6 of the best coastal walks in Somerset

Coastal, Walking, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Ed Roberts on 15th September 2020

Portishead Lighthouse

Somerset’s coastline rises out of the Bristol Channel, one the UK’s busiest waterways. Like parts of the North Devon coast, you get sensational views of the Welsh skyline with its distant mountains but with the added mysterious islands of Flat Holm and Steep Holm. From busy seaside resorts like Weston-super-Mare, Minehead and Burnham-on-Sea to sleepy fishing harbours like Watchet and Porlock, the Somerset coast is home to many contrasting wonders. Architectural oddities like Birnbeck Pier, Clevedon Pier and Brean Fort make it even more of a curiosity and an explorer’s heaven. The West Somerset coast is backed by the wooded Quantock Hills, once the stomping grounds of the Romantic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge and William Wordsworth. Castles, steam trains and nature reserves vie for the attention of the many visitors that come to Somerset to enjoy their coastal holidays.

Once you turn off the M5 and head into the depths of Somerset, you will be glad you came; it’s quieter than Devon and Cornwall, yet it still has much in common with its higher-profile neighbours. There’s more to Somerset than it’s amazing cider and Cheddar cheese, so pull on your walking boots, and grab your maps and rucksack to discover the Somerset coast for yourself with our guide to our favourite walks.

Coastal cottages in Somerset

Weston-super-Mare & Burnham-on-Sea Lighthouse

West Somerset Coast Path

The ‘daddy of them all’ – the West Somerset Coast Path stretches between Minehead and Burnham-on-Sea where you can enjoy amazing views across the Bristol Channel. The path weaves its way past Kilve, Williton, Blue Anchor Bay and Dunster. The coast path links up with the Coleridge Way which meanders up into the Quantock Hills, a 51-mile path that runs from the coast, up through Nether Stowey and over Exmoor to Lynmouth and Lynton. This trail is good to divide up over two or three days, so you get plenty of time to enjoy the area.

Distance: 25 miles

Difficulty: Variable

Facilities: WCs and parking at Minehead, Dunster, Blue Anchor Bay, Watchet, and Burnham-on-Sea (to name a few of the main spots)

Good to know: Walking east-west there are fewer uphill climbs!

Stay nearby: Old Mill - Watchet | Sleeps: 6 guests and 1 dog 

Brean Fort & Burnham-on-Sea pier

Weston-super-Mare to Burnham-on-Sea via Brean Down

Brean Down separates Weston-super-Mare from Burnham-on-Sea, a National Trust-managed promontory and natural pier. From the summit, dual aspect views of the town’s bays await and it is so worth the climb. At the end of the natural pier is Brean Down Fort, built during the Napoleonic era, there’s also evidence of groundworks of much older settlements and buildings up there; it’s fantastic. Weston-super-Mare is perhaps Somerset’s premier holiday destination with miles of sandy beach and a cool promenade that runs for over 2 miles. With two piers, it’s a dream for everybody that loves a traditional English seaside getaway. Burnham-on-Sea is Weston’s (as it’s known locally) quieter sister, yet it offers just about everything its neighbour does: a gorgeous sandy beach, a pier and a bunch of shops. The walk between the two is 8 miles long and a bit of a windy one, exposed to the breezes from the channel.

Distance: 8 miles

Difficulty: Moderate

Facilities: WCs and parking all along the prom at Weston and Burnham-on-Sea. Shops, pubs and restaurants and sealed walkways available for the majority of its length (except over Brean Down).

Good to know: There are no toilet facilities along most of this trail.

Stay nearby: The Little Vicarage | Sleeps: 4 guests

Portishead to Clevedon Pier walk

Portishead and Clevedon are essentially Bristol-on-Sea, so close are they to that fantastic city. Portishead is a lovely seaside town that will be forever associated with the cool 90s group of the same name. The brisk 6-mile walk that links Portishead to Clevedon is easily accomplished, taking in Mariners Path, Sugar Loaf Beach, Charlcombe Bay, Pigeon House Bay, Blackhill Sands and finally Clevedon with its remarkable Victorian pier. Quite unlike any other pier in the world, it’s a true stunner – open to the public, pay a small entrance fee to take in the ornate architecture. If you are a film addict, you may recognise the pier from Never Let Me Go starring Keira Knightley. You could also visit the attractive Portbury Wharf Nature Reserve whilst you are in the area. 

