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England Coast Path: Brean to Minehead

Somerset’s coast overlooks the Bristol Channel which until Tudor Times had the  more romantic name of the Severn Sea. It certainly inspired the Romantic Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who regularly walked alongside it from his rented cottage in Nether Stowey and is said to have composed ‘The Ancient Mariner’ after a visit to Watchet Harbour.

This four day trail takes in the diverse landscape of Somerset’s coast. Beginning at Brean Down it passes the sandy beaches of Berrow and Burnham-on-Sea, the Victorian docks of Bridgwater and the marshes of Steart Point. Once past Hinkley, the beach and cliff formations from Lilstock to Blue Anchor are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) offering an outstanding series of sections through our geological history. Taking in the seafaring town of Watchet on the way, the route shadows the West Somerset Steam Railway through Blue Anchor and Dunster to end in Minehead, the gateway to Exmoor, but you can top it off, literally, with a trek to the end of North Hill for an astonishing panoramic view of the next section of the England Coast Path.

Itinerary Overview

The icons below highlight the distance, difficulty and theme of this itinerary.

Distance

58 miles / 93 km

Days

4

Grade

Easy

Theme

History / Nature / Geology

Landscape Type

Coast / Villages and towns / Rolling countryside / Rivers

England Coast Path: Brean to Minehead

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Itinerary

This trail takes in Somerset’s diverse coastline. Beginning at Brean Down it passes the sandy beaches of Berrow and Burnham-on-Sea, the Victorian docks of Bridgwater and the marshes of Steart Point. Once past Hinkley, the diverse beach and cliff formations from Lilstock to Blue Anchor  are classified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) offering an outstanding series of sections through our geological past. Taking in the seafaring town of Watchet on the way the route shadows the West Somerset Steam Railway through Blue Anchor and Dunster to end in Minehead.

The route is mainly flat with the most strenuous section being the steps at Brean Down, though these can be avoided using the alternative path. A great get-in-shape itinerary to do before tackling some of the more strenuous sections of the England Coast Path.

Day 1 - Brean to Bridgwater

From the top of the natural pier and extension of the Mendip Hills that is Brean Down, you can look over to south Wales and the islands of Steep Holm and Flat Holm or back inland across the Somerset Levels.

As well as a Palmerston Fort, there is evidence of Second World War defences at Brean, more of which punctuate the walk to Minehead in the form of pill boxes.

To the west is the sweep of sand that will take you past Berrow Dunes, a Local Nature Reserve supporting numerous different species of flowering plants, and into Burnham-on-Sea passing its iconic lighthouse on legs and pier; the shortest in the UK.

From Burnham you walk along the banks of the River Brue past the award-winning Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park.

Leaving the coast, the path joins the River Parrett trail to Bridgwater, passing through areas of war time and industrial heritage as well as offering views across the river to Steart Point and the Bridgwater Bay Nature Reserve.

Once in Bridgwater, it is well worth stopping in the town to examine the Victorian docks – once a hub of commerce – and the many architectural gems picked out on the heritage trail.

This section of the trail is 22 miles or 35km. It can be shortened by staying in Burnham-on-Sea or Highbridge and exploring Brean Down and Berrow the day before, or starting in Weston-super-Mare and breaking the journey at Burnham-on-Sea, from which it is 15 miles or 23km to Bridgwater.

Day 2 - Bridgwater to Kilve

Leaving Bridgwater on the western bank of the River Parrett the path takes you through Somerset Levels farmland to the estuary village of Combwich and on to the Steart peninsular.

Steart Marshes are now managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to promote their role as a natural flood barrier. The marshes were deliberately breached in 2014 to create one of the UK’s largest wetland reserves. In winter the already significant populations of birds in and around Bridgwater Bay are bolstered by over-wintering visitors attracted to the developing salt marsh. Sensitive planting and landscaping means there is something of interest in any season.

Leaving the peninsular the path follows the coast through Stolford and past Hinkley Point power station to Lilstock and Kilve. This section of the coast features some stunning cliff and shore formations and fossils are regularly exposed on both the shore and the cliff face.

At Lilstock the natural harbour led to the development of a busy port in the 1820s and the remains of this can still be seen today in the woods backing the harbour area.

Ending this section of the walk in Kilve you are now in the Quantock Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offering excursions into the hills for those wanting to break their walk or try something a little more challenging.

This section of the route is 23 miles or 38km, including the diversion around Hinkley Point power station.

It is possible to break this section of the route and find accommodation in one of the villages close to the trail.

Day 3 - Kilve to Watchet

The geology of these shores has made it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with ancient earth movements and modern landslips throwing up some wonderful shapes and colours including creamy Alabaster. As you walk along the beach in this section of the route, the key is to look up, and while walking along the cliffs look down, so as not to miss anything.

The route passes through East Quantoxhead to St Audries with it’s beach waterfall and on to the old seafaring town of Watchet.

Watchet is full of history and tall tales and it’s museums and visitor centre are well worth the visit to find out more.

It is also the point at which the route joins the West Somerset Railway offering the stunning sight of steam trains arriving and leaving the town.

