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Family jumping at Land's End

Celebrating the South West Coast Path

Celebrating the South West Coast Path

- December 23, 2020 -

Here at Western Discoveries, we naturally spend a lot of time on the Cornish stretches of the South West Coast Path. We couldn’t do what we do without it, and Cornwall would be a far poorer place without this well maintained and (usually!) well-signposted route. We take a closer look at this wonderful national treasure.

What is the South West Coast Path?

The South West Coast Path is a 630-mile pathway that runs along the cliffs, proms, fields and lanes of England, from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset. It’s a clearly waymarked national trail, and takes in some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the UK. It’s a footpath designed almost exclusively for walkers (there’s very little bridleway) and their well-behaved dogs.

 

Most walkers tackle the path in day-long chunks, and some people have made it their ambition to eventually bag the full 630 miles. Writer and author Raynor Winn beautifully describes her experience of walking the whole route in her book The Salt Path. A team from the Royal Marines covered the entire length in six days a few years ago, running for two hours at a time. The current solo walker record is 10 and a half days, set in September 2020 by Kristian Morgan.

The sea at Trebarwith Strand. Photographer Dan Martin, Saltash

We prefer a more laid-back approach to the SWCP, and our longest walk (119 miles from St Ives to Falmouth and its moors) takes a relatively leisurely 10 days.

The History of the South West Coast Path

The path didn’t begin life as a recreational trail. The original routes were used by coastguards on the lookout for smugglers, and we presume, by the smugglers themselves. One of things we love about the path is the way it really hugs the coast: it turns out, that this is so the coastguards could get a good look down into every little cove. The path was also a handy vantage point for fishermen, watching out for shoals or simply checking the weather.

 

The SWCP was designated a National Trail in 1973, and the South West Coast Path Association was formed that same year. The charity’s initial focus was to create a complete, joined-up coast path, and by 1978, all the current areas had come on board. The Association has worked hard ever since, raising funds for and awareness of this incredible resource.

The South West Coast Path in Cornwall

Because Cornwall is practically an island, we have the lion’s share of the South West Coast Path – about 330 miles is in our county. If you’re on a Cornish walking holiday, the chances are at least some of your route will take in the SWCP.

Lands End looking towards Sennen. Photographer Dean Feast

The path leads you through thousands of years of Cornwall’s history, past ancient stones and abandoned tin mines, through desolate farmsteads and pretty little villages. Walk in the footsteps of Marconi as you pass the transmission hut near Poldhu, or look out for location scenes for BBC’s Poldark in the far west.

Our Favourite SWCP Stretches in West Cornwall

We love it all, but there are a few West Cornwall coast path sections that stand out for us. The wild Penwithian cliffs west of St Ives is ruggedly beautiful, and the best stretch for exploring the UNESCO tin coast. Try our St Ives to Sennen walk.

 

The coast path around Land’s End is lovely, passing through plenty of pretty little coves (watch out for smugglers!). This also has the advantage of passing through the magnificent Minack Theatre at Porthcurno. The St Just to Penzance walking route takes in this gorgeous stretch of coastline.

 

The Lizard is like another world, with (mostly) gentle paths near verdant fields and woods. Our 4-day Marazion to Coverack walk is the perfect way to get to know this special part of Cornwall.

 

Walking the South West Coast Path with Western Discoveries

 

If you’d like to know more about our walking holidays along the Cornish coast path, please take a look at the great selection of routes on our website. We’re also always more than happy to chat about our favourite subject, so please email or call us to discuss our Cornwall walks.

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