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Coastal Paths and Heritage Coasts

The UK is made up of a collection of islands and because of this we have a vast amount of coastline. Within England it has been decided to designate certain areas of our coastline as Heritage Coasts to try to give them an element of protection. This protection means they are managed for their natural beauty and where appropriate to allow access to visitors. However they are not protected by any specific statute of legislation, but because many are in either one of our National Parks or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty an agreement between these the relevant authorities exists to offer this protection.

We also have many coastal paths, some of which have been around a very long time, and some much more recent. There are even some Long Distance Paths, like the South West Coastal Path, which incorporate some of the earlier paths which cover the same ground.

In this section we have put together a number of lists and location/route guides to help you navigate your way around the UK Coastal Path system as well as some articles to outline what you have the opportunity to photograph and also help you overcome some of the photographic challenges that can present themselves when having to photograph so much sky, sea and shadow.

We have lists available in this resource currently which covers some of this, but also have many more in production.

Heritage Coasts - This is a list of the 32 designated Heritage Coasts in England (as at 2008) and this accounts for 33% of England's Coastline. Our intention is to expand this list to include other parts of the UK.

Coastal Paths - We are attempting to build a list of all Coastal Paths throughout Britain. We have so far identified 32 of them most of which are the long distance paths, but there are some shorter ones included. Many of the Long Distance paths also incorporate or overlap some of the shorter ones. In the same way you can join the long distance paths together by taking some shorter ones in between.

National Trust Coastal Walks - Some of the coastline in England and Wales is owned/managed by the National Trust and they have outlined some coastal walks where you can take in some of the stunning scenery they manage. This lists 10 of their walks.

National Trails - There are currently (2008) 15 National Trails in the UK, three of them are Coastal Paths. This lists all 15 and links to our location guides for the paths we have covered. We will be adding to this to complete all 15.

UK National Parks - As at 2008 there are 15 National Parks within the UK, 10 in England, 3 in Wales and 2 in Scotland. Some of these contain our Heritage Coastlines and therefore some of our coastal paths will take routes through them.

We are also in the process of building a much larger list of all walks in the UK which will include many of the shorter coastal paths. Currently we have 879 walks in this list and once complete will become part of this section.

See Larger Image Oban

See Larger Image Cardiff Bay

See Larger Image A Ferry Catamaran in Portsmouth Harbour

Location/Route Guides

Because of the nature of a coastal path in that it covers a large area, and with the Long Distance paths can cover a number of counties the route guide is ideal for Coastal Path locations. The following guides cover the coastlines of the South West and South of England.

You may also like to take a look at our location guide on the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path.

So now you know where to go to help you identify what you might be able to photograph and how to go about taking on some of the photographic challenges we have a number of articles to help point you in the right direction and give you something to think about.

See Larger Image A beach in South Wales

We start off by giving an outline of what types of things you might get to see and be able to photograph on your Coastal Path. This is a generalised list and in no way covers everything that you might see. The UK coastline is abundant in lots of things from relics and modern day structures, to nature and wildlife both onshore and offshore out at sea as well as stunning landscape photography opportunities of cliff and rock formations and islands and items out at sea. See this article for more detail.

Coastlines by their very nature are exposed to the elements and weather. But also like any type of landscape photography consideration to where the light is coming from can greatly increase the impact of the photograph you are trying to take. So we need to take into account the time of day, season and perspective but also the fact that in most cases you are not able to get all views because sometimes you would need to go out to sea or even employ a helicopter to get the ideal view. Take a look at our time planning for coastal photography article this includes looking at the many variables and aspects to consider but also has information on other resources that may help, and links to these. One of these resources is a file we have available that can be printed out to make your own sun compass to work out the time of sunrise, sunset and height of the sun throughout the year.

Of course photographing at the coast can be challenging and making sure you have the right lenses with you will help. We not only have to take into account the type of photograph we hope to get but also which lenses will give the right viewing angle and correct perspective. In some cases a wider than normal angle will be useful to allow us to capture a large scene, a bay or large cliff close up. At other times a mid length lenses will also us to get everything we wish in. So take a look at our suggestions in this article.

The Spinnaker on the Portsmouth Coast

Photographing at the coast doesn't have to be restricted to just what you can see through the lens, or the challenges that some times of the day can throw at you. It is possible to add drama to your image by adding effects like using a star filter to highlight the sun on the water as well as looking at filters that can help to reduce the amount of harsh sunlight by employing the use of filters. We also explore the use of filters to define contrast between subjects better and look at how a polarizer can help bring out detail in clouds or reflections in water. Our article Filters for Coastal Photography gives you some ideas on which types of filters you could consider using.

Now I must admit one issue that does cause me concern when at the coast is how do I protect me camera and gear from the impact of sand and salt water. I wouldn't go wandering around in the sea with a camera round my neck without suitable housing, but sometimes on the cliff top sea spray can be felt when the wind is in the wrong direction and coming your way. Sand is dust and if it gets in the camera can attach itself to the sensor, not only giving dust spots on your images, but being hard could potentially scratch it when we try to remove it back at base. So the article Coastal Water and Sand Proofing looks at how you might go about keeping water and other foreign debris out of your camera and lenses.

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A Jelly fish

See Larger Image

Rock Vegetation


By: Tracey Park Section: Walks Section Key:
Page Ref: coast_paths_heritage Topic: Walks Last Updated: 05/2011

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