- The National Trails
- Cleveland Way
- Cotswold Way
- England Coast Path
- Glyndŵr's Way
- Hadrian's Wall Path
- North Downs Way
- Offa's Dyke Path
- Peddars Way / Norfolk Coast Path
- Pembrokeshire Coast Path
- Pennine Bridleway
- Pennine Way
- South Downs Way
- South West Coast Path
- Thames Path
- The Ridgeway
- Yorkshire Wolds Way
Trail Information and FAQs
We have tried to provide answers to the most common questions about the Trail here. If you can't find the information you are looking for please contact us directly and we'll do our best to help.
About the Trail
The South West Coast Path is perhaps the UK’s ultimate challenge for the long distance hiker - a 630 mile (1,014 Km) adventure around the coastline of England’s southwest peninsula.
You don’t have to walk it all at once though ! The National Trail offers everyone the opportunity explore some of the most inspiring and spectacular coastal walking anywhere in the world. On the South West Coast Path website you’ll find everything you need whether you’re planning to walk the whole path, or do as most people and just go out for the day.
In terms of walking days, a fast walker can complete the whole Trail in around 30 days, but a more leisurely pace with time to stop to see some of the sights just off the path is between 7 & 8 weeks. As few people have enough time to be able to walk it in one go, most split it between several holidays and complete the path over several years.
At 8.19pm on Tuesday 24 May 2016 Damian Hall reached Minehead and the end of Britain’s longest National Trail, the South West Coast Path (SWCP). In doing so, he set a new fastest known time (FKT) for the 630-mile footpath of 10 days, 15 hours and 18 minutes, knocking more than 16 hours off the previous record. He averaged 60 miles per day.
If you are new to the Coast Path, a key tip is don’t plan to walk as far as you would normally. It is a challenging route, with in total over 115,000 feet (35,000 metres) of up and down, and it is far better to be ahead of schedule and have time to explore, than having to rush to reach your planned overnight stop.
The South West Coast Path Team coordinates the management and promotion of the whole route on a strategic basis. Ongoing maintenance and improvements are carried out by local councils and the National Trust. The majority of the path’s funding comes from Natural England. The highway authorities and the National Trust also contribute to maintenance costs.
One way anybody can get involved in maintaining the Coast Path is to report any problems encountered while walking the Trail. The rangers, wardens and South West Coast Path Association local representatives keep an eye on things but cannot be everywhere every day, so if you come across a problem, let us know.
We also encourage you to join the South West Coast Path Association, formed in 1973 by a group of enthusiasts to encourage the development and improvement of the Path. This is still one of the main aims of the Association, and it works closely with the SW Coast Path Team (who coordinate the management and promotion of the path), Natural England (the Government’s rural recreation body), local authorities and other user groups.
Over the years the Association has continued to campaign for maintenance, signing and alignment improvements, with particular attention to removing the route from roads. The Association has been closely involved in many such improvements.
These days the Association is more involved in actually helping to fund improvements and currently has a programme for such work.
You can find out more about them by visiting their website - South West Coast Path Association
The National Trust owns vast lengths of some of the most beautiful coastal land along the South West Coast Path and welcomes volunteers. To find out more visit the National Trust website and see if there is anything you fancy helping out with on National Trust land on the coast of Exmoor, Devon, Cornwall or Dorset.
Exploring the Trail
It's easy to reach the South West Coast Path. The world famous Great Western Railway built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel stretches down to Penzance, with branch lines heading off to many of the resorts along the path - and the views out of your window are stunning. The South West Coast Path website has lots of ideas of days out on the Trail by train.
There are local bus services running a fairly regular service along most of the coast, meaning that there are many sections of the path that you can do a day’s walk, without having to retrace your steps to the path – the South West Coast Path website has over 400 short walks to choose from.
Car parks are readily available at all coastal towns. At more remote locations along the Coast Path you will find informal car parks, normally managed by landowners or Parish Councils. Roads can be very busy in the summer, which can make journey times longer than you’d expect.
Find out more on our Public Transport page >>
Whilst the spring and late summer are the best times to walk the path, summer and winter can also be great. Here are our highlights of each season:
Spring is the start of nature’s year. Lambs are in the fields, trees come into leaf, wild flowers are appearing and migrant birds and basking sharks are returning from warmer climes. The fresh weather is great for walking, and the occasional shower merely sharpens the view.
