My Rules

I started in Kings Lynn, on the Lincolnshire/Norfolk border, on April 18th 2010. I have been walking clockwise round the coast of mainland Britain, in stages, since then.

My Rules for Walking the Coast

Breakwater, Ruth Livingstone's Coastal walk1. Enjoy each and every walk.
2. Keep as close to the coast as is safe, legal and reasonable.
3. Start each walk at the point where I stopped the coastal section of my previous walk.
4. I don’t have to walk around islands (but I can if I want to).
5. I don’t have to walk around peninsulas where the only link to the mainland is a narrow isthmus or causeway (unless I want to).
6. When encountering a river or estuary, cross at the nearest public crossing point; stepping stones, bridge or ferry.

And now not a rule, but a philosophical statement. I concentrate on being present in the place I am walking through.
This means:

  • I don’t listen to music or the radio while I walk,
  • I don’t read up on history or check which sights  I should view in advance of my walk,
  • and I avoid looking beyond my current OS map, except for planning my start and end points.

People sometimes ask me how I am going to cope with Scotland, where the weather is inclement, the countryside is wild and the footpaths are few. I refuse to think about this until I get there.

48 Responses to My Rules

  1. melitat says:

    Our rules are very similar! Everyone has asked me about Scotland but it is a long way off!
    Completely agree on not listening to music or the radio. I love hearing the sound of the sea and the wildlife.

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  4. Great walking philosophy, especially remaining present. You must be making some wonderful discoveries Ruth.

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  9. Mike Taylor says:

    I don’t really get ‘not reading up on history’ in advance of a walk…. For instance you walked over the Slag Heaps in Barrow without knowing they were entirely man-made hills hot-poured from a train at the summit, and you were unaware that you were walking over a [closed] tunnel which once-upon-a-time allowed fishermen to walk under these hills to reach the shore. Personally I think a bit of background history adds to the walk and the moment.

    • Hi Mike.
      There is no right or wrong way of approaching a long-distance walk and I know some people buy detailed guide books for each trail they do. But I soon realised I prefer planning my walks from scratch – with the aid of only OS maps and bus/train timetables! I was still working a full time job when I set out, and spending hours of my time reading, researching, analysing, planning – so I wanted to break away from all that and just do some ‘being in the moment’, if you see what I’m getting at.
      During my walks I try to leave myself open to surprise, to puzzlement and to discoveries. For example, I realised that series of hills near Barrow were probably man-made, because they seemed ‘wrong’ in the landscape- and then the women I met confirmed they were slag heaps. Later, when I write up each walk for this blog, I often research things that perplexed or that interested me and I guess you could say I do my research back-to-front!
      It’s an interesting debate, of course, and thank you for making me think about it.
      Best wishes, Ruth

  10. jeffmsc says:

    “How do you do it?” said night.
    “How do you wake and shine?”
    “I keep it simple,” said light.
    “One day at a time.”
    Lemn Sissay

  11. Just found you – what a wonderful ambition. All power to you!! I have done two long distance walks in the UK : Wainwrights Coast to Coast and The West Highland Way. At the moment I am both out of a job and suffering from gout, so of course the obvious thing is to sit back and plan how I will walk from Lands End to John O’Groats – a long standing ambition. And I live in Australia so no problems there 🙂

    • I love planning walks! Hope the gout improves and you can get out walking soon.I’ve just realised that I will be able to claim Lands End to J O’Groats too – if I ever get there, of course – and by the longest possible route! Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

      • I’m sure you’ll succeed even if the West Coast of Scotland is a trifle damp. Best of luck and thanks for your kind wishes

        • Arriving Cornwall on the 19th for my first stage LEJOG : Lands End to Plymouth via the SWCP. Woohoo!!!

          • Oh wow! How exciting. I suspect that stretch is actually one of the best parts of LEJOG 😄 And it’s very sensible to follow the south coast rather than the north as some people do, as the north is really, really tough. Will you be carrying everything on your back?

            • My wife talked me out of carrying all my gear with a twinge-y back and the spectre of gout. Since one of the things I love about walking in the UK is the availability of soft beds, cooked food, cold beer and hot showers every night, I’m not the camping-out sort anyway. At least for the first few trips I will book accommodation ahead and use a luggage transfer service. Pricey in Cornwall due to all the river inlets that have to be driven around by the vans, but worthwhile to minimise discomfort and maximise my chances of a successful walk.
              I hadn’t given much thought to the relative toughness of north versus south coasts. I knew I wanted to walk the south coast (Mousehole, Penzance, Minack Theatre, Polperro etc.) but also include Dartmoor later in my LEJOG so I am following the excellent route (at least in South England) by the late John Butler
              if the Gods are kind, I might be back to finish the rest of the SWCP one day, but for now, the LEJOG is a big enough challenge. Thanks for your inspiring blog and wishing you many cow-free sunny days ahead,

  12. Hi Ruth, I was talking to a chap the other day who is walking the coastline and I was inspired! Ive been in need of a new mission and so I have decided to attempt this myself. On doing some research, your blog was the first I found. We have a similar mndset to how we walk so I have found your posts of great help, thank you! You will likely see me around now asking questions…!

