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Best walks in North Cornwall

Walking in Cornwall gives you unbridled access to some of the most magical sights in the county. From riverside routes to woodland walks, moorland hikes, country rambles and coastal stomps, Cornwall’s myriad landscapes and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are something to behold as you commune with nature by way of a humble stroll (or even up the ante with an adrenalised off-road cycle).

Someone walking along the dramatic cliffs near Morwenstow, one of the best walks in North Cornwall

Adventuring on foot offers glimpses into the real character of a place. Stick to the well-trodden path or venture off-the-beaten-track to discover Cornwall’s wild side and its inhabitants. And where can you find such gold? North Cornwall, with its Atlantic rollers, windswept beaches and rugged hinterland presents a picturesque locale in which to lose yourself to your sublime surrounds. Schedule a week of strenuous walks, find a pretty coastal path, or strike out from your holiday cottage and see where it lands you as you let your feet find your way.

An unforgettable walking holiday in north Cornwall starts here...

Cubert Wildlife Walk, Newquay

Looking through the sand dunes at Holywell Bay near Newquay

Best for: Wildlife spotting and scenic views

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 6 miles
Type: Circular

Start just south of Newquay for a route that will treat walkers of all ages to a wildlife spotting adventure of the most scenic kind (and can be shortened to suit). From the car park at West Pentire, you’ll pass fields of wildflowers in summer as you venture south toward Holywell Beach. Keep an eye out for rabbits on the slopes toward the idyllic, Polly Joke, along with seals, basking sharks, porpoises and dolphins that might appear in the bay. 

Sea birds in this area include skylarks, gulls and fulmars, while the dunes at Holywell provide the perfect stomping ground and skies for butterflies, crickets and grasshoppers. Take a break on the beach with a pre-packed picnic, or find a watering hole such as The Treguth Inn or Gull Rocks Bar & Coffee House before taking the return route back to West Pentire.

Discover more walks in and around Newquay - as well as brilliant dog walks to enjoy with your beloved hound.

Rough Tor and Brown Willy, Bodmin

The stacked rocks at Rough Tor on Bodmin Moor

Best for: A moorland escape

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5 miles
Type: Circular

Relish a sense of remoteness as you roam north Cornwall’s granite giants for walking territory both wild and jaw-droppingly beautiful. Scale Rough Tor, which sits at 1,313 feet above sea level, where you’ll be greeted by breath-snatching panoramic views of the rugged heath as far as the eyes can see. 

Part two of the walk will take you to Cornwall’s highest peak of Brown Willy, where at 1,378 feet above sea level you’ll be rewarded with more exquisite gull’s eye views of Bodmin Moor and the China clay hills of St Austell. En route you’ll discover prehistoric settlements, the Fernacre stone circle and a Holy Well as part of your historic amble – but you won’t encounter any facilities, so plan and pack accordingly (there is a free car park at the entrance to Rough Tor).

Bude Coast and Canal

Walking along the cliffs above Bude

Best for: Children or those with impaired mobility

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5.7 miles
Type: Circular

Follow the spectacular South West Coast Path for beaches galore during this uber picturesque and child-friendly walk in Bude. The section along the Bude Canal is level and pushchair/wheelchair accessible (a Tramper all-terrain mobility scooter is available to hire from Whalesborough Farm), while the coastal section is flat, but trickier for access. 

Take in sweeping sea views from Compass Point, then continue to the Blue Flag beach of Widemouth Bay (dog friendly year-round and with a café and surf schools) and further on to the canal path. This will lead you back to your starting point of the Falcon Hotel, where you can reward yourself with a refreshing pint – or head into Bude for a fabulous assortment of other places to eat and drink, along with a host of things to see and do. If you're visiting in the winter, you might be treated to one of Cornwall's epic storms, which you can watch from the safety of the bluff that overlooks Crackington Haven.

Check out our live webcam in Bude and discover more walks in and around Bude.

Valency Valley and Boscastle

The dramatic coastline from Boscastle

Best for: Bird watching and valley views

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 4 miles
Type: Circular

From Boscastle car park, join the South West Coast Path for beautiful views of island rock, the Meachard, as you wind your way to the Coast Watchtower in the company of kestrels, peregrines, gannets and fulmars. Follow the path to St Symphorian’s Church before descending for Minster Wood and onward to Valency Valley. 

The river and oak woodlands offer a tranquil space to roam, and are home to an array of wildlife, from butterflies to bats. The valley path will lead you back to Boscastle (there’s a toilet next to the main harbour car park), where you can refuel at the likes of Boscastle Farm Shop, Toby Jug Café, The Rocket Store, or the Cobweb Inn.

