Five fantastic beaches on the South West Coastal Path you can visit by train

I am presuming here that if you love the South West Coast Path, you don’t mind a little bit of walking.

Not too far.

Whilst we do have some amazing southwest beaches just a few steps from their stations, others beach days by train are worth that little bit of effort on foot.

We’ve tried to include something of each for you here.

Which train lines serve the southwest coast?

Whether you’re holidaying in Devon or Cornwall or just visiting for the day, it can be really helpful to understand how our south west train network fits togethers.

And the best way to do that is look at a map.

Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership have exactly the map you need. This map shows the full Great Western Railway network including stations for Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset and trains to London Paddington and Bristol.

Some parts of the South West Coastal Path have more stations than others.

For example South Devon’s wonderful Riviera Line passes through Teignmouth and Torbay and has some excellent walking and swimming options.

Most of which you’ll be able to see from your train.

When it comes to North Devon however, travelling to the beach by train is not so easy but there are some great bus links from Barnstaple Station to amazing surf beaches.

Mind you, I’m yet to see a surfboard on a train.

So which beaches can you get to directly by train?

Sometimes the best way to find your own adventure by train is to get the map out, pick a railway line and follow it.

But we’ve done the hard work for you.

Below we have five wonderful southwest beaches you can easily reach by train. We’ve given you stations, a bit of beach info and even travel times from Bristol and London.

Other cities are available.

Five south west beaches that are great for train travel

1. Penzance beach by train

Get on the train, travel as far as the train can take you, get off again. There’s something quite magical about that end-of-line experience.

Station: Penzance (Cornwall)

Time from London: 5 hrs 30 mins

Time from Bristol: 4 hrs 30 mins

Distance to beach: 1 km

Distance to South West Coastal Path: 500 m

Type of beach: Sandy

Interesting options: Walk across the tidal causeway to St Michael’s Mount

Other activity options: Walk east on the SWCP for 11 km and enjoy a sea swim at romantic Prussia Cove.

2. Looe beach by train

If cobbled streets and top quality fish and chips are your thing, you’ll be right at home in Looe.

Station: Looe (Cornwall)

Time from London: 4 hrs 30 mins

Time from Bristol: 4 hrs

Distance to beach: 800 m

Distance to South West Coastal Path: 400 m

Type of beach: Sandy with stones (Looe Beach)

Interesting options: Take a boat trip to Polperro’s picturesque harbour, and enjoy lunch at the traditional Blue Peter Inn.

Other activity options: Walk west on the SWCP for 6 km and you’ll reach the twin beaches at Talland Bay. Arrive at low tide for rockpooling.

3. Exmouth beach by train

Station: Exmouth

Time from London: 3 hrs 15 mins

Time from Bristol: 2 hrs

Distance to beach: 700 m

Distance to South West Coastal path: 7 m

Type of beach: Sandy

Interesting options: Build the world’s best sandcastle from Exmouth’s golden sand.

Other activity options: Catch a ferry over the estuary to Starcross then explore fascinating Powderham Castle. Starcross also has a train station.

4. St Ives beach by train

You’d be hard pushed to choose between the train views from Devon’s Riviera Line and Cornwall’s St Ives line but when you arrive just above Porthminster Beach, St Ives’ beaches will take your breath away.

Station: St Ives

Time from London: 5 hrs 30 mins

Time from Bristol: 4 hrs 30 mins

Distance to beach: 120 m

Distance to South West Coastal Path: 7 m

Type of beach: Fine, nearly white sand

Interesting options: Follow the SWCP east for 1 km to escape the crowds and take in the views from St Ives Head.

Other activity options: Wander for 600 m to find the restful Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.

3. Barnstaple by train

What Barnstaple itself lacks in traditional beaches, it makes up for in estuary views. Follow the Tarka Trail west and south to Instow (swimming not recommended) or west and north to the long sandy beach at Saunton Sands (safer for families than nearby Croyde). The distances to these beaches are longer so you might want to consider Tarka Trail bike hire from Barnstaple Station.

Station: Barnstaple

Time from London: 3 hrs 30 mins

Time from Bristol: 2 hrs 30 mins

Distance to Croyde Beach: 22 km (bike hire available near Barnstaple Station – take the North Route on the Tarka Trail)

Distance to Instow Beach: 19 km (bike hire available near Barnstaple Station – take the South Route on the Tarka Trail)

A different kind of day out at the beach

So there we have it. Five beach days out at five stunning locations on the South West Coast Path.

But you don’t necessarily have to go home after one day.

One of the great things about visiting beaches is that seaside towns always have plenty of accommodation.

By the way, the photo at the top of this post is of Dawlish Warren Beach. Yet another great beach you can easily visit by train.

Have a great adventure by train. And don’t forget to tell us all about it!


Adventures by train – sea swimming along South Devon’s Riviera Line







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