South West Coast Path: How Was It?

Sue and I packed British sun and optimism when we began our trek in Minehead on the South West Coast Path on September 8. More than three weeks and 200 miles later, fierce winds and horizontal rain could not keep us from our finish at Land’s End.

Back home in Ashland, Oregon, still packing jet lag, it is time to reflect.

Best parts: Astonishingly rugged coastal scenery, remoteness, walking cliffside, the weather, few other trekkers, Hartland Quay-to-Bude section, unyielding climbs and descents, thousands of stairs.

Worst parts: The weather, remoteness, Hartland Quay-to-Bude section, unyielding climbs and descents, thousands of stairs.

How can that be? The weather was mostly great the first two weeks; just two days of rain, not bad for England. Then it turned on us and only let up for brief spells the rest of the way. Fierce winds nearly blew us (and our packs) over on precarious cliffs. One day, we had to turn back. On a couple of days, the winds made it too dangerous to walk at all. That is when the remoteness became a negative; if anything happened, we could be stranded far from help.

The Hartland Quay-to-Bude section tested us like no other trail ever; 9,000 feet of mostly steep elevation change, 15 miles, 10-plus hours. But over our pub dinner that evening, we were exhilarated because we had done it. That is what keeps us trekking. It tests us, extends us, and sometimes slows life to a crawl. We thrive on its simplicity and routine.

Backpack life: We lived out of several Ziploc bags that contained our rolled up, super lightweight moisture-wicking clothes. We sat on each one, zipped them shut, and stuffed the compressed bags into our packs in just a few minutes each morning. Our packs weighed about 20 pounds each, although Sue’s was a couple of pounds heavier. Plus the weight of water in our bladders.

Accommodations: We stayed in B&Bs, hotels, a hostel, and several apartments. Most included breakfast. Lunch was a picnic on the trail, sometimes wet. Dinner was usually in pubs, unless we had a kitchen…then we enjoyed dinner at home.

Thru hikers: We were surprised that there were not more people on the trail. Most were day walkers; some told us they were walking a section, then catching a bus back to their starting village. Some were walking for several days, but we did not meet anyone who planned to walk more than that. Sue talked to an English couple who had walked the entire 630 miles of the trail, but had done it in sections over years.

Jam or cream first? How one dresses scones is a hotly debated topic in Devon and Cornwall. But, why does a country with clotted and double cream put low-fat milk in their tea and coffee?

Animals: Sheep, goats, pheasants, and cattle (and their poo) were abundant. We often walked among them; once, a cow refused to budge off the trail, forcing us to detour.

Shipwrecks: Monuments and plaques mark the demise of many ships off the rugged coast over the centuries.

Gates: We climbed, squeezed through, and passed through more gates than I could count. Kissing gates, stiles, latching gates. Even some kinds I had never seen before.

Health: Sue and I each got hit by a bug that, thankfully, lasted only about a day. Sue wore a knee brace for a few days as a precaution and her careful foot care prevented any major blister problems. We battled soreness, especially in the morning. Once again, Sue was the stronger walker, especially on the relentless climbs. Neither of us is fast, but you can trust your bets on Sue conquering just about any trail.

Fitting end: As we sat in the restaurant at the Land’s End Hotel, the setting sun was our dessert. Like the trail, it made us appreciate the moment. We put on our boots and packs each morning and plunged into the unknown, knowing that no matter what was ahead, we had to do it. Each day was unique, but most were cause for celebration.

Categories: South West Coast Path | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

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26 thoughts on “South West Coast Path: How Was It?

  1. Carole & Beaton

    Brilliant! Well done to the both of you! You are remarkable! Sorry I couldn’t be at the end with a cake to celebrate.


  2. Jackie Bachman

    Great journey! You are true trekkers to the Nth degree! I’m impressed!

    Jackie Bachman Board Member, Community Relations OHRA (760) 889-5122



  3. Many thanks, Jackie. As usual, it was great to have you along!


  4. Cynthia Elliott

    Wow! Glad you are home safe and not sprawled at the bottom of a cliff, staring in yet another British crime procedural!


  5. Lori Oliver-Tierney

    I absolutely loved trudging along with the two of you. Thanks so much for sharing. You are an inspiration. Fodder for another book? Happy trails

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Awesome accomplishment. You’ve earned some rest but no doubt you’ll be on the trail again soon, somewhere!
    It’ll be fun to hear more about it over a beer one of these days


  7. I’ve been planning to catch up on your blog posts! Well done! I hear you about the Hartland Quay to Bude section – that was brutal, and we did it in two stints. I admire those that walk the path with everything on their backs – not something I could do myself. Will you come back to finish the path?


  8. We would like to do more, but the weather scares us, to be honest. Thanks for following along!


  9. Sharman

    Thanks for wrapping it up for us. Another amazing trip

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Elaine

    Congratulations! And Welcome Home! Looking forward to hearing more. Elaine and Jerry


  11. What a wonderful achievement, one that so few people actually do in a single hit. Most seem to do it in sections spread over the years. You did so well. Shame about the weather, it was unbelievably bad unfortunately and isn’t usually that windy or wet in the Autumn.


  12. Kathy

    Wow! What an exciting adventure. Congratulations! Are you going to write another book? This trip would make a great story I think (as each of your treks would).


  13. Anna M Cwieka

    Cream first….then jam
    Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Reg, a well executed summary. Keep writing big brother!


  15. jasonlikestotravel

    Sounds like you had a great adventure! Shame about the weather but not too uncommon for England. Hopefully the accents down that way weren’t too much of a struggle (they amuse me more than anything).


    • Well, Jason, there were times when we had trouble understanding some of the folks down there. I did get a sense that there is pride about where one lives within England. Cornwall v Devon, cream v jam. Despite the weather, we love England, although our hearts are in Scotland, to be honest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jasonlikestotravel

        Haha that’s understandable. Yeah, there’s certainly a lot of regional pride in the country. Scotland’s wonderful too 🙂


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