Botallack Mining Walk

People walking along the cliff paths around Botallack

Best for: Exploring Poldark’s mining landscapes

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1 mile
Type: Circular

Taking in Cornwall’s Tin Coast and its industrial past, while walking you through stunning coastal heathland and Poldark filming locations, this easy route is one for both history buffs and solace seekers alike. Skirting the great Atlantic, the path is situated in the heart of the western end of the Cornish Mining World Heritage site, offering unbridled views of both ocean and historic engine houses. 

Start at the Count House in Botallack (a centre of information and education) before roaming the tin mining works while keeping an eye out for the Cornish chough. Extend your route to Cape Cornwall for the otherworldly Kenidjack Valley – a haven for damselflies, bats and otters, amongst other wildlife; along with the striking cliff-side engine houses of Wheal Owles and Wheal Edward. Take a cultural detour to nearby Geevor Tin Mine to discover more about mining – and tuck into a Cornish cream tea with to-die-for sea views in the café while you’re there.

Godrevy to Hell’s Mouth

Looking over the cliffs at Godrevy

Best for: Sprawling seascapes and dramatic cliffscapes

Difficulty: Moderate
Distance: 5 miles
Type: Linear/circular

Absorb the breath-taking views from Godrevy headland as you round the coastal path to the dramatic Hell’s Mouth and keep an eye out for the seal colony in the coves below. Starting at the Godrevy Café car park, head to the dunes for staggering vistas over St Ives Bay and Virginia Woolf’s literary muse of Godrevy Lighthouse. 

Join the coast path northward past Godrevy Cove (or cool off in the water if the tide and conditions allow) as you cut between ocean and farmland and allow your gaze to be drawn in all beautiful directions as you approach the heathland of the Knavocks (and look for grazing Shetland ponies). From here, the path continues to Hell’s Mouth. Have a rest at the café opposite before returning via the same route, or grabbing a bus back if the weather turns or you have little ones in tow.

Hawker’s Hut, Morwenstow

The historic Hawker's Hut on the cliffs near Morwenstow

Best for: Poetic inspiration and local history

Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 1 mile
Type: Circular

Fuel up for the walk ahead at your starting point of the 14th century Rectory Farm Tearooms in Morwenstow before ambling along fields to then join the coast path on Vicarage Cliff. On a clear day, you might be able to spy Lundy Island offshore. Follow the signs for Hawker’s Hut – the driftwood refuge for Reverend Stephen Hawker, poet and writer most famous for the Cornish National anthem, ‘Trelawny’. 

The return track across fields will lead you back to the tearoom. Alternatively, extend your walk with a route that first ventures to Morwenna Valley and features the ancient Church of St John the Baptist and St Morwenna (Hawker was vicar there from 1834-1874), then turn inland near Higher Sharpnose Point passing wildlife-rich farmland, the Tidna Valley and woodlands while returning you to the tearooms.

Padstow to Harlyn Bay

Views over the beautiful Camel Estuary near Padstow

Best for: A challenging coastal trek

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 6.9 miles
Type: Linear

Admire some of the most spellbinding sights of this section of the South West Coast Path with a walk on the more strenuous side that’s also replete with rewards. From Padstow Harbour (where we totally recommend picking up some piping hot Cornish pasties from Chough Bakery for some walking fuel), hike along the estuary (or first explore the National Lobster Hatchery opposite) to St Saviour’s Point for mesmerising 360 degree views of ocean and land, and on to St George’s Well and its magical water. Meander onto the beach (at low tide) for a siesta or swim, or march on toward Gun Point. 

From here, you have your pick of beaches at Harbour Cove and Hawker’s Cove (both dog friendly year-round and steeped in myth and legend), or you can continue to the spectacular headland of Stepper Point with its panoramic views over the entrance of the Camel Estuary. Tear yourself away to walk south along the path, which follows the ocean as far as Gunver Head and its beautiful waterfalls before clutching the coast again toward Trevone Beach and family-favourite, Harlyn Bay (seasonally lifeguarded, home to Harlyn Surf School and with eateries THE PIG and The Cornish Arms). A regular bus service runs from here back to Padstow. See what it looks like now with our live webcam.

Other recommended north Cornwall walks to enjoy include a circular walk from Porthtowan to St Agnes and a coastal path walk from St Ives to Zennor.

Want a beautiful base for your walking holiday in Cornwall? Explore our holiday cottages in north Cornwall and throughout the entire county, including away-from-it-all couples’ retreats and family boltholes in town centres.

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