The South West Coast Path starts at Minehead in Somerset and follows the coast through North Devon and Cornwall around the point of Lands End and back along the South coast to Poole Harbour. There are independent hostels, bunkhouses and camping barns providing accommodation along the route and in particular on the northern section of the walk. Melanie Harmon walked the route in Spring 2017 staying in hostels along the way. She reported back to us all about it!
South-west Coast Path
Planning a South West Coast Walk trip.
American visitor Melanie Harmon walked the South West Coast Path in 2017 have a look at her trip on our blog.
Base Lodge in Minehead is the perfect base for your first night before starting off on the South West Coast Path. It has good self catering facilities as well as local pubs if you want to eat out before you set off. At 630 miles the South West Coast path is the longest National Trial in the UK.
The South West Coast Path: Somerset & the North Devon Coast Section
The hike is along rugged cliffs next to the ocean (The ups and downs are steep!) the way the coast twists and turns you see hills walked two days earlier or will walk in two days! The coast is abundant with wildlife and stock including swathes of bluebells in spring time and goats (only a few feet from 1,000 foot drop offs to the ocean below). Much of the land on which the path runs is managed by the National Trust or by Natural England as National Nature Reserve whilst much of the rest is under agri-environment schemes to protect the widlife and geology of the coastline. The South West Coast Path is well maintained and has good signage. The route is mapped by the Ordnance Survey and the National Trails website has lots of useful information about the route. There are lots of walkers and dog walkers using the route so there are plenty of friendly people to ask for advice.
For those up early look out for the beautiful sunrises and places to visit such as St Peter & St Mary Magdalene church (700 years old!) in Barnstaple tor The Cornish Bakery.
Independent Hostels are perfect stop off points many have private rooms so you can have an extra good sleep after you day’s walking. Elmscott Hostel has many volunteer such as Margaret who has volunteered there for 10 years!
Independent Hostels on the Somerset/Devon section of the South west Coast Path include Base Lodge, Butter Hill Barn (Groups Only), Exmoor Bunkhouse (Groups Only), Foreland Bothy, Peppercombe Bothy, Ocean Backpackers, Mullacott Farm Camping Barn and Elmscott Hostel.
The South West Coast Path, Cornwall
When walking the route you are surrounded by life. In Spring pink, purple, lavender, yellow, and white wild flowers are at their peak. Cows, sheep with lambs, and birds of all kinds are prevalent. On a rainy day, you might see hundreds of large snails with beautiful black and brown stripped patterns on their shells on the Tarka Trail, a paved bicycle trail that runs congruent with the South West Coast Path for 15 miles. The scenery is majestic, powerful, varied, and always interesting.
Spring is a good time to walk the South West Coast Path, the weather can be conducive to comfortable hiking at this time – not too hot and little rain. It cools off at night then warms up to15-20C during the day. Winds range from light to moderate. Though this is Britain so nothing is guaranteed!
Cohort Hostel in St Ives has security curtains at each bunk for privacy- a brilliant idea. Penzance Backpackers has clean, light, and airy bunk room with a bay window with pretty palm trees in front of it. At Newlyn watch the fishermen load lobster or crab pots onto the boat and baiting them. There are shops next to the harbour that sell fresh fish to the public.
The National Trust does a superior job of keeping the coastline unspoiled and, for the most part, undeveloped.
The coastline here has been shaped by the full force of the Atlantic. Huge waves crashinto the rocky bottom of dramatic cliffs, sending salt water spray high into the air. Where fresh water flows into the sea, it means a step descent then a step ascent. These small rocky coves are an explorers paradise. Streams emptying into the ocean also mean beautiful isolated sandy beaches – some small, some lengthy. Rivers require walking inland until a bridge is found or, if available, taking a ferry from one shore to another. The difference in feet between low and high tides is significant. At low tide, boats sit on mud.
Along the South West Coast Path, there are many different types of rock, metal, and wooden stiles and gates at the fields and property boundaries. A classic is the doggy door stile – two wooden steps on each side of three lateral boards with one vertical board to the right or left that one lifts to let poochy go under the stile. Rock stiles are so old that the surface of the stones are smooth and shiny from so many steps being taken on them.
In South Cornwall, field types change from meadow and pasture to arable the half way point is just before Falmouth where you can stay at Falmouth Lodge Backpackers. Falmouth third largest deep water natural harbour in the world.
Independent Hostels in Cornwall on the South West Coast Path include: Beach Head Bunkhouse (Group Only), Cohort Hostel, Lower Penderleath St Ives Farm Hostel, Land’s End Hostel, Penzance Backpackers, Penrose Bunkhouse (Group Only), Falmouth Lodge Backpackers & Edens Yard Backpackers.
South West Coast Path; South Devon Coast and Dorset.
After St Austel there are fewer Indepedent Hostels so accommodation on the South West Coast Path needs to be found in camp sites, hotels B&Bs or YHA hostels. The walk continues to hug the coast through Plymouth, Exmouth which is a bus or taxi ride away from Exeter Globe Backpackers though Sidmouth, Seaton and Lyme Regis where you can stay at Monkton Wyld Court or Stone Barrow formerly Golden Cap (Group Only). The last section of the path finishes at Weymouth served by Bunkhouse Plus, Mytime Outdoor Centre and Swanage Auberge Bunkhouse.
Independent Hostel on or near the South West Coast Path in South Devon and Dorset include: Exeter Globe Backpackers, Monkton Wyld Court, Stone Barrow formerly Golden Cap (Group Only), Bunkhouse Plus, Mytime Outdoor Centre and Swanage Auberge Bunkhouse.
Find ddetails of the trail on the Long Distance Walkers Website.