We can’t seem to get enough of exploring Cornwall on foot, and it’s little wonder why. A ramble in the Duchy affords access to glorious remote places, stunning coastline, and expansive green spaces, allowing a heady sense of escapism and discovery while exercising mind and body in the most sublime way.
If you’re a fan of the slow walking movement, you’ll relish the opportunity to wander your way through forests, countryside, World Heritage Sites, towns, and beaches. Or if you prefer a more adrenalised approach, then there’s opportunity aplenty to hike a tor, climb a (mini) mountain, or up the pace on a popular running route – you can even swap striding for riding with one of the county’s epic cycle routes.
From kit lists and pit-stops to terrain and types of route, we’ve pulled together the ultimate guide to walking in Cornwall to help you make the most of our county’s incredible landscape. Ready? Here is everything you need to know about walking in Cornwall…
What to take
While we’ve all headed out into the countryside without a care in the world, it has to be said that a walk is always better with a bit of preparation – especially when it comes to proper clothing and a backpack full of delights to take your stroll to the next level.
• Trainers, walking boots, or sturdy sandals in the summer
• Thermals make winter walks a breeze
• Waterproofs are always a good idea at any time of year
• Breathable materials make a world of difference for the more heart-pumping routes
• Sun hats in the summer, woolly hats in the winter, and a buff for windy days
• Sunglasses all year round!
• Lightweight layers – there is no better feeling than knowing you have the option to shed layers when hot or pack them on when there’s a nip in the air
• Towel – great for impromptu dips in the sea and sitting on
• Water bottle/camelbak
• Trail snacks – think high energy foodstuffs like nuts, seeds, and chocolate!
• OS maps for a traditional orienteering experience
• First aid kit (plasters, tweezers, etc)
• Poo bags
• Tasty treats
• Portable water bowl
• A ball or any beloved toy
• A towel for the car for muddier walkies
• A lead and collar/harness for walks around coastpaths and farmland
Of course, you can also get creative when packing your backpack for your Cornish walk. If you have an affinity for wildlife, bring a pocket guide to wildflowers or birds so you can log everything you come across, from buzzards to gorse. For the creatives out there, a pocket sketchbook is a must as you never know when you might stumble across a view you want to recreate. And of course, don’t forget the walkers who love the breaks as much as the journey. Oh yes, sometimes settling down with your favourite book in the crook of a cliff is the best part of any walk.
How to pitstop properly
Ah, the pitstop. Everyone who loves a good romp across field, cliff, and beach knows the value of a hearty break where your feet can kick back and your energy reserves can be refilled. Worthy of such a tradition, Cornwall is home to many options when it comes to a quick – or leisurely – rest, whether you want to grab a revitalising coffee or sit down to a full-on pub lunch with all the trimmings.
The crunch of a baguette being shared, the smell of a freshly baked brownie, the fizz of something sparkly as it fills your glass (or travel mug), there really is nothing quite like the sensory explosion of picnics. In Cornwall, you’ll find a heady mix of local farm shops, independent food shops, and mouthwatering local chocolate makers ready to fill your basket and bag with all sorts of tasty treats, all of which are sure to turn your picnic into a veritable feast. Of course, here in Cornwall a Cornish pasty is a picnic you can hold in one hand so why not pick up a piping hot oggy for your mid-walk refuel?
Fancy a cuppa and freshly made sarnie as your pitstop? Cornwall’s cafés are the perfect place to hunker down and enjoy a filling feed that doesn’t leave you waddling home. From cosy cafés that ply you with rich hot chocolates in the winter months to beachside huts that offer ice cream by the scoopful, there’s a café for every occasion. Some of our favourite cafés near walks include Polpeor Café on the Lizard (great for a Cornish cream tea with a view), Godrevy Café near Hayle for a beachside brew, and The Hidden Hut on the Roseland Peninsula for an epic feast.
Cornwall is positively teeming with pubs, from historic inns that have served smugglers and sailors to ancient ale houses that have perfected the pint over the centuries. Alongside well-stocked bars that could satisfy even the thirstiest of walkers, these traditional pubs cater to the hungry ramblers too, offering up uber-comforting pub grub. Settle down by the open fire, sprawl out under the sun in the beer garden, or make a beeline for one of Cornwall’s dog-friendly pubs for a spot of relaxation with the hound by your side. Some of our favourite pub stops include the sandy charms of The Watering Hole on Perranporth beach, The Tinners Arms near Zennor Head, and Pandora Inn near Falmouth.
Where to go
Your bag is packed, you’ve got your sights set on a beast of a pub lunch, and your walking boots are itching to explore Cornwall… Where do you go? Whether you opt for North, South, or West Cornwall, you’re in for a real rambler’s treat as each coast, field and moor is home to its own delights and scenes.
Wild, rugged, and seriously dramatic, walks in North Cornwall are a soul-stirring adventure you just can’t get enough of – it’s particularly impressive in the depths of winter when the seas roll in with increased enthusiasm. From the sweeping coastline that boasts towering cliffs, craggy ruins, and storm-watching opportunities galore to the untamed (and sometimes haunting) beauty of Bodmin Moor, this varied landscape will have you picking your jaw off the ground in no time.
North Cornwall is full of mesmerising scenes in which to stretch the legs, whether you fancy the iconic coast surrounding Newquay or the myriad of routes that wind around Bude. If you prefer a smoother stroll, the famous Camel Trail is there to take you on a peaceful journey along a disused railway line between Padstow, Wadebridge, Bodmin, and Wenfordbridge – with plenty of pitstop opportunities along the way!
Packed to the seams with unbelievably beautiful places, West Cornwall is a paradise for walkers. Mixing the drama of North Cornwall with the balmy beaches of the south, this near-tropical coast boasts sights that could easily be found in the Med – and we get to enjoy them right here in Cornwall! Pretty fishing villages dot the coast, while inland wooded valleys and country pubs provide a dizzying choice of routes.
