The Highs and Lows of the South West Coast Path, Great Britain

Book Title: The Salt Path

Author: Raynor Winn

Promotional Blurb: The uplifting true story. A Sunday Times bestseller, shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize.

Book cover - Raynor Winn's The Salt Path - Penguin
Source: Penguin

The story of the couple who lost everything and embarked on a journey, not of escape, but salvation. Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, the couple lose their home and their livelihood. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset via Devon and Cornwall.

They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.

The Salt Path is an unflinchingly honest, inspiring and life-affirming true story of coming to terms with grief and the healing power of the natural world. Ultimately, it is a portrayal of home, and how it can be lost, rebuilt and rediscovered in the most unexpected ways. Source

My Thoughts: This book came highly recommended (thanks, Kerry) as a great ‘walking’ book and it is so much more than that. Yes, it covers almost the complete 630 miles (1 014km) of the South West Coast Path from Somerset all the way to Dorset, but it is the journey of the soul that is the real adventure. While my detail-focused brain would have preferred more nitty gritty detail about the logistics of walking this path, I was not disappointed when I finally turned the last page.

I have often dreamed about undertaking a long distance walk in Great Britain (Lands End to John O’Groats, anyone?), but the unpredictable and consistently damp weather has always dampened my enthusiasm. Yes, I know walking in wet weather is part of the adventure, however if I can avoid the drenchings, I will! Raynor and Moth appeared to experience every type of weather imaginable from gale force winds, teeming rain to blistering sun. It really was a baptism of fire and all the other elements.

A woman sitting on a cliff enjoying the views of the Cornwall Coast
Raynor enjoys the views of the Cornwall coast. Source: Penguin

As well as surviving the weather, I doubt that I could last 11 days without a shower and survive a week on £9 to feed both of them. I know what it feels like at the end of a long, hard walking day when all you want is a cold beer, a refreshing shower, a substantial meal to replace all those burnt calories, and a comfortable bed. This pair didn’t have the financial wherewithal to do any of these things. I just don’t think I could walk this way or it would severely diminish my enjoyment of the path. I guess when you simply have no other option, both your perspective and needs/wants change dramatically.

Despite this being Raynor’s first book, she does an excellent job of capturing the beauty and harshness of the British coastline. I loved the contrast and culture shock of their days spent walking slowly through the peaceful countryside only to hit a tourist hotspot like St Ives or Newquay where everyone is clean and well-fed.

Raynor has an eye for the environment around her and the sounds and smells she experiences as she walks. Importantly she also has a good sense of humour and is happy to poke fun at herself and the quirky characters they meet along the way.

While it may sound a touch trite, it seems that Raynor and Moth found their true selves as they walked. Not that they came up with any miraculous solutions to their severe financial woes, or Moth’s terminal diagnosis, yet it gave them space and time to simply walk and heal from the pain of all they had lost. Not saying it was easy, but it was certainly beneficial to both their physical and mental health.

Has it inspired me to walk the South West Coast Path? Yes, to a degree. Who do I need to talk to to order about 35 days of consistently pleasant weather?

If you are inspired and interested, you can get a copy of Paddy Dillon’s maps of the South West Coast Path here or watch an interview between Paddy and Raynor on YouTube.

A very enjoyable read. 8/10.

Head shot of Raynor Winn - wikipedia
Source: Wikipedia

Author bio: Since travelling the South West Coastal Path, Raynor Winn has become a regular long-distance walker and writes about nature, homelessness and wild camping. Her first book, The Salt Path, was a Sunday Times bestseller and shortlisted for the 2018 Costa Biography Award. In The Wild Silence, Raynor explores readjusting to life after homelessness. She lives in Cornwall with her husband Moth. Source

Author blog or website: Not found

Pages:  272

Published: 2018

Publisher: Penguin Books

Available from: Book Depository for $21.09

#travelreads  #epicadventures #longdistancewalking #travelinspo #thegreatoutdoors #armchairtravel #bookreview #thesaltpath #southwestcoastpath #walkingingreatbritain  

32 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of the South West Coast Path, Great Britain

  1. The Travel Architect February 24, 2021 / 1:54 pm

    The husband would like to do a long English coastal path walk someday. Strange because he’s much more of a cyclist than a hiker. Sounds like a good book. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. restlessjo February 24, 2021 / 7:15 pm

