Friday, 11 November 2011

South West Coast Path to Land's End

Thursday 29 September: Dunster to Lynton (26 miles). Sunny and warm. A quick glimpse of Dunster Castle and it's downhill all the way to the seaside resort of Minehead and the start of the South West Coast Path, England's longest and most scenic long-distance route. I've walked all of this before and have been looking forward to the steep inclines and fine views. From Minehead it's a grueling climb up to Selworthy Beacon and along clifftops before dropping down to Bossington Beach and the Ship Inn at Porlock Weir for lunch. Another steep climb takes me up Porlock Hill to the thatched toll booth at Worthy then on to Culbone church. I'm now in Exmoor National Park and at Foreland Point alert deer follow my approach from a hilltop. It's dark when I get to Lynmouth and the climb up to Lynton is a tough one, eventually I find a B&B.
Friday 30: Lynton to Ilfracombe (21 miles). Sunny and hot. More ups and downs to clifftops and beaches until at nightfall I arrive at Ilfracombe and Ocean Backpackers. It's off season and I get an en-suite dorm all to myself and, more joy, it has a bath tub.
Sunday 2 October: Ilfracombe to Braunton (15 miles). Sunny and warm. Great scenery before I drop down to the surfer's beach and dunes at Woolacombe Sands and on to Braunston Burrows.
Monday 3: Braunton to Westward Ho! (16 miles) Sunny with cool breeze.
More low level walking takes me inland to the twelve-arched Taw estuary bridge at Barnstaple and on to Instow where the seasonal ferry to Appledore has stopped running. This means a tiresome detour to the busy Torridge road bridge and a road walk to the YHA's Manorville Hostel in Westward Ho!.
Tuesday 4: Westward Ho! to Clovelly (17 miles) Cloudy and warm. A surprisingly long day of ups and downs through cliff side woodland and eventually I drop down to Clovelly before climbing out of the village again to reach Hartland Camping Barn at Mettaford Farm. This time I have the whole place to myself and it's only a short stroll to the shops at Hartland for food.
Wednesday 5: Clovelly to Hartland Quay (13 miles) Cloudy with strong gusty wind and rain squalls. It's really hilly now, up to clifftops, down to streams and beaches, up again to clifftops. Hartland point lighthouse stands above rough seas and as the skies open I just make the Wrecker's Inn at Hartland Quay for lunch then continue a couple of miles to be the only guest at the YHA hostel at Elmscott.
Thursday 6: Hartland Quay to Bude (15 miles). Sunny with strong blustery wind and brief but chilly rain squalls. A couple more hills and I'm in my final county, Cornwall, where more ups and downs take me to North Shore Backpackers Hotel in Bude.
Sunday 9: Bude to Boscastle (17 miles). Drizzly with gusty wind. More ups and downs today too, Widemouth Bay, Dizzard Point, Crackington Haven, Cambeak and finally Boscastle YHA hostel where I have a large dorm to myself once again. Perched on the side of a steep gorge of a fast flowing river it looks like an accident waiting to happen but after few pints in the Cobweb Inn I stop worrying about it.
Monday 10: Boscastle to Tintagel (5 miles). Drizzly and windy. Just a short hike today to prepare for a tough one tomorrow. Not much left of Tintagel Castle but the old post office remains and, once again, I have the nearby YHA hostel all to myself.
Tuesday 11: Tintagel to Polzeath (20 miles). Cloudy and windy. This is the hilliest day so far. My personal trainer once said that it's healthy to get out of breath at least twice a day. She would be proud of me today. The hills are not long but mostly short and steep and I get out of breath 36 times before reaching Polzeath. The inclines between Port Isaac and Port Quin are the steepest but there are great views and plenty of rock features to look at as a reward. It's getting dark so instead of walking to Rock to get the ferry to Padstow I take the bus hoping to catch the last ferry. I've missed it but an evening water taxi (88th mode of transport) delivers me safely to Padstow and I hike the last 4 miles to the YHA hostel at Treyarnon. I get a room to myself but tomorrow it's full with a group booking so next morning I carry on by bus to Newquay and the trendy Silver Spray Lodge.
Thursday 13: Polzeath to Padstow (3 miles). Cloudy with warm sunny spells. From Newquay it's a long bus ride back to Polzeath but I fall asleep and end up back in Port Isaac by mistake and there is no return bus for two hours so I walk the five hilly miles again to Port Quin and Polzeath before walking the missing three mile section from Polzeath to Rock and then the day ferry across the Camel estuary to Padstow for a late lunch, a Rick Stein recipe Cornish pasty, delicious. Bus to Newquay.
Friday 14: Padstow to Newquay (25 miles). Cloudy. Bus to Padstow to continue along the rugged coast to Trevose Head and lunch at Treyarnon hostel which is full of school kids. Many hills later and I'm back in Newquay.
Sunday 16: Newquay to St Agnes (15 miles). Warm with sunny spells. From Newquay there's a great little footbridge across to Crantock and after a few more hills I'm in St Piran's Inn in Holywell for lunch then onto the YHA hostel at Perranporth. It's fully booked so I have little option but to detour inland to Penkerris B&B in St Agnes.
Monday 17: St Agnes to St Ives (24 miles). Cloudy with sunny spells. Back on the coast the rugged path continues through Portreath, around Godrevy Point then doglegs inland around Hayle estuary so it's pitch black when I arrive in St Ives having taken the wrong track a couple of times in the dark. St Ives Backpackers is tricky to find but finally I have a bed for the night.
Tuesday 18: St Ives to St Just (20 miles). Sunny with showers. Now I'm walking through an industrial tin-mining landscape of chimneys and spoil heaps so it's appropriate to stop at the Tinner's Arms in Zennor for lunch. Refreshed I continue to the lighthouse at Pendeen Watch and navigating, once again, in the dark I pass over Cape Cornwall and eventually find Land's End YHA hostel in St Just.
There is only one other person staying, Carol Parker, from Ham Hill near Yeovil who went to the same school I did. She is taking a short cycling holiday in Cornwall and much to our amazement she was one of the cyclists I met in John o'Groats YHA more than three months previously. Now that's a coincidence.
Wednesday 19: St Just to Land's End (5 miles). Sunny with showers. A short morning hop to Sennen Cove and soon I'm at Land's End. I've done it. What next?
Photos from the SW Coast Path from Dunster to Land's End.
My final total route walking distance is 1,341 miles.

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