    • What a wonderful adventure you are about to embark on. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Wonder where you’re going to start…? Do keep in touch and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Best wishes.

      • Thank you Ruth, I am excited! I live in Dawlish, move here last year. I’m currently trying to decide whether to walk the path in sections, first anti clockwise from home to Minehead them clockwise from home to Poole , or to start in Minehead and do it all clockwise. . . I’m torn!!!

        • My advice to anyone wanting to walk the whole SWCP in one go would be to start in Poole and walk to Minehead. I know that’s the ‘wrong way’ but it gives you a gentler introduction to the path and saves the more challenging cliffs of the north coast until the end. You’re planning to do it in sections, of course, and so it doesn’t really matter so much where you start.

          • Ah that’s very good and useful advice! Even though I’m doing it in sections, i would still like to do it in order, with this advice I think I will go with my plan of doing it in two phases. Phase one from Dawlish to Poole in sections and phase 2 from Dawlish to Poole . Thanks Ruth!

  13. Kristen says:

    Hello Ruth,
    I will be walking from Tenby to Swansea in May, and although I have downloaded GPS routes into a hand held Garmin unit, I cannot find proper paper maps here in Canada. Do you know if maps are available for purchase in Tenby? Have you or anyone else used a GPS unit successfully without maps for back-up. I am more trusting of a map…..maybe technology will be alright on it’s own? Thank you, and anyone else with an opinion, for your help! Happy walking,


    • Hi Kristen.
      What a wonderful walk you are going to have. Hope the trip goes well.

      Yes, like you, I prefer paper maps when going for a long trek. I’m not sure where you’re planning to stay in the UK, but you can use Dash4it to order UK maps and they will deliver to your hotel or B&B address within 3 days of you placing the order. (I find they usually deliver by the next day!) You will need Ordnance Survey Maps – the best in the world – from the Explorer series. Perfect for walking and show all the footpaths, rights-of-way, and other features. If you buy the paper maps, you can use a code to download the same map onto your Garmin device too, which is always useful as the standard maps that come preinstalled on Garmin are pretty useless.

      You can take a look at Ordnance Survey maps online by going to and go to the drop-down box top right corner showing selection of maps. Choose Ordnance Survey to see the footpaths.

      I’m not sure how much walking you’ve done in the UK, but if you’re a beginner to long-distance walking, you might find my book helpful, which is available on

      Best wishes, Ruth

  14. Kristen says:

    That is great advice, thanks Ruth! I will have the maps sent to my B & B in Tenby a few days before I arrive. I am staying in Tenby for 4 nights before I start the walk, both to explore Tenby and to get rid of the inevitable jet lag, so I will have time to have the maps delivered. I don’t really have a plan past Tenby and Amroth, so if there are places to explore in that area that you recommend, I am always open to suggestions. Thank you again for the help,


    • Leave plenty of time to explore the Gower Peninsula, which you’ll reach just before Swansea. The north coast of the Gower is marshy, but the west and south coast have beautiful beaches and great walking routes.

  15. snowgood says:

    I despair when I see walkers and joggers on the coast path listening to music! What could be nicer than a Skylark in song, or a scolding Stonechat up ahead? Perhaps my most amazing sounds have been jets and a helicopter that I looked down on whilst walking, then thinking I must be a right mug to walk higher than planes fly!

    • I agree. The only exception might be when walking very boring stretches, when I know music keeps some walkers going. As for looking DOWN on a plane, I don’t think that’s ever happened to me!

  16. Andrew Howitt says:

    Hello Ruth. My wife and I are walking in your illustrious footsteps, although admittedly seven years behind you. We’re still on the easy-to-get-to East Coast stretches (live just north of you in Nottingham). I wonder if you could add a section to your site about logistics, especially once the drives to the coast become enormous? I see you go for blocks of days but how many? What do you do with your car each night? Are you still doing all the public transport in the mornings in order that you can walk to your car in the evening? On distant walks, I assume you drive from home to the first B&B and don’t actually walk until the next morning? What would be your top tips for the rest of us in terms of all logistics, short and long distances from home?
    Thank you so much for your excellent site!

    • Hi Andrew, and thank you for your kind words about my blog. (blush)
      Yes, I really should do a better section on logistics. I do cover much of this in my book, Walking the English Coast: A Beginner’s Guide. I’ve just released this as a series of 4 Kindle Books. The one that you need is the Equipment and Accommodation Guide (Book 3 in the series)
      Basically, the further I’ve got from home, the longer the trips I plan. This minimises days you waste and also the costs because, yes, I now spend all day travelling and have to stay overnight before starting my walk the next morning. Similarly, after my last day of walking, I have to sleep in a B&B before setting off back home the next day.
      As for public transport during the walking trek, if the buses/trains run frequently, I prefer to park at the beginning of my walk, walk into the ‘unknown’, and catch the bus/train back to my car in the evening. But if transport is infrequent (which is most of the time!), it’s safer to park at the end of my walk and catch a bus/train back to the starting point. Hope that makes sense.
      Happy walking and best wishes.

