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Minehead, the start of the South West Coast Path. 630 miles of beautiful coastline stretching out ahead. Two years ago I set myself the goal of walking the whole of the South West Coast Path from Minehead to Poole in two years. In 2019, I managed just over 200 miles, completed in stages. And then COVID-19 happened. Having spent much of the last year facing lockdown restrictions in the UK, my goal to walk the SWCP in 2 years fell by the wayside. But now, having come out the other side, and with UK travel being possible once more, our coast path hiking resumes with the Minehead to Porlock coastal walk.
Minehead to Porlock Route Summary
This particular section of the South West Coast Path stretches from the busy seaside resort of Minehead, to the quaint picturesque village of Porlock Weir. The route itself is fairly flat except for a steep ascent at the very start and steep descent towards the end of the hike. The official distance calculator on the South West Coast Path website says this route is 8.9 miles in total.
|Start/Finish||Minehead to Porlock Weir|
|Distance||8.9 miles (14.3 km)|
|Time Required||4-5 hours (easy pace)|
|Parking||Quay West Car Park, Minehead, TA24 5UP|
|Public Transport||Bus service no. 10 from Porlock Weir to Minehead|
|Facilities||Shops & restaurants in Minehead, pub/cafe in Porlock Weir. Toilets in Minehead & Bossington.|
|Difficulty||3/5 – Moderate walk with one difficult long uphill stretch to start|
Minehead to Porlock Route Guide
Starting from Quay West Car Park in Minehead, follow the coast round to the left to find the start of the South West Coast Path. Although, if you’re OCD about these things, you might want to find the ‘official’ start of the 630-mile trail a little further to the right, along the esplanade, where you’ll see a monument marking the start of the South West Coast Path.
Continue walking to the left until you reach the end of the esplanade and a grassy park area with a sign marking 629.75 miles to Poole. Walk through the park and towards a wooded area and start the ascent.
The path begins to climb steeply through the trees and eventually reaches a road. The trail levels out here as you pass a National Trust sign announcing Greenaleigh Point. Continue along the lane, keeping the sea on your right, until you reach a house ahead of you. Take the coast path on the left hand side as it climbs again. The sea should now be on your left as you climb through the trees.
Press on through the woodland – this is the steepest stretch of the hill now, so pace it out. You’ll pass through a couple of gates before reaching the top of the hill and following the trail to the right. If you keep taking the higher path each time the trail divides, you’ll eventually come out at the top of the cliff and should spot a carpark. If you want to avoid climbing the gruelling hill out of Minehead, you could park here and enjoy the flat walk over the cliffs towards Porlock.
This is where the trail gets interesting. For the next 3-4 miles, you’ll enjoy sweeping views of the vast rolling hills of Exmoor National Park as they tumble into the ocean. This next section of the trail is fairly flat and easy to walk, as the path is well marked and sign-posted. Before long, you’ll pass through a gate with a National Trust sign marking the start of Holnicote Estate.
Someway along, you’ll also spot an alternative route which is known as the ‘rugged’ path. We stayed on the easier path this time, as we were short on time and the ‘rugged’ trail looked like it would take substantially longer to complete. However, if you’ve got the time and energy to take on the undulating hills of the Exmoor coastline, my guess is that the rugged option would deliver even better views and somewhat more of a challenge.
Continuing on the official coast path route, you’ll eventually pass through a gate and follow a path in between two tall hedges. When we did this walk in April, the hedges were lined with beautiful bright yellow gorse.
Eventually, the landscape will open out and the trail will lead you to the precipice of a hill overlooking the coastline ahead – you’ll also be able to see Porlock Weir across the bay. When the path forks, it feels like you should keep left. However, the official coast path route veers to the right, and takes you on a fairly steep descent back to sea level. The path down the cliff is a little ‘shingley’ in places, so you’ll need to be steady on your feet here.
Once you reach the bottom of the hill, follow the path to the left and through a wooded area. You’ll follow a beautiful river for a short while before heading over a bridge to the right hand side and reaching the National Trust car park in Bossington. Here you’ll find some public toilets and a very quaint teashop in Bossington village, called Kitnors.
The coast path leads out of the back of the carpark, past Kitnors Tearoom and on to the road, where you’ll need to follow it around to the right hand side, past some very pretty cottages. From Bossington to Porlock Weir, the South West Coast Path is very well sign-posted, although we noticed the distances on the signposts were incorrect in places and this confused us greatly – doesn’t take much!
At some points, the sign posts informed us we were 1.5 miles from Porlock Weir, only for the next one to tell us we were 3 miles from Porlock Weir, which made us worry that we might miss our bus back to Minehead. Looking at Google Maps, it seems Bossington is 2.5 miles from Porlock Weir if you follow the coast path, so my opinion is you should probably ignore the signs.
Eventually, the coast path will bring you on to Porlock Marsh and will follow the contours of the marsh until you reach Porlock. Obviously, being a marsh, this section of the path will likely be very water-logged in winter months and you may also need to check tide times. It was fairly wet in places when we visited in April, and we hadn’t had any rain for at least a couple of weeks, so make sure you have decent waterproof hiking boots. Along this stretch, you’ll also pass a memorial commemorating the crew of a bomber that crash landed on the marsh in World War 2.
From Bossington to Porlock Weir, as you cross the marshes, you’ll pass eerie dead trees, as well as a derelict barn. Follow the route until you turn to the right and eventually end up on a pebbly beach. Cross the beach and keep walking until you reach some steep steps on the left hand side. These steps bring you out on to the road, where you’ll need to turn right and follow the road for a few hundred yards into Porlock Weir.
Facilities and Amenities
This route is fairly well serviced in terms of amenities and facilities available. As Minehead is a large seaside resort, you’ll find plenty of shops, supermarkets, cafes and restaurants. There are free public toilets at the Quay West Car Park in Minehead. As mentioned above, in Bossington, you’ll find a very lovely tearoom and public toilets located in the Porlock Marsh car park. And finally, in Porlock Weir, there is a very old and beautiful pub called The Ship Inn – we can recommend the scones – as well as a cafe at The Harbour Gallery. Porlock Weir also has a couple of hotels and a decent sized car park.
Getting from Porlock Weir back to Minehead was fairly straight-forward. You can catch the number 10 bus service that leaves from Porlock Weir, opposite The Ship Inn. It takes about 20-30 minutes to get back to Minehead. However, it should be noted that there are only 3 or 4 buses a day and the bus service only takes cash. You can find the bus timetables here.
Other than this, there aren’t any other options for getting from Porlock Weir to Minehead via public transport.