I never expected to, but somehow it happened; somewhere between my first and last steps on the 1015km South West Coast Path, I became completely charmed.
My first day on the trail I unexpectedly came face to face with a wild-deer. We were both momentarily shocked and stood like statues. It was surprising heart-thumping stuff! In Lynmouth I took an old cable car up sheer cliff-face to buy new hiking shoes, not ideal when you’ve just begun a 1000km walk, but fun anyway.
There were ice-creams in seemingly every village; all delicious. I followed on the trail of basking sharks from Padstow to St Ives, never quite catching sight of them but the sense of anticipation was exhilarating. There were sea-birds that kept me company, and the prettiest most hidden-away coves in the entire world surprised me every day.
Friday night fish and chips and listening to the local male choir is a thing in Mevagissey. It seems that sitting by the pretty harbour enjoying the singing is the best way to eat your dinner; just don’t feed the seagulls!
I can’t remember all the cream teas I ate but a special memory comes from scones, jam and cream at the tiny church in Cadgwith, sitting with locals listening to gossip.
I met a pirate in St Ives, discovered Banksy graffiti in gritty Brixham, there were posh yachties in Salcombe and countless adorable villages along the entire path. I swam at gorgeous Lulworth Cove near Durdle Door in freezing waters but with warm conversation.
Somewhere at the top of the highest and most precipitous point of the path I met an 80-something-year-old gentleman. There was no room to spare on either side to pass, so we stopped to chat. He told me his wife died of dementia two years earlier and he walked because he could. Walking bought back precious memories and reminded him of her.
On a day with a long walk before me, I met an elderly lady sitting overlooking the water. I remember a flutter of indecision about striking up a conversation. Eventually, I sat beside her and we talked. She was completely charming, wonderful, inspiring and funny. I’m so glad I stopped that day because from so many wonderful memories, hers is my most cherished.
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Cornwall is a romantic county on England’s rugged southwestern tip and has much to offer the adventurous hiker. This place is home to the iconic South West Coast Path, England’s longest waymarked long-distance trail (1015km), and the lesser-known but no less compelling routes of The Saints Way and Saint Michael’s Way. Our hiking itineraries celebrate a connection to nature – a belief embraced for centuries by Celtic Saints and Cornish locals. The trails meander along sandy beaches, towering cliffs, sheltered estuaries and over rolling green hills, and coastal valleys.
Photo of Cadgwith Church courtesy Roger Marks.