South West Coast Path

Tales from the Big Trails, in print on 2nd September 2021, available now for pre-order from Vertebrate Publishing. Featuring all 15 National Trails in England and Wales, and the 4 designated long-distance Scotland’s Great Trails. This is the story of the people I meet, the landscapes and coastal scenery and the sheer joy of walking these iconic long-distance routes in the UK. Click on a link below for a copy.

Tales from the Big Trails – Vertebrate Publishing

Tales from the Big Trails – Amazon


The big one, almost 2½ times longer than the Pennine Way running around the South West Peninsula from Minehead to Bournemouth. Only the England Coast Path will be longer when it is completed in 2020 at 2,800 miles.  At 50N latitude and exposed to the Atlantic Ocean, the South West Coast Path (SWCP) is perhaps unique on planet earth in terms of rugged accessible coastal scenery.  The legacy of the coastguard footpath and regular facilities and accommodation makes for an ideal extended adventure.  This trip lives on in your memory, continuing to provide a sense of achievement and wonder long after the walk is completed.  I hope to do this one again.

Coastal Montage
Coastal Montage – all pictures taken with my humble Sony Ericsson K750i

Completed in April, May 2007 in three two week stints.  Mostly B&B and YHA, but quite a few bivouac nights on the cliffs and beaches. This is the only sponsored walk I have done, raising over £5,000 for the Marine Conservation Society, Seafarers and the South West Children’s Hospice, all charities related to the walk.


Time of year

Avoid the peak holiday season if you are thinking of using accommodation, when all the best ones will be booked and the best ones are very good indeed. The peak holiday season from mid-July to early September will be very busy as this is a very popular tourist destination. Perhaps best to avoid the winter months when exposure to strong winds and gales makes going difficult, if not dangerous.  So Spring and Autumn, avoiding school holiday breaks, or as one landlady put it – “The newly wed and nearly dead” season.

Length of walk

630 miles – which took me 37 days, perhaps going too fast at 17 miles per day. This is one to savour. Some sections are quite strenuous as you traverse the grain of the landscape, other sections require you to study the tide tables.  They say the total amount of ascent is equivalent to climbing Mt. Everest four times! So don’t think it is all sandy beaches, some sections are rugged, with repeated climbs and descents.

South West Coast Path


Lighter backpack, with a sleeping bag and bivouac. I used YHA Hostels where possible as these are great places to stay, with tremendous views.  Some of these have unfortunately closed.  Out of season, they are quiet, although one I came across was fully booked for a stag night!

B&B’s are great and can be booked readily through the excellent SWCP Guide published by the SWCP Association.  This is a mandatory annual publication, worth its weight in gold, and perhaps the best publication of any of the National Trails. The B&B diversity is part of the experience and you are certain of a warm welcome.

Bivouacking opportunities are everywhere and if I were to do the route again (perhaps the other way around), this would be my preferred overnight strategy.  It allows you to depart before dawn when you will have the path to yourself for 3-4 hours. Likewise, you can walk into the late evening before finding a pitch, taking a siesta at lunchtime, so that you are not walking for 12-14 hours! Beaches and the lapping waves are very soporific and before too long, you will be providing navigational aid to local shipping caught in sea fog. Zzzzz! Zzzzz!  Just check those tide tables beforehand!


Before the days or Facebook, and before I started keeping a journal, I would write a postcard home every day to keep the family informed. Quite expensive now, with current postal rates, but a wonderful site to see them stacked on the mantelshelf when I returned home. The following notes are taken from those postcards. I also wrote an article for the SWCP Association Newsletter, which is a shorter, less personal version.

Part 1 – Minehead to Padstow

Taking the train to Taunton and then a bus to Bishops Lydeard, I caught a steam train, operated by the West Somerset Railway, to Minehead. What a way to arrive at your starting point. A buzzard flew alongside the train for ½ mile or so, as joyful as I was to be travelling through the countryside. The sense of arriving at a pre-war restored station was so real, I half expected a porter to take my rucksack for me.

