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The best walks in Cornwall

One of the many pleasures of exploring on foot is the sense of discovery. You might want to dedicate your holiday to tackling the most popular paths, or simply roam the beautiful landscapes to see where your walking boots might take you. What you’ll find en route is access to otherwise hidden treasures: unspoilt swathes of rural hinterland, glimpses of rare wildlife, expanses of uninhabited woodlands, sub-tropical gardens, and secret smugglers’ coves all await the walker in Cornwall

Walking the coast path on The Lizard, Cornwall

The Duchy is perhaps best known as home to many of the South West Coast Path’s prime walks, granting walkers the opportunity to feast their senses on cliff-side, seascape, beach, headland, castles and ancient monuments at the beyond picturesque place where land and ocean collide. But there’s also an array of other sights to behold while walking in Cornwall. There are UNESCO World Heritage Mining (WHS) landscapes, routes through beautiful towns and chocolate-box villages, cultural and historic walking tours, moorland treks and rural idylls to explore.

Whether you fancy a family-friendly stroll with plenty of facilities and attractions nearby, a challenging cross-county trek through the wilds, a casual coastal walk to a restaurant with sea views, or a picnic complete with a country ramble, Cornwall has got it covered. Here’s a selection of our favourite walks in Cornwall to start with...

St Michael's Way

The iconic St Michaels Mount in Cornwall

Best for: Ancient sites and soul-stirring views 

Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous
Distance: 12.5 miles
Type: Linear 

The celebrated St Michael’s Way coast-to-coast route runs from Lelant in the north to the world-famous St Michael’s Mount in the south, crossing the western peninsula and its spectacular range of sights. The mini pilgrimage can be completed in a day (or a slower-paced few days) and spoils walkers with holy wells, ancient standing stones and mythological landscapes, capturing the culture, imagination and history of people and place.

The walk forms the British leg of the renowned Camino de Santiago (a network of pilgrim routes across Europe) and was created upon the discovery that pilgrims and traders used the route while on their way to Santiago de Compostela to avoid sailing the rough seas around Land’s End. From Lelant Church, the path leads to St Euny’s Well and then past the powdery sands of Carbis Bay and on to Knill’s Monument. Next is the giant’s stone of Bowl Rock, and Iron Age Hillfort, Trencrom Hill with its gull’s eye views over Mounts Bay (the pilgrim’s ‘Mount Joy’ destination) and beyond. Head south through fields toward the pilgrim’s centre of Ludgvan Church – and the White Hart pub should you need to rest and refuel awhile. Next comes Tremenheere Sculpture Gardens, which are home to a wealth of plant life alongside acclaimed international installations and artworks, as well as a café and gallery. From here, head to Gulval Church, then further south toward Penzance for the South West Coast Path that will lead you to the tidal island of St Michael’s Mount, its castle, gardens, ancient chapel, café and toilets.

Falmouth Town and Coastal Walks

The view across Gyllyngvase Beach in Falmouth 

Best for: Families and child-friendly entertainment

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1mile+
Type: Linear/circular

One of the easiest ways to explore Falmouth is with a wander, whether you’re armed with an itinerary or simply want to tire out the kids with a promise of a nearby attraction. Any waterfront spot in this maritime town makes the perfect starting point, such as the harbour as you set off toward Pendennis Headland. This 2.5-mile walk starts at Custom House Quay before winding past the docks toward Pendennis Castle and Pendennis Point, which gazes across the estuary mouth over to St Mawes Castle. Kids will love any of the trio of treasure trails along the river, which include the Roseland Ranger, Fal River Challenge and Smugglers Trail; or lure them from Gyllyngvase to Swanpool, or further along to Maenporth for the ultimate beach tour and amble along the stunning coast path. All three beaches boast an array of facilities from water sports hire and classes to cafés and, of course – beautiful stretches of sand upon which to play, sunbathe, or swim in the cooling ocean.

Alternatively, take a ferry from Falmouth across to St Mawes for scenic walking routes aplenty, or further afield to Truro, Flushing and the Roseland Peninsula for picturesque paths featuring exotic gardens, stunning creeks, dramatic cliff-tops, pristine beaches and lush glades (popular walking routes in and around Falmouth include the Roseland Ramble, St Anthony Head, Gorran Haven to Dodman Point, Nare Head, and St Just-In-Roseland to Messack Point/St Mawes.)