Summer brings warmer temperatures, meaning you can often walk in a T-shirt and shorts, and stop off at beaches for a cooling dip. Flowers are in full bloom, and the sunshine brings out drifts of butterflies. In late summer, much of the north coast turns purple and yellow and smells wonderful, thanks to the heather and gorse coming into bloom.
Autumn means the crowds have gone home, but the weather and sea temperature often remains warm enough for swimming. At this time of year, headlands are great spots to see migrating birds making their back south. As the weather terms chillier, trees take on their lovely red and gold Autumn colours.
Winter means you have to choose your days to go walking with more care to make the most of the shorter days and more unsettled weather. However there is nothing like wrapping up warm on a blustery winter’s day and walking along the Coast Path to watch (from a safe distance) storm waves pound the cliffs. It’s also the perfect way to unwind with the whole family and walk off the excesses of the Christmas and New Year break.
Most people walk start at the Minehead end and heads towards Poole, but that is mainly because that is the direction most of the guidebooks are written (the SW Coast Path Association produce a reverse guide). If you are using the Baggage Transfer service, it also helps to go that way as you’ll be going with the flow, but otherwise it’s just as good going the other way.
Mobile phone coverage along the coast is patchy, with no signal in many of the valleys, but generally OK on headlands and in towns and villages.
Many accommodation providers pubs and cafes offer Wi-Fi. 3G mobile broadband is available in most places with mobile signal.
The Coast Path is well waymarked and easy to follow. It’s shown as Coast Path on fingerposts.
The entire South West Coast Path follows a series of defined Rights of Way along which you have a legal right of access.
An acorn is the symbol of the National Trails and it will be found on waymark and fingerposts all along the path.
When using the South West Coast Path you will see the following symbols on the Trail or on connecting paths, which can be used by vehicles, horse riders, cyclists or walkers as indicated.
An acorn, the symbol of Britain's National Trails, is used to guide your journey by marking the route in a variety of ways. It is used in conjunction with coloured arrows or the words 'footpath', 'bridleway' or 'byway' to indicate who can use a particular right of way.
The yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers The word 'footpath' and/or a yellow arrow indicates a path for use by walkers only and where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to cycle, ride a horse or drive a vehicle.
The blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists The word 'bridleway' and/or a blue arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders and cyclists but where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to drive any vehicle.
The plum arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists and carrige drivers. The term 'restricted byway' and/or a plum arrow indicates a path which can be used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists and carrige drivers but where, without the landowner's permission, it is illegal to drive any motorised vechicle.
The red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carriage drivers and motorists. The word 'byway' and/or a red arrow indicates a right of way which can be legally used by walkers, horseriders, cyclists, carriage drivers and motorists.
To report a problem on the trail go to the ‘report a problem’ page . From here you will need to identify where the problem is on the map, and add some details. If you want to be informed about progress to resolve the problem please add your email address.
Trail staff aim to resolve problems as quickly as they can, but some things do take a long time. Please be patient if you do not see immediate resolution.
Who can enjoy the Trail
Generally speaking you cannot cycle or horseride on the South West Coast Path - most of the Trail is only available to people on foot.
The few sections that can be cycled or ridden are shown on the interactive map.
The Trail has numerous steep ups and downs, and over 25,000 steps. However there are plenty of great off-road cycle routes in the Westcountry – check out the 1 South West Cycle Adventure website and Sustrans for inspiration.
The South West Coast Path is a great place to take your dog for a walk. They are permitted on the entire path, and providing that you look after them in a responsible way to avoid disturbing livestock and wildlife or causing a nuisance to other walkers, you will be welcomed.
For more advice and recommendations for places to walk your dog see the SWCP website.
No, the Trail is for walkers. Most of the path is traffic free, although there are some sections that use rural country lanes, and on pavements alongside roads where it passes through towns and villages.
Whilst much of the Coast Path is quite strenuous there are many sections that are much gentler, and are suitable for people with mobility problems, pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
The South West Coast Path website walk finder allows you to search for sections that meet your needs or interests. You can select to find easy access walks which all have a worthwhile length along fairly flat paths that are at least 850mm (2'6") wide, have a minimal cross camber, and no steps or stiles.
At a number of locations you can also hire a ‘Tramper’ rugged mobility scooter – these locations can be found using the walk finder tool.
