Discover challenging and dramatic walking trails shaped by the footsteps of traders, smugglers, saints and pirates. Cornish walking trails will reveal ancient tin mines, clifftop castles, timeless fishing villages and wild moors as you travel through a landscape of huge cliffs and hidden coves that goes back to the depths of time itself. In between the coastal drama, iconic harbours such as St Ives and Padstow give walkers access to some of the UK‘s best restaurants and coastal hotels. A county encircled by the wild Atlantic ocean, there is over 330 miles of spectacular world class coast path here taking you around the farthest corners of England - put simply it feels like walking on the edge of the world.
Stretching from coast to coast across the southwest of England, Devon is a richly diverse county with rugged shores and cliffs in the north, and classic Victorian seaside resorts in the south. In between you'll find tranquil green pastures, wooded gorges and the two dramatic wild moors in the National Parks of Dartmoor and Exmoor. Choose Devon for its walking variety, and you'll find that the popular image of cream teas and thatched cottages is true - but that Devon is so much more once you explore it on two feet. Coast to coast routes like the Two Moors Way will offer a journey through it all from the wild northern shores that inspired the Romantic poets to the maritime ports of the south coast.
Free your soul and clear your mind! Walking on the wild moors of these National Parks is a wonderful antidote to modern living. England's last true wilderness, Dartmoor offers 365 square miles of virtually uninhabited freedom with high moors and twisted dramatic granite tors a land of myths, ghosts and legends. Exmoor, its smaller and more gentle neighour, is 250 Square miles of near perfect and unique beauty, with high uplands swathed in heather and steep, wooded gorges and rushing streams. See Dartmoor ponies and Exmoor stags in these wildlife rich areas, home to 30 species of mammals and over 240 types of bird. The moors offer a unique opportunity for more challenging walking where the only human sound you will hear is the rhythm of your own breath.
Avoid the crowds and discover “Secret Somerset” missed by so many rushing headlong for the far South West. The 'land of the summer people' was named in a time when this area could only be visited in the summer months as the sea receded. Today its a rich, fertile and 'for real' landscape crowned by the fine walking ridges of the Mendip and Quantock Hills both protected areas of outstanding natural beauty. Rising up over King Arthur‘s Vale of Avalon along with the magical Tor at Glastonbury, walkers will find hidden gorges, wooded combes and the best inland panoramas of the South West. Also boasting its own Jurassic Coast Path, providing a gateway into the wilds of Exmoor National Park, Somerset offers walking routes without the crowds for those who want to find..... what the rest miss.
Dorset has a comfortable old world “English” feel to it and its walking routes traverse a rather more green and agricultural land of thatched cottages, cream teas.... and fossils ! Walkers here will find the more gentle rolling farmland, pretty villages and chalk ridges beloved by Thomas Hardy that sweep down to end abruptly at the World Heritage Jurassic Coast. Here, alongside the sea, those after more challenging routes can take a walking holiday through time itself amongst the dramatic chalk stacks, cliffs and arches of the Dorsetshire fossil coast. An area that can be very busy in high season but often suits walkers looking for more gentle and less exposed walking than the far west of the region.
Wales offers some of the best walking and outdoor activities to be had anywhere in the world. The 870-mile Welsh Coast Path was only fully opened in 2012 and is the world's first walk along the entire coast of a nation. The terrain is on an equally grand scale with towering cliffs, vast stretches of unspoilt golden sands, imposing castles, offshore islands and to the north there is the backdrop of Snowdonia National Park with its stunning mountains. Wales in general offers walkers great value for money compared to more popular areas like Cornwall with walking options to suit everyone, from those who want the cosmopolitan restaurants and facilities of towns like Tenby and St Davids, through to isolated and remote forests and coastal hills that sit on the very cusp of the Snowdonian Peaks. Bursting with confidence and pride in its “Welshness”, its Celtic history, language and culture there has never been a better time for walkers to enter Wales.
The South West Coast Path is the UK's longest National Trail and one of the top ten walking routes in the world. It snakes, dips and rises continuously on its way through a staggering 1014km (630 miles) of pristine coastline, 450 miles of which is through nationally protected areas. It's a challenge too; walking the entire South West Coast Path is the equivalent to scaling Mount Everest four times! From towering cliffs to hidden coves, ghostly tin mines to lush subtropical wooded creeks. One minute a dramatic rock theatre hewn out of the cliffs, the next a prehistoric fossilized forest or a 20thC Art Deco Island Hotel. What sets The South West Coast Path apart from other trails is that around almost every corner is yet another surprise as you retrace the footsteps and histories of the tin miners, fisherman, smugglers, wreckers and the customs men who chased them.
Would you choose Encounter Walking Holidays for future holidays? Yes
Would you recommend Encounter Walking Holidays to others? Yes
We were very pleased with the service provided by the team at Encounter Walking. All the administration prior to the holiday was handled with efficiency and simplicity. All the accommodation selected by Encounter was excellent as was the material/tips provided by them prior to the walk. The walk was strenuous, particularly the first four days but the views and experience made it all worthwhile. When we next walk part of the South West Coastal Path we will certainly use Encounter Walking.
Apologies for the delay, but I would very much like to provide you with some feedback from our recent walking break, expertly organised by Encounter.
Minehead to Lynmouth
19th- 22nd September.
We had a lovely time. Both my sister and I (and Smith, the dog) thoroughly enjoyed the walk. Second day was definitely tougher than Day 1, but completely manageable. We finished, happily tired but not completely exhausted. We opted to walk out to the Lighthouse at Foreland Point and around The Foreland headland. The guidebook was right to provide a mild warning. The path was a bit exposed but we found it to be stable and not quite as scary as we thought it might be. Overall, the itinerary, maps & information provided by Encounter were detailed (far more so than I expected!) and provided all the information we needed.
The accommodation recommended and booked for us met our needs exactly and was delightful. Was exactly what I ordered!
Staff at the Top Ship, Porlock could not have been more helpful and welcoming – nothing too much trouble. Extremely dog friendly too. Their “home cooked” style menu was excellent, so that we ate in their restaurant both nights of our stay. Good breakfast and pack lunch too. Excellent value.
Accommodation for our final night, was a little more “up market”. A different atmosphere from The Top Ship – but nonetheless very welcoming, very well appointed and we enjoyed a superb meal in their restaurant in the evening – more pricey, but was a real treat and perfectly met my request, which had been for a “special meal to celebrate my sister’s birthday” .
The taxi transfer back to Porlock was on time and our lady driver was very friendly and courteous.
All in all a perfect mini break. I would have no hesitation in using Encounter again (and indeed hope to)– have already recommended you to some of my other walking buddies.
Thank you for all your help and assistance.
During the last years we booked several holidays through Encounter Walking and once again: everything was perfectly organized. The accomodation were very nice and the additional information given were very helpful. Damon & Team: thanks a lot ! To avoid a loooong walk on tarmac (Tarka Trail from Braunton) we hired a bicycle to cover the stretch from Braunton to Westward Ho! in one day. This gave us also some additional time to visit Barnstaple and enjoy a wonderful cream tea in Fremington. Your hint to use "Biketrail" was perfect, as they deliver and collect the bikes to/from different places. We will certainly come back !
Just wanted you to know: We finished Minehead to Padstow today. We loved it...and we were delighted by your choices for accommodations. Excellent...and all near or on the South West Coast Path. All baggage transfer worked. Thank you.
Minehead to Padstow was as great as our previous experiences and when we returned to where we had started in 2016 felt sad that we had finished. You did an excellent job of organising it all for us.
We are not visiting UK this year but starting to think about 2020 and where we will go......maybe back to beautiful Cornwall?
Wishing you all the best for 2019 and continue the good work of keeping your clients fit, healthy and happy! We have some fabulous memories and loved every step!!
Absolutely perfect experience from start to finish! The planning process was fun, and the advice and guidance invaluable. I began my holiday knowing exactly what to expect and with the assurance that every detail had been thought of and arranged.
Additionally, throughout my holiday I had the peace of mind knowing there was a team of good people standing by to help me if anything went wrong. As a not very brave solo hiker on my first long distance walking holiday in the UK or anywhere, those two things were what gave me the courage to go do this, rather than just dream about it.
During my holiday everything (luggage transfers, reservations, finding public transportation, etc) went smoothly and I truly was free to just walk and enjoy myself. My route, though quite unconventional, gave me precisely what I was looking for, and the scenery was varied and glorious the entire time. (Endless gratitude to Encounter for living up to their promise of “your walk, your way” and helping me figure out how to accomplish it!) I loved the contrast between the cliffs in Devon and Cornwall, and the Cornish countryside as I crossed coast to coast.
Every place I stayed was clean and comfortable, the hosts were exceedingly kind, and the food was plentiful and delicious. There were even quite a few sea views despite having “budget” rooms! I wholeheartedly recommend all of the places I stayed, but extra recognition to the Bosayne Guesthouse in Tintagel for my very favorite breakfast and packed lunch (tough competition!), and to Blair Lodge in Combe Martin, The Imperial in Woolacombe, Symply Padstow in Padstow, St. Benets Abbey in Lanivet and Safe Harbor in Fowey for above and beyond service.
I found the difficulty level, mileage, and route descriptions were all very accurate (although on the coastal sections I personally needed to add far more time than I expected for stopping so I could look up from my boots to enjoy the view.) Even the (initially intimidating) section graded as “severe” was very manageable and left me with plenty of energy to explore the village at the end of the day.
I found the paths to be in excellent condition, and well signposted for the most part- the itinerary notes filled in the gaps where it wasn’t. Every highlight and diversion in the guidebooks and the itinerary from Encounter was worthwhile and wonderful- many of the suggestions in the itinerary were for places that I hadn’t seen mentioned in guidebooks! Each step was steeped in fascinating history- it was wonderful to slow down and take it in.
Far too many highlights and favorite moments to list even a fraction of them, but here are a few:
Minehead to Woolacombe: Dunster castle and village, a herd of galloping wild Exmoor ponies, a rainy picnic watching the waves on completely deserted and magnificent Heddons Mouth Beach, the hills and cliffs covered in purple heather (just starting to bloom) and yellow gorse, the WWII memorials for American soldiers near Porlock and at Woolacombe-very moving and humbling for this American!
Tintagel to Padstow: The whole route, really- expansive views up and down the beautiful coast and rewarding walking! Tintagel castle and it’s wind-whipped views and gorgeous little beach, sunny breakfast picnic at Trebarwith Strand, Port Isaac, especially once the day trippers left, walking along the sandy beaches in route to Padstow .
Saints Way- Padstow to Fowey Countryside views every bit as pretty as the coast in a different way, getting up close to ancient history at the St Breock Longstone and Helmans Tor (and the view from each!), following the Celtic crosses and stopping in churches, Restormel castle- well worth the detour!, strolling around Fowey, Lost Gardens of Heligan and the ferry ride to and from them.
All of our arrangements were satisfactory to fantastic thanks! The accommodation all worked out well and there were some real gems in there. The only comment I recall on the instructions that could be improved was getting from the train to the Minehead bus at Taunton - the Minehead bus has a covered stop immediately adjacent to the train platform where the Paddington train arrives. This is much closer than the one in the instructions which is the originating point for the bus (and we appreciated the cover as we were there for nearly an hour in heavy rain :-) ). Otherwise all good...