The Cornish Saints' Way

 Walking the coast path in Padstow from the harbour to Hawkers Cove Beach

Best for: Historic sites and literary legends

Difficulty: Strenuous
Distance: 27 miles
Type: Linear

Starting at St Petroc and its 15th-century church, this pilgrimage is part of the longer spiritual walking route of the Cornish Celtic Way (of 125 miles) that takes you from Padstow in the north to Fowey in the south. St Breock Downs and a giant monolith stone is the next stop, followed by the 15th-century church of St Nivet then up to the vista-laden Helman Tor Nature Reserve. Lanlivery is home to St Brevita Church and the 12th-century Crown Inn, should you be in need of a pitstop; after which you’ll stumble deeper into this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty via Kenneth Grahame’s literary muse of Golant, which reputedly inspired him to write ‘Tales of the Riverbank’. Explore St Sampson’s Church and Holy Well (where mythology alleges that King Mark and Iseult were married) before tracing the river to its mouth at Fowey Harbour, where you’ll find a bounty of things to see and do.

Kynance Cove to The Lizard

Walking the coast path at Kynance Cove, Cornwall

Best for: Sea views and abundant nature

Difficulty: Easy-moderate
Distance: 4.4 miles
Type: Circular 

Strike out to the most southerly point in Britain with a walk from the otherworldly Kynance Cove to the wild beauty of Lizard Point. If the serpentine rocks in the cliff face don’t dazzle you, then the crystalline waters lapping the white sands dotted with rock stacks and islands certainly will. Park at the National Trust car park, then fuel up at the beachside eco café and enjoy a wild swim before venturing south along the coast path past Cornish heath while looking for seals and basking sharks. Just past Polpeor Cove and the Old Lizard Lifeboat Station, you’ll land at Lizard Point. Indulge in a Cornish cream tea or alfresco lunch, at either of the two sea-gazing cafés along the coast path, and visit the lighthouse before venturing further east toward Housel Bay or Church Cove, before embarking upon the return route slightly inland through the village and back to Kynance Cove.

The Smuggler's Way

Walking across Bodmin Moor in Cornwall 

Best for: A historic walking challenge 

Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous
Distance: 36 miles
Type: Linear/circular

The epic Smuggler’s Way trail takes walkers from Boscastle on the north coast across Cornwall’s rugged core of Bodmin Moor and along the estuary to Looe. Combine with The Saints’ Way or South West Coast Path for a week-long walking adventure and 100-mile-long circular challenge, or stick to the 36-mile route (or smaller chunks) for a coast-to-coast trek across a range of jaw-dropping landscapes. The path provides the chance to take in some staggering rock formations, such as Rough Tor, and hike Cornwall’s highest point and Bronze Age burial cairn of Brown Willy while traversing the breath-taking, Bodmin Moor - as well as the opportunity to tick the famous Jamaica Inn off your checklist! Other highlights include the River Valency, Dozmary Downs and Boscastle’s quaint harbour and village.

Newquay Walks

The view along the Gannel Estuary and Crantock Beach in Newquay, Cornwall 

Best for: Coastal views and things to do

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1mile+
Type: Linear/circular

Newquay’s coastal path fringes the entire locale, and depending on what direction you’re heading, will see you encounter everything from a former fisherman’s shelter, Huer’s Hut, to the imposing red brick façade of the Headland Hotel (serving fantastic cream teas with a prime slice of sea views), and panoramic picturesque headlands, Pentire and Towan. Walk the stretch of town beaches on a low tide, or strike out along the cliff path for plenty of sights and interesting stop-off opportunities, from the Blue Reef Aquarium to Fistral’s surfing epicentre.

You can’t get more picture-postcard than with a walk (or horse ride) around the Gannel Estuary, which weaves along coastal paths to the salt marshes and Penpol Creek to present the pretty village of Crantock and its smugglers' haunt, the Old Albion Inn. Don’t forget to enjoy a well-deserved rest at the fabulous Fern Pit Café overlooking the river, followed by a cooling sea dip. 

Polperro to Looe

View from the coast path across Polperro Harbour in Cornwall 

Best for: Beaches, wild views and coastal heritage 

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.5 miles
Type: Circular

The South West Coast Path passes through Polperro, making the village a perfect starting point for exploring the incredible coastline. The Polperro to Looe coast walk is replete with history, such as a Christian holy site and the ruins of a medieval chapel, while if you’re seeking a sea swim or stretch of sand to lounge on, Talland and Portnadler Bays are just the scenic ticket, while Hannafore Beach is prime rock pooling territory. You’ll pass smugglers’ caves, Looe Island and exotic plant life while winding your way along the coast.

For a shorter walk, try the Chapel Cliff walk - a scenic one-mile route around the village, with far-reaching vistas at various vantage points; or for a more challenging route, head from Polperro to Polruan, where 7 miles of strenuous hiking will reward you with plenty of picture-perfect moments such as the jaw-dropping views provided from Blackbottle Rock. You can cycle or wander your way around the spectacular range of woodlands including Deer Park Forest and nearby ancient and awe-inspiring, Kilminorth Woods.

If you’re planning a walking holiday to Cornwall, then our assortment of holiday cottages will help you to create your perfect stay. Featuring everything from beachside boltholes and country retreats to village escapes and dog-friendly cottages.

 

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