West Somerset Railway
West Somerset Railway

It is the beginning of April, so I am prepared for a bit of bad weather, but luckily for me, I was to enjoy 6 weeks of glorious sunshine, walking almost every day in shorts. The new sculpture at the start, announced the task ahead, a full 630 miles of coastal walking. The sea my constant companion at my right shoulder. My first gentle day of 10 miles into Porlock, passing easily across “Exmoor by Sea” as I contemplate what lies ahead.

The first B&B was superb as was a local restaurant, that served a meal that was astonishingly good value as if some 5*chef was running a charity. Setting off on the path, I met up with Stuart, who was walking the path for 10 days. He was carrying a huge backpack full of camping gear. His method would be to stop early afternoon at a decent pub, drink 5-6 pints and have a meal, and then ask to camp in the garden. This strategy worked well he said, allowing him to substitute accommodation costs for beer and food! The next wooded section, with incessant climbs and descents, gave an indication of the effort that was going to be needed. The YHA Hostel was a welcome sight at Lynton, serving a lovely organic home cooked meal, by an eco-conscious young couple into Folk music I liked, specifically Seth Lakeman, a local lad. The hostel closed that September, unfortunately.

Exmoor by Sea

The route into Ilfracombe was a tough 20 miles, with over 2,000 metres of climbing according to the guide. The scenery was dramatic, more than I expected, with extensive views from Great Hangman, the highest point of the entire path at 318m. I am now in Devon as I descend into Ilfracombe and a pleasant B&B. Long chat with the Harbourmaster, an ex-Naval Commander, about why I was raising money for Seafarers, a charity that supports the maritime community. He wished me well after donating £5.

I posted my first map home as I reached Woolacombe, to walk for over 2 miles along the beach towards Croyde Bay. I stopped for a siesta at Baggy Point, before arriving at another lovely B&B, very organic, sustainable, vegetarian. Run by a lovely lady who was happy to chat about the area and its history. I find staying at these places leads to a richer experience and affirmation of life, giving you an insight as to how others live. As the sun set, I could easily see myself moving to the area, such tranquillity. After a lovely breakfast, I marched off towards Barnstaple, leaving my sunscreen behind, only to have the landlady drive up to meet me to return it. Thanks, Rose.

Which way to go?

I meet Stuart again, struggling along with his pack. We walk together through the Burrows, where he stops at a nice pub for his usual quota. I walk on to cross the bridge at Barnstaple, along with the cycle path, which is hard on the feet. Squads of potential Marines are speed marching on the same path and they leave you in no doubt that you are the one to get out of the way. It is 19C as I retire to a B&B, where I discover that the landlord was a colleague of my Father in the 1960’s. Small world.

I bump into Stuart again, who has had a skinful and is making slow progress. He must get up at dawn to get ahead of me. I stop for lunch at North Burrows and can almost touch the path across the estuary I had walked the previous day. Westward Ho! is full of tourists, eating ice creams and it is a challenge not to knock one over as I make a hasty exit to rejoin the path. A farm B&B and lovely pub that evening, with superb views of Lundy, an island in the middle of the Bristol Channel, silhouetted in the evening light.


The eggs for breakfast had been laid that morning, deep yellow and delicious. I start late and take it easy into Clovelly, that picture postcard, jigsaw puzzle fishing village. I have to go down to the harbour to take a look and climb back up easily past the tourists, my calf muscle now tuned to the landscape.  I meet a German girl, who asks me directions to Bude. I explain that this is a long and strenuous walk along the coast path.  She is carrying a small water bottle and not much else, she isn’t wearing much either as she sets off, unperturbed. I never see her again, as if I had just had a conversation with a Pixie. One of those surreal experiences. Overnight I rest well in a cosy Bivouac spot, knowing that the next section is the toughest of the whole walk.