We walked from Minehead to Padstow during the first 2 weeks in August. All arrangements ran very smoothly. Despite initial scepticism, Encounter's advice to leave our car on a specific street in Minehead proved to be both accurate and free!
All accommodation was close to the trail and adequate or good. The stand out accommodation for us was Surf Haven in Bude where the hosts really went the extra mile to make us welcome and well-provided for.
The trail is very easy to follow and the couple of mistakes we made were a result of our lack of concentration rather than fauts in signage. Due to cliff collapse, there is a lengthy diversion inland to Morwenstow half way between Hartland Quay and Bude which traverses farm fields and a muddy river bank. I was glad we had split this stage into 2 days - the Bush Inn at Morwenstow is an excellent stay and it would have been a shame to have not had sufficient time to enjoy this lovely section of the walk.
I highly recommend Encounter and their walking holidays.
* The route: the South West Coast Path is a wonderfully signposted path with lots of breathtaking views. It has quite a lot of ups and downs, because you have to cross river valleys and then climb back up again, but it is totally worth it. I have never taken so many photos on a vacation before! I loved all the nature, being so close to the sea, all the cliffs, and the very British countryside in between. I really recommend a cream tea at Bossington, near the end of the first stage from Minehead. A picnic on Great Hangman was the highlight of another day.
* The organization Encounter organized the walk meticulously. When we said that we had a child walk with us, they figured out not only a route with shorter walking days, but also managed to get us family rooms for a lot of our stays. They were very helpful in figuring out which trip to take and where to end our trip to make it easiest to get to London afterwards!
* The book and the plan They sent us a great book from Trailblazer about the walk, which I loved, because it has very detailed maps about the walk. The very detailed document about where our accommodations were and whether to get a packed lunch etc. was also immensely helpful. We really loved the tip about the tunnel baths at Ilfracombe.
* The luggage transport That went off without a hitch. I was a bit anxious the first few days, but even when we arrived pretty early, it was always all there!
* The customer service They were very friendly, helpful and detail-oriented. If I wasn't a tiny bit worried about Brexit, I would book our holiday next year with them :D
Thanks for the e-mail and apologies for the late reply due to other holiday commitments - no hardship!
The walk was a great success and everything ran very smoothly.
There were a few things that may be of interest to other walkers:
Combe Martin to Woolacombe - the alternative route at Mortehoe (just north of Wollacombe) has been replaced by a permanent inland route up and over Sharp Rock. It adds approximately 0.5 mile and a good climb at the end of a long day, but the views - particularly north, back towards More Point - are spectacular. Most of the signage was in form of permanent posts but there were some on bits of paper! I presume that in the meantime these have now been replaced with permanent signs. I suspect we may have been some of the earliest to pass by on this new route.
Braunton to Instow -
i. this route is almost entirely shared with the Tarka trail and whilst we were prepared for meeting a number of cyclists we were not expecting quite so many, presumably because it was a Saturday. Most were as accommodating as we were in making good space on the trail. A few were not! We would suggest avoiding this section of the trail at week-ends.
ii. because the trail is so flat it is easily possible to make Instow in time for lunch, where shortly before entering the village, behind the dunes, there is a fantastic beach shack - The Glorious Oyster - which does fantastic food. Well worth passing some of the busier places and pressing on to get here for your lunch stop and spending the afternoon in the beautiful village of Instow.
3. Instow Barton farmhouse B&B - this B&B is rather special and whilst Encounter did mention in the itinerary that evening meals were available in a small restaurant, which could become busy and booked up, we ourselves did not book as we were not aware of what to expect in terms of the standard. Had we known the quality of the B&B and that the hosts were both formerly private chefs, we would most certainly have done so. As it was the restaurant was indeed fully booked for our stay and we missed out. It would be worth raising the profile of the B&B and in particular the restaurant/chefs so that other walkers won’t make the same mistake!
Other than that just a big thanks for everything. We shall be in touch shortly to arrange our next leg for 2019.
We had a wonderful 8 days walk. Everything went smoothly and all accommodation clean and comfortable. Fantastic stop at Woolacombe Bay Hotel with nice restaurant and also 'old school'charm at the Commodore in Instow. Dinner B&B well worth it and great view from restaurant. Weather was beautiful and we had no problems with the route and came across no issues. Lovely beaches to paddle before climbing the cliffs again. Quite long days on this section. Trailblazers guide books excellent as always. Thanks for organising once again and three more sections left to complete the SWCP.
Just wanted to write a quick email to thank you and the rest of the team at Encounter for organising a wonderful trip, we ended up with exactly what we had hoped for, everything ran perfectly, we didn’t have to give any thought to anything aside from enjoying the trip.
I would thoroughly recommend you to anyone that is interested at organising a trip. Thanks again.
Thanks encounter for a wonderful walk. Of course you had a lot of help with the weather!
Really wonderful accommodation especially the choice to break the trip in Heddons Gate at the Hotel . Very friendly and gracious accommodation!
The food at Locanda at the Weir was exceptional especially the gratuitous limoncello but the meal was exceptional as was the location and decor . Hardly surprising as the owners are so dedicated growing their own vegetables in adjacent garden and all .
All in all a wonderful trip extremely well organised.
The activity notes provided by Encounter are really useful, particularly for alerting you to highlights to look out for each day, and for clear directions to your accommodation.
Easy to follow and generally well signposted. The only times we got slightly lost were coming out of towns or villages where there are properties immediately on the coast, and there are not always clear signs as to how you walk round them. However, you know that you have to aim for the sea, so not possible to get very lost.
The only couple of hours of walking we didn’t like was round Braunton Burrows between Saunton and Braunton. Had we paid more attention it is probably possible to find a way through the nature reserve that is part of the military area, and would have been more interesting. Compensation was we did see an adder!
The path from Saunton to Westward Ho! is flat estuary walking, with Braunton to Biddeford being a fairly busy cycle path. We quite liked the contrast, but if this is not to your taste skip that bit.
We stayed in 21 different places, a mixture of B&B, pubs and hotels. Best were:
Locanda on the Weir, Porlock Weir. Fabulous Italian evening meal, and best breakfast of the holiday
Red Lion, Clovelly
Cornerways, St Ives
Also extra brownie points to Jules at Holmsleigh B&B Braunton, who proactively offered to do a washing machine load for us, took the dirty washing away, washed it and hung it on the line.
Only negative comment is evening meal at Perranporth is grossly overpriced for what is provided.
If accommodation provided evening meals (which most of the pubs do) we tended to eat there (see above).
As a general point if you don’t want to eat at a carvery then it’s a challenge to find an alternative in small villages on a Sunday but can be done.
Suggestions from Encounter very helpful. In addition would recommend:
The Riverside, Braunton
S & P Fish Shop, Ilfracombe (crab sandwiches for lunch)
Café in car park at Godrevy for lunch
Minehead to St Ives: 21 days of brilliant walking
The path from Saunton to Westward Ho! is flat estuary walking, with Braunton to Biddeford being a fairly busy cycle path. We quite liked the contrast, but if this is not to your taste skip that bit.
Locanda on the Weir, Porlock Weir. Fabulous Italian evening meal, and best breakfast of the holiday
Only negative comment is evening meal at the B&B option at Perranporth is grossly overpriced for what is provided.
From May 16th to July 16th 2018 I walked the complete SWCP. Encounter Walking Holidays arranged all the accommodations and the luggage transfer for me. I can only say: Job very well done!
The whole trip went perfect and when necessary Encounter solved issues very fast. One time my luggage seemed to be missing, but after contact between the hotel and Encounter they found it in the wrong room in the hotel.
Another time, there seemed to be no room reservation for me. The hotel gave me a spare room and contacted Encounter later on. I never heard anything from this again, meaning they solved it.
The accommodations were very different, ranging from a small single room with almost no space to move to a big apartment like double room with a bathroom as big as the small single room mentioned earlier. All accommodations were good and the people friendly and helpful. I sometimes wondered how they find these places…
I also liked the Itinerary they made for my trip. Basically this had all the info I needed for every day, including info on the path, highlights of the day, ferry information, how to get to the accommodation, etc. Very helpful!
During my walk I was contacted by Encounter every now and then via email with extra info. I appreciated that very much. I also liked that they followed my blog :-)
With respect to my walk, I had the best walking weather one can wish for. For nine weeks it was dry almost every day. Just two days of some drizzle and one time rain for an hour. All in all I had a magnificent experience and I would recommend Encounter Walking Holidays to everybody when they go walking in the south west of the UK.
Rich - Just a quick email to say a huge thanks for organising the above trip for us. We will definite tell our friends and other walkers
All worked like clockwork, great accommodation, food and pick up service including taxi back from Woolacombe to Porlock Weir.
Think you may even have sorted out the weather, so sunny and warm
Rather late with our feedback but none the less we wanted to submit it to you. The trip in all was very well organised by you. 8,5 out of 10!!
We would like to mention that although most distances were a little shorter in distance than you or the books mentioned, this might have only been about 1,0-1,5 miles longer each day. But one day in particular was longer. So much longer that for walkers it is necessary to know. It was our third day, when we walked along the SW-coastpath from Lynmouth to Combe Martin. According to my Garmin watch it was not 13,5 miles but 16,1 miles. We found that having to walk 2,5 miles longer on a day with strenuous parts, was quite much and not expected. Also due to bad reception in many places we could not ring the next B&B that we would be late. So we had to rush to be in time. We understand that with the distances it is quite difficult to get them exact, but this we felt you should know.
Encounter Walking - Thanks for this Eveliina - the mileage we use is the official South West Coast Path Association figures which were taken on the ground. There is always varience with things like where the accommodation is and where you are measuring from but where you find every day is incorrect its likely to be something called the "spider effect" which affects GPS units and walkers. Its good for all walkers to be aware of this and of how to try and get more accurate figures from what they actually walk - see this link for more information and articles explaining it - https://encounterwalkingholidays.com/faq#gps-different
Splitting up the day from Heartland Quay to Bude in two was a very good idea. It gave us some easier days and we felt sorry for people who had to do the whole route to Bude and were already more tired than us.
All places we stayed at had good to excellent service. :) We want to especially mention a few here: the Bath hotel in Lynmouth, they went out of their way for our packed breakfast and lunches. And Jules at Holmsleigh in Braunton was superb, VERY accommodating and she even did some laundry for us. Soooo sweet! The cook at the New Inn at Clovelly put our breakfast outside of the door during the night, so we could leave nice and early (we liked to always leave before 8am which almost always was a problem). We thought the BB in Bude in asked too much for her packed lunch £10,- each (whereas she did not give more (less actually food wise) than other’s, who provided us with a packed lunch and they on average asked £5,-).
We had two fantastic weeks of walking! Thank you!
Our experience with Encounter Walking was fantastic.
Website answered many of our questions and others received quick e-mail replies.
Accomodations were just what we wanted (small B&Bs/guest houses with en suite rooms) and delightfully varied.
Information on getting to Minehead from London and from Westward Ho! to London were spot on (the bus stop in Taunton is now in a shelter right outside the station).
For two 60+ year olds in reasonably good shape, we did great!
We found the maps, narratives and signage lacking at some points ...... leaving Burgandy Chapel and finding the path to Bossington in particular. Would have liked mileage between points in the narrative and maps -- loved the schematic maps, but not always accurate or adequate info. The GPS points weren't really useful to us.
Rating the sections as easy, moderate and strenuous was a great aid in planning our days (departure time and diversions).
Early luggage pick up on days with later breakfasts could have been a problem, but it certainly was wonderful having that service.
