Southwest Coast Path sections 5 -7
Official mileage: 39 miles
Jen's Mileage: 32 miles
Total height climbed 1,811 feet.

Three sections in one on account of some highly tedious and unphotogenic parts!

This section starts with great promise.  To cross the headland that seperates Woolacombe and Croyde bays, Baggy Point.

Getting there is a bit dull, lots of sand walking along a lane that skirts woolacombe bay, then a flight of steps, a stiff climb, and suddenly it is all worth while.


Baggy Point and in the haze distance, Morte Point

From the stunning craggy tip of Baggy Point it is an easy walk down to Croyde.

To croyde from Baggy point, Croyde bay top centre.

Route finding is no problem. THe path is the coast path equivalent of a motorway. It is a wonderful open walk. 

Reaching the bottom it is now necessary to cross a car park. Then a little bit of fun. The path directions points the unwary walker up a sand dune. Two steps up, one step sliding back, and finally, feeling like Lauren of Arabia, I reached the top of the dunes.

From here warning notices emphasise the need to follow the yellow markers, all in the good intent of preventing erosion. What markers? THere were none, just a wilderness of sand.

After ploughing through more dunes I found a beach conservationist who advised that all the markers had been taken, just follow the dune edge on the beach! So, anyone following my sandy footsteps, ignore the signs, just cut across the beach!

Croyde beach, baggy point beyond and the dreaded dunes to the right.

At the end of the beach a flight of steps leads up, the path then skirts around a low cliff before climbing steeply to the main Croyde - Barnstaple road, crosses it, then runs alongside, but above the road to the Saunton Sands Hotel.

Before dropping down to the road there are excellent views in front, over the top of the hotel, to Saunton sands, the Taw and Torridge estuary, and the coast ahead.

Over the top of the hotel, Saunton sands and Braunton Burrows to the left.

The path now drops down to the road and the hotel.

Any coast path anywhere will confront river estuaries. Some estuaries can be crossed, others followed inland to the nearest crossing point. In this case the nearest crossing point is Barnstaple, 15 miles away.

If you are committed to doing the path in it's enirety ignore the next bit, printed in red.

If you are of sound mind, read the next bit.

There is a bus stop at the hotel. Catch the bus to Barnstaple.

For those like me, who insist on doing it in it's entirety, the following is a synopsis.

Cross the road and go around the back of the hotel in the wrong direction: cross a car park, go up a sandy lane back to the main road and follow for 1/4 mile dodging traffic:  turn down by a house and follow the marked path around the quite boring golf course: trudge through boring scrub, for miles, nothing to see: Reach another car park, turn down what is called the American Road, a dusty, incredibly boring, white strip: Reach the end and follow the barbed wire around the immensly boring Royal Marine base at Chivenor: Connect with the Tarka trail, a riverside walk full of lycra-clad cyclists determined to run you down. Reach Barnstaple. Have a cup of tea,

Now, the bad news is, getting out of Barnstaple is the same.

Follow the Tarka trail. Get run down by Lycra clad cyclists.

for those who survive it is at least a lot better this side. The scenery is open estuary.

Half way along there is Fremington station, a reminder that this used to be a light railway for the carrying of clay from nearby quarries.  Now the station is a most welcome cafe. 

The estuary, looking towards the sea, from Fremington station.

From Fremington the path then reaches the delightful little port of Instow. In the distance,is Bideford. The bad news is that you are now at the estuary of the river Torridge which means...  yes, you've guessed it,  means following the path all the way into Bideford and then back out agan to Appledore, directly opposite from Instow.

There is an escape route though.  Read on!

The delightful port of Appledore from Instow, across the Torridge Estuary.

At high tide a ferry runs from Instow to Appledore cutting out a six mile trudge into Bideford and out again. It actually runs 1 1/2 hours either side of high tide and careful planning on most days can mean the saving of a soul-destroying trudge.  just go to to get the timetable.


Appledore is a delightful little place. Now Northam burrows has to be crossed but unlike Braunton Burrows on the other side of the estuary this is open, peaceful, fresh and lovely.




Looking back across the estuary from Appledore, Baggy point and Morte point in the far distance

From Northam burrows Westward Ho! looks tantalisingly close but in the spirit of these sections of the coast path the intrepid walker now has to walk away from it and skirt the marshland.  I do have vague memories of 1993 and being so fed up I just made a beeline for it.  Far more sedate these days!


Westward Ho from Northam burrows.

That is it.  Three sections out of the way, 39 miles of the least inspiring part of the SWCP there is, three days of walking unless you are of sound mind in which case 2 days of walking plus a bus and ferry  fare.

Now it all starts to get challenging again, first to Clovelly then round one of the most rugged and isolated headlands in the UK,  Hartland point.

Time taken:  2 days, about 12 hours.

Jen grading:  Moderate at the start then lots and lots of easy, but quite tedious, walking.

Campsite: A little gem!  Seabreeze between Appledore and Westward ho! It is a "CL", a 5 unit site licensed by the caravan club offering minimal amenities:  fresh water, toilet dump, electrical hook-up,  but in a gloriously open and quiet position and superbly well maintained. A true gem.

Bus service into Barnstaple,  then buses to Croyde, Braunton, Westward Ho.


This also completes the end of "week one" in the recommended itinerary published in the SWCPA handbook. 87 miles so far, 543 to go! 

For all my getting lost, camping off route and finding nice ferries to shave miles off my own personal total comes to 86.5 miles!!