Our South West Coast Path odyssey started in September 2005. We didn’t plan to walk the whole Path, not at first; our goals were Land’s End, St Michael’s Mount and Prussia Cove, scenes familiar to Trevor from previous family holidays. We decided the best way to link them was to walk between them! So we took an open-topped bus from Penzance to Land’s End and set off walking to Falmouth over the course of a week, carrying all our gear and staying in a different B&B each night.
We found the Cornish coast so beautiful, and the point-to-point holiday format so enjoyable, that we returned to Land’s End the following year to walk the northern coast as far as Newquay, arriving amongst surfers. By this time we were hooked and made plans to complete the whole Path. To keep things simple we decided to stay on the south coast and over five more separate weeks (2011-2016) we trod the entire southern Path from Falmouth to South Haven Point. Wading through the River Erme was one of Trevor’s favourite moments; we found Dorset cream teas every bit as delicious and Dorset cottages as delightful as Devon’s; and the Jurassic Coast was an education.
We decided to complete the north coast in the “wrong direction” in order to keep the sun and prevailing wind behind us. Returning to Newquay in 2018 (12 years after we’d last left it) we walked 120 miles in two weeks to reach Barnstaple. This was Christine’s favourite stretch, rounding Trevose Head in blazing sunshine and battling the bracing winds at Hartland Quay. We completed the last 70 miles Barnstaple to Minehead over two weeks in September 2019. Our friend Sarah joined us for our very last day’s walking, Porlock to Minehead, and was so inspired that she now plans to do the whole walk!
We walked 630 miles over 15 years in 9 separate holidays totalling 11 weeks, and stayed in 76 different B&Bs, hotels/hostels, and once with a friend. We always chose September and were usually blessed with warm sunshine, counting less than 10 rainy days across the entire length of the Path. We were never in a rush. Each trip we factored in a day / half day to explore sites of historical interest or beauty at our leisure. We’re not the fittest or fastest walkers; we like to try out the benches, talk to other walkers and hear their stories, take lots of photos and peer through binoculars at the glorious landscapes. For all these reasons it has sometimes taken us up to twice as long to complete a day’s walk as the suggested timings in the Guide. But we always got to our destination!
Being railway enthusiasts we made the most of many transport highlights: arriving in the South West via the Paddington to Penzance sleeper train on several occasions, using the peninsula’s branch lines to start or finish our sections, and visiting all the heritage railways, tramways and funiculars on or near the Path. From South Haven Point we travelled home via the delightful Swanage Railway, and from Minehead we started our journey home on the West Somerset Railway.
We are of course extremely grateful to the Association for providing such excellent information, helping create a community spirit amongst walkers and keeping the Path in such good condition (on the occasions when we had to leave the Path to find our accommodation we noticed an immediate drop in the quality of the footpaths and their signposting).