If your goal in walking the SWCP is to enjoy the area, we recommend scheduling two nights in some of the villages --- not only to rest but also to explore. I've not used a walking stick on hikes, but wish I had one for this .... would have been great in fording the many little waterfall streams and on the stairs.
Cream tea stops at Kitners and at Fremington Quay were heavenly. We enjoyed the Quay Inn in Instow, the Rising Sun in Lynmouth, the Hunters Inn in Barnstable and Grampus in Lee Bay (the tea shop here is under renovations so don't plan on that), although we only had one less than satisfacory meal the whole way.
Being a fan of gins, I was very happy to be in pubs and restaurants where there were scores of choices --- too many gins too little time, sigh.
Highlights were many ..... rounding a corner to see promontories ahead with breath taking views over the Bristol Channel, verdant green sheep dotted hillsides (we saw far more sheep than people), hedgerows alive with birds, and immersing ourselves in the culture and history of the villages. To get quite specific and personal, my highlight was sitting in the sun, with an adult beverage in the front garden of the Springfield House in Instow, overlooking the Taw River.
This has been such a wonderful experience! Thank you!
This is an unusual review, as I wasn’t able to go on the walk due to a health crisis. Fortunately, I do have Travel Insurance. Through the whole process of planning this trip, the communication was quick, knowledgeable and friendly. Now, I find the company supportive and very efficient in providing me the documentation needed to complete my insurance claim. I look forward to using Encounter Walking for a trip very soon.
We were a bit late with our decision to go hiking again in England. But Encounter Walking made us a great plan and route with all the bookins in short time.
It is our third time we walked with Encounter Walking and we're always pleased how effctivly things are done.
We've been so lucky with the weather as the forcast was cold, windy and rainy but developed to sunny and dry. Very comfortable hiking conditions.
Our trip started with a nice arrival with the Somerset Steam Railway in Minehead. A two night stay in Lynmouth allowed us to experience a day walk in the Exmoor on the Two Moors way. We had a bit problems there with finding the way, especially as we had strong winds and some rain which made reading the map difficult. We found out later, that the OS Maps can be downloaded to use them offline on a smartphone. This works excellent and I can highly recommend this tool. It makes finding your way very easy.
It is funny to see the differences to climb a hill. The english way is directisima, straight and steep, in the South of Germany we have more zigzags.
We had a great time, improved our taste for Cider and met some great people on the trip. Great job Encounter Walking.
Ellie -Our latest walk along the SWCP was excellent in every respect:
The accommodation was very good throughout, with the stars being the Red Lion at Clovelly (we were in the separate annex), Yeolden Hotel at Northam (shame about the restaurant closing) and the Imperial B&B at Woolacombe. Note that the Hartland Quay Hotel is going through a process of upgrading their rooms. Bottom of the lot was probably The George at Braunton.
The walking was pretty varied, with the first two days made even more challenging by the very windy (and wet) weather and a couple of less interesting flat days in the second half. Overall rather less interesting than other parts of the SWCP, especially Cornwall. Note that the diversion around Horsey Island looks to be permanent.
As to places to eat, your notes were helpful but note that the Royal George Inn in Appledore is closed and and looks to be undergoing extensive renovation but the nearby Beaver Inn was very good. Hope this helps. Looking forward to seeing your ideas for Lyme Regis to Poole for next year.
An amazing 8 weeks - returning home at the weekends. 34 days total walking 430 miles. I set the Encounter Walking Holidays team the task of creating a route for me, getting the accommodation and sorting all the transfers for what was an unusual agenda. I also took my dog so they had to find accommodation for us which was sometimes problematic.
Some Fridays and Mondays I had nearly 5 hour train rides from my home to get to the path and still wanted to walk some distance on those days. The guys did incredibly well with the organisation and, even though I changed some things regularly, I didn't have a single issue.
All the accommodation, transport and luggage transfers went without a hitch. Damon, Rich and Ellie were amazing. The path was also amazing and we had a fantastic time. During September we were mainly on our own but in October we had several people join us. The Encounter guys even helped them too when they were stuck on certain issues. The path is quite challenging in places. Mainly the North Devon and the early part of Cornwall. Hartland Quay to Bude is probably one of the hardest days walking I have done. But oh so worth it! Make sure you are fit and you will enjoy every moment.
The best days walking for me was the going around the Lizard in 60 mile winds courtesy of hurricane Ophelia with my son. That day I won't forget! The markings are mainly good.
I only needed the maps a few times to find my way - keep the big blue thing on the right and you can't really go wrong! There are exceptions to that though so read the documentation and the books for diversions and the occasional lost signs. The path does seem to abandon you in bigger towns and cities and sometimes it is easy to get lost there and not be on the official bit but finding it again isn't too bad. I actually found Google maps good in some situations on my phone.
I found evening meals in North Devon pretty basic and sometimes not so good. Cornwall was much better, when it was finally possible it seemed to eat some fish that wasn't battered! Accommodation varies but all were clean and very welcoming. Connectivity is patchy in lots of places but most places seem to have high speed internet now (to my surprise) Too many notable highlights to list! But I did do a blog here if you want details and lots of photos: https://steveschrier.wixsite.com/swcp Thanks so much to the team.
Luggage transfer:- Outstanding, always delivered on time. Accommodation venues:- Ranged from a 'doll's house' to a 4 star hotel. Accommodation facilities:- All outstanding for their type. Well maintained. Clean. Welcoming. Any slight problems/difficulties dealt with quickly and efficiently. Did not test drying facilities, when asked about drying some accommodation said they did not have any facilities.
Signage:- Only real problems are in towns/villages when buildings get in the way. (It's much easier in the countryside when map reading is simple. (This is meant to be a little joke!!!!). Weather:- For 75% of the holiday (15 days), rain and high winds - GREAT!!! Scenery:- Outstanding.
Overall Organisation by Encounterwalking:- Outstanding. Will be using this company again and again and again and again!!!
- superior preparation with the documents for walking, with booking hotels and transportation of bagagge from encounterwalking; - they had a lot of patience with our sometimes chaotic planning ideas; - the coast path itself causes very seldom open questions about the direction to walk; - nobody should underestimate the path itself. It is really beautiful, but physical exhausting; mid-height footwear is not the best idea, even if this is elsewhere useful for trecking; a day for regeneration after two days walking might help to adopt yourself to the demands, and you should be prepared for rainy hours.
Thank you for the perfect orangisation of our trip and the wonderful selection of accomodations. Perfect was the acc. in Comb Martin- less perfect in Ilfracombe.
We had a greate time in wonderful surroundings.
The luggage forwarding was perfect. Your help with the travel was also great. The guide, map and itinerary were all very helpful. We absolutely loved this whole section of the path. We liked the extra information in the guide. That small church (Culbone) for example, was really beautiful.
All went well, no problems whatsoever. The staff at each hotel/B&B were super friendly and efficient. Your notes were very helpful. Bottom line: another splendid hike. This is the third time you have done a really great job for me.
On the Woolacombe to Barnstaple section I decided to take the bus from Braunton, less because I was tired than because I wasn't enthusiastic about the flat walk along the river -- but that was my fault for not looking more carefully at the route beforehand. I think that, if I were to do this particular walk again, I would end it at Woolacombe; but that's just my personal preference for the type of terrain I enjoy.
We are back home after walking the SWCP from Minehead to Westward Ho - we had a great time and managed to complete it okay, even though the weather was very challenging . We thought the scenery was stunning though, and the path is very well signposted and we had no trouble finding our way. Thank you for your efficient organisation- all the hotels were clean and comfortable and very welcoming.
Thank you for sorting out the only we problem we had at Minehead . We were rather dismayed at first, since we were all tired at the end of the journey- but you were so prompt and helpful in making sure we were not inconvenienced- so we would like to commend your customer service. We will probably be back in touch soon to arrange the next leg of our challenge!
We did it!
Concerning the walk, it was, no doubt, a tough one, but we managed fine. The rewards were manifold, a magnificent scenery, and lots of wildlife, nice and kind people and usually good weather. At times, it was even too hot for walking. The path was in good conditions, mostly dry, but some parts are pretty overgrown. We had only two very wet days on the path at the end.
The Tarka Trail was a bit of a torture, because of the tarmac, and it was one of the hottest days and loads of cyclists were on the road as well.
The luggage transfer worked perfectly well and we had no problems concerning payments with the accommodations.
All other accommodations were fine and we felt very welcome.
We had a wonderful holiday, even though we could have done with a few more days of relaxation after the walk, but we are back at work again. We would like to say a big THANK YOU for the perfect organization of our holiday.
Gabi & Adi from Austria
I broke the Southwest Coast Path up into a total of four trips (work gets in the way of things!), all planned by Encounter. Planning was superb and execution was precise. There was never a lost bag or missed reservation in 60+ nights on the trail. I was able to hike to my heart's content and never worry about the how or where I was going to stay when the day was done. I highly recommend them for price, service, and knowledge of the path. Briggs
I joined my friends for the first seven days of their much longer walk (they went all the way to St Ives). Encounter were great in organising my accommodation to fit with theirs along the route and all baggage transfers happened like clockwork. The route was varied with some lovely views in many parts. The routes were easy to follow - the acorn became out best friend - and the alternative routes were good too. Afternoon tea in Bossington and a morning stop on Croyde beach were memorable. Thank you. Looking forward to the next stage now!
This was our first ever experience of a walking holiday... in total we had a party of 8 plus 2 dogs. Fitness was a mix of regular walkers and those who do very little, although everyone was keen to point out just how athletic they were!
The trip was very enjoyable, the first 2 days walking saw perfect, dry conditions, but the 3rd day was truly awful, and we decided to avoid doing the full 14 miles with a drive home to the Midlands / Sussex afterwards. The baggage transfers went without a hitch and all the rooms were clean and pleasant to have a good night's rest. The routes were well marked, and even for novices like us, we didn't need to use a map once.
One thing to bear in mind is that we found that food choices can be limited due to the remoteness of the locations, and we were poorly planned for our lunches. The itinerary was spot on, so we should have taken a bit more notice of that regarding the warnings of a lack of grub stops! Also, it's worth remembering that the West Country closes on Sundays!
All in all, a very enjoyable trip, strenuous, but rewarding. We will be sure to be booking again in the future to hopefully continue along the coast path.
As usual, the trip and all of the arrangements and materials worked well. We took a chance on the steam train when the TV program was being filmed. That production really only affected the Minehead station and we had no problem getting seats at Bishops lydeard, albeit after a bit of a walk in the rain. Great fun chatting with RR guys and scoping out the activity.
The accommodations and directions were all good. Most notably, the pubs/B&Bs at Minehead and Porlock Weir--particularly because of the great staff.
One tip would be to make more clear where and how to make a hard right turn--just before Bossington--through an unmarked gate to stick to the path along the beach at Bossington, and on to Porlock Weir. We missed that turn and ended up going into Bossington proper and following coastal path signs taking you a very long way around on paved roads through Porlock--pleasant walk on the road, but we were out of steam at that point. Of course, when we eventually found our way back to the beach route, the giant pebble footing was a real ankle challenge for the end of the day!. Another note, the very nice ladies at Blair Lodge indicated they would not be providing pack lunches--but their were other options for those walking on. Taxi service lady with Andy's at end of the trip was great.
Thanks again for the good work. We appreciate the responsiveness of you and your team.