If you are planning to run an event on the South West Coast Path please consider the location and impact on other path users. The majority of the Coast Path is robust enough to handle large numbers of walkers. However please try and avoid busy sections and peak times, as the path being over-crowded could spoil the enjoyment of your event and other people’s experience of the Coast Path.
If the event involves more than about 20 people you may wish to stagger the start to avoid ‘traffic-jams’ on narrow sections of paths or at stiles and kissing gates. For large events you may need to consult with any or all of the following; the highway authority, relevant landowners, land managing bodies, car park owners, local police and rescue services, parish councils, local Tourist Information or Visitor Centres and any relevant user groups. You will also need to get the permission of landowners for setting up check points and refreshments stops, particularly if you would like to take a vehicle where they are not normally allowed.
If you plan to organise a large event, ie one with more then approximately 50 participants, then please contact the Trail Officer. It is important that they are aware of your event. A large number of events use the Trails, the Trail Officer can advise you to ensure your event does not clash with any other event or major works that may affect or close parts of the Trail. You will be asked to contribute a minimal donation of £1 per entrant for paid events. 20% of your donation goes to support the website and promotion of National Trails, including promotion of events and 80% goes to the Trail.
What is special about the Trail
The South West Coast Path is one of the 15 National Trails in England and Wales. National Trails are designated by the Secretary of State and are administered by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, and managed by the local authorities and National Park Authorities whose area they pass through.
Most National Trails have a dedicated Trail Manager responsible for maintaining the high quality standards on the Trail. National Trails are waymarked with the distinctive “acorn” symbol.
National Trails are special because they pass through some of the best landscapes, and they are managed to a very high standard. Because of this you can be confident that any journey you make along a National Trail will be one of the best you have taken.
Natural England sets quality standards for National Trails and their management. You can find out more on the Natural England website.
The South West Coast Path is the longest of the country's National Trails, and is one of the top walks in the world. Where else can you walk along 630 miles of such superb coastline? The heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery along the way are truly inspirational and every day walking it brings stunning new experiences.
Maps, guides, certificates and merchandise
The official Guide Books for the National Trails are produced by Aurum Press. The guides are regularly updated and all details are checked by the trail managers. The books include sections of Ordnance Survey 1:25,00 maps and are the very best accompaniment to your walk. The Aurum guide to the South West Coast Path is published in 4 parts and you can buy them from the National Trails shop.
As well as a guide book we recommend a good quality map and you can buy these in paper or digital format - to browse the maps and books available please visit the Maps and Guides page.
The South West Coast Path Association publishes an annually updated guide to the path which includes a full route description, suggested itineraries, accommodation and other helpful information such as tide times.
Anyone who has completed the entire path can get a Certificate from the South West Coast Path Association. You can also get an exclusive completers cloth badge and be featured in the online Hall of Fame. Click here to find out more.
There are a series of short videos showing different aspects of the South West Coast Path – these are available online.
A range of National Trails merchandise is available from the shop.
The South West Coast Path Association is an independent voluntary organisation representing the users of the Trail. It campaigns to improve the path and raises money to help it happen. From their webshop you can purchase a selection of Coast Path books, clothing and other high quality souvenir items. Some of their most popular items are a poster map that you can mark your progress around the path on, log books, a calendar, and of course membership.
How to add information to the Trail map
Anyone can add information to the website. We hope that people who have enjoyed the National Trails will want to share their good experiences and that businesses will promote their services by adding information to the map.
You can add information to the map. This includes:
- Points of interest or attractions
- Services - for example shops, pubs, vets, cycle hire shops etc
- Details of your accommodation business
- Events - for example farmers’ markets, village fetes, guided walks
- Information to help horse riders or cyclists such as busy road crossings or water points
To add content you will need to sign up – click the join button in the top right corner. You’ll need a username and an email address. We won’t give your email address to anyone, we’ll only use it if you need a password reminder or if we need to contact you directly. For more information read our data protection policy.
Once you’re signed in you can add information to the map by clicking here.
Navigation is generally pretty easy, as the sea is always on one side. If you are doing a short walk taking a copy of the walk description and map will be fine. However if you are walking a longer section of the path then you’ll find a map or guidebook useful.
The weather along the coast is unpredictable. It’s worth taking a set of waterproofs. In the summer having a swimming costume and towel will give you the chance to have a dip at one of the many beaches you’ll likely to pass. Don’t forget sunscreen – the sea breeze can easily mask the strength of the sun.
For more advice see the South West Coast Path website