Hartland Point to Bude cuts across the grain of the landscape, and the climbs and descents never let up. They are steep and arduous too, and you will begin to wonder if they will ever end. A geologist would be in heaven here with folded and contorted rocks and cliffs. I break the journey at Elmscott YHA, so this is a rest day of sorts with an extended siesta in unseasonably good weather. There are few people about as this coastline is difficult to access. The YHA is a real gem.

I rested well, and that was a good, as today is 15 torturous miles into Bude. I start out with a couple from Yorkshire, who are staying at the Hostel. The 3 peaks challenge came to mind as yomped ahead along the rollercoaster ride up and down into each Combe. 10 or 11 I recall. I arrive at a cafe after 5 hours, crossing into Cornwall. The owner is very impressed with my pace and cuts an extra large slice of fruitcake! Just a short walk to the B&B through wonderful Bude. Definitely, a place to return to. The landlady is delightful, but she tells me the next day she has Cancer, which I found shocking, given her hospitality, youthful looks and young family. Very humbling as I set off on the path. A time to reflect on your own mortality.

Cleave and Crackington Haven are delightful. I am now getting inside the walk and the scenery is imprinting itself on my memory and my muscles. The weather continues to hold out, I should be sleeping outside daily. The section to Boscastle is tough and I rest awhile, overlooking the unnavigable entrance to the harbour. In August 2004, this was the scene of a devastating flash flood, that destroyed the YHA Hostel I am staying at tonight. Rebuilt, it is cosy, modern and comfortable. Pictures of the aftermath are displayed on the wall, to remind us of the power of nature.

Boscastle Harbour Entrance
Boscastle Harbour Entrance

Fulmers chatter away, flying to their nests with grace and ease. I stop for a Pasty and a snooze. My legs complain about my idleness as I set off again. Newborn black lambs are bouncing around the fields, unlike me. Port Issac is busy with tourists, but I find a chair in the cafe before retiring to a seashell covered B&B. The next day I set off early to march into Padstow in 4 hours. I come across a guy studying for his ITIL (IT Services) exam. Knowing the subject in detail I explain the sections he will find challenging and rattle off a few acronyms. I walk on in the early morning fog without elaboration. It is my turn to deal out a surreal experience as his perplexed look testifies. The ferry from Rock connects with a bus in Padstow, to Bodmin Parkway station. Before I know it, I have crossed the Tamar Bridge and I am on my way home.

I now have to work for 3 days to transition a project to an incoming manager. I take the opportunity to fundraise and now have collected over £1,800. My colleagues say I look tanned and relaxed. The work environment is unreal and I can’t wait to get on the train to the south-west.

Part 2 – Padstow to Looe

The expensive return ticket is worth every penny as I set out again from Padstow mid-afternoon. The light is wonderful as I pass Mother Ivy Bay to Trevose Head lighthouse. My parents almost moved to this area when I was 15 and I suspect my life would have been very different as a result, this could have been home. Treyarnon Bay YHA is full of surfers, and I blag my way into a spare bunk having forgotten to book.

Treyarnon YHA
Treyarnon YHA

The surfers are living frugally as they take their lifesaver qualifications. They have come from as far as Scotland to take the course. They are a happy bunch full of optimism. I leave early, knowing I have a long 24-mile day ahead, so as to put Newquay behind me. I do not stop as I continue past successions of wide beaches, some with awful commercial developments, some deserted, subject to the availability of public parking. I take lunch at Fistral Bay, on a bench in memory of a British Champion Surfer, who died aged 24. I generally dislike memorial benches, it is like walking through a graveyard, but that bench seemed more deserving than others.

Memorial Bench

I have timed the tide correctly to cross at Penpol and onto spectacular, quiet and undeveloped beaches leading into Perranporth. The pub on the sand cannot be passed, so I sink a pint and have fish & chips, before investigating the YHA Hostel. As I climb towards it, a hoard of weirdly dressed men descend, clearly on a stag night. They have taken over the Hostel completely! I find a good B&B and rest well after a long day.

