Tony Bowerman explores the Minehead to Bude section of the South West Coast Path

RUNNING FOR 630 MILES FROM MINEHEAD IN SOMERSET, around the tip of Land’s End and back to South Haven Point at the mouth of Poole Harbour in Dorset, the South West Coast Path is Britain’s longest National Trail. Bordered by the Bristol and English channels and looking out to the open Atlantic, it encompasses some of England’s most spectacular and wildest coastline, where the diversity of plant, animal and insect life can be stunning.

The seas, coves and surrounding hinterland has been a dramatic setting for a gloriously rich history, which have inspired countless tales of romance, drama and intrigue. 

Although Minehead is commonly regarded as the ‘start’ of Britain’s longest National Trail, the section crossing Somerset to North Devon was actually the last stage to be opened in 1978. It had been a mammoth project, with the first leg around Cornwall opening five years earlier.

Much of its course follows centuries-old routes patrolled by Coastguards, but much new work was necessary in creating rights of way and viable paths across often difficult terrain. Today, maintenance is a never-ending task, combatting the effects of the weather and an estimated nine million walkers each year.

Old England’s counties by the sea

From east to west are seven;

But the gem of that fair galaxy

Is Devon, Devon, glorious Devon

Wondrous, balmy days

From the striking map monument marking the start of the 630-mile South West Coast Path, the route leaves Minehead to contour the lower slopes of Culver Cliff 

Fiona Barltrop

Fiona Barltrop

This article first appeared in The Great Outdoors (TGO) magazine in June 2018, and is re-published here with the author’s permission. Copyright © Fiona Barltrop 2018. All rights reserved.
Fiona Barltrop is a freelance outdoor writer and photographer, with a particular love for coastal walking. She has been a regular contributor to UK walking magazines, including The Great Outdoors and Country Walking, for many years. She is also a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild and available for commissions.

Books and maps for this part of the coast