Somerset & Exmoor Coast Trail

The Somerset coast overlooks the Bristol Channel, which until Tudor Times had the more romantic name of the Severn Sea. The area certainly inspired the Romantic Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge who regularly walked alongside it and is said to have composed 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner' after a visit to Watchet Harbour. He isn't alone, every year the Somerset coast inspires visitors to explore our coastal towns and villages, relax on our beaches and sample Somerset fare from cider and craft gin to cheese and cream teas.

Walk the entire coast of Somerset in eight days. Take in the spectacular Somerset and Exmoor coast on a journey through time and history on two of England’s coastal National Trails. From Brean Down at end of the Mendip Hills, you’ll be walking on the King Charles III England Coast Path past sandy beaches, coastal estuaries, salt marshes, nature reserves, protected geological beaches and cliffs, and rolling hills, woodlands, villages and seafaring towns to reach Minehead, the gateway to Exmoor. Here you join the start of the South West Coast Path and follow it through shady woodland pathways to the top of Exmoor and one of the most remote and wildest parts of your journey before descending to Porlock Weir and continuing through woodland to reach County Gate and the border with Devon.

Itinerary Overview

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

Distance

75 miles / 120 km

Days

8

Grade

Moderate to Challenging

Theme

Scenery / History / Nature / Geology

Landscape Type

Coast / Villages and towns / Rolling countryside / Estuaries

Document

Trail Passport Stamping Stations

Somerset & Exmoor Coast

This itinerary provides information and resources to help you plan your own walking adventure. Click on the blue tabs below for more information. To save this itinerary to view later, or to download it as a PDF, use the Save to My Rucksack button at the top of the page. To create your own itinerary use the link in the menu bar at the top of this page.

Route Description

Walk the entire coast of Somerset in eight days. Take in the spectacular Somerset and Exmoor coast on a journey through time and history on two of England’s coastal National Trails. From Brean Down at end of the Mendip Hills, you’ll be walking on the King Charles III England Coast Path past the sandy beaches of Berrow and Burnham-on-Sea, crossing the Rivers Brue and Parrett and exploring their coastal estuaries before reaching the marshes of Stert Point, part of the new Somerset Wetlands National Nature Reserve.

From here the trail continues to Hinkley Point where it skirts inland around the site before returning to Lilstock and the start of the Lilstock to Blue Anchor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with beaches and cliff formations that offer an outstanding series of sections through our geological past. Inland are rolling hills with manor houses and castles, medieval woodlands, villages with chocolate box cottages, and old fashioned seafaring towns with tales of shipwrecks and smuggling.

From the town of Watchet, the route shadows the steam trains of the West Somerset Railway through Blue Anchor and Dunster to end in Minehead, the gateway to Exmoor and the start of the South West Coast Path. Passing through shady woodland on winding pathways it climbs to the top of Exmoor, were rugged cliffs overlook rocky coves and Exmoor ponies graze alongside gorse and bracken.

This is one of the most remote and wildest parts of your journey before the trail drops down to Bossington and crosses Porlock Marshes to the old fishing village of Porlock Weir. Leaving Porlock Weir it takes in Culbone Church, the smallest operating Parish Church in England, on paths said to have inspired Coleridge to write Kubla Khan. From here there is a choice of routes, the lower route winds through woodlands with bubbling waterfalls, while the higher one takes in open fields. The paths re-join at Sugar Loaf Hill before heading to County Gate and the border with Devon.

Along the entire route we have worked with local businesses to create stamping stations for The Somerset & Exmoor Coast Passport, which is available from visitor and information centres on the Somerset coast.

Itinerary

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, back inland across the Somerset Levels or south along the coast of Somerset.

Brean Down is classed as a Historic Monument and as well as the Palmerston Fort at the end of the peninsular, there is evidence of an iron age hill fort and Second World War defences, more of which punctuate the walk to Minehead in the form of pill boxes.

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

From Burnham the trail takes you past the award-winning Apex Leisure and Wildlife Park, before reaching Highbridge where it leaves the coast to follow the River Parrett to Bridgwater.

This section of the trail is within the newly created Somerset Wetlands National Nature Reserve that includes the Huntspill River and Pawlett Hams, once noted as the richest 2,000 acres in England, as well as areas of war time and industrial heritage. As you walk, take in the views of Stert Island in the estuary, and Stert Point on the other side of the River Parrett..

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.

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

Steart Peninsular and Marshes are managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) to promote their role as a natural flood barrier; the marshes here 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. To protect them the trail is diverted inland away from their feeding grounds between October and April. In other sections of the route, bird hides and screens afford views across the wetland shores allowing walkers to see the bird life. Sensitive planting and landscaping also means there is something of interest in any season.

Leaving the peninsular the path follows the West Somerset Coast Path through Stolford and follows a diversion 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. It reached its heyday in the second half of the 19th Century before storms caused extensive damage in early 1899. By the end of 1920s it had fallen into disuse, although the remains of its quayside stores and cottages can still be seen today in the woods backing the harbour area.

