but a larger scale and a bit less intimate. Often greeted by a Cream tea. Prime example: Blackmanston Farm.
- Wildcards like Burton Bradstock. They don’t come often.
- Normal B&Bs (those that greet you with tea and cake better. Anywhere there’s a lot of signs up in the room should be avoided). B&B standard is, however, mostly determined by location. Nice ones often have a 2-night stay requirement, and not just at weekends.
- Pubs. These tend to be more expensive for no better quality. Often the B&B is run “seperately” from the main pub, throwing up inconsistencies like great pub food in the evening and a horrible, meagre basic breakfast in the morning. A decision to stay at a pub is usually the result of there being no other viable options.
- Anywhere in Penzance or Newquay.
Please note how far back in time any of the accommodation experiences were before relying on what I think of each place to make your own arrangements.
|1||South Haven Point||Swanage||12.2 km||The Limes, Swanage||06 June 2008|
|2||Swanage||Kimmeridge||21.1 km||Blackmanston Farm (***)||07 June 2008|
|3||Kimmeridge||Lulworth||13.5 km||Burngate Farm, West Lulworth||08 June 2008|
|4||Lulworth||Weymouth||19.1 km||Sunbay Guest House, Weymouth||09 June 2008|
|5||Weymouth||Portland Bill||16.2 km||Old Bill House, Portland Bill||14 May 2009|
|6||Portland Bill||East Fleet||17.3 km||Heathwick House, Chickerell||15 May 2009|
|7||East Fleet||Burton Bradstock||23.6 km||Old Pottery Annexe, Burton Bradstock (basic but excellent value)||16 May 2009|
|8a||Burton Bradstock||Lyme Regis (stopped at Seatown)||9.9 km (to Seatown)||Smugglers B&B Lyme Regis||17 May 2009|
|(8b||West Bay||Lyme Regis||18.2 km||Campsite near Chard, Somerset||02 Sept 2014)|
|9||Lyme Regis||Branscombe||17.2 km||Masons Arms, Branscombe (£)||18 May 2009|
|10||Branscombe||Sidmouth||10.8 km||n/a||19 May 2009|
|11||Sidmouth||Budleigh Salterton||10.7 km||Appletree Cottage, Budleigh Salterton||13 May 2010|
|12||Budleigh Salterton||Teignmouth||23.6 km||Ringmore Lodge, Teignmouth||14 May 2010|
|13||Teignmouth||Torquay||17.1 km||Ashleigh House B&B, Torquay||15 May 2010|
|14||Torquay||Brixham||17.2 km||Sea Tang House, Brixham||16 May 2010|
|15||Brixham||Dartmouth (Kingswear)||12.3 km||n/a||17 May 2010|
|16||Dartmouth||Torcross||16.1 km||Waterside B&B, Torcross||18 May 2011|
|17||Torcross||Salcombe||21.4 km||Waverley B&B, Salcombe||19 May 2011|
|18||Salcombe||Bantham||19.0 m||The Sloop PH (£)||20 May 2011|
|19||Bantham||River Erme||15.1 km||Little Orcheton Farm (*)||21 May 2011|
|20||River Erme||River Yealm||21.6 km||Travelodge, Plymouth (xxx)||22 May 2011|
|21||River Yealm||Plymouth||19.8 km||Travelodge, Plymouth (xxx)||23 May 2011|
|22||Plymouth||Crafthole||25.8 km||Liscawn Inn, Crafthole||19 May 2012|
|23||Crafthole||Looe||15.4 km||Pencarrow Guest House, Looe (2012)|
Little Harbour, Looe (2013)
|20 May 2012|
|24||Looe||Fowey||20.3 km||Well House B&B, Fowey (**) (2012, 2013)||21 May 2012 and 23 June 2013|
|(24a||Looe||Talland Bay||12.1 km||Holiday home in Looe||21 April 2019)|
|25a||Fowey||Par||12.0 km||n/a||22 May 2012|
|25b||Fowey||St Austell||18.1 km||Pen Star Guest House, St Austell (xxx)||24 June 2013|
|26||St Austell||Gorran Haven||15.0 km||Swiftsure, Gorran Haven (***)||25 June 2013|
|27||Gorran Haven||Portscatho||19.7 km||Trewithian Farm||26 June 2013|
|28||Portscatho||Falmouth||21.4 km||Braemar GH, Falmouth||07 Sept 2014|
|28a||Falmouth||Falmouth||5.7 km||Braemar GH, Falmouth||06 Sept 2014|
|29||Falmouth||St Keverne||21.4 km||White Hart (PH), St Keverne||08 Sept 2014|
|30||St Keverne||Kuggar||14.1 km||Lyndale Cottage GH, Helston||09 Sept 2014|
|31||Kuggar||Mullion||18.5 km||Lyndale Cottage GH, Helston||10 Sept 2014|
|32||Mullion||Portheven||12.1 km||Carnson House, Penzance (x)||11 Sept 2014|
|33||Porthleven||Praa Sands||6.8 km||Carnson House, Penzance (x)||12 Sept 2014|
|34||Praa Sands||Penzance||15.0 km||Whiteways GH, Penzance (x)||01 June 2015|
