In producing this website, we’ve tried to make it easy for you to find out all the information you need to have a great time walking along the Coast Path. However, inevitably there remain some questions that we couldn’t work out the best place to put them so here they are.
If you can’t find the answer, try the Search tool, post your question on Facebook or email us.
Q. How will I know I’m on the Coast Path?
A. The Path is well signed at main access points, junctions with other paths or roads and other places where the route would not be obvious. Coast Path signs have the acorn waymark, common to all National Trails, and the words ‘Coast Path’. The distance to the next destination will also be shown at places where people join the path.
Q. Can I take my dog?
A. Dogs are permitted on the whole Coast Path, so long as they do not disturb livestock and wildlife or cause a nuisance to other walkers. Keep your dog away from cliff edges, and clip on a short lead around sheep, cows and horses. (Unclip the lead if you feel threatened by cattle, so that you can get away safely). Don’t let your dog run up to other people uninvited. Not everyone likes dogs, and people have stepped out of the way of dogs on cliffs, with fatal consequences. Make sure that your dog has a name tag with your contact details, so that you can be easily reunited if your dog gets lost. See our Coast Path with your dog page for some helpful tips for looking after your dog's safety and well-being while you are out walking together. On some beaches dogs are banned during the summer. Where the Coast Path crosses a beach with a dog ban you are however still permitted to cross it with your dog. Where this is the case, please keep your dog on a lead, do not linger, and keep to the line of the Coast Path – normally this is along the back of the beach, above the high tide mark. However, on many of the more rural and quieter beaches that can be reached from the Coast Path dogs are welcome all year round. To avoid contaminating the bathing water, and it being a hazard to children playing, if your dog fouls on a beach, please pick it up and dispose of it in a bin. (Please do the same along the Coast Path, too). The website gives details of beaches where you can walk your dog in the summer. It also lists accommodation where dogs are welcome. Use the “Walkfinder” tool to identify short walks with a dog-friendly pub and beach.
Q. Do I have to be super-fit to walk the Coast Path?
A. There are many strenuous stretches of Coast Path, where a high level of fitness is required; but some more level sections feature easier walking. See the Section guides or Walkfinder (the magnifying glass icon at the top of the page) to find the best walk for you.
Q. Can I ride my horse or bike on the South West Coast Path?
A. Generally speaking no - most of the South West Coast Path is only available to people on foot. This is because nearly all of it is a public footpath rather than a public bridleway. It also does not make for very good cycling due to the numerous steep ups and downs, and the over 25,000 steps you’d encounter, that mean that you’d end up pushing or carrying your bike for much of the way. However there are plenty of great off-road cycle routes in the Westcountry – check out the Sustrans website for inspiration. There are also two National Trails that can be cycled end-to-end. Running from Winchester, the first capital of England, to the white chalk cliffs at Eastbourne, the 100-mile South Downs Way features attractive wildlife, visible prehistory, fine pubs and pretty villages. Further north, the Pennine Bridleway offers 205 miles of exciting exploration on ancient packhorse routes, drovers' roads and newly-created bridleways.
Q. Are there baggage transfer facilities?
A. Walking with just a day pack of essentials makes the walking much easier and more enjoyable. Several companies will move your bags between your overnight stops – just arrange beforehand to leave it with the proprietor of your hotel, B&B or campsite in the morning, and it will be delivered to your next night’s accommodation.
Q. Is there an agency that will book everything for us?
A. Various companies provide a complete walking holiday package along parts of the Coast Path. Walkers who want to hike a long section of the Coast Path can engage a company to arrange accommodation and transfer the baggage from base to base along the Path. Other companies offer transport each day from a single base, so that there is no need to pack up luggage every day. Whichever you choose, you have the option of following a guided walk, or hiking independently at your own pace. Guides also offer themed walks, such as food foraging or wildlife watching.
Q. When is the best time of year to walk the Path?
A. It is possible to walk the Coast Path at any time of year, but the best months are April-June and September-October. (English schools close in July and August, and the South West is very busy then). Spring is good for wildflowers and luminous light around the coastline, while in autumn the sea is warm and the atmosphere mellow.
Q. How about the weather?
A. Apart from winter storms, generally the weather in the South West is much better on the coastline than it is further inland. The average maximum coastal temperature in May and October is around 13°C, while in June and September it is about 17°C. (April is around 11°C). In general South Devon and Dorset are warmer than average, as are estuaries right around the Path, while Exmoor and West Cornwall may be slightly cooler. Average rainfall ranges from 9 days per month (June) to 16 (October). South Devon and Dorset are drier, as are South and West Cornwall. Average sunshine hours per month can be as high as 230 in June (that's nearly 8 hours every day!), and Dorset and South Devon are the best places to catch the sun, as well as much of Cornwall.
Q. Why does the path run anti-clockwise?
A Most people walk start at the Minehead end and head towards Poole, but that is mainly because that is the direction most of the guidebooks are written (the South West Coast Path Association produces a reverse guide). If you are using the Baggage Transfer service, it helps to go that way as you’ll be going with the flow; but otherwise, it’s just as good in the opposite direction.
Q. I want a much shorter walk!
You can walk as much or as little of the Coast Path as you choose to. The website features more than 600 short walks based on the Path, many of them no more than 5-10km (3-6 miles). Most of these are circular, while a few are planned so that you can catch the bus one way and walk back. Check them out with the “Walkfinder” tool (the magnifying glass at the top of the page).
Q. Is the Coast Path suitable for children?
A. Some of the short walks are particularly interesting for children, and not too strenuous. See our family walks page for more information.