This is also the start of the Lilstock to Blue Anchor Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The cliffs and shore in this area show blue lias pavements and rock strata that are part of the same systems as those on the Jurassic coast in Dorset,45 miles to the south. Created approximately 195 to 200 million years ago, they consist of yellow-weathering grey limestones which alternate with units of darker mudstones and shales. Geologists refer to this part of the Jurassic as the ‘Lower Lias’.

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

This section of the coast continues the geological theme, ancient earth movements and modern landslips have thrown up some wonderful shapes and colours on this section. As you walk along the beach sections of the trail the key is to look up at the cliffs and their layered structure, and while walking along the cliffs look down on the shore’s swirls and pavement patterns.

From Kilve, the route passes through East Quantoxhead where it leaves the West Somerset Coast Path to stay on the coast to St Audries with its spectacular beach waterfall, before continuing to the old seafaring town of Watchet where it re-joins the West Somerset Coast Path.

Note that these coastal sections here are flooded at high tides so check tide times before setting out and revert to the West Somerset Coast Path’s inland route if the beach route is not passable.

Leaving the beach at Helwell, you pass next to the West Somerset Railway and may be lucky enough to witness the stunning sight of steam trains alongside the Coast Path. Watchet is full of history and tall tales and its museums and visitor centre are well worth the visit to find out more about this historic coastal town.

From Watchet the trail heads along the coast to Blue Anchor offering stunning views towards Minehead and Exmoor. It is particularly important to be cautious about walking too near to the cliff edge here as this section of coast is susceptible instability and rock falls.

At Blue Anchor the path stays on the beach passing war time pillboxes and offering stunning views of Dunster Castle. A detour into Dunster offers another interesting excursion to see the old Yarn Market in the heart of the village.

Heading towards Minehead and the start of the South West Coast Path you pass the dunes and greens of the golf before reaching its quintessential seaside esplanade.

On Minehead’s seafront the quay side cottages shelter under 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.

On Minehead’s Quay Street the sculpture known locally as the Iron Giant marks the start of the South West Coast Path, a 630 mile trail that take you all the way to Poole in Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.

As you head to the top of North Hill, you start to experience the challenges of Exmoor and its coombes and gullies. The trail zig zags up the hill through woodland until you emerge on North Hill to views across the channel to Barry in Wales and the start of some more rugged and remote walking.

This section of the South West Coast Path includes two sections with a choice of walking the SWCP or the ‘rugged’ SWCP. The latter is rugged, hilly and remote with long sections surrounded by wilderness, while the former includes gorse lined paths and passes Selworthy Beacon with its trig point coming in at 308m (1013 feet).

Look out for Exmoor ponies and in the autumn listen out for the red deer rut, while all year round the ground is covered by a mix of gorse, heather and bracken providing colour no matter when you visit.

On the end of North Hill at Hurlstone Point the view to Foreland Point in front of you with Bossington’s curved pebble shore below is one of Exmoor’s iconic views.

From here the trail descends through the Holnicote Estate to the village of Bossington where you skirt Porlock Marsh, a haven for wildlife, to reach Porlock Weir. Just inland the main village of Porlock is worth a visit and has shops, cafés and campsites to tempt you from the trail before heading on to Porlock Weir for the harbourside ambience and Porlock Bay Oysters.

For the Bonus stamps continue your journey to County Gate and complete the entire Somerset coast. The journey is a further 5.8 miles/9.33 km and takes you through Yearnor woods and past St. Bueno’s Church in Culbone, said to be the smallest Parish Church in England with seating for about 30 people.

Arriving at County Gate you are at the heart of the landscape described by R D Blackmore in Lorna Doone, with Oare and Robber’s Bridge to the south and views of the East Lyn River.

Somerset & Exmoor Coast Trail Passport

The Somerset & Exmoor Trail Passport has all the information you need to explore this fantastic coastal trail. This free pocket size booklet is an invaluable companion containing maps, route details, things to see and do as well as spaces to collect stamps from our business partners on the trail.

Each stamping station has something different to see, do or experience, and some have offers exclusively for passport holders.

Trail Passport Collection Points & Stamping Stations

You can collect your Somerset & Exmoor Coast Trail Passport from the Collection Points listed here. Once you have your passport you can view or download the full list of stamping stations in .pdf format here so that you can plan your journey. Don’t forget to check in and download the latest version before you set out as new stamping stations are being added all the time.

Always check the websites / Facebook pages for opening times and days as some are seasonal or operate on restricted hours in winter.

NT Beach Hut, Brean Down, Brean, TA8 2RS

TO DO: Take on the 3-mile circular walk on Brean Down, visit Brean Down’s coastal fort, take a walk on the beach at low tide (watch out for mud) and take a selfie with the Down behind you.