Not a soul on this remote beach
Not a soul on this remote beach

The stag celebrations continue on into the night and I fully expect to pass them back up the hill the next morning after breakfast, or at least the groom, chained to a lamppost. I am now entering industrial Cornwall, with evidence of tin mining. The famous Towanroath Engine House is an imposing site, supporting the miners who would tunnel many miles under the sea. Chapel Porth National Trust is wonderful, but it is a shock to arrive into Portreath, with too many empty holiday homes and a heartless seaside promenade. A recently married couple are having their photos taken. I could have suggested a few other locations that would have been more peaceful and romantic. I grab a pie from a roadside van that needs stabilisers, served by a guy who clearly likes his own product. I walk out of town back to the remoteness of the path and Bivouac for the second time this year.

Cliffside residence

Bright eyes rabbits are replaced by twinkling stars and the sound of crashing waves below the cliffs. I must sleep outside more. I wake before dawn and set off before the world is awake to Godrevy Point. A colony of seals are preoccupied with breeding, a making quite a noise about it. I grab breakfast at a great cafe and then march along a deserted beach before the huge diversion around the estuary at Hayle. St. Ives is busy with tourists and aggressive clever seagulls, stealing pasties, chips and ice creams from the unwary. I wisely take lunch indoors and leave the local patrols to scare the gulls away with trained hawks. The next section to Zennor is wild and dramatic. The local pub is wonderful and worth every penny. I spend the evening with another SWCP walker, the first I have met. He is averaging 25 miles a day and travelling light, but he is more athlete than trail walker.

Bridge near Zennor
Bridge near Zennor

What’s going on? It’s raining outside and foggy too! After 3 weeks in shorts, I have to dig deep into my backpack to find a jacket and trousers. This section is remote, rugged and wild but turns spooky as I pass through the old tin mine works at Geevor. This must have been a harsh industrial landscape in the past. The YHA is closed, so I Bivouac again, this timeless comfortably, but I am rewarded with the site of a wet owl, watching me from a tree as dusk settles.  He won’t be eating tonight for owls cannot hunt when wet. I skip dinner too.

Breakfast in Sennen Cove, so I wake early and soon catch up with Andrew, a retired Executive now putting his energies into walking and painting. We chat non-stop until we arrive at the surfers’ cafe. FEB and a Cappuccino are demolished. Andrew has two. We are joined by Roy, another walker I met earlier and it is like a walkers club. We stroll together to Lands End to have photos taken. I chat to the official photographer, who takes my photo against the famous marker post and gives me a secret tour of his hut, which contains the best of the best photos of the LEJOG/JOGLE adventurers. One shows the naked rambler, with a girlfriend. Travel light eh!

Lands End poser
Lands End poser

Commercial Lands End is dreary, but you only have to walk a few metres to see seals and dramatic coastal cliffs, being pounded by the Atlantic swell.  A sign warns “Red Route – Able Bodied Only” – to dissuade anyone in flip-flops venturing beyond the cafe and car park. I arrive at the Minack Theatre after a rugged walk, with a definite sense that I have turned a corner, the sun now lights my opposite shoulder.  I take lunch outdoors to watch the Gannets plunge into the sea for theirs. No one is watching this spectacular natural behaviour from the cafe window, preoccupied with their Danish pastries.

Porthcurno B&B’s are geared for Theatre goers so I walk on to Treen, not having booked. I am exhausted. Desperation for a place to stay turns to joy as I pass the Logan Rock Inn, and then knock on a B&B door. My angel has a vacancy! Within 30 minutes I am showered, refreshed and sitting next to a pub fire, with a pint in my hand and steak and chips ordered. The pub cat cuddles up next to me and the landlord walks over to switch on the TV for a Champions League match. I have died and gone to heaven.

