A Step Too Far
April 12, 2017
Eager for our next adventure myself and Tristan sat down and thought of something to try. We didn’t have too much time due to a certain needy girlfriend and didn’t want to spend too much money. We realised that on our doorstep was one of the most beautiful and what we didn’t know at the time hardest coastal trails in the world.
In traditional fashion we set ourselves a ridiculous challenge. We decided to spend four days hiking from our home town of Plymouth to Lands End, a distance of 260km via the South West Coast Path. Didn’t sound too much at the time, obviously it was going to be a slog but 65km a day didn’t seem too unachievable.
You may be thinking how the hell did we think it was possible, it’s not like we are ultra runners and we would be camping on route so carrying 15kg. It’s not too much weight but its not nothing. All I can say is we are quite optimistic and enjoy suffering! Another complication was that we would have to take a number of ferry crossings on the route, we were happy to walk at night but if we missed one at a crucial point we would be stuck until morning.
After maybe two hours of sleep the day had come. We set off early and met at the Plymouth guildhall our start point before heading to the Cremyll ferry, Tristan forgot his coat so had to go back and so we missed it we were now already 90 minutes behind pace. The ferry crosses to Mount Edgecombe a wonderful estate open to the public, I spent a lot of my childhood there. If you are ever in the area its a great place to visit. This is where the walk began proper we started off fine, we would need to average 4km- 5km an hour, to be in with a chance. Which was the pace of our Camino walk. We quickly realised however that although the distance as the crow flies would have been achievable the elevation gain was insanity. There was over 9000m of elevation gain thats around 35m per km.
It was absolutely brutal. The trail goes through loads of coastal villages and for each one you climb all the way down just to go up again. One point of humour was when we descended over 100 steps to move across a single meter before climbing back up again. We quickly realised we had been far too optimistic, the scenery was nice but it’s hard to enjoy it when you are suffering so much. The elevation really took its toll despite this we pushed hard and walked into the night. At 1am we decided to stop as we were destroyed. Despite our efforts we had only made it 46km. We found a picnic area past Polperro and set up camp.
We decided to get some sleep and start early to make up time, we woke up at 2pm…We realised there was no way we were going to make it. So we decided to stop at Falmouth. We were still up against it needing to cover another 80km in two and a half days. We set off and quickly reached another ferry crossing and carried on the grind, we hiked late into the night again and were completely exhausted. The worst bits on the trail are the parts that go through the larger towns and industrialised areas, all tarmac and absolute hell for our feet.
By the end of the second day we had made it past Mevagissey, it was the early hours of the morning and we literally collapsed on the side of the trail and slept. We had hiked another 40km so we now only had 40km left to reach falmouth. After waking up at a reasonable time we were now able to begin enjoying the trip, we stopped for breakfast at a beach cafe and after 25km of leisurely walking got to enjoy a nice dinner at a pub, before finding a nice camping spot before dark.
Then came the final day, we only had a 15km hike before reaching the ferry to Falmouth. Although that was still quite a distance as by this point I was struggling to stand up! I was ok once we start moving. Before reaching the ferry point we found an incredible spot, the photos don’t do it justice, I have never seen water so clear in the UK before.
After reaching the end we embarked onto the ferry with a sense of pride. Although we had not achieved close to what we aimed for, we felt as if we had. We wanted to push ourselves and have a laugh and we did.
Do we recommend you approach the trail in a similar way, not at all. The views and scenery are incredible and the villages you pass through have lots of cool things to explore and beverages to try. Explore the trail at all means but take your time, there are plenty of nice Bnbs to stay at for people with larger budgets.
We left the trail with dreams of returning, the whole trail is over 1000km long. One day we will do it.