With going on holiday to Padstow every year, inevitably we do some of the same things year after year. But we also try to adapt and try out new experiences as the kids grow up. This year, we decided to walk a stretch of the South West Coast Path.
It seemed like the perfect thing to do. Over the last couple of years, my kids have walked some long distances. On their recent Scout camp, my younger son did a 15 mile hike and my eldest did an incredible THIRTY mile hike. They’ve also climbed Snowdon several times and walked stretches of the Cotswold Way last year.
My husband worked out where we would walk from and to with his colleague. It sounded a long way. It looked a long way too. But he assured me it wasn’t too far.
I was relieved as I really, really didn’t want to be walking 10 miles. We are all perfectly capable of walking 10 miles, but it’s not the most enjoyable experience and not something I wanted to do on holiday, however beautiful the scenery. I thought about seven miles would be good – enough to see the scenery and get lots of exercise and fresh air, but not so far that it exhausts us.
My husband concluded it would be five miles.
We drove to Treyarnon Bay to begin our hike. Promisingly, it was less than four miles in the car to get there. I suspected this meant the hike would be more than five miles, but hopefully no more than seven or eight. My daughter was sceptical too and kept asking how long it would take. I just told her to assume it would be all day (while knowing 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 seizing the opportunity to skim stones.
The scenery along the Coast Path was stunning. The sky and sea were blue (rather than the torrential rain which had been predicted), with 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. (It is said that 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 my younger kids. We had our picnic near the lighthouse at Trevose Head – the same one we’d walked to in June, but it was hardly recognisable as the weather conditions were so different.
After the first three bays, things seemed to slow down a bit. We could see our favourite beach, Trevone, a long way into 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 lucky enough to see one launched, although we’re pretty sure it was a practise rather than the real thing.
It was a downhill walk in the shade to Mother Ivey’s and then Harlyn Bay, a very big beach, which the path crossed. At Mother Ivey’s we saw a coastguard and helicopter rescue – it seemed that someone had fallen on a rock.
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 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. And the scenery wasn’t quite as beautiful. It was steep and narrow in parts, reminding me of Snowdon (and that’s something I never want to be reminded of!).
My daughter was feeling tired, and she wasn’t the only one. The enjoyment had gone out of the walking. When I’d said to my daughter 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. Hooray!
We could see it, but we couldn’t get to it. We weren’t walking as the crow flies – we were following the coast path and we still had a long way to go. We walked down some hills, with Padstow edging 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 we still had 2 miles to go to Padstow!
That was a low point.
The path was much lower now, almost level with the beach, but it was sheltered by trees. Then it was out in the open, walking along sandy paths. A stone’s throw away, people were having fun on the beach. And we were still walking, feeling tired and achey.
And at about 5.30pm, we finally saw a wall and a gate that looked familiar, then the war memorial. We’d made it back to Padstow! We really had walked all day.
And our five mile walk? It was 12 miles.
The South West Coast Path is a stunning place to walk and I would definitely do it again, but I wouldn’t walk that far! Nobody needs to be that exhausted when they’re on holiday.