Logan Rock – Heaven

The illusion continues, as next day the sun is out and I am back in shorts.  I walk past the beautiful remote Penberth and Lamorna coves, through what seems to be a tropical Victorian garden, with a proliferation of wildflowers and plants. After walking through the narrow streets of Mousehole, I arrive at Penlee Point and the memorial to the RNLI crew who lost their lives in 1981. I stop at Newlyn and the seaman’s mission for a cup of tea and the chance to put up a poster for my charity fundraising. The Penlee disaster is still fresh in their minds.

Approaching Penzance

Penzance is a chance to stock up and refresh, staying at the huge YHA with fellow itinerants. I walk across the bay the next morning, with stunning views of St Michaels Mount, a twin of Mont St. Michel in Normandy. Roy and I meet again at Praa Sands cafe before I depart for Porthleven and a bus into Helston. Tonight I have accommodation with friends and agree to meet them at the Blue Anchor, which brews the deceptively strong Spingo beer. Steve is an ex Cornish miner, who enjoys a pint or two. We are both worse for wear the next day as we got caught in a riotous stag/hen night. A true Cornish Ceilidh.

Blue Anchor and Spingo Beer - deceptively strong ale
Blue Anchor and Spingo Beer – deceptively strong ale

The midday siesta is unusually welcome the next day as I progress to Lizard Point, the most southerly tip of Britain. Choughs, Kernow’s (Cornwall) national bird put on an aerobatic display as I pass Kynance Cove. The YHA, in the converted lighthouse, is very comfortable and a chance to refresh and detoxify. I am in no rush to wake as I have an appointment with Ann’s Pasties across the road. The lie-in is welcome as the incessant fog horn and the lighthouse beam shining through my dorm window ceased as the sun rose, keeping me awake for most of the night.

Lizard YHA
Lizard YHA – with foghorn

Ann’s Pasties are legendary. I order 2 for myself and 3 to send home by post. My wife and workmates thought I had lost my marbles on receiving theirs. But one taste and you will understand what proper Pasty tastes like. I stop at Bass Point, beneath a National Coastwatch Institute (NCI) lookout, to watch a Basking Shark lollop in the sea. Time to eat my pastie. Then on to Coverack Hostel, which is a stereotypical marvellous YHA, I have a huge bay window dorm to myself with views out to sea. The fellow hostellers are all 50+ (it is a youth hostel after all) and we chat late into the evening, sharing many common interests over a wonderful meal.

Ann's Pasties
Ann’s Pasty Shop

The next morning I am almost run over by a builders lorry. It’s Steve! He has come to join me for a day walking rather than work on a patio. We natter away for the day, meeting his wife Tina, for a late afternoon meal before I cross the Helford River to a room I have blagged for the night. I miss their good company.

Defend the harbour
Defend the harbour

The next day is 20 miles, to Portscatho, with an unscheduled detour by bus and a 6-mile walk via Zone Point, as the ferry isn’t running from St Mawes, although I have crossed from Falmouth. I saw a Cuckoo for the first time as compensation. The B&B is awful, so I leave quickly to a strenuous 16 miles to Gorran Haven. The path is very quiet and the remote beaches are wonderful. A strong easterly hampers progress and means I have to run the gauntlet at Portmellon as a high tide and huge waves soak the road. I get a big cheer from the locals in the pub as I time my run to perfection. The B&B is cosy, and plenty of pub options for the evening meal.

Charlestown Harbour
Charlestown Harbour

Day 31 is hot. Shorts, again. I wisely carry more water as this is like a summers day, but in May. Superb walking as I enter Charlestown, where 3 Tall Ships are in the dock, with film crews everywhere for some documentary or costume drama.  A good 18 miles today is rewarded with a long soak in a deep cast iron bath in a very special B&B. An early ferry crossing and yomp into Looe along some of the best stretches on the southern Cornish coast. Sheltered bays and shimmering seas repeat until I catch sight of Banjo Pier. After fish and chips, the branch line takes me to Liskeard and back on the InterCity 125 towards London to mark the end of Part 2. I have a wedding to attend to and a body to rest.

