When it comes to making the most of Cornwall’s impressive list of beauty spots there are a few ways you can do it. To hit lots of must-visit spots in a short amount of time, there are some seriously scenic drives around Cornwall or you can enjoy the beauty of the county in a more leisurely fashion with a stunning circular walk. However, if you feel like combining the two, we definitely recommend swapping four wheels for two as you head out on one of Cornwall’s many great cycle routes.
We love cycling as a holiday past-time as you get to enjoy some mind-clearing fresh air alongside stunning views, which you can stop and enjoy at any time. There are also some super tasty cafés along the trails, perfect for a mid-cycle refuel when travelling under your own steam.
And don’t worry if you don’t fancy lugging bikes around on the back of your car during your holiday, there are some fantastic cycle hires in Cornwall where you can gear up on everything you need from bikes to helmets. Of course, if you do want to bring your own, we have a great selection of holiday cottages with bike storage.
Ready to set off? Here are just some of the best cycle routes in Cornwall…
For the families…
The Camel Trail
Perhaps one of the best-known and well-loved cycle routes in Cornwall, the Camel Trail is a beautiful stretch of idyllic countryside and AONB with some estuary views thrown in for good measure. Now, don’t be put off by the distance, as we’re not suggesting you set out and cover the entire 17 miles in one go. One of the great draws of the Camel Trail is that it can be split up into family-friendly chunks that can be enjoyed by all experiences and levels.
Following the tracks of a disused railway, you can cycle between Padstow and Wadebridge (5.5 miles), Wadebridge and Bodmin (5.75 miles) or Bodmin and Wenfordbridge (6.25 miles), or you can tackle the whole stretch between Padstow and Wenfordbridge for a truly epic trail. For those with families that want an easy-going time, the Padstow and Wadebridge stretch is the easiest, with lovely flat surfaces and plenty of spots for a picnic along the way (we recommend stocking up your picnic with goodies from one of Cornwall’s many amazing farm shops). Or, you can set off from Wadebridge towards Bodmin for one of the best cream teas in Cornwall.
Whichever route you choose, you’ll be met with reaching vistas and plenty of amenities at each end – nothing quite beats a Cornish pasty after a proper Cornish bike ride.
For the shade seekers…
Penrose Estate and Loe Pool
Delivering your hired bike straight to your holiday cottage, Lakeside Cycles in Helston is the perfect starting point from which to enjoy the charming twists and turns of Penrose Estate, which has lots of great trails, many of which are under the cover of trees for those rainy day rides.
The route goes between Helston and Porthleven on the right hand side and takes in lovely waterside views as you approach Loe Bar along with woods carpeted with bluebells in the spring. The left-hand trails are just as beautiful but offer a more off-road experience, perfect for those looking for a hit of adrenaline before your picnic on the sands at Loe Bar. Take the short cliff-side detour from here into Porthleven where you’ll find a pretty harbour and plenty of eateries where you can replenish your energy stores. There’s also a great bike hire at Shipyard Cycles where you can pick up an eBike for your tour.
National Trust-run Stable Café is open for refreshments halfway between Helston and Porthleven, and if you start from the Helston end there is free parking opposite the boating lake by the park.
For those who can’t choose between the North and South coast …
Distance: 11 miles
Difficulty: Easy to moderate with nice flat tracks
Cycle hire: Bike Chain Bissoe
The 11 mile Bissoe Trail runs coast to coast from Portreath to Devoran, with the option to carry on to Falmouth along the road if you want a couple of extra miles. This means you can enjoy the wilds of the north coast with the idylls of the south on the same day! Bike Chain provides all sorts of cycles for hire, from tandems to trailers that can hold two children - great for families.
You’ll pass through shaded woodlands and alongside lakes, rivers, and creeks, all while soaking up the rich history of Cornwall’s mining heritage – the series of ancient engine houses really do make for an impressive backdrop. The main trail is fairly easy to negotiate, with some options for thrill seekers to disappear into the undergrowth where you can jump your bikes over rocks. There are lots of great places to stop and refuel along the trail, including the café at Bike Chain, and one of the best places for a proper feast has to be The Old Quay Inn, where you can rest up and chow down.
