Coronavirus and the Coast Path

This page is up to date as of Friday 9th February. For the most up-to-date information and guidance please visit the Government website.

Accessing the National Trail during lockdown:

The South West Coast Path provided vital support for people’s health and wellbeing during 2020, and we will be working to ensure it can offer the same support throughout 2021. Following the most recent Prime Minister's address a National lockdown in England was declared asking people to stay at home to stop the spread of the virus. Restrictions apply from 5th January until further notice. Please note, there are different restrictions in ScotlandWales and Northern Ireland.

With regards to accessing the South West Coast Path National Trail during the lockdown, we ask that you follow our advice below for your own safety and for the safety of others. You can also find relevant links to further Government advice below. Thank you for your co-operation, by following this guidance we can all continue to enjoy the countryside safely during the pandemic.

Can I visit the South West Coast Path?

  • Yes, but only for exercise and if the South West Coast Path is ‘in your local area’. Whilst the Government says you must stay at home, it also recognises the importance of maintaining positive physical and mental wellbeing by leaving your home to exercise.
  • You must only exercise alone, with your household (or support bubble), or one other person. You should only leave the house to exercise once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • If you are leaving your home to exercise, you should always stay local in the village, town, or part of the city where you live.

For more detailed guidance about exercising and meeting other people, click here.

Can I travel to exercise on the South West Coast Path?

Yes, but only if it is a short distance from your home. Under the latest lockdown restrictions, you must ‘stay local’ when leaving your home to exercise. This means avoiding travelling outside of your village, town, or the part of the city where you live wherever possible. However, you can travel a short distance within your area if necessary, for example to access an open space. For more detailed travel guidance, click here.

Will businesses and facilities be open?

  • Limited to Essential Businesses. To reduce social contact, the Government has ordered many businesses and venues to close. This includes businesses that are situated on or near to the Coast Path including cafes, restaurants, pubs, accommodation providers, recreational activity providers and visitor attractions. Whilst essential shops selling food and medicine are permitted to stay open, we advise that you take sufficient food, water, and any other essentials (as required) when undertaking exercise on the Coast Path. 
  • Ferry services that are not essential for people to travel to work will not be running. Many ferry services also only operate on a summer timetable, so will not be running.
  • Public toilets are permitted to stay open, however you may find some have been closed, so please take this in consideration when planning your exercise. 
  • Car parks are permitted to stay open, but some may be closed or operating at lower capacity during this time. If driving a short distance to access the Coast Path, please check car parking before you go. Do not park anywhere that could cause an obstruction for residents or for emergency services requiring access. 

Can I come on holiday to the south west or stay at a second home?

No. Overnight stays and holidays away from your home are not be allowed. This includes holidays abroad and in the UK. It also means you cannot stay in a second home, if you own one, or stay with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with. More information on travel can be found here

Stay connected to the Path

For those unable to visit the South West Coast Path, please follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram where we will be bringing the Path to you virtually in a variety of ways.

Official Government guidance

National Lockdown. Stay at Home.

Effective from Tuesday 5th January the Government declared a National lockdown in England.  a tiered system to reduce the spread of Coronavirus.

Hands. Face. Space.

Approximately 1 in 3 people who have coronavirus have no symptoms and could be spreading it without realising it.

Remember - ‘Hands. Face. Space.’

  • hands – wash your hands regularly and for at least 20 seconds
  • face – wear a face covering in indoor settings where social distancing may be difficult, and where you will come into contact with people you do not normally meet
  • space – stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings)

In all circumstances, you should follow the guidance on meeting others safely.

When you can leave home

You must not leave or be outside of your home except where you have a ‘reasonable excuse’. This will be put in law. The police can take action against you if you leave home without a ‘reasonable excuse’ and issue you with a fine (Fixed Penalty Notice).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400.

Click here to read what is a ‘reasonable excuse’.

Protecting people more at risk from coronavirus

If you are clinically vulnerable, you could be at higher risk of severe illness from coronavirus. There is additional advice for people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to coronavirus. Those who are clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend work, school, college or university, and limit the time you spend outside the home. You should only go out for medical appointments, exercise or if it is essential.

Access the full guidance on these restrictions here.

Access to Nature and Footpaths


The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home. However, access to greenspace is still important for people’s physical and mental wellbeing. However, to protect yourself, the others and the environment please ensure you follow this advice:

  • Advice on accessing green spaces safely
  • Using the Countryside Code 
  • Wherever possible, make space for people to pass safely when exercising on the Coast Path. You may need to factor a wider berth with runners (and horse riders and cyclists on the small sections of Path where this is permitted). If you are on a particularly narrow stretch of Path where you cannot leave 2 meters of space, we recommend stopping and turning to face away from the Path until the other person has passed you. 
  • If possible try to avoid using footpaths that may take you through a farmstead or other rural business where social distancing may be difficult. The risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using Public Rights of Way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing. 
  • Farmers, land managers and rural businesses all have an essential role in ensuring a healthy natural environment.  Government advice and support is outlined here
  • Landowners do not have the legal right to block or obstruct Public Rights of Way. However, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using such routes, landowners may consider the following measures:
    • Tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
    • Temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.
    • Offering an alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so (you must gain permission from relevant landowners and make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained.

All our National Trails remain open including newly opened stretches of England Coast Path, however people must follow the Government’s instructions to maintain social distancing.

Supporting business and the local economy - Introducing Way Makers

Businesses located on or near the South West Coast Path are being drastically affected by the pandemic. As a charity we wanted to do our bit to support them on the path to recovery, so have launched a brand-new business programme called Way Makers. 

Way Makers is designed to celebrate the role businesses play in making the way along the South West Coast Path such an amazing experience for the 9 million visitors each year who use it all year round. 

If you run a business in the south west such as a B&B, hotel, campsite, restaurant, café, visitor attraction or activity – please check this section of our website to find out how to get involved.

Update for Members of the SWCPA

All charity staff are continuing to work from home to help contain the virus and reduce the chances of it spreading within the team and those we work with. Until lockdown restrictions are eased, all activities (such as our Couch to Coast programme and any other outdoor meetings) are postponed. All our activities and meetings are taking place virtually until further notice. We apologise for any disruptions to servicing memberships, donations, fundraising requests or responding to general enquiries during this time.

Mass participation events

Photo: Jurassic Coast Challenge postponed

Mass-participation running and walking events due to take place on the Coast Path in 2021 are most likely postponed or cancelled, this may include those still listed on our Event Calendar, so please check event organisers websites for more details or contact them directly for the latest information.

In the meantime why not put your training to good use and take on a solo challenge to raise money to help look after the Coast Path. Find out more here.

Published on: Feb. 19, 2021