We go on holiday to Padstow with our two boys, aged 12 and 14, and our 10 year old daughter every year. We like to try out new experiences as the kids grow up. So we decided to walk part of the South West Coast Path, which stretches 630 miles across the South West of England.
My husband worked out the route in advance. It looked and sounded a long way. But he assured me it wasn’t too far. I felt relieved as I didn’t want to be walking 10 miles. We are all capable of walking 10 miles, but it’s not the most relaxing thing to do on holiday, however beautiful the scenery. I thought about seven miles would be good – enough to enjoy the scenery and get lots of exercise and fresh air, but not so far that it exhausts us.
My husband thought the route would be five miles.
We drove to Treyarnon Bay to begin our walk. It was less than four miles away in the car. I suspected this meant the hike would be around seven or eight miles. My daughter kept asking how long it would take. I told her to assume it would be all day (while feeling certain I would be enjoying a cream tea in Padstow by 3pm).
From Treyarnon Bay, we were almost instantly at Constantine Bay. We decided to walk across the beach rather than take the path, with the boys taking the opportunity to skim stones.
The scenery along the Coast Path was stunning. The sky and sea were blue and we saw some spectacular waves and beautiful rock formations. Walking along the tops of cliffs with the sun shining and the wind blowing around us felt like the best possible thing to be doing at that time.
At the start, the bays came thick and fast. (Apparently there are seven bays for seven days and the path took us through all of them.) From Constantine, we came across Booby’s Bay, which caused much hilarity for the kids. We had our picnic near the lighthouse at Trevose Head.
After the first three bays, things slowed down a bit. We could see our favourite beach, Trevone, in the distance. My eldest, the intrepid walker, thought he could get there in 15 minutes.
Not far from the lighthouse is the Padstow Lifeboat Station, which is a fabulous state-of-the-art building, where lifeboats can be launched in any tide. We were even lucky enough to see one launch as we walked.
It was a downhill walk in the shade to Mother Ivey’s and then Harlyn Bay, a very big beach, which the path crossed.
It was a long walk to our next bay – Trevone, our favourite beach. It didn’t take the 15 minutes my eldest had predicted to get there from the lighthouse. It took over two hours.
By this time we were hot, tired, hungry and thirsty. This walk was well over five miles and I certainly wasn’t going to be having my cream tea at 3pm! But we knew that Trevone was near the end – just one final push to Padstow.
After Trevone was the toughest walking of the lot. The scenery wasn’t quite as beautiful and the path was steep and narrow in parts.
My daughter was feeling tired, and she wasn’t the only one. The enjoyment had gone out of the walking. When I’d told her to assume we would be walking all day, I hadn’t actually believed it!
As we got to the top of a high cliff, we saw Padstow in the distance. Although we couldn’t actually get to it. We weren’t walking as the crow flies – we were following the path and still had a long way to go. As we walked down some hills, Padstow edged ever closer.
‘How much further?’ asked my daughter.
‘No more than a mile.’
A few minutes later, we saw our first signpost of the walk, which informed us we’d already walked 3 and a half miles since Trevone. And still had 2 miles to Padstow!
The path was much lower now, almost level with the beach. A stone’s throw away, people were having fun on the beach. And we were still walking, feeling tired, achey and grumpy.
It was about 5.30pm, when we finally saw a wall and gate that looked familiar. We’d made it back to Padstow! We really had walked all day.
Our five mile walk had turned out to be 12 miles.
The South West Coast Path is a stunning place to walk and I would do it again, but I won’t be walking that far! Nobody needs to be that exhausted when they’re on holiday.
If you don’t want to make the same mistakes we did, the South West Coast Path website has recommendations for routes.