The First and Last Trail
Distance: 25 miles
Difficulty: Medium difficulty with some off-road, minor road, and steep sections
Cycle hire: Lands End Cycle Hire
Part of the Cornish Way trails, which take you across 190 miles of networking routes across Cornwall, The First and Last Trail is perhaps the first and last trail you’ll need as it covers a breath-taking variety of iconic Cornish scenes.
Starting at Lands End, Britain’s most south-westerly point, this epic route takes you along dramatic coastlines, past St Michael’s Mount, and finally inland towards Hayle, where you can enjoy reaching views of St Ives. If 25 miles is a bit too much to tackle in a day, you can always split the route into more manageable chunks. The stretch between Mousehole and Marazion is perfect for families as the Penzance Promenade offers lovely flat surfaces to ride across – plus, there are some great places to eat in Penzance and Mousehole for that all-important pitstop!
For a historical tour…
Distance: Between 2 and 5 miles depending on the route
Difficulty: Fairly easy with some steep climbs and uneven paths
Cycle hire: Pentewan Valley Cycle Hire
Whether you want to delve into some Cornish history or some of the best attractions in Cornwall, The Clay Trails around St Austell are a cycling must. There are seven trails to choose from, each with a different length and difficulty rating so you can go at your own pace without missing out.
The longest route takes you from the Eden Project to St Martyn and rewards its adventurers with incredible views across the Cornish Alps, which are a man-made remnant of the area’s industrial past. We definitely recommend popping into the Eden Project if you choose this route as it’s home to some incredible displays and lots of delicious eateries where you can fill up before or after your ride. On the shorter side, the Sky Spar Trail is just 2 miles, but it packs a big punch in a short space with incredible views of the mica dam – no filter needed for these turquoise waters!
For the casual explorers…
Gwithian to St Ives
Distance: 22 miles
Difficulty: Medium, mostly road cycling with a few steeper inclines
Cycle hire: Go eBike Hire
Fancy setting off on a stunning Cornish bike ride that delivers all of the views with considerably less of the leg work? Head over to Go eBike Hire at Gwithian and take one of their eBikes for a day - it’s the ultimate way to see Cornwall! This pretty stretch of coastal roads takes you through Hayle and along the King George V Memorial Trail, which offers a peaceful place to stop for a picnic. Along your journey, you’ll have lots of great pit stops to choose from, including Lula Shack and Philps Pasties in Hayle, and an entire smorgasbord of sea-view restaurants in St Ives.
We love a tootle around town when it comes to cycling in Cornwall and we wholeheartedly recommend just heading out and finding your own little tracks and routes. It really is the best way to explore Cornwall’s winding streets and hidden secrets (although you might want to push in the smaller alleys).
For a totally Cornish tour…
The Cornish Way
Distance: 195 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to hard, depending on how many miles you want to cover per day
Cycle hire: Cornwall Bike Hire will deliver/collect bikes anywhere in Cornwall, including train stations and airports
We’re finishing on a high note, and by high, we mean 195 miles long! Making the most of the National Cycle Network, this incredible network of signposted paths, pretty lanes, and unforgettable trails takes you through an enormous chunk of Cornwall.
Starting at Lands End, you’ll follow the Cornish Way past many of West Cornwall’s honeypot towns and villages before offering you a choice at Truro. You can follow Route 3 past Mevagissey, St Austell and the Eden Project, or you can opt for Route 32, which takes you to Newquay. Both routes meet up in Bodmin for the last leg of this epic journey. Taking just over 16 hours to complete, you will probably be splitting the route into bite-sized chunks, which makes 195 miles considerably more manageable! Even if you only do one section each time you visit, by the end you will be able to say that you’ve cycled the length of Cornwall – doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?
Excited to explore the many cycle routes in Cornwall? Check out our lovely holiday cottages in Cornwall, the perfect place to retreat to after a day on two wheels.