South West England is home to some of the country’s most breathtaking countryside which can be found in Dorset, Cornwall, Devon, and Somerset. If you’d like to soak in the gorgeous scenery while getting a bit of exercise at the same time you should think about taking a hike along the South West Coast Path, which is one of Britain’s National Trails.
The trail is the longest in the nation at a length of 630 miles. If you’ve got the time and energy to trek the entire route it’ll take you a good 50 days or even more. Some hikers like the challenge and set out to explore it from end to end while most people prefer to take day hikes or perhaps spend a week or so along the trail. Accommodations are pretty plentiful and not too hard to find. You’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and campgrounds.
Most of the trail is geared towards hikers, but there are some sections that are suitable for cyclists and horseback riders. The longest section of trail for cycling is 13 miles long and is located near North Devon. This area is known as the Tarka Trail cycleway. If you’re an avid climber the highest point along the South West Coast Path is the Great Hangman in Exmoor, which is 1043 feet high.
The trail starts/ends in Minehead in Somerset and Poole Harbour in Dorset. The landscape along the path is quite varied. You’ll pass rivers and harbor resorts as well as remote, rugged cliff tops, moorlands, coastal valleys, hidden coves, and sandy and pebble beaches. There are many historical highlights on the hike.
Some of the most popular include Exmoor, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Clovelly village, Boscastle Harbour, Hartland Point, Tintagel Castle, Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall, West Devon Mining World Heritage Site, Camel Estuary, West Penwith, Minack Theatre, Logan Rock, the Lizard, Land’s End, Helford River, Fowey, the St Ives’ Tate Gallery, Thurlestone, Berry Head, Lyme Regis, Golden Cap cliff, Charmouth, Lulwoth Cove, and Durdle Door. In addition there are some hill forts that date back to the Iron Age as well as numerous defense structures from World War II.
The plant and wildlife is also colorful and very interesting. There’s a good chance you may see some marine life when on the coast. Some of the animals you may come across include sharks, seals, and dolphins as they swim along the coastline.
Some of the nearest villages, towns, and cities along the path include Bristol, Taunton, Bournemouth, Southampton, Barnstaple, Ilfracombe, Bude, Bideford, Padstow, St. Ives, Newquay, Penzance, Torquay, Falmouth, Exmouth, Plymouth, Lyme Regis, Sidmouth, Swanage, and Weymouth. Many of the communities are accessible by train and those that aren’t can generally be reached by local bus services.
The scenery along this trail is quite stunning, especially along the coastal regions. The imagery is even more dramatic when the sun is going down and reflecting on the water and nearby villages and harbors. Exploring the South West Coast Path is definitely the hike of a lifetime.
photo credit: (www.nationaltrail.co.uk)