Having seen a 5 part BBC documentary about the SWCP we chose the 1st part of the route for our walking holiday in England. The Encounter organization was very good and we were pleased with the follow up of information from enquiry to booking followed by the day by day information to be used as we made the journey. Baggage transfers were excellent and on the whole the accommodation was good.
Perhaps you could ask the hosts at all your recommended accommodations to allow for an early start for walkers by an early availability of breakfast - we found 9:00 (breakfast time at some accommodations) rather late on a day in which we'd be walking well over 20kms. The walks were varied. Although very strenuous, we found the walk from Lynmouth to Combe Martin the most spectacular with stunning coastal views.
Unfortunately we were caught in a heavy downpour late in the afternoon and might have missed a signpost. We ended up in a carpark where a kind motorist offered to drive us the remaining few kilometers to our accommodation, an offer we gladly accepted! Signposting was not always good and during the last part of our walk where the SWCP and the Tarka Trail become one for part of the way we sometimes found it confusing. However, we always managed to make it to our accommodation, usually with the advice of helpful friendly locals! We enjoyed our walking holiday in England and recommend Encounter Walking as a good organization for the SWCP;
great walks: very diferent in nature, b.e. the hills and valleys in Dartmoor vs the seaside in Westward Ho!. weather was great and that really helped: just 2 days of some rain. kind people along the whole track: my partner caught a bad cold and everyone tried to cure it. two remarks regarding to the South West Coast Path: 1) the path does not go into Barnstaple anymore so no refreshmenst there 2) we (and other couples) got lost on the Saunton golf courses - signs should be improved.
Thanks Gerda - Just for future reference the path does still go into Barnstaple but there is an alternative option to cross Taw bridge as you come into the town rather than go right into the centre of Barnstaple which reduces the distance by 1.25 miles but you then do miss the centre of town and the shops.
I've just got back from another incredible solo hike along a 200 mile stretch of the SWCP over 15 days . The landscape for the majority of this the path is stunning, with some fairly remote stretches and some tough but rewarding hiking. Encounter once again organised things so that everything was taken care of, including luggage transfers, with no dramas throughout the trip. I'll be using them again for my next walk; having covered Minehead to Coverack in two stints, I'm just trying to decide whether to hike the last half of the path in one go...
We are two couples who recently walked two segments of the South West Coast Path. We had a wonderful experience and thought these tips might be useful to other walkers:
• On the stretch between Minehead and Porlock Weir, the Trailblazer book and Encounter's notes describe the "main route" and the "rugged alternative route." The trail signage, however, is the reverse of what is indicated in the notes, and designates the route closer to the sea as the "main route," which we took and which we highly recommend.
• We found the signage generally clear and useful, although we got off track a few times in towns and urban areas, where the signage was sometimes non-existent or harder to spot.
• We found that the mileage indicated on our two GPS units was consistently about 8 to 10% higher than what was indicated in the notes, possibly the result of our wandering off the prescribed route or measuring from portal to portal of our B&Bs.
• Two of us are vegetarians and one of us is lactose intolerant, so we had some concerns about whether we would find suitable meal choices. Not to worry! Encounters advised our B&Bs in advance and every restaurant or pub we visited was well prepared to deal with dietary restrictions and intolerances. An EU regulation requires restaurants to maintain information about fourteen common allergens. One restaurant showed us the book it maintained with this information for all its menu items.
• A note about breakfast: most B&Bs offered the included cooked breakfast between 8 and 9 a.m., which meant a fairly late start for the trail each day. Sometimes we were able to negotiate an earlier meal time or an earlier uncooked breakfast (cold cereal, fruit, juice). Other times we were able to substitute a packed lunch for the cooked breakfast and hit the trail on our own schedule.
Damon and the Team did a great job in arranging my walk and luggage transfer, as well as getting me some additional information. Thank you! In most accommodations my suitcase was already waiting in my room when I arrived. Not having to carry luggage up the narrow English stairs after a long day of walking, was particularly nice. The weather was mostly great for walking. Not too warm, not too cold, not too wet. I skipped 1 day (Clovelly to Hartland Quay) and took a bus to Hartland Village (from where it was only about 1 hour of walking to Hartland Quay), as it was very stormy and raining cats and dogs. It was nice having a rest day and I would recommend scheduling one after 5-7 days. I will definitely be back! :)
Firstly, the EncounterWalking team was truly excellent - always pleasant and helpful, and highly efficient in making our bookings and dealing with queries. Hotels/inns/B&Bs along our path were good/acceptable, and the diversity made for daily interest. We particularly liked the Café at Porlock Weir and the Rocks at Woolacombe; the Rising Sun at Lynmouth also has great character, and the newly renovated George Hotel at Braunton lovely rooms.
We loved our 7 days walking. Some of these sections of the coastal trail - particularly along the north of Exmoor - were a bit challenging, and we had to work at some of them to get them done in a day (but we are in our mid-60's, so I think some allowance is due!). 15 miles a day is fine if it is flat, but with hundreds/thousands of added vertical feet during the course of a day, our pace was probably slower than we expected. If we were to do it again, I think we might add a rest day, or a lower mileage day, in the middle of the week. That said, the hilly sections of the walk were beautiful and remote, with wonderful flora and fauna, and we would not have missed them for the world. In the latter part of our week, in contrast, we found ourselves walking some very flat paths around some very long estuaries. One estuary is fine for diversity, but I think we'd cut out any more of them than that if we were to do this walk again. Again, a lovely week's walking. Thank you, EncounterWalking!
Sorry for the delayed replie, it's a little difficult settling back into normal life after my fabulous adventure on the south west coast path. Thank you for the afternoon tea it was a pleasant surprise.
i have to commended you on your organisation, all my accommodation was wonderful, my bag arrived before me everyday but one! Because of your wonderful organisation, I had a worry free adventure.
i promoted your company when people asked how I had organised my walk and told people because everything was so well organised my only worrie for the day was what times breakfast, where's the acorn! And where's the pub for my midisonal G&T!
Thank you and keep up the good work of assisting people to enjoy the extrodanary south west coast path.
Excellent walk that I really enjoyed. Information from Encounter on route good. Because I booked so late the long day was just that bit too long but knew that and will book sooner for next legs. There is a cafe open Tues-Sun called The Waterside not on your info with good views, if nice enough to sit outside, of the estuary on the right about .5 of a mile before The Braunton Inn on The Tarka trail. All B&B's lovely but evening meal at Blair Lodge absolutely fantastic. Only negative comment I did not feel the packed lunch from The Bath Hotel was good value for money compared to elsewhere where such was needed due to the route. Thanks for organizing my hol - it was all I hoped for and expected.
I must give you and your staff a 10+++ out of 10 for the administration of the walk. Not only did everything go smoothly, but I very much appreciated your doing everything possible to make things the way I wanted them, for example: no taxi transfers!! How wonderful it was, each day, to arrive at THE destination. I have thanked you many times before, but cannot thank you enough for arranging the best walk I ever had. I know whatever else I do, the South West Coast Path will remain the ne plus ultra.
Problems finding the trail: The only bad (stupid?) mistake I made was coming down from Mawnan Smith. I neglected to go through the gate to the beach and walked almost all the way back up in a U. A lady walking her dog set me straight!
I found having a GPS extremely useful to verify, on occasion, many occasions, that I was on the path and sometimes to help find it when there were tricky on-agains after reaching a parking lot or something.
South Dorset Ridgeway: The first part of it out of Abbotsbury is very pretty, but a lot of it is rather dull and you have to be VERY VIGILANT following the signage, which is quite good. I would not choose the SDR over Portland and Weymouth had I not already done the former, but it was fine….you have it all to yourself!
I might suggest a rest day in Abbotsbury for people who would like to visit the swannery and the subtropical gardens. You can’t do both on the day you arrive. Even I, who started out at 7:00 a.m. could barely manage, and I would have preferred more time in both places. Those gardens were my absolute favorite of all the gardens I visited. If one took a rest day in Abbotsbury, then one could walk to the Hardy Monument, thus taking in the best part of the SDR, and have time for, say, the gardens.
Overall favorite sections were the first ones down from Minehead, but some were a bit scary, I have to say! Around Hartland Quay with ferocious wind and rain on those steep cliffs….yeah, I had my moments!
Perhaps I did not need so many rest days, but there were interesting things to do in all the places I stopped. In Dartmouth, managed Coleton Fishacre on the day I arrived (took a taxi in Kinsgwear—there is only one. The lady at the Tourist Information was helpful with her advice to call before taking the ferry over to make sure the driver was available.) and visited Greenway the next day…ferry there and walked back. Museum in Dartmouth is also very interesting. Back to Coleton Fishacre…a walker can enter from the path, see the gardens before 10:00, even if not exactly legal, and then see the house and proceed, but I would not recommend it. Too much for one day, but then I am not 25!
You can easily do both Greever and the Levant Tin Mines in Pendeen. (It was Pendeen, right?) The tours are quite different.
What an excellent experience for the 3 of us. Each day provided a reasonable walking challenge, rewarded with a clotted cream tea break during the walk and an ale at the end of the day. The time guides were accurate and the information in the guide book gave a good indication of what to expect and the path was easy to find and well marked. We would recommend taking the steam train from Bishops Linyeard to Minehead or vice versa. It was a pretty addition to the journey. We had some mizzle and only really one episode of transient rain, making the summer weather pretty well perfect for us. The seamless transfers of luggage and suitable accommodation made a welcome relief to tired walkers. All up a rewarding experience thoroughly recommended. THankyou.
Hello Damon! - We had the vacation of a lifetime! Everything went smoothly. We had only one day of ‘real’ rain, so we consider ourselves quite fortunate. The daily amount of walking was just right for us, the path well marked, and the scenery spectacular. Our bags were always waiting, and the accommodations were wonderful. Thank you so much for arranging all this for us so professionally.
Would highly recommend Encounter walking for arranging a holiday. Excellent accommodation and baggage transfers. Found Ilfracombe directions a bit confusing. Great meals in Woolacombe and Braunton(SQ's) Altogether fully enjoyed our week. We'll be back to continue this coastal path.
Wonderful week on the North Devon Coast Walk, very lucky with the weather..one wet morning otherwise perfect for walking and a clear blue sky ( plus a little mist now and then, heat haze). Nothing negative to report, all went to plan, accommodation fine, luggage transfer on the dot, our train/bus down was good as was the return.
Tips for other walkers, well…
As the weather was so good we decided on the high route on day 1 for the views of Exmoor, we were not disappointed, plus wild ponies and lots of bird life in the gorse. Nice paths using old sunken farm tracks. Recommend cream tea at Bossington.For the same reason we took the high path again on day 2 from Culbone Church, nice walking at elevation.
Day 3, Highlight.. Valley of the Rocks, splendid.
We are getting on a bit and although we are used to fell walking in the lakes we were certainly glad we split day 3 at Heddon’s mouth. We arrived at the Hunter’s Inn just after lunch which meant we had time to enjoy the surroundings (and the same for the following day to Combe Martin) without pushing on. Had the weather not been so good it would have been even more so. It meant that we had time to visit the interesting little museum at Combe Martin.
It also meant that we had recovered fully for the next day, Combe Martin to Woolacombe, which we thought was by far our toughest day, with an avoidable tour of Ilfracombe back streets but mainly because of the last stretch after Lee Bay which involved multiple climbs up steps designed for a giant. Where possible, we noticed that walkers had walked up the side of the steps, not on them, note to the NT or whoever built them.
