What is the South West Coast Path?
You can thank smugglers, wreckers, and other nefarious folk for the 630-mile path that curves up and down and around the south west peninsula of the UK. Because smuggling and wrecking took place in hidden, rocky coves—because duh, you can't smuggle in plain site—the coastguard had to trudge up cliffs and down inlets along the coast to ferret out these intrepid entrepreneurs, carving out the beginnings of the very path we walk today.
The coast path carves around a particularly rugged section of the UK—stone buildings and hardy people that have battled storms and rough living for centuries—and offers everything: history, geology, wildlife, art, fantastic weather and wild storms, pubs and villages, tea and scones, and some of the most spectacular scenery ever.
The South West Coast Path (SWCP) goes from Minehead to Poole. It goes from Poole to Minehead as well of course, but most guidebooks have you walking counter-clockwise. No idea why. But be forewarned: it's hugely confusing trying to follow the guidebook backward.
Tons of people walk the whole thing in one fell swoop; tons more do bits and pieces here and there. Our original plan was to walk the whole path, mile by mile, over a five-year period. As of our September 2016 trip—our fourth year—we've hiked just under 400 miles, meaning the aforementioned goal clearly won't be happening. So our new plan is to just finish. Goals and plans and objectives can be so overrated.
We have a few decisions to make in order to plan this really long walk. Mostly: what to do about luggage? As the paths are linear, not circular, we will end up away from our hotel. Eventually, we'll be far, far away. The thought passes through my mind—oh so fleetingly—that we would simply backpack our stuff around. Hahaha.
We discover companies that will haul luggage from one accommodation to another for about $15 per bag. But that seems like a lot of moving. And what if we change our itinerary at the last minute (as we tend to do)?
In the end, we decide on the homebase plan: choose one town to stay in for each week of our two-week stay—making sure the town has good bus service and proximity to food and drink, preferably a Marks & Spencer—and use buses to get back and forth. And that's how we do it.