From Kilve to Watchet is 7 miles or 10km, a short stretch leaving plenty of time to explore the area.

Day 4 - Watchet to Minehead

Leaving Watchet the route heads along the coast to Blue Anchor. It is particularly important to be cautious about walking too near to the cliff edge here as this section of the coast is susceptible to rock falls.

When diversions are in place the route takes in a section of the the old Mineral Line, a railway that carried iron ore from the Brendon Hills to the harbour at Watchet, and through the villages of Washford and Old Cleeve to Blue Anchor.

From Blue Anchor the path stays close to the beach passing war time pillboxes and offering stunning views of Dunster Castle.

A detour into Dunster offers another interesting excursion with a path from the beach to the village, where the old Yarn Market sits in the heart of the village overlooked by Dunster Castle.

Leaving Dunster and heading towards Minehead, the hills of Exmoor and the start of the South West Coast Path draw you on past the the dunes and greens of the golf course to Minehead’s quintessential seaside esplanade.

Past the main seafront the quay side cottages shelter under Minehead’s North Hill and take you back in time to when Minehead was a busy local port trading in cattle, sheep, wool, butter, fish and coal.

Including the diversion this final section of the walk is 9 miles or 15km.

Accommodation

You can download a list of the accommodation featured on this site here, select the Brean to Minehead section on the left.

The main towns of Burnham-on-Sea, Bridgwater, Watchet and Minehead all offer a broad range of accommodation, you might also look at Weston-super-Mare for the start (or end) of your journey. On the more remote sections of the path it’s often necessary to head inland to the nearest villages. The following websites provide good accommodation listings for the main towns and surrounding areas:

Visit Somerset

Burnham-on-Sea

Bridgwater

Visit Watchet

Minehead Bay

Weston-super-Mare

Travel

There are buses, coaches and trains to and from the main towns on the trail, the following options enable you to see the services to and from Brean and Minehead. Accessing Brean Down can be from Burnham-on-Sea or from Weston-super-Mare with the most appropriate choice based on your starting point and walking itinerary.

Both Bristol and Bridgwater are access points for Burnham-on-Sea and Weston-super-Mare to join the England Coast Path.

The closest airport to the route is Bristol. For information about flights in and out of Bristol look at Bristol airport destinations.

Please note that many of the normal transport options have been suspended due to COVID19 restrictions, so double check your travel plans with the journey providers.

Brean Down / Burnham-on-Sea / Weston-super-Mare

Bus number 20 operated by First Bristol, Bath & the West travels between Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea passing through Brean.

Click here for bus timetables

Trains to and from Weston-super-Mare are operated by Cross Country trains

Trains to and from Burnham & Highbridge are operated by GWR, note that the train station is in Highbridge and a 21 bus operated by First Somerset goes to Burnham-on-Sea. Click here for the timetable.

It is also possible to travel to both Weston-super-Mare and Burnham-on-Sea by coach. Use your regular company or look at: National Express Coaches

Minehead

The main bus route in and out of Minehead is the 28 operated by First Somerset.

Click here for timetables

You can join / leave this route at Taunton or Bishop’s Lydeard.

In Taunton the 28 bus stops at the main train station and at the bus station where it connects with National Express coaches.

In Bishop’s Lydeard the 28 bus stops at the West Somerset Railway station.

The West Somerset Railway runs between Bishop’s Lydeard and Minehead. Timetables can be found here West Somerset Railway

 

Advice

The Brean to Minehead coastline features stunning cliffs and long beautiful stretches of sandy shore. But please be aware that these features also present risks. The rock formations and geological timelines visible in the cliff face include faults that can lead to landslips or rock falls at any time. Likewise the long expanses of sand can include mud or sinking sand that can trap the unwary. Wide shallow shores also mean that tides can come in very fast.

When walking please use common sense and use the following guidance:

  1. Stay away from the cliff edge (top and bottom) and keep dogs on a lead when walking in these areas
  2. Beware of mud flats and sinking sand which may extend across the beaches
  3. Beware of mud and silt in the estuaries of the Axe and Parrett rivers
  4. Follow the advice given by life guards and never ignore warning signs – they are there for your safety
  5. Always check tide times if walking across beaches see tide tables here

 

If looking for fossils, follow the Fossil Collecting Code of Conduct and be aware that the entire coast between Lilstock and Blue Anchor has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and is subject to stricter regulation.

 

Food & Drink

There are many restaurants, cafes and pubs along the trail offering local produce and home cooked food. The main towns of Burnham-on-Sea, Bridgwater, Watchet and Minehead all have supermarkets and most of the villages you pass along the route will have a village or community shop. Look out for local produce fairs and farmers’ markets too, where you get the chance to sample fresh, local food.

Somerset is famous for its cheese and cider so why not search out some local delicacies on the trail. For inspiration have a look at:

Visit Somerset

Food and Drink Somerset

Burnham-on-Sea

Bridgwater

Visit Watchet

Minehead Bay

Weston-super-Mare

Maps, Guidebooks and Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.

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