Enjoyed the excellent walk from Woolacombe to Croyde Bay around Baggy Point although no good pics of spectacular cliff formations, almost nil visibility in rain, our only wet morning.
Braunton to Instow, nice lunch stop at Fremington Quay,
Plus, recommend Hocking’s Ice cream, available from vans at all stops between Barnstaple and Westward Ho!, and Sharp’s Pilsner, new to us, very nice on a hot afternoon.
The first part from Minehead to Bude was exquisite organized by Encounter. This part I did with my husband René. Then I went alone and I organized the accomodations to Falmouth by myself. This took me to much time, so I asked Encounter to arrange the last part to South Haven Point and this they have done really great. Within a few days it was all about. All this at the last minute and therefore the accomodations where sometimes further from the path, I am very satisfied with how everything in no time was controlled by Damon and Ellie from Encounter.
The path itself, I can only speak in superlatives, really very very beautiful. If you doubt whether you can walk this path alone: just do it. It always felt very safe to me. It is very well to do and if you take minimal luggage you do not need luggage transport (my backpack weight just 8 kg). The distances to be covered were sometimes tough but doable. I often required more time than was indicated. I really liked the rivercrossings by foot or ferry. Getting lost on the trail is impossible. If I was wrong it came mostly because I did not pay enough attention and usually I could find quickly the right way. And if not, there usually was a local with dog to show you the right path. I found it a great experience and I am very happy I have walked this beautiful path. I will definitely recommend Encounter with others because of their good organization, service and knowledge of the area.
In was a risky decision to book the full tour since there were some open questions as: Are we able to do it with little training? Do we really want to walk every day? What's about the english weather? Do we still like english food after 30 days? No all these questions are answered. Every thing went well and we miss the daily walks...
A big share in this success was the prepartion and execution done by Encounter Walking Holidays, especially Damon. The length of the daily walks were good and not too long, the Accommodation selection met our expectations, the Luggage Transfer worked perfectly and when we had a question, Damon sent feedback in no time. Many thanks for this and you will hear from us again
Having returned from our wonderful trip through Exmoor I would like to thank you very much for your great support along the whole journey. We had a perfect time! Walking was great and we were blessed with nice weather- it seemed that the sky opened up for us just these four days!
Our favorite place to spent the night was the Ship Inn (room no 2!), people were totally friendly, the food was delicious, the whole atmosphere was just terrific and the Blair Lodge in Combe Martin of course was perfect as well! Walking on the SWC is a great experience – and we will definitely explore another part of this trail with your support!
Well organised trip by Encounter, thankyou. Day was was pretty strenuous, not helped by lots of mud which made the ups and downs interesting. Goodness only knows what the path is like after rain, probably treacherous. Absolutely beautiful scenery across the moors though. Day 2 was OK although we cut it short at Ilfracombe when we found the pub! Day 3 Woolacombe - Saunton Sands was easy walking,only about 10 miles. Beautiful scenery and gorgeous weather! We can highly recommend a Sunday lunch at the Saunton Sands hotel, exactly what a hungry walker needs!
Walked this over 4 days. Spectacular scenery - would thoroughly recommend it and we had the most wonderful weather - sunny all the way. Not sure the Bergundy Chapel just out of Minehead is worth the visit as there is a very steep climb afterwards but Culbone Chuch after Porlock Weir definitely is. Great hotels booked by Damon and team and would thoroughly recommend the Rising Sun in Lynmouth for a delicious meal. Heddons Gate Hotel excellent and meal very reasonable. Thanks to Encounter Walking for a great holiday.
Everything was so well organised and it was lovely not to have to worry about luggage and accommodation. The hotels/B&Bs were all pretty good. I can hardly blame Encounter Walking for the weather, but it certainly did put a damper on things - three out of five days had pretty heavy rain and I got drenched a lot. I have some balance issues so because of high winds on a couple of days took slightly alternative routes, but think that was wise under the circumstances!
The organisation was perfect, our accomodations good up to very good, very friendly B&B-hosts. We were a group of 13 friends, some walking faster, some more slowly. It would have been helpful to have more samples/copies of the way to share, but that's surely a question of prizes. Ilfracome - in our eyes - isn't worth stopping at, Lee was much nicer. The last day (stay in Woolacombe, suggestion from encounterwalking was taking the bus to Brampton and walking back) we shortend the walk (Croyde - Woolacombe) to have a bit more time in Woolacombe - fantastic beach, great weather. Especially the hosts of "The Rocks Hotel" were extremely helpful. At the first day short before Blossington all of our sub-groups probably missed a sign and reached the village somehow, but not via Hurlstone Point like the guide recommends. Highlight was the trip between Combe Martin and Woolacombe. For some of us (nearly all over 50) the distance was a little bit too long - walking such a trail more than 20 km is a little bit too much, but nobodyneeded a taxi and we were all in a good mood.
Path descriptions and maps were very well, good was that the time prognose for the day mostly was right and very exact.
Only at one point - at the end between Minehead and Porlock Weir -, down to Bossington, all uf us went wrong and took another way down to Bossington, not the South Coast Path Way, but this was not important.
The hotels overall were okay, Millers at the Anchor in Porlock is great, Bath in Lynmouth was very okay, Combe Martin and Minehead okay, and The Rocks in Woolacomb really great, especially very very kind and helpful persons!
Helpful would be a list of shops with opening hours where to buy water and bread etc.
The whole organisation went very well, no problems with the transport of luggages.
I hoped to go swimming every evening, but that was difficult because of the coastline (except Woolacomb of course).
Overall a nice week and a very good hike, with excellent organisation from your side.
Many thanks! - Best wishes from Hamburg
We had great 10 days, everything was perfectly organized. B&B were good - range from absolutely ok to great, but nothing less than really ok. All hosts were very nice and the rooms clean. Luggage transfer was absolutely perfect - thanks to Sue and Ben. People in England are very polite and open, we had lots of "small talks" - very interesting. The maps are very good - we lost the signs between Minehead and Porlock Weir somewhere before Bossington Hill, but maybe that was our falt. Only one thing we would have done different if we had known - the walk along River Taw was a bit boaring, for us it would have been better to take a bus between Croyde and Westward Ho! because this part of the walk is not what someone expects from "coast path". But that is to blad on a very high stage - we were very content with the walk and the perfect organization - thanks to all people involved. I´m looking forward to walking the next part next year and I will do it again with Encounter Walking Holidays.
It was a great holiday. Hunters Inn was a great place to be ill ... And then the people of the luggage transfer were very friendly (they took me to Ilfracombe on day 5). I think I cought a cold and had been eating too much (4 times creamed tea in a week...).Fortunately I could make it to Lundy next day, so I still had a nice sea/seawind/birds etc. experience.
I will defenitely come back to do another part of the SW Coast path! Or the Coleridge Way.
I really have no remarks. All the B&B were so carefully selected by you! Maybe just a few general 'tourist' tips:
- Taunton: the big Roman Dido and Aeneas-mosaic in the Somerset museum is very impressive. It's just next to the busstation, so great to hop in when you walk from the trainstation to the bus station.
- The beautiful Exeter Cathedral is only a 10 minutes walk from Exeter Central (connecting station to London Waterloo).
- River Heddon (near Hunters Inn): you can spot dippers here.
We did the Minehead to Combe Martin part and luckily we had fairly good weather the 1st 3 days (forget day 4...). It was a phantastic experience to walk at the Exmoor coast. Great nature. The accomodation was perfect as well as the luggage transfer. Everything was absolutely well organized by Damon and met our expectations perfectly. Everything matched with our briefing given when we had the first contact. Thank you for the great 4 days of our vacation
Although the weather wasn't as good as it could have been, we had a great week walking the South West Coast Path! Thank you very much for perfect support and organisation. Everything worked very well, all the hotels were nice, the people so kind and the transfers just in time without any problems!
We had a wonderful week walking along Devons north coast with our dog. Especially the first four stages from Minehead via Porlock Weir, Lynmoth and Combe Martin to Woolacombe were outstanding. Fantastic landscapes! After that it becomes flat and physically less demanding, but quite beautiful still. Everything worked perfectly - thank you Damon and coworkers for organizing it so well.
All information we get were very good. We alway find our way. The B&B were all very good and friendly. Only with the bus from Combe Martin to Minehead was a problem, because they didn´t go, because there was a building site on the road, so we had to take a taxi, and this was realy expansive. But all the other things was very good, and we enjoy the 4 days in devon. Thank you very much for your help.
5 days of walking over varied terrain which was both invigorating and physically quite challenging but also very enjoyable. I had various OS maps but mainly relied on Roland Tarr's SWCP book which I found very informative and quite detailed. I am a strong and experienced walker but found the two days walking from Porlock Weir to Heddons Mouth and then Heddons Mouth to Woolacombe extremely demanding.
For my next section of the SWCP I will reduce the daily distances. That said the walking was at times a joy with some fantastic views from the paths cut into the side of the cliffs. I particularly enjoyed the walking through Culbone and Embelle Woods. A complete contrast but equally enjoyable was the two days walking over more "flattish" terrain from Woolacombe to Westward Ho. The itinery supplied by Encounter was very detailed and thorough giving lots of relevant information. The accommodation was adequate but as I was walking quite long daily distances I would have preferred breakfast times to be a lot earlier to be able to start walking before 08:30. Overall a great walking experience which has wetted my appetite for the next section of the SWCP, hopefully in spring 2016.
Hi Damon - Thanks for the organisation of our holiday, everything went very well, as usual.
Despite some reservations about going to The Hunters Inn rather than Heddon Gate, in fact we had a wonderful time there & thoroughly enjoyed our stay.
After our trip to Lundy we didn't want to stop walking the coastal path, so continued on to go round Morte Point - a real highlight of this section with strong winds whipping up the sea. Once again thanks for getting the weather correct.
I would like to give a huge thank you from all 7 of us who took part on the holiday. On the whole all of us were very satisfied with the route, accommodation and food, even the weather. Your itinerary was very good and we found all the accommodation from your directions without any problems. We even managed to catch the Steam Train from Bishops Lydeard to Minehead to get our holiday off to a good start and some even managed a cream tea!
The SWCP route was very well sign posted and the maps supplied were very good. I, myself, particularly liked the Exmoor and North Devon CP Book (as I am not a good map reader) and found the sketch maps really good in detailing the route and terrain. We also found the many points of interest to sightsee and possible alternative paths very good and useful information. Other members of the group used all the maps and one member also had a GPS. There were a couple of small route diversions because of landslides, but all were signposted.
The weather was very kind to us and we only had one morning of showers, otherwise we had dry, even sunny weather sometimes, with good visibility. This did make all the difference to the enjoyment of the route.
The Exmoor walk on the 2-Moor Way was beautiful and yes we did have good weather. We saw the Exmoor ponies and one even had a foul. Lovely!
I have arranged a party of 8 to walk the SWCP this year. Encounter walking has helped us with 5 weekends (from Minehead to Newquay) The arrangements have been faultless and I cannot speak highly enough of this organisation. Give them a try and maybe we will meet on the Coastal path next year
We walked at a leisurely pace for five days. Brilliant walk with some stunning views. The weather forecast had been poor but we only had a little rain on the final day. All the accommodation was fine, with the Heddon's Gate Hotel as the stand-out location. It also had the best breakfast. The food otherwise was disappointing except at the Hunter's Inn at Heddon's Mouth, but the beer and cider were excellent. All in all, it was a great trip and we intend to carry on next year and do another week, starting in Woolacombe.
