The World's Longest Coastal Path

by Christine Saul

I am very excited about the new England Coast Path, the UK’s 16th and most ambitious National Trail yet. When completed, it will be the longest managed and waymarked coastal path in the entire world. The Wales Coast Path currently holds that title, being the first path in the world to follow the whole of a country’s coastline at 870 miles (1400km) long.

SWCP South Devon - View back to Hoist Point - Bob Parkinson - Landscape.jpgThe England Coast Path, however, will beat that distance by more than three times; it will be an impressive 2800 miles (4500km) in length once completed. It will beat other popular long-distance trails in the world, such as the Appalachian Trail at 2190 miles (3500km) and the Pacific Crest Trail at 2600 miles (4160km) in the USA, as well as New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail at 1875 miles (3000km).

The beginning of a great adventure

Following many years of campaigning by The Ramblers Association, Natural England (the government’s adviser for the natural environment in England) confirmed in September 2017 that work had started towards opening the 67 sections of the new England Coast Path trail.

The aim was to complete the trail by this year (2020), however following a European court judgement in April 2018 and the coronavirus pandemic this year, work has been delayed and full completion of the trail is now, hopefully, due to be some time in 2021.

Blue Anchor Sigh Post.jpgConsequently, 2021 is being marked as the Year of the English Coast, with all sorts of events taking place to celebrate and showcase the English coast to visitors from home and abroad.

As part of the Year of the English Coast, the National Piers Society will also be celebrating the Year of the Pier too. There are 61 seaside piers around the UK coast. The iconic Victorian pleasure piers are unique to the UK and will be holding various events throughout the year, including launching a Pier Passport so that visitors can collect/tick off each pier they visit.

IMG_20200606_123418690.jpgA national treasure

England’s coast has to be one of the most stunning and diverse coastlines of anywhere in the world, with jaw-dropping views around every corner, including wild and rugged cliffs, miles of sandy beaches, pretty fishing villages and cultural towns.

There is abundant flora and fauna, both land and marine, to be found across nature reserves and world heritage sites, and thousands of years of history to uncover in the form of castles, mines and fossils on the Jurassic Coast. As well as all this, our coastline offers some of the best seafood and hosts some of the most quintessentially British seaside festivals in the world.

The coast made accessible

The trail has been opening in stages, and some new sections of the trail are already open to be explored (see here). Some sections will follow existing recognised trails, such as the South West Coast Path and Norfolk Coast Path, while other sections are being developed to link the gaps with new, previously less/non accessible sections.

SWCP South Devon - Dartmouth Marina - Bob Parkinson - Landscape.jpgDue to the route being well-waymarked, people will be able to travel to anywhere on the coast of England and simply turn left or right and follow the signs. The new ‘Coastal Margin’ - the land to the seaward side of the trail and marked pink on OS maps - will become access land that is is free to explore or enjoy a picnic on, e.g. on the beach, sand dunes or rockpools etc.

It won’t just be walkers that will benefit from the trail; its existence will create opportunities for people to enjoy the simple pleasure of just being beside the seaside. The England Coast Path will no doubt help to increase tourism in lesser known coastal areas, boosting and connecting rural communities as well as increasing the demand for accommodation, eateries and transport links, thus creating more jobs.

The challenge of the England Coast Path

The England Coast Path will no doubt quickly become world-famous amongst hikers and general tourists wishing to visit. Once fully open, a record will also no doubt be quickly set for who can be the fastest person to complete the trail. I am planning to do an entire thru hike of the trail with my dog in the future; I will take my time and enjoy it though - I won’t be setting any records!

Cleveland Way - Staithes - Vanessa Burrell - Landscape (1).JPGCreating an even longer walk

The England Coast Path has two gaps along its trail length, where Scotland and Wales join. Good public transport links are available to get between these locations, however purists may wish to walk these in-between stages too. There are plenty of route options for those wanting to bridge these gaps; a full list of "link" trails are included below.

Norfolk Coast Path - Sunset at Blakeney - Waterscape - David Raynor.JPGWhere you can walk on the England Coast Path

Contours are proud to be able to offer the largest selection of walking holidays along the new England Coast Path National Trail and we will be adding more suitable sections as the trail opens:

We also offer the following link paths:

Originally published 09/06/20

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