7 fantastic sections of the England Coast Path you can already enjoy
The England Coast Path has lots to offer, from easy family strolls to steep climbs with breathtaking views
When completed, the England Coast Path will snake over 2,700 miles around the nation’s edge. Once complete it’ll be the world’s longest continuous coastal trail. We’ve chosen a great selection of the sections where you can already stretch your legs. Some are flat and easy, ideal for families and rich in wildlife. Others are as demanding as they are dramatic, with steep climbs and breathtaking views. And all can be split into shorter stretches for walks of a day or less. Lace up your boots and get ready for spectacular strolling!
1. Rufus Castle to Lulworth Cove, Dorset
This first section of the England Coast Path was opened in time for the 2012 Olympics, so spectators could watch sailing events from the clifftops. Which was also great news for walkers. Because this is among the most spectacular legs, tracing part of the Jurassic Coast, famed for its fossils. The trail bucks and rears along this 19.5-mile stretch, scaling high cliffs and dipping to glorious bays. Cool off your toes during your hike with a paddle at Man o’ War Cove, next to the famous rock arch Durdle Door, or curiously round Lulworth Cove.
You’ll absorb centuries of history en route, too. Right at the start, admire the medieval bastions of semi-ruined Rufus Castle and Henry VIII’s citadel at Portland Castle. The timeless Georgian seaside resort of Weymouth never loses its appeal. Parts of atmospheric old Smuggler’s Inn at Osmington Mills date from the 13th century, and there’s even a Roman temple at Bowleaze. Mostly, though, walkers drink in a series of spectacular views over rolling Dorset hills and across looming rock stacks to the English Channel.
2. Cromer to Great Yarmouth, Norfolk
You’ll enjoy endless dune roaming on this 32-mile pier-to-pier jaunt along the smooth curve of Norfolk’s eastern coast. The path crosses a succession of sandy swathes backed by marram-grass mounds, rich in insects and other wildlife. The region is delightful in winter, too, when portly white grey seal pups speckle the sands at Horsey. You’ll also see them at Winterton Nature Reserve, a hotspot for birders hunting migratory species. Surprisingly for such a famously flat county, you’ll stroll along clifftops, too, and even visit California – with its suitably impressive sand-and-shingle beach. But rest assured, this walk starts and ends at unmistakably English seaside towns. Pick up some fresh crab at Cromer and join in the fun at Great Yarmouth. The popular Pleasure Beach amusement park is now rivalled by a burgeoning arts scene. It’s a fabulous way to finish your coastal adventure.
3. Walney Island, Cumbria
Thanks to a 16-mile section of the coast path, you can now walk around all of England’s eighth-largest island. Crossing from industrial Barrow-in-Furness just across the Walney Channel, soon the landscapes and vistas become truly wild. At its northern end, the coast path weaves through North Walney Nature Reserve. As well as far-reaching views to Lake District hills including Black Combe and the Coniston Fells, it’s home to natterjack toads, waders and birds of prey. The west coast is all big-sky vistas across the Irish Sea. Continue anticlockwise to reach South Walney Nature Reserve, thronged with grey seals, migratory birds, breeding gulls and wintering waders.
4. Camber to Folkestone, Kent
Explore this 30-mile stretch of coastline for endless beaches and skies as vast as you’ll find anywhere. There’s almost an end-of-the-world atmosphere at Dungeness, the huge shingle spit where a nuclear power station looms above artist Derek Jarman’s cabin and gardens. Roam between endless wildflowers here, and through a nature reserve bustling with birds coming and going through the season. Reminders that you’re on the edge of Britain, almost touching France, also line the path. The trail skirts active military ranges and passes Martello Towers and other relics of the Napoleonic Wars. It’s not only a hike through history: there are more traditional seaside joys in the vast beaches at Camber, Romney, Dymchurch and Hythe. Those three towns are served by a wonderful steam railway, providing a wonderful way to construct a one-way walk. Kent Ramblers have a guide book of this stretch of the England Coast Path.
5. Staithes to Ravenscar, North Yorkshire
You’ll encounter plenty of drama on this 22-mile slice of North Yorkshire’s finest shoreline. Expect lots of ups and downs as you hike beneath ruined Whitby Abbey, inspiration for Bram Stoker’s classic vampire yarn Dracula. Catch your breath on the craggy clifftops to watch for seabirds and breaching whales offshore. There are even prehistoric monsters, if you choose to seek them out. Fossils abound on the so-called Dinosaur Coast. Cracking open a nodule could reveal an ammonite or other ancient creature. This section cherry-picks the prettiest harbour villages at Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay and Runswick Bay. Add classic seaside joys such as chips and crab sandwiches, traditional pubs and bobbing fishing boats for a dream coastal walk.
6. Maldon to Salcott, Essex
The tang of salt tickles your nose all along this 26.5-mile trail, tracing the low-lying, marshy Blackwater Estuary. It’s easy to see why hit novel and TV series The Essex Serpent was set among the mysterious saltmarsh and mudflats. And though you won’t meet any mythical beasts, you’ll be kept company by plenty of wildlife. Look for Brent goose, little tern and ringed plover plus dozens more birds at Tollesbury Wick Marshes and Old Hall Marshes Nature Reserves. There’s a strong whiff of history, too, from Maldon’s traditional high street and harbour to Salcott, its name reflecting the region’s salty heritage.
7. Brean Down to Minehead, Somerset
The first leg of this 58-mile, four-day section isn’t straightforward. Not because it’s difficult terrain as apart from the gnarled finger of Brean Down at the very start, it’s largely flat. But various rivers and estuaries snake across the landscape, diverting the coast path inland. That’s just the start of a variety of landscapes you’ll cross, though. There’s a long stretch of sandy beach from Brean to Burnham, then the meandering Parrett Estuary leading to Bridgwater’s Victorian docks. Round the bird-bustling saltmarsh peninsula of Steart Point, then trace the craggier shoreline past Kilve and lively Watchet Harbour. There’s plenty to admire inland, too. The Quantock Hills nudge down almost to the shore at St Audrie’s Bay, while magnificent hilltop Dunster Castle looms inland. And the end of the path at Minehead isn’t just a classic Victorian seaside resort. It’s also the start of the superb South West Coast Path, twisting 630 miles around England’s westernmost peninsula to Dorset. In case you just can’t stop walking…
We’ve got ideas for hundreds of wonderful walking routes across England, Scotland and Wales, long and short, easy and challenging. Search for routes on our website. Or join a guided walk with a local Ramblers group. Find your nearest Ramblers group and choose a walk that suits your pace, fitness and interests.
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