A review of Dorset and South Devon Coast Path

SW Coast Path Part 3 Plymouth to Poole Harbour

Posted by Mark Armstrong 3rd May 2014

Authors: Henry Stedman and Joel Newton
Publisher: Trailblazer

Trailblazer's guidebook is the 3rd in the series that covers the last 217 miles of the South West Coast Path - Britain's longest national trail - and completes the 630 miles of the route.

As always, the Trailblazer's format is comprehensive. The Planning Your Walk section includes suggested itineraries with the useful addition of suggested day and weekend walks. As well as information on what to take and getting to and from the area, there's also some interesting suggested reading, whether your interests lie in fiction, history, geology or flora and fauna.

A Minimum Impact and Outdoor Safety section includes some useful general advice and includes a small section on landslides. I suspect if the guide had been written post the storms of early 2014, this section may have been more comprehensive in nature.

The 3rd section covers the Environment and Nature and has informative advice on where to see evidence of the Triassic, Cretaceous and Jurassic periods as well info' on flora and fauna.

You could take the view that some of these sections are skewed to certain topics or don't give enough information. For example, the pictures include common flora and sea birds, but no other varieties of birds and the paragraphs to butterflies and moths are just a brief mention. However, they do state that "the following is not in any way a comprehensive guide - if it were, you would not have room for anything else in your rucksack - but merely a brief run-down of the more commonly seen flora and fauna on the trail, together with some of the rarer and more spectacular species."

The Route Guide and Maps is the main part of the book. The maps are large scale and include walking times, directions, places to eat and stay and, for the most part, are very user friendly. However, they can become slightly busy looking when covering more built up areas with more info' to be pointed out.

It's good to have the authors' opinions in the book, even if you don't agree with them upon arriving at a place or eating in a restaurant. At least it gives you some idea of what place may fit your taste and budget.

With a guidebook as comprehensive, or at least as wide-ranging as this, there is obviously problems with the information over time. With so many places to eat, B&B's and opening and closing times etc, it is inevitable that some information will be out of date almost as soon as it's published. With the recession, it is inevitable that some businesses will have changed hands, closed or been renamed.

Just taking the West Bay to Burton Bradstock section of the book as an example, it says that fans of classic tv comedies will have seen the opening scene of The Life and Times of Reginald Perrin that was shot on West Bay beach. However, it is now better recognised as being in the 2013 ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tennant (it also had previously featured in Harbour Lights, a series starring Nick Berry.)

Indeed the cliffs probably already look different from the scenes in Broadchurch following the storms of early 2014. Following 2012 cliff falls some of the Coast Path was closed, but it has now reopened along Burton Cliff (between Freshwater and Hive Beach), although a short inland diversion is now necessary. This diversion, albeit short, is not shown on the map in the guidebook. So it goes to show how quickly things can change along this coast.

Despite that, this is a great guide to use when planning a trip to the South Coast. Please remember, though, that many places won't accept advanced 1 night bookings at peak times, weekends and summer holidays. So if you decide to risk booking whilst on route, it is worth using the accommodation guides to check the place is still open and its current availability before setting out, to at least give you some options of places to stay.

The only downside to this book, if you can call it that, is that in its efforts to be so wide reaching and comprehensive, it is inevitably going to fall short on some aspects. However, it does ask that you contact them if there are any changes or omissions that should be included in the next edition. And if you make a significant contribution you'll get a free copy of the next issue! Plus on their website they do feature any updates that they have heard about. It is definitely a great guide to have if you make frequent trips to this part of the coast or if you are planning a long distance trek. But if you are organising this yourself it's worth checking with the South West Coast Path Association regarding any possible diversions or changes to routes, although being a coast path and well sign posted it would be difficult to lose your way. But remember to please take notice of any warning signs.

If you would rather someone else have the effort of organising your walking holiday, High Point Holidays offers 4, 6 or 7 day's walking along Dorset's Jurassic Coast - our independent walking holiday follows the South West Coastal Trail between Lyme Regis and Swanage in Dorset, with a possible extension to Corfe Castle. We also have an independent walking holiday along Cornwall's Dramatic Northern Coast which follows a beautiful section of the South West Coastal Trail between Bude and Pastow.

If you want to purchase all 3 of Trailblazer's South West Coast Path guidebooks, they are currently offering a 25% discount.


Dorset and Denon Coast Path Guidebook


West Bay Cliffs




Hive Beach at Burton Bradstock


Freshwater from Burton Cliffs


White Nothe


South Coast Path


White Nothe Signpost