    It sounds like a good read, Mel. I always like a happy ever after and this obviously isn’t one. Nor would I want to find myself in that situation. But it is a bit of the world I’d love to walk in. Just never got round to it 😦 Thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    • Heyjude February 25, 2021 / 12:21 am

      It’s a good book Jo. And we’ll worth reading. Never going to be a happy ending but the couple are doing OK. As for the path, we’ll, there are plenty of bits I won’t walk on!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Annika Perry February 24, 2021 / 9:17 pm

    Mel, a wonderful review of a book I read last year. Their walk is extraordinary especially considering their circumstances and health and the book truly captures the hardships as well as the natural beauty perfectly. How true that ‘Raynor and Moth found their true selves as they walked’ … at the end of their tether they needed the utter isolation and healing of such an undertaking.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure February 25, 2021 / 9:12 am

      Thanks so much for the feedback. Have you read her second book? I am bit reluctant to pick it up as sometimes second books just can’t match the beauty and grace of a first effort. What do you think? Should I give it a whirl?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Annika Perry February 25, 2021 / 9:02 pm

        Melanie, I feel just the same and always start second books with a certain wariness … so far I haven’t read it! I am intrigued though so will pick it up later in the year!

        Liked by 2 people

        • Life...One Big Adventure February 26, 2021 / 7:27 am

          I suspect I will be tempted too at some stage, but in the meantime I need to work my way through my +70 books in my To Be Read pile! :-0

          Liked by 1 person

  4. Heyjude February 25, 2021 / 12:28 am

    A good read about a couple who hit rock bottom. The south west coast path is extremely challenging, there are parts that I can’t walk let alone camp and walk in bad weather. And we get a lot of bad weather! I have the follow up book, but not read it yet. For anyone thinking of walking this path I would recommend the book, even if not particularly interested in the emotional aspect.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure February 25, 2021 / 9:10 am

      Thanks for the feedback, Jude. This was certainly a ‘no frills’ adventure and I don’t think I could survive on the little food that they did let alone camp in wild and woolly places! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kerry Barling February 25, 2021 / 8:37 am

    So glad you enjoyed it Mel. Don’t think I could walk the whole track but maybe parts of it. One distant day…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure February 25, 2021 / 9:06 am

      Yep – you will be fighting fit soon and there will be no stopping you! And, in the meantime we can plot and plan some domestic walking adventures…


  6. Duwan @MakeLikeAnApeman March 2, 2021 / 11:13 am

    Good review. I like to walk and do a lot of it and might attempt this if I was younger – although Raynor looks to be around my age. Still, I like a place to go back to at the end of each day (my van). But the adventure of self sufficiency and closeness to nature are right up my alley.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Life...One Big Adventure March 2, 2021 / 11:23 am

      We each travel and walk in different ways, don’t we? One person’s hardship is another’s joy. I would like a decent bed at the end of each day too and bucketing rain and wild storms is too close to nature in my book! 😉 Thanks for reading and happy walking. Mel

      Liked by 2 people

  7. jasonlikestotravel March 4, 2021 / 12:45 am

    Sounds like a really interesting read. Doing a long hike in the UK does appeal but as you say, not sure who to speak to about guaranteeing good weather to complete it in relative comfort haha.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad May 30, 2021 / 2:42 am

    I just read this book a couple of months ago too! A really fascinating read. Her descriptions made you feel like you were walking with them and I just wished the best for them the whole way through the book. I loved how it felt by the end that this was their new path (pun intended!) and had changed them completely, both physically and mentally. Moth’s breakthrough is just incredible, really.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure May 31, 2021 / 11:24 am

      I agree with everything you have said. I was boggled that this was THE choice they made when were they were at their lowest. What makes you decide to take a long walk when you have nothing and nowhere? I guess it is the simplicity involved – from having very little to needing very little.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Haidee July 13, 2022 / 12:45 pm

    Mel, I loved this book and you are correct, it’s not just about the walk, wow, what they did whilst at their lowest was inspirational.

    I also agree, that walking in the rain would not be my choice!

    Liked by 1 person

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