Banjo Pier

Part 3 – Looe to Poole

Three trains and a bus get me back to Looe after a few days break. Everyone seems dour on an overcast day in town and out towards to Seaton. Rain develops and after a few miles I settle into a B&B and start to plan the last section, trying to time my arrival into Lulworth Cove for the opening of the Army Ranges. That’s 10 days away, but I have a more immediate problem – a sequence of estuaries crossings where one missed ferry will result in a major delay.  First of all, I walk through Plymouth, a historic cityscape, with grand views across The Sound and The Breakwater and marks the entry back into Devon, to a cosy B&B in Wembury.

Army Ranges
Army Ranges

The following day I have to cross 3 successive river estuaries, The Yealm, Erme and Avon. The first is quickly dispatched, but the second requires a taxi, as the tide is in. I have to march quickly for the third past Bigbury-On-Sea and Burgh Island. The ferryman sees me running down the hill, my walking poles waving away, and kindly waits for me. He is a big down-shifter, having been an executive in a large corporate. He is now clearly a relaxed and easy going character, recommending the Hope & Anchor at Hope Cove. I arrive later for a deserved pint of beer.

Gammon Head
Gammon Head

Now I have plenty of slack on my schedule and can relax too. The weather has not improved, but I am happy walking in the rain, as long as I stay warm. 23 miles today into Slapton via Salcombe. This section has more dramatic coastal cliffs, especially at Gammon Head and Start Point. Hard rough going, but very rewarding. I meet up with Andy at a excellent chippy in Slapton Sands, he has walked the same that day, although I’m an hour faster on time. I must be really fit now, daily average mileages are up and I do not feel as weiry each evening.  Gorgeous character B&B with chatty landlady in Slapton, plus an excellent pint and light meal at The Tower.

Slapton Sands
Slapton Sands

I walk along Slapton Sands the next morning, reflecting on the WWII tragedy that unfolded there in 1942 as preparations were made for D-Day. 749 servicemen lost their lives in tragic circumstances. Dartmouth arrives soon, and I cross the ferry for a section of tough walking into Brixham. Berry Head reveals another coastal vista to complete. It is Sunday tomorrow and I am expecting even tougher walking through crowds of holidaymakers in Paignton and Torquay.

Torquay is closed
Torquay is closed due to rain

My luck is up. It is raining heavily and no one is about, so I have the beach and coast path to myself. Everyone is indoors, peering out through their net curtained B&B’s at the weather. Only a few brave dog walkers are about, cleaning up their doings. The path is clear and the sun comes out as I stop at a nice cafe to dry out. Then on to Teignmouth, where I meet Rebecca, who is walking the SWCP and has stopped for a cigarette. Her matches are damp, but I cannot help. She is tearful, but I daren’t ask why, as she is clearly alone in her thoughts.  Hope she was ok. I cross by ferry into town to stay at a B&B run by a Danish Morris dancer, for a change.


Back into shorts, the sun is out. I walk alongside the railway line, sometimes buried in the cliffs, sometimes exposed to the sea. I reach Dawlish and then to Starcross, where I can sneak lunch before catching the ferry to Exmouth. Budleigh Salterton is a gem of a town, nice cafe, relaxing. I take it easier into Sidmouth, in no particular hurry, for a good B&B and lovely Indian Vegetarian Restaurant.

Jurassic Coast
Jurassic Coast

Now I am on the UNESCO Jurassic/heritage coast as if there is a difference to what I have been walking for weeks. The MSC Napoli, a container ship undergoing salvage can be clearly seen from the coast path. Early in the year, you could salvage a free motorbike from the washed-up containers. The walking is strenuous, more so than the guidebook suggests, as I reach Branscombe and the wonderfully named village of Beer. I then enter the surreal and mysterious world of the Undercliff as I leave Axmouth, a stretch of landslip leading into Lyme Regis with no escape route for 6 miles.  The going is heavy through the jungle like woodland, like a scene from Lord of the Rings, but I reach Lyme Regis to another B&B, they seem to be getting more expensive as I travel east.