Home to a vast array of walks, you can choose between coastal treks that give the calves a proper workout, or you can wind your way through the ancient sites across West Cornwall and learn as you go. Head to St Ives for golden beaches and cobbled streets, Porthleven for a heady mix of cliffs and wooded estates, or Mousehole for rugged cliffs and turquoise waters. Walks in West Cornwall will reward you with some of the most iconic landmarks in Cornwall too, including the impressive St Michael’s Mount and the clifftop delights of the Minack Theatre.
Tranquillity – that’s the word that springs to mind when walking through the idyllic scenes that make up the landscape of South Cornwall. Oh yes, this sunny section of the Duchy was made for those who want to soak up peaceful scenes, dusty tracks, and warm sandy beaches that enjoy the full force of the summer sun – the perfect place for a breather during your Cornish walk.
If you want a waterside wander, you can pick between the lapping sounds of the ocean or the gently flowing idylls of the many rivers and estuaries that flow through South Cornwall, from the Helford River to Fowey. For a more dramatic backdrop, head to Cornwall’s most southerly point and soak up the iconic scenery around the Lizard Peninsula, including the jaw-dropping beauty of Kynance Cove. Boasting an impressive array of beaches, pubs (many of which are dog-friendly), and walks, Falmouth has all you need for an epic day out in Cornwall.
Types of walk
From giant moorland loops, to quick stomps across the sand at your favourite beach, Cornwall is home to an almost unending choice of walks.
Taking you on a whistlestop loop around a breath-taking (hopefully not too literally) area of Cornwall, circular walks are a great way to head off safe in the knowledge that you’ll end up right where you started. The big benefit of circular walks is that you don’t have to worry about getting back to the car – you can even head off straight from your holiday cottage for an even easier trek. This means you can relax into your walk and take as many pitstops and breathers as you like – the scenery isn’t going to sit and enjoy itself after all!
The popular ‘there and back again’ approach to walking, linear trails give you the opportunity to travel a little further. Once you reach your destination, you can then choose between turning on your heels and enjoying the scenery in the opposite direction, or you can hop on a bus or train and let wheels do the work for the return journey.
Top tip: Always check public transport options before you head out and never aim to catch the last bus of the day – just in case you find a pub or beach you want to stop off at during your walk.
South West Coast Path
With 630 miles of coastal paths that meander through 11 of Cornwall’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the South West Coast Path in Cornwall is the place to be for all who have a spring in their step. If you want a proper stomp that gets the heartrate up, head to the likes of Tintagel in North Cornwall, Land’s End in West Cornwall, and The Lizard in the South, or you can slow your stride and enjoy the more even ground around Penrose Estate, or the promenade between Marazion and Penzance – both of which are wheel friendly and provide a lovely detour before reconnecting with the coast path.
Looking for an easy-going walk that packs a floral punch – and probably has a café to boot? Cornwall’s many beautiful gardens are a lovely place for a Sunday stroll, whether you have the kids in tow or you want to share a magical moment with your favourite person. With many areas in Cornwall boasting their own micro climates, our gardens are near-tropical, with an incredible assortment of botanical delights ready to flood your senses. You can head to the Eden Project for an accessible stroll around the gardens and biomes, or visit its wilder counterpart at the Lost Gardens of Heligan for a tangle of magic and wonder. Falmouth boasts an impressive seven gardens and green spaces to explore, providing the perfect day out for the whole family.
We love a woodland walk, there’s just something so magical about the dappled light and ancient trees offering a bit of shade from the midday sun. They’re great for walks with the family too, as the trees and foliage provide the very best playground nature has to offer. The kids will love keeping an eye out for squirrels, while the dogs will enjoy the woody scents that fill the air. While Cornwall has some beautiful designated woodlands such as Tehidy in North Cornwall, Tremenheere in West Cornwall, and Durgan in the South, Cornwall is also home to many a quiet copse speckled throughout the county. If you time your walk just right, you might even be treated to a carpet of bluebells, which turn the dense green of the woods into a celebration of colour and springtime joy.
Wide open spaces, scraggly tors, and ancient pubs with beckoning fires… you can’t beat a moorland walk! While Bodmin Moor is undoubtedly Cornwall’s most famous moorland stomping ground, there are many great places where you can enjoy a heather-topped amble. The historic route between Carn Galver and Men-an-Tol in West Cornwall is always an eye-popper, with the prehistoric monuments adding a fascinating stop-off point. In North Cornwall, Rough Tor and Brown Willy are a must, offering walkers the chance to ascend to the two highest points in the county. Moorland walks are excellent for dogs as the space is just unrivalled, but we do recommend you keep them on leads when approaching grazing fields.
Master of the quick stomp, Cornwall’s beaches are primed and ready for a Sunday stroll. The expansive sand, sea views, and often close by parking make beach walks in Cornwall a wonderfully easy option for family outings – you can even enjoy a quick swim during your visit! When it comes to picking your beachy destination, there are definitely a few favourites. Dog-friendly Gwithian Towans near Hayle takes the prize for Cornwall’s biggest beach, with a mammoth 3 miles of golden sands providing plenty of space for all. On the south coast, dog-friendly Whitsand Bay vies for the title of Cornwall’s longest beach with an impressive 4 miles of length at low tide, while Widemouth Bay in North Cornwall claims a hearty stretch of 3 miles for those looking for a sandy stroll. Dogs are welcome in the winter months here but only between Black Rock and South Beach between the 15th of May and the 30th of September, 10am to 6pm.
Ready to get your fill of fresh Cornish air? Browse our collection of welcoming holiday cottages in Cornwall and find the perfect base for your adventurous stay.