|35||Penzance||Porthcurno||19.2 km||Whiteways GH, Penzance (x)||02 June 2015|
|36||Porthcurno||St Just||18.6 km||Whiteways GH, Penzance (x)||03 June 2015|
|37||St Just||Zennor (walked in reverse)||21.4 km||Whiteways GH, Penzance (x)||04 June 2015|
|38||Zennor||St Ives||10.9 km||n/a (2015) |
Lord Ryans, St Ives (2016)
|05 June 2015|
|39||St Ives||Gwithian||18.6 km||Nanterrow Farm (*)||03 May 2016|
|40||Gwithian||Portreath||14.6 km||Portreath Arms, PH||04 May 2016|
|41||Portreath||Perranporth||19.7 km||Seiners Arms, Perranporth (x)||05 May 2016|
|42||Perranporth||Newquay||16.7 km||Griffin Inn, Newquay (x)||06 May 2016|
|43||Newquay||Porthcothan||17.0 km||Old Macdonalds Farm||07 May 2016|
|44||Porthcothan||Padstow||22.1 km||Roscrea B&B, Bodmin||08 May 2016|
|45||Padstow (Rock||Port Isaac||19.9 km||Toppesfield House B&B, Camelford (***)||05 July 2017|
|46||Port Isaac||Tintagel (walked in reverse)||15.5 km||Toppesfield House B&B, Camelford (***)||04 July 2017|
|47||Tintagel||Crackington Haven (walked in reverse)||19.6 km||Pendrin GH, Tintagel (x)||03 July 2017|
|48||Crackington Haven||Bude (walked in reverse)||16.6 km||Pendrin GH, Tintagel (x)||02 July 2017|
|49||Bude||Morwenstow||16.3 km||Bush Inn, Morwenstow||08 July 2019|
|50||Morwenstow||Hartland||16.0 km||Clouds B&B, Stoke||09 July 2019|
|51||Hartland||Clovelly||17.6 km||Hamlyns / New Inn, Clovelly (x)||10 July 2019|
|52||Clovelly||Abottsham||20.5 km||Lower Winsford B&B||11 July 2019|
|53||Abbotsham||Bideford||24.3 km||Lower Winsford B&B||12 July 2019|
|54||Bideford||Barnstaple||19.1 km||n/a||13 July 2019|
Guidebooks and Navigation
As you can imagine, the duration of this project means that guidebooks and maps have evolved since we started. What we used on any particular section has tended to vary as my preferences have changed, and as new books/maps became available.
Another complication is that guidebooks and maps tend to break the South West Coast Path down into separate sections as the trail is so long. It is quite common for a publisher to break the path down into anything from 3 to 6 sections.
As a long established trail, and one of the most popular, all of the main guidebook publishers cover the SWCP, so it becomes a matter mainly of personal preference which one you go for.
Personally, route finding is a minor issue on the SWCP – there is a lot of truth in an approach of keeping the sea on your left or right (depending on which direction you’re walking). I can’t think of any significant instances where an inland detour isn’t well signed – maybe if there has recently been some erosion of the cliff, that may be the case.
The path itself is well signed with the acorn, and in places many of the gates and stiles have OS Grid references attached (this largely seems to vary according to which council area you’re in).
So, a guidebook and/or map is primarily useful for two things:
- Confirming how far down a particular section you are / how far to the next facilities etc.
- Helping you plan logistics
How much you need either of these things will largely be a factor of how you are tackling the path – in one go, or in sections, or as individual day walks.
When we planned the sections we did, the crux was accommodation – booking for single night stays, not as a couple but a couple of guys wanting a twin room rather than a double was problematic. We found the best way to plan was to research all the accommodation options for each of the daily stages, then start with the most scarce or tricky place and sort that out, then fit everything around that. Our logistics was further constrained by my Dad not wanting to camp or stay in hostels, so it had to be B&Bs each night. This tied us to stopping in actual civilisation each day.
I found the website of the South West Coast Path Association (and the book they publish) to be particularly helpful. Other than that I used a variety of books and maps and Google.