JP’s Exe to Axe -Course

Course Details

Please be aware that a number of previous runners have classed this as an extremely tough course. Runners World has previously described the event as a “…brute of a race with some outstanding views..” and has previously been voted one of the best races in the country.

The race starts at the Foxes Hole Car Park on the Exmouth Sea Front and follows the South West Coast Path for 22 miles and finishes at the Esplanade at Seaton. This is the 20th year of the race. In 2004 the race started from Seaton and finished in Exmouth, but since 2005 it has started in from Exmouth. Originally the distance was just over 20 miles, but a landslip in June 2012 on the outskirts of Seaton has led to a detour which means the distance is now nearer 22 miles. The race has been renamed JP’s Exe to Axe in memory of John Perratt, founding member and longterm Treasurer of Sidmouth Running Club, and a huge contributor to the sport throughout East Devon.

We are grateful to everyone who has sent us photos. Click here to see the gallery.


This is not an Orienteering exercise so no map of the route is attached but for those not familiar with the area you can get the general idea by looking at an ordinary road map and following the coast line from Exmouth to Seaton

OS Explorer Maps 115 (Exmouth & Sidmouth) and 116 (Lyme Regis & Bridport) provide more detail. The route follows the Coastal Path with its Acorn logo embossed on all signposts so apart from the occasional minor deviation there should be no difficulty.

The simple rule therefore is: Keep the sea on your right and follow the COASTAL PATH ACORN SYMBOLS.

Brief notes on the route are given below, stage by stage. You may also find this document useful. A gpx file of the route can be downloaded here.

Stage One

Exmouth to Budleigh to Exmouth (Straightforward Four miles)
From the start at the Foxes holes car park the route goes along the sea front to the end, then left up a winding path to the top, then turn right. The path is quite narrow path so we ask the slower runners to let the quicker ones forge ahead there is an awful long way to go so no point in sprinting away at the start. The field settles down very quickly. You will then pass by the Geo Needle at Orcombe Point. It is 5 metres tall and marks the start of the World Heritage Site that you are about to run through. The only tricky navigational bit is through the Sandy Bay Holiday Camp. It is signposted but not always where you can see it. Just keep heading East with the sea on your right and skirt left round the Rifle Range which juts out to sea. Reaching Budleigh carry along the Promenade to the Large Car Park (BEWARE OF TRAFFIC IT IS A CAR PARK) at the Eastern End of the Prom. This year the first check point/water station is not in the car park, but about 1/2 mile further on. This is quite an easy stretch so do not get complacent. Life gets tougher as you progress.

There is ongoing work on the Lower Otter Restoration Project which may affect the route, though any diversion will be clearly marked.

Stage Two

Budleigh to Sidmouth (a little over 6 miles with some great views).

From the Car Park we have to go inland for half a mile or so to negotiate the River Otter. There is then a bridge over the river and another right turn which brings you to the first water station/checkpoint.  After this follow the path alongside the east side of the river which brings you back to the coast. As you start the descent into Sidmouth there is a tricky right turn on to a busy road (TAKE CARE) at the bottom of a long flight of steps. Please be on the lookout for traffic at that point. Shortly afterwards the coastal sign directs you through a gate on to the grassy slope that gives you a glorious view as you run down the hill, turn right down the path to Jacob’s ladder and along the Esplanade.

Stage Three

Sidmouth to Branscombe Mouth (a little over 6 miles and where it starts to get serious).

After the checkpoint at the Sailing Club, cross over the footbridge and up a zig-zag path. At the top of this the original coastal path has fallen prey to the tide so there is a little uphill bit on the road. Follow the road around and we will stick a couple of arrows to get you back on to the path. It is straightforward but with plenty of climb ahead of you to the top of Salcombe Hill. As you descend towards Salcombe Mouth you will see the way up ahead of you. You will come across a sign to Salcombe Beach but do not take those steps down. It is forbidden (and dangerous) to run along the beach from Salcombe Beach to Weston. In contrast, when descending later to Weston Mouth you go right down to the beach, along it for 10 to 15 metres – and then straight up again!

Final Stage

Branscombe Mouth to Seaton – a little over 4 miles.

A short distance up the hill after the Checkpoint at Branscombe there is a choice of route. (This is the only deviation allowed) The Coastal Path proper goes through the caravan site and stays level for some distance before steps take you up to the cliff top. We suggest however that you bite the bullet right at the start and climb straight up the grassy slope to the top of Hooken Cliffs from Branscombe Mouth. This option is more scenic and will be the choice of the locals as it is probably quicker. However, as you pass the abandoned Coastguard Building (you can’t miss it as it is the only building on that stretch).
The route through the pretty village of Beer is well signposted with the Acorn and by now you are nearly there, but the landslip on the Old Beer Road several years ago has become a permanent feature and is not passable. There is though a new path connecting the Old Beer Road with the new one which has been signposted as the Coastal Path and that is now the official route of the race. This means a right turn as you come down the steps on to Beer Hill road. Down to the bottom of the hill and then it is a left, almost U turn into the Old Beer Road where just round the corner is the path through the woods on your right. (LOOK OUT FOR DIRECTION ARROWS) At the top you come on to the new Beer Road so it is another right turn. Continue briefly up Beer Road and then it is a nice run downhill towards Seaton. It sounds complicated but we will put up some arrows for you so don’t worry about it. By then you will be past caring. Coming in to Seaton look out for more arrows for a sharp right turn down a passage just before Wessiters on your left and they will direct you to the Esplanade. The race has been extended, so you can burn any energy you may have left. The final stretch along the sea front is around 750 metres to the finish line at the Axe Valley Sailing Club.