FIND OUT MORE: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/somerset/brean-down

 

South Esplanade, Burnham-on-Sea, TA8 1BU

TO DO: Get information on amazing local attractions/walks etc

FIND OUT MORE: www.burnhaminformation.co.uk

Bridgwater Town Hall, High Street, Bridgwater, TA6 3AS

(please check opening times)

TO DO: Check our local information leaflets and pick up a free map of Bridgwater

FIND OUT MORE: www.bridgwater-tc.gov.uk, 01278 427692

Castle Street, Nether Stowey, TA5 1LN

TO DO: Sign up for a library card and browse our books, which includes our Coleridge collection.

FIND OUT MORE: www.thomaspoolelibrary.org.uk

Special Passport Offer – Bring a refillable travel mug and help yourself to a tea or coffee

Killick Way, Williton, TA4 4QA

TO DO: A nice warm place to sit or use the free internet computers.

FIND OUT MORE: www.somerset.gov.uk/locations/williton-library/

11 The Esplanade, Watchet, TA23 0AJ

TO DO: Browse the books and sign up for a library card. Come into the Library to take advantage of the free internet, in a warm space.

FIND OUT MORE: www.somerset.gov.uk/locations/watchet-community-library-2

Harbour Road, Watchet, TA23 0AQ

TO DO: Take a selfie with Yankee Jack!

FIND OUT MORE: www.lovewatchet.co.uk, 01984 632101

Dunster Steep, Dunster, TA24 6SE

(Seasonal opening only)

TO DO: Find out about Exmoor!

FIND OUT MORE: www.exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk/enjoying/national-park-centres/dunster-national-park-centre, 01643 821835

c/o The Beach Hotel , The Avenue, Minehead, TA24 5AP

(Seasonal opening only)

TO DO: Get information about what to do and see in and around Minehead.

FIND OUT MORE: www.mineheadbay.co.uk, 01643 702624

Bancks Road, Minehead, TA24 5DJ

TO DO: Browse the books and sign up for a library card. Enjoy the use of Public Computers with free internet in a warm space.

FIND OUT MORE: www.somerset.gov.uk/locations/minehead-library

West End, Porlock, TA24 8QD

TO DO: Take away lots of local information and maybe pick up a souvenir or two.

FIND OUT MORE: www.porlock.co.uk, 01643 863150

Accommodation

You can download a list of the accommodation featured on this site here, select the Somerset & Exmoor Coast section in the dropdown menu on the left.

The main towns of Burnham-on-Sea, Bridgwater, Watchet, Dunster, Minehead and Porlock 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

Visit Exmoor

Burnham-on-Sea

Bridgwater

Visit Watchet

Watchet

Dunster

Minehead Bay

Porlock Visitor Centre

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 King Charles III England Coast Path, and Taunton is an access point for Bridgwater and Minehead for the King Charles III England Coast Path or the South West Coast Path.

Between Blue Anchor and Porlock the Exmoor Coaster runs regularly throughout the day in spring, summer and autumn providing a great way to explore this section of the trail from a single base.

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

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

For public transport options and journey planning throughout Somerset visit Think Travel

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 the 20 bus timetable

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

Trains to and from Burnham & Highbridge or Bridgwater are operated by GWR, note that the Burnham & Highbridge train station is in Highbridge.

Bus number 21 operated by First Somerset runs between Burnham-on-Sea, Highbridge, Bridgwater and Taunton. Click here for the 21 bus timetable.

Trains to access destinations in West Somerset are operated by GWR and the area is reached from Taunton station.

National Express coaches stop at Taunton bus station.

Bus number 28 operated by First Somerset travels between Taunton and Minehead stopping at both the train and bus stations and passing through Williton, Watchet and Dunster on route to Minehead. Click here for the 28 bus timetable.

Alternatively, try the the old steam trains of the West Somerset Railway. This can be joined at Bishop’s Lydeard station which is also on the 28 bus route and stops at Williton, Watchet, Blue Anchor, Dunster and Minehead. Timetables can be found here West Somerset Railway

Between Blue Anchor and Porlock the Exmoor Coaster runs regularly throughout the day in spring, summer and autumn providing a great way to explore this section of the trail from a single base.

The route uses open top buses enabling visitors to take in the fantastic views on this section of coast.

For information and times visit The Exmoor Coaster here.

Advice

The Somerset and Exmoor coast features stunning cliffs and long beautiful stretches of sandy beach. 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, Brue 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 regulations.

Closures & diversions

From time to time sections of the England Coast need to close, whether that is to accommodate other activity in the area or to protect sensitive wildlife along the route. At present the following diversions are in place:

Diversion at Hinkley Point due to land management operations

Diversion at Cleeve Hill, Watchet

Steart Marshes winter closure

For those planning future walks please note that between 1st October and 31st March each year there is a winter route at Steart Marshes to protect over-wintering birds.

Circular routes and short walks

There are many circular and short walks along this route. We have also produced a series of Storywalks that use the internet to guide you on walks that provide an insight into the natural history and heritage of a number of locations on the King Charles III England Coast Path in Somerset.

To find details and download walking notes, maps or .gpx files, visit the Circular Walks page here.

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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