This was the first time Jenny and I walked the coastal path with our 2 dogs a working cocker and a border carin cross we did three days walking with four nights, all the accommodation was great, the weather was kind and we walked approx 38/40 miles overall. On the second day Porlock to lynton if you feel fit enough or have enough time detour from the official route and come down the valley via Watersmeet it is a stunning walk into Lynton and a great way to finish the day. Walking poles were a big help for the up & downs the dogs slept like logs as did we. luggage transfer etc went like clockwork We have no hesitation recommending these guys & we will use them again.
Thank you for the perfect organisation, I have had a great holiday. I really appreciated all the information you gave me, the itinerary and the guide book with map were among the best I've seen so far. The walking was fabulous, although quite taxing. Talking about the mileage I guess I forgot to ask about the altitude differences to be climbed... I think the indication of these would be more helpful than the descriptions as 'moderate' or 'strenous' as obviously these depend on your individual fitness. Other than that, I had no problems at all on the way, if I did miss one or two signposts on the way it was purely because I was either lost in thoughts or simply looking the wrong way. Maps and guide booked always helped me find my way again and the few alterations and detours were just as good. One note: On my way to Braunton I did walk all the way on the Saunton beach, there is no limitation because of the army on the beach itself as the book suggests.
The weather was indeed quite horrible at first, but it was dry from Thursday and for the rest I bought a plastic poncho to protect my overpriced and very leaky gore tex hiking gear from the rain...:-) Accommodation was fine, some of it great (The Rising Sun), and I did have the nicest hosts at the Channel Vista Guest House.
I hope to come back soon and continue on to Cornwall!
We were a group of 3 ladies in our mid fifties. The first 3 days were very challenging with the ascent and descent but it did get easier towards the end of the walk. Thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the accommodation recommended by Encounter walking. Our thanks to all the staff at Encounter for the organising this walk so professionally. Looking forward to next years challenge. Julie Hodge
First of all can I thank you and Encounter Walking Holidays for arranging what turned out to be an excellent holiday walking from Minehead to Westward Ho! Although I have done four other long distance walks in the last four years in other parts of the country, this was my first walk with Jasper (my two year old Border Collie). It turned out to be the best walk yet, and I thought that some of the others would take some beating! The weather couldn’t have been better - walking in T Shirts everyday, no rain and glorious sun on four of the seven days! The coastal scenery was brilliant and varied with cliffs, sea vistas, woodland (especially between Porlock Weir and Lynmouth) and estuary. Jasper behaved himself impeccably all week - on the walk itself (off the lead about 75% of the time), as well as in the overnight accomodation and in the pubs during the evenings.
So onto feedback:
I found the walking straight forward, if a little strenuous at times, but for me it was ideal. The distances walked each day were fine, and route finding was never a problem. I used two guidebooks - the one you supplied, Trailblazer “Exmoor & North Devon Coast Path”, and my own Aurum/OS “South West Coast Path Minehead to Padstow”. Both complemented each other and were very good.
The general standard of accomodation was fine. The Bath Hotel in Lynmouth, Channel Vista Guest House in Combe Martin and The Wayfarer Inn in Instow were the pick of them. The Old Ship Aground in Minehead and The Smugglers Rest in Mortehoe were OK too. The Bottom Ship in Porlock Weir and The Laurels in Braunton were OK for one night only, but I wouldn’t have wanted to stay at these two for more than one night each - they being a bit basic. I ate my evening meal at all of these establishments, except the Braunton one, and found them all to offer good food. At Braunton I had my evening meal at The Black Horse pub, a few doors down from The Laurels, and had a superb meal. Breakfasts in general at all of them were fine, although some were better than others.
The luggage transfers seemed to work well, in that my luggage never failed to be waiting for me at each destination when I arrived! As regards being dog friendly, all were very good, with in this respect The Old Ship Aground in Minehead being the very best. So thanks again, and I’ll certainly use Encounter Walking Holidays again to arrange my annual walking holiday at some time in the near future.
After a short stay in London and enjoying some groovy pieces of Art I'm back home again.
Some comments on the walk:
-To stop walking when you enjoy it just so much is the most difficult aspect of the whole jouney.
- Accomodation was really cool, enjoyable that they were so different! There was honestly no one in which the people were not at least very!! friendly.
- Lost my way completely between Saunton Sands and Braunton. It was raining heavily, I wanted to walk across the dunes, was in the part used by army vehicles (which were not around at that time) and didn't know which path might lead out of that area. Problem was that I couldn't look at any map because they were not covered in plastic...I managed anyway because it was any path I could take, I just had to walk straight on and not in circles.
- Your comments for every day are very precise and helpful. Together with the Guidebook I could improve and learn to read the map. Hints which animals etc. can be seen are super and good to get a feeling that there are lots of animals around. And most of them could be seen...sometimes you could walk an hour before meeting the next human.
- The distances and walks you suggest for every day were precisely what I could manage. It's a good idea though to give further hints where to walk to in addition.
- I think I've learned what it was all about for me: to find solutions myself and see that I can manage and organise things on my own.
Just to let you know that we had a wonderful weekend walking between Lynmouth and Woolacombe. All the arrangements worked perfectly thanks. We found a great Thai restaurant in Lynton on Friday evening and enjoyed perfect walking weather, including a swim on the Tunnels Beach in Ilfracombe.
Thanks for organising - we will be back for more soon!
We had a great weekend, all went very smoothly and weather was perfect. Really enjoyed ourselves and sad to be back at my desk working now!!
We had a fabulous holiday, thank you everything was really well organised and we had on the whole good weather also which was even better.
For the most part we found the route well marked, however we got lost twice both times in the woods (this could have been our fault although we didn’t see the markers) once on the first day in the woods outside Minehead there had been a tree down and we climbed around it and followed what we thought was the correct path going through a gate and then saw a runner who directed us to take the path that turned up and back on itself which she advised took us to North Hill, however we ran out of path completely and ended up climbing directly up through the ferns to the top of the hill and found the path over the other side of it ( in hind sight I think we should have gone straight on after going through the gate – but we had a giggle and no harm done just a few sore muscles.
Then it was smooth sailing until day 4 where we past Lee Abbey correctly and then decided to take the inland route through the woods, but once inside the woods the signs disappeared and we obviously picked the wrong path and walked miles out of our way and once again ended up “off piste” but managed to join again across country (thanks to some red deer who ran away as we approached through some hedging and we followed them out and ended up on a lane that took us to Slaterslade and we found our way to the Hunters Inn where the beer went down very well!
The views were outstanding and the accommodation was all welcoming, clean and friendly.
I would like to mention in particular the hospitality of the hosts at Chanel Vista Guesthouse, one of our dogs picked up some ticks the previous day which I had removed and again had picked up some more on the route to Chanel Vista and I asked the landlady whether there was anywhere that I could get some “spot on” or equivalent to deter them. She said there was nowhere local but she had one spare that she had not yet used on McFee and offered it us to use. We thanked her and offered to pay for it, but she refused to take any money and just wanted the dog to be safe from Limes disease – above and beyond what was necessary and I just wanted to mention how lovely they had been – they also baked muffins to take for a snack for the guests along the next days walk
The Ship Aground and the Bottom Ship were both really lovely and the Bottom Ship had a beer festival on which was an added bonus and the hotel in Instow that we spent two nights at was really lovely the room was the best of them all with an enormous bed and best of all a bath.
The taxi was there promptly and took us back to Minehead and we saw a lot of what we missed of the villages and towns which were mostly beautiful We will definitely be doing this sort of holiday again, maybe further along the coastal path or maybe the two moors, however I think it would be nice to add a couple of rest days in the middle somewhere and extend the holiday so that there is more time for sight seeing.
Thank you once again for organising what was a wonderful week away.
Our holiday on the first stage of the South West Coast Path was absolutely fantastic. The weather was really good and the maps and Trailblazer Guide which you had provided helped to make route finding and planning our day easy. Your itinerary was also really useful - particularly the guidance notes for finding our overnight accommodations.
The B & Bs were all of a good standard - but we would particularly like to mention The Cottage in Porlock and The Yeodale Hotel in Barnstaple as being outstanding. We would also like to mention The Harbour Lights in Ilfracombe for the warmth of the owners' welcome and for their delicious packed lunches...which included strawberries and clotted cream, Devon fudge and chocolate brownies amongst other things....yum!
It's hard to pick out highlights from the route itself as we enjoyed all of it - but perhaps the area around the Valley of Rocks near Lynmouth (for stunning cliff scenery) and paddling for two miles along the sands at Woolacombe Beach should get special mentions.
Many thanks for all of your help in making our holiday possible. It has been a truly wonderful experience which we shall never forget. Now...time to start saving for the second stage of the Path!
Janet & Judith - Belfast
Eine grossartige Wanderwoche! Die Landschaft ist unbeschreiblich schön und abwechslungsreich, die kleinen Ortschaften am Meer und die netten Menschen so typisch englisch. Diesen Coast Path soll man aber nicht unterschätzen, auf diesem Abschnitt hatten wir über 4000 Höhenmeter zu bewaeltigen! Dafuer wird man aber mit atemberaubenden Fernblicken auf Buchten, Felsen und Meer belohnt. Ein Highlight war sicherlich Lynmouth, wo wir 2 Naechte verbrachten und eine Tagestour auf Exmoor gemacht haben. Ein grosses Kompliment an Encounter Walking Holidays, denen es gelungen ist, sehr angenehme Bed & Breakfasts für 13 Personen zu finden, auch für die professionelle Organisation sowie detaillierte Wegebeschreibungen und gutes Kartenmaterial. Und das einzige kleine Problem mit dem Koffer von einem in der Gruppe wurde schnell und unbürokratisch behoben. Vielen Dank. Wenn es geht, kommen wir wieder.
This was our first walk not carrying our rucksacks and what a joy to arrive at our accommodation with our luggage waiting for us and to be able to enjoy walking without back ache and complete exhaustion. The organisation was excellent and we could relax and just enjoy the magnificent scenery and the walking, helped by great weather. All accommodation was good and welcoming. Porlock was one of the friendliest villages we have stayed in with everyone speaking and seeming committed to us enjoying our stay. We shall look forward to continuing on the South West coast path.
Hello, just wanted to give some feedback on our walk ... it has been fabulous! We walked from Minehead to Bude, started on 16 June 2014 and arrived in Bude on 27 June 2014 with a small break over the weekend. The weather has been superb - something we did not expect at all! We even managed an afternoon on the beach in Putsborough ... unbelievable.
First of all a big thank you for the brilliant organisation. Everything went perfect from the booking of the accommodation to the luggage transfer. We were welcomed whereever we arrived. The standard of the accommodation was very good to excellent. A special highlight was the accommodation in Braunton (The Brookfield) - well chosen for the stay over the weekend - but also The Rocks in Woolacombe and above all 'The Gables' in Porlock.
The walk itself was just right. The distance was ok - although we sometimes wished to have been able to spend a bit more time in the village we stayed overnight. They were so beautiful and offered so much to see that it felt we could have done with a bit more time. Saying that we made up for it by returning to those places over the weekend. Public Transport was very good and we had no problem returning to our car.
The path was well signposted and we really enjoyed the book written by Henry Stedman and Joel Newton. The maps and commentries therein were excellent and easy to follow.