The next section of coast is very familiar to me, as I often camp in this area. Day walks then seem strenuous, but I seem to eat up the coast path at a rate I do not recognise. I reach Golden Cap to views along the length of Chesil Beach and Portland, my destination tomorrow. The Dorset coast is wonderful and the going easy unless you choose to take the pebble beach optional routes underneath the dangerous cliffs. I meet a backpacker as I enter Abbotsbury. He is planning to walk the coast of England and this is Day 5! He is carrying a mountain of gear and even has a front pack to complement what looks like an 80-litre backpack! Andy, I am sure you lightened your load.

Chesil Beach
Chesil Beach

Another cosy B&B before setting out for Portland, bypassing the Swannery. I am skipping the optional inland route for a walk around the Isle of Portland, which was only recently designated as part of the SWCP. This is an excellent day walking to the lighthouses on the southernmost tip through the Portland Stone quarries. The Trinity House marker dated 1844 is a great place to stop and watch the wind opposing the tides to create huge standing waves.  Views across Weymouth Bay from the prison are superb as I descend to the YHA, full of cheapskates catching the Weymouth Ferry to France the next day. I am propositioned by a buxom lady just as I arrive, which makes me check I have the correct address.

Portland stone marker for the SWCP
Portland stone marker for the SWCP

Breakfast is good and I chat with a Brummie couple. His wife repeats everything he says verbatim, which is an amusing habit. A very amusing habit.  Weymouth is quiet in the morning sunshine as a healthy Force 5 has the windsurfers out in droves. Durdle Door and the classic Lulworth Cove come into view. Time to relax and enjoy the splendid geological features before arriving too early at the YHA. Quite a few walkers turn up that evening and there is a nice buzz in the kitchen and lounge. We exchange walking stories and I meet the Hart Road Runners, a group who have been on annual adventures together for 27 years.

Durdle Door

I am up early to arrive at exactly the right time for the Army Range to open. It has been closed for quite a while for exercises, so I am sure to be one of the first to walk the full section that month, or possibly that year.  The Army Landrover is just disappearing down the road as I arrive, having pulled down the red flag, so I set off through the ranges and a series of stunning roller-coastal hills. This is my last full day of walking and my fitness levels are high as I yomp up and down the steep slopes towards Kimmeridge. The ranges are full of wildlife, particularly red deer, in contrast to the burnt-out tanks and target wreckage. I stop briefly for lunch at St Aldhelm’s Head, before arriving in Swanage 7 hours later. What a day, even The Square and Compass pub in Worth Matravers couldn’t divert me from the pleasure and joy of approaching the finish.

St Aldhelms Head Chapel
St Aldhelms Head Chapel

A late and lazy breakfast and a chance to buy a few presents for the family, before setting out on the last 7 miles to South Haven Point. The B&B owners are into walking and running and share my infectious enthusiasm for the SWCP. The view from Ballard Down, to the finish along Studland Bay, makes me want to stop and turn around. I don’t want this to end. After the last cafe, I dawdle along the beach to be joined again by the Hart Bay Runners, who have taken a different route from Lulworth Cove. We walk together to the final marker near the Sandbanks Ferry where they congratulate me on my achievement and take a few photographs. We all catch the bus and train, where they disembark at Basingstoke.

1.5 million steps later
1.5 million steps later

I cannot believe I have walked 630 miles and almost 1.5 million steps, in 37 days. I am a happy as can be as I start to reflect on the last 6 weeks. This is going to take a while to sink in. Even today, I recall and reflect on events 7½ years ago. It seems that walking pace fully absorbs the experience.


This post is taken from the 42 postcards I sent home each day as the walk progressed. All photographs were taken with my Sony Ericsson K750i candy bar phone.

My SWCP Diary - 37 Postcards
My SWCP Diary – 42 Postcards


Please note mileages may not be accurate, as I had a few diversions, they are actual miles walked.