Distance: 6 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: Parking, WCs, pubs, cafes.

Good to know: You can enjoy a swim at the outdoor pool in Clevedon, so bring your trunks/togs.

Stay nearby: Mendip View | Sleeps: 5 guests plus 2 dogs

Minehead to West Porlock walk

How are your hillwalking legs? If you dodge hills like your average 8-year-old avoids their greens, then try one of the other walks, but you will be missing out on some true spectacle. For wayfarers who don’t mind a bit of a climb, this part of the West Somerset Coast Path is a winner. As West Somerset meets the lofty landforms of Exmoor, cliffs begin to haul themselves up out of the sea, affording some very lovely views across the Channel and back along the coast down to the seaside resort of Minehead. There is a more challenging diversion available if you choose to move between Selworthy Beacon and Hurlstone Point, but whichever way you decide to go along this 9-mile trail, there are hills. Enjoy a pint at Porlock Weir by the shore as a reward for all your climbing.

Distance: 9 miles

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous

Facilities: WCs, parking, shops, eateries in Minehead and Porlock (seasonal only WCs).

Good to know: If you are staying in Porlock, take a stroll along Porlock Toll Road which winds out from the village in a westerly direction.

Stay nearby: Halfpenny Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog

Birnbeck Pier

Birnbeck Pier to Sand Bay walk

Birnbeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare is the only pier that links an island to the mainland in England. Sadly, the pier is derelict despite attempts to restore it over the years. It’s still a thing of beauty if you like ruins (some of us do) and makes for a great subject for nature photographers as its main function these days is a bird roost. It's quite a destination on this front and draws in a lot of curious sightseers. It used to be a pier for steamships when it was first built in 1867 until they stopped servicing it in 1979. Head north from Birnbeck along the roadside for about 2 miles until you reach the long, aptly-named Sand Bay. Curving away to a small headland beyond Kewstoke, it’s a great level walk for beach lovers with an interest in unusual architecture.

Distance: 4.5 miles (each way)

Difficulty: Easy

Facilities: Parking, WCs (in Weston), shops, eateries, pubs.

Good to know: Please don’t attempt to go on to the pier. Tides are treacherous and the buildings and pier are in a serious state of disrepair. Enjoy it from a distance and through a lens.

Stay nearby: Toad Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests and 2 dogs

Blue Anchor Bay & Watchet train

Watchet to Blue Anchor Bay walk

Watchet is a lovely village complete with a deep harbour and a steam railway. One of the largest villages on the wild coast of West Somerset, it’s a lovely place to stay, its location being close to Dunster Castle, the Quantock Hills, and other coastal highlights like Minehead and Porlock. The steam railway links it to the main network at Taunton – in the other direction, the line’s terminus is Minehead. The West Somerset Steam Railway is the longest of its kind in the UK.

Pick up provisions for a picnic from one of the shops in Watchet and set out from the statue of the Ancient Mariner (complete with Albatross), and follow the trail west for Blue Anchor Bay over the hill. Blue Anchor Bay is a long sand and shingle beach with views along the coast to Minehead. It’s a good place to rest and do a spot of sun worshipping. Time your visit right and a fish and chip wagon parks by the beach! What could be better?

Distance: 3 miles

Difficulty: Easy to moderate

Facilities: Parking, WCs, shops, eateries, pubs.

Good to know: Blue Anchor Bay is connected to Watchet by rail, so take the steam train back the way you came!

Stay nearby: The Limpets | Sleeps: 4 guests

Map of our favourite coastal walks in Somerset

Further inspiration

If you've been inspired by the Somerset coastline, why not take a look at some of our other blogs which celebrate this fabulous part of the Westcountry?

Come to coastal Somerset

We hope that our coastal walking guide is the primer for many lovely days out on your holiday to Somerset. Once you have decided where you would like to go, visit our collection of self-catering coastal holiday cottages in North and West Somerset. We have the perfect holiday property waiting for you to discover. Where will you stay?

Somerset coastal cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.