There was only one strech of the path which was difficult to walk as the bushes along the way had not been cut at all and we were stung by moscitos and scratched by thorn bushes badly. This was around the Radar Station before hartland Point.
We have already decided that we want to complete the whole path and next time start at Bude where we finished and continue from there. Thanks again for all your help and assistance - speak to you again soon.
A belated thank you for organising our walking holiday, we all had a lovely time and the weather was great, a little dare I say too hot at times! . Very impressed all went according to plan re bags and accommodation etc and we stayed in some really nice B & B's . Scenery was beautiful and we can confirm that the first two stretches we did Lymouth to Combe Martin and then Combe Martin to Woolacoombe were as strenuous as the guide book said, but well worth doing. The last section from Woolacombe to Braunton was also lovely up to Saunton Sands (Saunton Sands Hotel great for lunch on the terrace), but not so nice through Braunton burrows and round to Braunton where the path is overgrown and needing attention.
We will definately use your services again.
Wonderful scenery from Ilfracombe to Croyde, especially the Ilfracombe - Woolacombe stretch. Be prepared for the contrast that follows though, as the subsequent estuary walking is, by contrast, uninspiring, particularly the 13 miles from Croyde to Instow - flat, Tarmac path well used by cyclists, that has little to commend it in terms of views. Instow is a lovely quiet spot though, and if you don't fancy the next estuary walk via Bideford, you can get a ferry across from Instow to Appledore if you are lucky with your timing (only operates a hour either side of high tide). Nice final stretch of the walk from Appledore to Westward Ho!
We very much enjoyed our 9 days walking trip from Ilfracombe to Bude. Walking time predictions were pretty accurate. We add 1.5 hours a day for rests, picture taking. Weather was good. Strong wind the first 2 days, later warm. The path to / from Barnstaple is somewhat boring. Starting at Braunton (to Bideford) we took the bus to Barnstaple. 10 miles a day for us is enough. In all B&B's we found our arrived suitcases and a warm welcome from the owners. Hotels are less personal, as can be expected. We arrived from Amsterdam via Heathrow, train to Paddington, train to Exeter, bus to Ilfracombe. For the way back: bus from Bude to Exeter, then National Express coach directly to Heathrow. Saves 70 pounds. The map provided was a very convenient addition to the Trailblazer. In some cases we missed a signpost on the route, but GPS and off-line maps helped us out. Thanks for the perfect organisation, it was reassuring to know that assistance was standby.
We have just returned from a fantastic walk along a small part of the SW Coastal path starting in Minehead and finishing in Lynmouth. We found the maps and guide books easy to follow and did not have any trouble finding our way. We stayed in the Old Ship Aground in Minehead, The Ship in Porlock and the Bath Hotel in Lynmouth. The Ship was the least favourite of our accommodation and needs updating and refreshed. The Bath Hotel was fantastic apart from the bar meals which were a bit limited but the breakfast was fabulous. Hopefully we will return someday to complete a bit more of this fantastic path. Thank you Encounterwalking.
thanks very much for this wonderful organization of the trip. I enyoued it every day and I was very happy with the route and with the accomodations. Escpacially Hunters Inn and Culloden house were extraordinary beatifull. And the people there where so nice and friendly. I'm very happy that I walked in spring which was a new and very special experience. Wonderfull, wonderfull, woderfull!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We have completed our walk yesterday; I commend you for all the arrangements which worked smoothly throughout.
The walk has to be one of the best you can find anywhere for scenery,interest etc-so I request to hear from you what other itinerary -either on another section of the SWCP or elsewhere in the UK you recommend( 5-7days) so we can squeeze in a similar hike in September .
Since a week we are already at home. We spent a really extraordinary hiking week although the weather wasn't very pleasant. It was raining quite often and it was windy and cold. Neveretheless the sun showed herself sometimes. I enjoined walking through beautiful landscapes with lovely flowers, cute lambs and having always the sea on my right.
Our accommodations were all very cosy and the people extremly friendly. I liked the possibility to have a cup of tea/coffee in our own room! I especially prefered "The Old Ship Aground " in Minehead. On our first evening we sat by the fireside and felt there very familiar. We were totaly glad having choosen the relaxed walking route. Thank you Damon, it worked all best, as well with the busses!!
At some places the signes were broken, and we were not sure where to go, but I can't remember where that was. We only once get lostfor a short moment. It was on our first day, we couldn't find the Burgundy Chapel between Minehead and Porlock. It was foggy and this made the situation difficult. But fortunately soon we refound the path.It was perfectly organised, we had all the informations we needed and it was useful to have the luggage collected.
All in all a very good experiance and I am grateful to you Damon, you were so kind to offer us a individual route! I enjoined it very much. I highly recommend your organisation to everyone, then maybe it attract more Swiss to come and visite the beautiful south west part of England.
My (all too short) break was fab!!! An excellent choice of location - haven't really done much in Devon before but shall definitely be doing more! Lovely walking and absolutely ideal for the dog, just the sort of environment he loves - trees, beaches, wide expanses, few people, and with sheep (mostly) secured behind effective barriers he was happy to be off lead most of the time.
The hotels were excellent, in fact surprisingly so - it is often difficult to find reasonably priced accommodation as good as those you arranged for me when a big dog is in the picture. Thank you for taking all the hard work out of organising my time away (I usually do all this myself and know how frustrating it can be.) You definitely came up with the goods and I'm happy to recommend your service to others.
I like to give you a short feedback of our hiking tour from Minehead to Barnstable. We could find our way with the help of the guide book we got from you and the maps where very detailed. Additionally the way was marked with a lot of signs all along.
There was only one place where the signs was placed badly and we could not spot in which of the two possible ways the signs points. Unfortunately I could not describe the place exactly. It was on the way between Porlock Weir and Lynton, shortly before Lynton. In the evening we met some hikers in a pub who got lost at the same place. Maybe you get a more detailed tip from other hikers too.
The accommodations were good. I like to emphasize The Gables in Porlock Weir which is very beautiful and the landlady was very friendly. Finally I like to laud the luggage service which works very good all the time and delivered two times things we forgot in the hotel before to the next one.
Highlights of our tour were the beaches of Woolacombe which we passed by at a cloudy afternoon, touring to sun shine, changing to light rain and end up in a tea room by Cream Tea and sun shine again and a wonderful sky. This two hours were typically for our hiking week. The weather changes very often but we had only one day were we skipped the walking and preferred to take the bus but fortunately the day with the shortest tour.So thank you for this very nice week. We all enjoyed it very much and the changes are good that we come back to see more of the Coastal Path.
My son and I really enjoyed our walk but were less enamoured of the seaside towns in August. All the good restaurants were booked up so I would recommend booking in advance during busy holiday periods. Having said that we would recommend the following: Tea rooms at Bossington, Hunters Inn, Grampus Inn, Sandleigh tea room at Croyde, The Rock at Georgeton and Fremington Quay Cafe. The best views/places we thought were The Church at Culbone, The Valley of the rocks, Watermouth Bay, Morte Point and Instow beach.
Unless like us you want to walk the entire SWCP we would recommend avoiding the SWCP between Saunton and Instow. We found it flat and boring and walking on a tarmac cycle path between Braunton and Instow was unpleasant. Accomodation arrangements and luggage transfers worked very well. The Accomodation varied but we would certainly recommend The Old Stables at Minehead, Mellstock House in Combe Martin and The George Hotel at Braunton. Overall a well organised enjoyable trip.
Encounter Walking Holidays has clearly exceeded our expectations in many ways. They were very responsive to our needs, got things going and organised our trip in a marvelous, very precise way. I can only recommend them, our trip was wonderful!
The itinerary, maps and guides were really helpful and the path easy to follow. Our itinerary correctly advised us about when we needed to take our own refreshments e.g. for the day between Porlock Weir and Lynmouth. The luggage transfers and booking arrangements worked really well. We felt that our dog was welcome at all the places we stopped. If you're staying at Channel Vista in Combe Martin, we would recommend the evening meal as a hearty alternative to predictable pub grub. We would definitely recommend taking time to walk the Exmoor coastline which is spectacular. Thanks to Encounter for taking the stress out of planning and organising a linear walk so we could enjoy a lovely walking holiday.
Our first crack at the SW Coast Path, so we went with the "leisurely walkers" suggestion, which kept most days to about 6 or 7 miles. That certainly worked best for us, as the 1 long trek that we had (12 miles from Porlock Weir to Lynmouth) proved pretty difficult in terms of terrain as well as length of time spent on the trail.
Spectacular scenery from Lynmouth onwards, but prior to that mainly woodland with little by way of coastal views, especially the Porlock Weir to Lynmouth stretch. Very well organised (thanks Damon) in terms of accommodation, route planning and supply of support maps etc. Also the luggage transfer system, which worked perfectly. Stayed overnight at Minehead, Porlock Weir, Lynmouth, Heddons Mouth, Combe Martin and Ilfracombe, with 2 day stay overs at Lynmouth and Ilfracombe. All nice spots and would recommend the stay overs in order to "settle" and take in more of what the area has to offer - lovely harbour at Lynmouth and Lundy Island option at Ilfracombe.
Long term free off road parking in Minehead, and taxi back from Ilfracombe at £65 not bad for a 90 minute trip (avoiding the much longer and inconvenient bus alternative). Will be back next year for the next leg on the walk from Ilfracombe, probably to Westward Ho!
1 Any problems finding the route or areas you found confusing?
On the first day, Minehead-Porlock Weir, a few route signs were broken. We could see where they were broken, so we guessed the route and it worked well.
We were glad we've taken the rugged alternative route which was difficult for our Dutch knees on the first day, but it was worthwhile. A very beautiful part of the SWCP! The other days went all very well. We just used the Trailblazer guides and the route signs with the acorn. It was very easy. The National Trail guides (Roland Tarr and John Macadam) are brand new. We didn't have to use the maps of them.
On day 21, Crantock-Perranporth, we stayed on the coastpath and we have to look a few times to understand which inland track we have to take to the left. But that wasn't too difficult. We were happy we took this track and not took the main road, which was quite busy. In the towns, like Ilfracombe, Barnstaple (at the end), Bude and Newquay you have to use the guides, because there aren't a lot of signs (or there is a lot to see, so we missed them).
On day 12 (Morwenstow) we didn't listen to you (sorry!). To reach the Bush Inn you wrote that when you reach Hawkers Hut you have gone too far. But on the Trailblazer guide (map 51) you see just after the hut a gate and then a path left through a field going into a kind of Tarmac road. The sign to the Bush Inn at Henna Cliff told us to took that path and we've thought to do that when we looked at the map the day before. It is an easy way to reach the Bush Inn. Just a field and a road.
2 Tips or useful information for other walkers, good rest stops, bad bits of trail, good places to eat?
The suggestions for refreshments worked good. We walked in the season, so a lot of seasonal things were open. And we've seen a few more as well. We used a lot of the places on the itinerary named. They were very nice. We also bought a lot of water in the shops.
3 Comments about the organisation of the trip by Encounter Walking Holidays, good or bad?
The organisation was absolutely perfect. Could't be any better. The daytrips were long enough. The accommodations were good or perfect and the luggage transfer was also perfect. We hope you say this to them. Damon was very quick with his answers when we booked and all worked quite well
4 Would you recommend Encounter to others>
We've already did this when we met other walkers on the track. But we will certainly do this again. We are very contented and we regret that you're only in the south west of the UK.