[PART 1] – Minehead to Padstow (11 days walking – 177 miles)

  • Day 1 – 10m – Steam train from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead, walk to Porlock – B&B
  • Day 2 – 15m – Porlock to Lynton – YHA
  • Day 3 – 20m – Lynton to Ilfracombe – B&B
  • Day 4 – 14m – Ilfracombe to Croyde Bay – B&B
  • Day 5 – 22m – Croyde Bay to Instow – B&B
  • Day 6 – 18m – Instow to Horns Cross – Bivouac
  • Day 7 – 12m – Horns Cross to Hartland – Bivouac
  • Day 8 – 8m – West Titchbury to Elmscott – YHA
  • Day 9 – 15m – Elmscott to Upton – B&B
  • Day 10 – 17m – Upton to Boscastle – YHA
  • Day 11 – 14m – Boscastle to Port Issac – Bivouac
  • Day 12 – 12m – Port Issac to Padstow, bus/train home

[PART 2]  – Padstow to Looe (14 days walking – 239 miles)

Day 13 to 17 – Work obligations – salary earned donated to my charities and my work colleagues doubled it. Nice chaps.

  • Day 18 – 12m – Train/bus to Padstow, walk to Treyarnon – YHA
  • Day 19 – 24m – Treyarnon to Perranporth – B&B
  • Day 20 – 14m – Perranporth to Portreath – Bivouac
  • Day 21 – 25m – Portreath to Zennor – Pub
  • Day 22 – 14m – Zennor to St.Just – Bivouac
  • Day 23 – 14m – Cape Cornwall to Treen – B&B
  • Day 24 – 12m – Treen to Penzance – YHA
  • Day 25 – 16m – Penzance to Porthleven – Friends
  • Day 26 – 15m – Porthleven to Lizard – YHA
  • Day 27 – 12m – Lizard to Coverack – YHA
  • Day 28 – 11m – Coverack to Helford Passage
  • Day 29 – 20m – Helford to Porthscatho – B&B
  • Day 30 – 20m – Porthscatho to Mevagissey – B&B
  • Day 31 – 18m – Mevagissey to Fowey – B&B
  • Day 32 – 12m – Fowey to Looe, train home

[PART 3] – Looe to South Haven Point, Poole (12 days walking – 242 miles)

Day 33 to 36 – Family wedding obligations

  • Day 37 – 8m – Train to Looe to Portwrinkle – B&B
  • Day 38 – 24m – Portwrinkle to Wembury – B&B
  • Day 39 – 20m – Wembury to Hope Cove – Hotel
  • Day 40 – 23m – Hope Cove to Slapton – B&B
  • Day 41 – 20m – Slapton to Brixham – B&B
  • Day 42 – 20m – Brixham to Teignmouth – B&B
  • Day 43 – 21m – Teignmouth to Sidmouth – B&B
  • Day 44 – 18m – Sidmouth to Lyme Regis – B&B
  • Day 45 – 19m – Lyme Regis to Abbotsbury – B&B
  • Day 46 – 23m – Abbotsbury to Portland – YHA
  • Day 47 – 15m – Portland to Lulworth – YHA
  • Day 48 – 22m – Lulworth to Swanage – B&B
  • Day 49 – 9m – Swanage to South Haven Point, Poole, train home from Bournemouth

A grand total of 37 days walking and 658 miles (½ days counted for travel days) over 49 day period in April/May 2007.


  1. Enjoyed reading this, just planning to retire from a life at sea and thinking that I will walk the whole path in one go as a retirement present to myself – will be 62 so don’t think I’ll be going as fast as you.


  2. As a fellow walker that has completed Minehead to Polperro over the years I have enjoyed reading your account. However I did find your ‘ grockle zombie ‘ comment offensive. Surely unless you live in Cornwall you and everyone else is a grockle ?

    I shall continue reading but I think you have let yourself down !


    1. Thanks for pointing this out. I have changed it. I spent quite a few evenings re-reading my book during the editing stage to remove similar statements. If you find any in that publication please let me know as this blog was written some 10+ years ago.


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