  17. Matt Harris says:

    The 12 mile walk from Sidmouth past Otterton was a nice read. Thanks.

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  19. Laura MacKenzie says:

    Hi Ruth, This is fabulous! Something I would love to do. I am focusing on the Sussex section as planning a charity walk from Pier-to-Pier – Eastbourne to Brighton – with a group of 60 girls aged between 13 and 18. Your blog is fabulously useful with regards to timings and I am, if you don’t mind, going to use your posts as ways to inform the girls as we go.. brilliant! We are hoping to get from pier to pier in one day, estimating approx 11 hours including some stops… I am hoping we are on the right track and we won’t be walking into the depth of the night! Once that planning is done I will read the rest of your blogs (step by step) and get inspiration for another walk. I have done much of the Pembrokeshire post which I imagine you loved! Thank you so much for sharing – hugely informative and inspirational.

    • Hi Laura, and what a marvellous adventure you’re planning for those girls. It’s certainly a beautiful and iconic stretch of coastline. Glad my blog has been useful in planning the day.
      I made the total distance around 27 miles, which is a tough challenge, and you’d need to keep the girls moving at an average pace of 2.5 mph to allow time for rest breaks and to complete it in 11 hours. Should be doable 😄 as long as you keep everyone moving. I suggest you carry plenty of spare blister plasters!
      Hope you all have a wonderful time, and do let me know how everyone got on.

    • Patrick Bonham says:

      Hi Laura (and Ruth) – just when I thought “Pier to pier” was my (punning) idea, I just read your message! I live in Rye and lead a U3A walking group. We’ve walked the Seven Sisters and other coastal stretches, and back in May I announced to the group and other friends that I would take on a “Pier to Pier” walk from Brighton to the fairly newly rebuilt Hastings Pier, which I did over 8th-10th June (see my Just Giving site). My daughter walked with me from Brighton to Rottingdean, I continued solo to Seaford where I stayed at my sister’s, then day 2 was Seaford to Eastbourne (fantastic!) and day 3 to Hastings, getting absolutely soaked on the wettest day of the summer! I did the walk for Marie Curie Cancer Care and raised £1200. Met some lovely and generous people on the way. But the bug bit and recently (unsponsored) I’ve walked from Hastings to Rye, then to Lydd-on-Sea along the coast on August B.H. Monday when the ranges were closed and it was HOT. Next Hythe, Dover, Sandwich, Margate … Tower Bridge?! I really hope your 27-miler went OK as that’s a real challenge; I did it over 2 days. By the way, I’m 77, there’s no age limit to walking. And Ruth, I’ve really enjoyed your blog about your incredible trek and must buy your book. I would love to start a blog of my own but being a bit of a dinosaur IT-wise I don’t know how to set it up, advice very welcome. I keep a detailed diary and have lots of photos. Patrick

      • Hi Patrick, and well done for your achievements! The walking bug is very powerful and highly infectious 😆 Hope you enjoy the book. As for setting up a blog, I suggest you head to and get started. You can keep your blog ‘private’ to start with so you are free to experiment. Best wishes and let me know if/when you get your blog up and running.

  20. Ellen says:

    Hi, Just found your blog . We are planing a walk along the Ceredigion Coast Path from Cardigan to Ynys-les. Any suggestions for us?

    • Hi Ellen. You are in for a treat. That was one of my favourite stretches of the Welsh coast, and the place I saw dolphins. The descent into Aberystwyth was a little terrifying, but the rest was fabulous. If the tide is out, worth looking for the remains of the petrified forest on the beach between Borth and Ynyslas. Hope you have a wonderful time.

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  22. Paul Donnelly says:

    I started walking the coast north from Skegness in small sections about 8 years ago. I am at Dundee. Coincidentally your rules are exactly the same as mine. Covid has messed up my journey but hoping to do some more this year. The tracks are getting harder to find the further north you go. I’d love to get all the way round but I have a lot of other activities to distract me, not to mention other long distance paths. Doing the Penine Way this July.

  23. PhilipM says:

    Hallo Ruth … I walked the Camino in Spain and found that music helped me a lot in relieving the boredom of some stretches especially across the Meseta. Also, I did homework on the peninsular war before I started and that helped my appreciation of several of the places I passed through. For example I thought I was suffering on the long hill up to O’Cebreiro but I was happy to recall that Gen Moore’s troops carried a grand piano up that hill on the retreat to Corunna …. and in the snow!!
    Ruth does not mention any rules regarding fellow hikers and other people who one meets along the way. I found them to be a very mixed bag but all part of life’s rich experience to borrow a cliche

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