The SWCP itself is a very beautiful one. We enjoyed it very much.
5 And finally what was the best thing about your walk / holiday?
The weather! And the perfect organisation of out trip. And of course the beautiful part of the country with a very nice SWCP.
What a fabulous time we had! Weather was great (a bit too great on the last day for the leg between Hartland Quay and Bude!!)
We arrived in Bude on the West Somerset Steam Railway which was a brilliant start to the holiday and the good times just kept coming.
I really cannot think of a single thing which could have improved the holiday. From beginning to end it was fabulous and, as usual, when we arrived at our destination I just wanted to keep walking!
Best Day: Clovelly to Hartland Quay. Waking up in Clovelly, fabulous walk through the woods, and going to sleep watching the sunset over Lundy from our bedroom window at Hartland Quay. Magic!
Best B and B: Probably Barnstaple. Great room and excellent breakfast.
Worst day: Barnstaple to Westward Ho!. Long boring path along the old railway line. Tarmac is not good for my joints!
Worst B and B: There wasn't one! (If pushed maybe The Bottom Ship at Porlock Weir)
The tearooms at Mowenstow are well worth the extra mileage!
Looking forward to Sidmouth to Poole next year!
This is now our 5th long distance walk /hike and are very pleased with it! We paid to upgrade our accommodations and were extremely satisfied with every stop. The luggage transfers were great with no nasty surprises. We found some parts of the path to be quite overgrown and in need of some maintenance. The maps and books were very good. The path was quite well marked and showed some alternate routes which was nice. There are 2 more 14 day segments to go to complete this walk and will definitely book it with Encounter. They got all our trip info to us well in advance of our departure understanding that mail can be extended to Canada. We have not had the same thoughtfulness with other tour companies used previous. Damen was always quick to respond and was very thorough. What more can you ask?
Encounter Walking could start a new US fan club from the walkers that joined me. All arrangements worked perfectly, and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely. I also appreciate the variety of inns, B&Bs and guest houses that you arranged for us as well as the appropriate distance to walk from one evening to the next, given the ease or difficulty of the Path that day. I especially appreciate the rest day you scheduled for me the day after the Hartland Quay to Bude leg. I really needed that recovery day. I will pass on a couple of favorable comments that were made about Encounter Walking from certain proprietors, and they were, that you are the best of any of the groups doing such walking arrangements.
It goes without saying that I and any of the folks that joined me would sing your praises to any third parties from the experience that we had. Please convey our thoughts of a job well done to your staff, and thanks for making possible a truly memorable experience.
We just arrived back in Canada. You guys did a super job and we have no problem recommending you or using you again. We like your approach with the “quote process” and your access to the good quality accommodation pays off for us. The accommodation was very good all round with highest marks to The Rocks , The Bath Hotel and Mellstock House . The luggage transfers worked seamlessly ( bags were already at the next accommodation for our arrival). No problems with the route which is well marked. Your advise for getting to and from the walk worked out perfectly. Our intention is to do a bit more of the SW coast path next year so we will be in touch.
Enjoyed Lynmouth to Hunters Inn. This was a short day, with time for stopping and looking at things en route. We made diversions to the beach at Lee Bay (elevenses) and at Woody Bay (lunch) which added some climbing, but made an interesting, varied day. Combe Martin to Woolacombe. A relatively strenuous but very varied day. Ilfracombe harbour was the biggest working harbour on the route; Lee Bay was unfortunately rather sad with the old hotel looking derelict, but on the way up the hill the other side we found a National Garden Scheme Open Garden (which seems to be open permanently) which is very impressive and well worth a visit; Morte Point was a fine cliff walk with good views; and Woolacombe sands at the end also made a good view – different from anything else so far.
Instow to Westward Ho! – apart from the fact that we felt hurried by a bad weather forecast. The river at Bideford was interesting and Appledore was delightful, and merited more time than we gave it. The walk round Northam Burrows was interesting – particularly with the strong wind, lots of surf, and surfboarders to watch. A nuisance that the Visitor Centre and loos were shut for the winter (on 24th September).
Tourist Information at Combe Martin was interesting and very helpful in directing us to the Quackers Restaurant (at the George & Dragon pub). Probably the best meal we had all week. Worth the 20 minute walk up the main street away from the sea front.
It’s very well route marked. Best days walk was probably Lynmouth to Combe Martin because of ruggedness, seascapes, deep wooded combes and the Hangmans...... The accommodation was good, varied and welcoming. Worth a particular mention is the Glendower at Minehead (super hosts, good room, excellent breakfast and kindly kept my car for a week); the Rocks Hotel (that dining room!!! And such a friendly welcome from Wendy); a specially cooked dinner for me at Combe Martin. Generally the smaller places were the best, the hotels a little impersonal but still very acceptable. The only negative comment is about the late start breakfast. 8.30 was the normal time although it was possible to get served a little earlier on special request...... Liked the way you highlight points of interest in the day’s walk and where refreshments can be obtained – or if they can’t between certain points. Level of detail of info about right, don’t want too much but you add something to anything in Trail Guide and SWCP Association leaflets...... Impeccable! Cannot fault the organisation. Always expected at the night’s accommodation, luggage always there (usually in the room) abd no hassle during the booking process. If only everyone was like Encounter!..... You should know that I’ll be back next year (hopefully) to fill that gap between Westward Ho and Padstow!. Thanks again for organising a great holiday for me.
Signage generally very good. A few areas where signs were a bit hidden by foliage etc. But the official SWCP National Trail Guide was very good and prevented me from going wrong anywhere...... Difficult to choose between the first 4 days walking where the scenery was very dramatic each day. If I had to choose one it would be the walk between Lynmouth and Coombe Martin. The Valley of the Rocks was spectacular and the exhausting trek up to Great Hangman well rewarded!...... The Tarka Trail can be a bit uninteresting in places and walking up and back along the river to/from Biddeford is nothing special. I didn’t take the ferry from Instow to Appledore as I thought that would be cheating!-probably would do though if I did that section again...... . If the weather is fine, a packed lunch at Great Hangman is perfect. Another walker suggested I walk through a narrow path through the bracken towards the cliff edge (perfectly safe) where there is a lovely grassy spot to sit and see for miles along the coast. The Boardwalk bar/restaurant on the Esplanade in Woolacoombe served great burgers and has a tiered outdoor deck overlooking the beach. Not as rowdy as the Red Barn Inn!...... A long time since I have stayed at B & B’s in this country and was generally very pleased with the standard. Barton Lea in Woolacombe was particularly good accommodation and breakfast. The owners, Lynda and Roy, were very welcoming and made a good evening meal restaurant based on their own experience......The official SWCP National Trail Guide was excellent..... The organisation was excellent, very prompt and efficient service- thank you. First rate website- the reason I initially contacted you rather than other similar providers. Will certainly use you again, hopefully next year.
We had some difficulty finding the route in several towns, but there were always friendly people who could direct us...... The scenery was stunning, and hiking was challenging on the days from Minehead to Porlock Weir and from Porlock Weir to Lynmouth, we felt we had really accomplished a lot those days, and the exhaustion paid off in stunning views. We also loved the hike from Wollacombe to Brauton- such variety in scenery and terrain!...... When the terrain was flat we were right on schedule with no problems. However on the first 5 or 6 days when we were doing a lot of climbing, we found that the timings we were given were horribly off!......The inns and hotels were wonderful. The innkeepers in Lynmouth, Instow, Ilfracombe, and Westward Ho! Were especially friendly and helpful........ The organisation was excellent in every way. All the information was given in a timely manner, and Damon was very helpful and friendly.
No problems with the SW Coast Path route finding. Signing was generally good and easily confirmed with maps (both Harvey and O.S) and SW Coast Path Guide book if in any doubt...... Generally agreed by party that Combe Martin to Mortehoe was best day. Interesting coastal sections, particularly the section of the walk from Ilfracombe to Mortehoe which had some dramatic views aided no doubt by the weather which was also fine...... Good stops:- Lee Abbey Tea Cottage. Tea and Ice Cream “window2 at Buck’s Mills. Fremington Quay Heritage Centre and Cafe. Good restaurants included The Boathouse at Instow, Chichester Arms at Mortehoe. The Royal Marine at Combe Martin...... Generally good accommodation and in similar standard to other trails we have done. One perennial problem though was the late time in some places wanted to serve breakfast. Particularly when we have long walking day breakfast should be available no later than 8.00. Accommodation hosting walkers should be prepared to accept or not accommodate us. Town Farmhouse Mortehoe, The Cottage Porlock, Cleeve House Morthoe particularly good. Hunters Inn at Heddons Mouth, Bath Hotel at Lynmouth and Wayfarer Inn Instow also liked.
The best days were walking along the cliffs. At first because of the views over the sea. But also because you were walking there mostly over the narrow sandy and stony walking paths in the middle of nature......the worst days were the walking days along the estuary of the rivers Taw and Torridge. But it is not right to say that these days were worse, but they were of less interest. This is because you are walking most of the time along the way on old rail road dyke, with sometimes views over the rivers, where you see a lot of litter, shipwrecks and so on. It is not that we regret that we have done this part buy foot, but we think, that if we should pass this part ever again, we should do it by bus. This year we first had walking days of only a few hours, so that we would also have more time to look around the villages where we passed through and where we slept. We do not regret this, because most of the places we have been, were worth a longer or shorter visit. We have been about 2 days in Minehead: here we have walked into Dunster (and castle). This is sure worth a visit. Bossington is also very nice with a very nice tea garden. Lynmouth we also found worth to spend some time. We have spent two days in Illfracombe. We found it a beautiful town, worth to spend some time but it is not necessary to stay here an extra day...... We are very content.
The way markers kept us on the right trail except where they were vandalised, near The Hunters Inn, Heddon Valley.......From Minehead to Porlock Weir to Lynmouth, to Coombe Martin and Woolacombe were all great walks because of the varied terrain and magnificent views...... We thought estimated times were pretty accurate...... We enjoyed the cafe at Porlock Weir which served delicious (but expensive) food. Lovely little lunch places in Bossington and Croyde Bay. The Grampus pub just 400yds off the trail as you approach Lee was also a good find......The best accommodations were Yeoldon Hotel, Northam, The Rocks Hotel in Woolacombe and Melstock House, who all provided a warm welcome and had good facilities......We will probably do the rest of the SWCP in one week tranches over the next couple of years or so. I will recommended Encounter Walking Holidays to my friends.
We had a splendid time and all went to plan. However we realised the terrain was quite testing and so we shortened our third day by dint of taking a taxi out of Lynmouth. This meant that we arrived at Coombe Martin in the early afternoon on a bright sunny day, which was perfect for our cousin from Canada who was returning to her roots. She spent the rest of the day talking to the locals and picking up gossip......The accommodation was all fine; the proprietors of the B & Bs and pubs were universally helpful and we ate and slept well. We returned to Minehead by taxi, largely by doing so we could start our journey home a bit earlier. When we left Coombe Martin we all wished we could have carried on, but in view of the change in the weather, it was perhaps as well we did not......Thank you for your help and hard work in fixing everything.
Just to say thank you for organising our walking break. It’s a really efficient service which worked really well for us. We will defiantly use your service again for the next leg! For info the food at both the Cafe at Porlock and The Rising Sun at Lynmouth was superb...... Glorious weather, the perfect coast path walks and all your help made it very memorable for us both. Please pass on our thanks to you staff.
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