The South West Coastal Path off-season

Of all the UK’s many excellent famous walks, I think my favourite has to be the South West Coastal Path.

I think this is because I like a moving scenery so much – both spiritually and physically. And for by far the bulk of the walk, you can, of course, see the ever-changing and dramatic Atlantic Ocean on the move.

You also get to see some of what most surely be the world’s most beautiful beaches – particularly, for me, in Cornwall at the furthest west extreme.

South West Coastal Path

But summer isn’t the time to be doing this walk. By far the best time is the early spring or late autumn. The weather then is at its most perfect for the serious walkers among us and the paths are virtually clear of people. It isn’t unusual to walk for hours without seeing more than one or two people.

In the early spring, the days are fresh with – if you’re lucky – cold fresh sunshine. You’ll soon build up a sweat – particularly during the ascents, which can be surprisingly steep in parts. In fact, it’s been calculated that the total ascents added would be four times the height of Everest!

But be warned – the early starts can get very cold and when the sun goes down at either end of the year, the temperature can drop dramatically – so you need to get your clothing, equipment and supplies just right to cover every eventuality.

Base layers, thermal socks, thermal gloves, the best quality jacket you can afford from the North Face sale – they’re all essentials.

If you can spare the time to do the whole walk, then go for it. Just don’t underestimate it; the South West Coast Path is the UK’s longest way-marked path at 630 miles.

It starts at Minehead in Somerset, and follows the coast of Devon and Cornwall, to finish at Poole Harbour in Dorset. It’s surely one of Britain’s best – but also most challenging walks.