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Best Cornwall walks: From coastal routes to countryside ambles

Thinking of a holiday in Cornwall? Here’s some of the finest ways to explore the county on foot

Chris Wilson
Friday 01 March 2024 12:12 GMT
Kynance Cove, a popular place to end long walks
Kynance Cove, a popular place to end long walks (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One of the most popular places in the UK, Cornwall has long been a British favourite for summer holidays and weekend trips.

With staycations on the rise, many are visiting the southern county for its long stretches of coastline, idyllic towns and villages, and opportunities for adventure holidays. Many choose to walk one of the region’s routes in order to get the best of all three.

Towns and villages such as St Ives or Padstow are picturesque starting points, while famous beaches and natural areas – such as Kynance Cove or Land’s End – provide excellent views during your on-foot journeys across the county.

While the UK is generally blessed with hundreds of excellent walking routes – from the Lake District to the Yorkshire Dales – Cornwall has the scenic routes to rival any area in the country.

Below, we’ve rounded up a list of the best of these routes, taking you through some of the best views in the UK.

Read more on UK travel:

The Camel Trail

Padstow can be a start or end point for the Camel Trail (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

An 18-mile route along a disused railway line, the Camel Trail runs between Wenfordbridge, Bodmin, Wadebridge and Padstow in the north of the county. It’s suitable for walkers, cyclists and horse riders and is usually divided up into three sections between each of the towns (with the section between Bodmin and Wenfordbridge the longest, at just over six miles).

The Padstow to Bodmin section is roughly 12 miles long and is a popular alternative to completing the entire route. While there are sea views on the early parts of the walk, much of it is reserved for moorland, the Camel Valley woodland and the Camel Estuary. It is also a wildlife hotspot, with otters, dormice, kingfishers and bats among the animals living along the trail.

Where to stay

With an entrance located opposite the Camel Trail, the Bodmin Jail Hotel is a convenient choice for a unique stay. The jail is a popular attraction, and the hotel has retained (and painstakingly preserved) many of its original features, such as stone walls and cell doors.

Lizard Coastal Walk

A sunset over part of Kynance Cove (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

This route starts in Kynance Cove, one of the most beautiful beaches in the country, and takes you towards Lizard Point, the most southern part of the UK mainland. The seven-mile loop takes you along the cliffs of the Lizard Peninsula until you reach the Bass Point Old Signal Station, at which point you head inland to Lizard village.

From here, you can choose to finish or continue the last leg of the loop back to Kynance Cove, where you can reward yourself with a dip in the water or simply lie back on the beach. With a time of roughly three hours, this is the perfect morning or early afternoon walk if you still want to do something with the rest of your day.

Where to stay

For a convenient stay near Lizard Point, Housel Bay Hotel is a great option. Many of the rooms in this Victorian building – as well as the restaurant – have calming views over the Atlantic, and the Cornish Coast Path runs through the grounds, providing easy access to some of the county’s most stunning locations.

St Michael’s Way

A view of St Michael’s Mount, with part of the path covered by the tide (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

This 12-mile route is believed to have been used by pilgrims and missionaries wanting to avoid the treacherous water of Land’s End on their pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Starting at Lelant (near St Ives), it bisects the southwestern tip of the county and passes through Trencrom Hill (famous for its far-reaching views across land and to the coast) and the village of Ludgvan.

At the end of the route lies St Michael’s Mount, a tidal island that is one of the most well-known places in Cornwall. The castle and church at the top of the island can be visited if you time it right, with the causeway route only passable at mid-tide and low tide.

Where to stay

The Godolphin sits on the edge of Marazion and has an excellent restaurant with stunning views over St Michael’s Mount. Its terrace and bar offer more opportunities to gave over sea vistas, but booking one of their six rooms with a sea view is the best way to make the most of the surroundings.

Land’s End Circuit

A view overlooking St Ives harbour at dusk (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One of the longest routes in the county is the Land’s End Circuit, which takes in the entirety of the southwestern tip of Cornwall, starting at Penzance and finishing in St Ives. The length can vary depending on how far you want to go, with the full coastal route stretching over roughly 20 kilometres (so it’s best tackled over at least two days, depending on experience and fitness levels).

The sights and towns you’ll discover it make it worthwhile for anyone wanting to see the main highlights in southern Cornwall. Picturesque villages, such as Newlyn or Porthcurno, will be among your first stops, with Land’s End and Sennen Cove following not long after. There are amazing coastal views at Zennor Head, while you’ll finish up at St Ives, one of Cornwall’s most bustling seaside towns.

Where to stay

With its own spa and a section of privately-owned beach, Carbis Bay’s settings and amenities make it a truly five-star stay. The outdoor pool and indoor restaurant also have stunning views of the sea, while the rooms are dressed in simple but pleasant decor, with features such as floor-to-ceiling windows.

Porthcurno to Land’s End

Rock formations on part of the Land’s End coast (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Generally considered a slightly easier route, this walk (part of the South West Coastal Path) begins at Porthcurno beach, with a turquoise bay and golden sands overlooked by rugged cliffs.

After a quick swim you can head to the Minack Theatre (an impressive open-air theatre opened in 1930) before potential stops at the beaches of Porthchapel and Nanjizal. The final stretch towards Land’s End is simple enough, where you can finish your five mile trip with a few drinks at the pub.

Where to stay

Just half a mile from Land’s End itself, the aptly named Land’s End Hotel sits on granite cliffs overlooking the Atlantic. The decor is simple with some maritime touches, in keeping with the hotel’s tranquil setting.

Trebarwith Strand to Port Isaac

Port Isaac is a small but picturesque fishing village in northern Cornwall (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Another part of the South West Coast Path, this walk traces some of the most scenic parts of the Cornish coast across a seven-mile route. Starting in the narrow valley of Trebarwith Strand, the route involves a lot of ups and downs as you take in superb sea views and tiny hamlets. Top spots include Dennis Point, Backways Cove, Port Isaac Bay and Port Gaverne.

With a population of just over 700 people, Port Isaac will not offer the variety of Padstow or the atmosphere of St Ives, but you will get excellent views of the surrounding nature (and the filming location for Doc Martin) and the opportunity to wander its peaceful, winding streets.

Where to stay

The hamlet of Port Gaverne has an impressive eponymous hotel. It’s within a 17-century building with a comfortable, coastal feel. No two rooms are the same, and with the beach on your doorstep there’s no better location for relaxing away from the crowds.

Boscastle to Tintagel

A view over Tintagel Bay (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

One of the more historical Cornish walks, this starts in the small fishing village of Boscastle, where a quick visit to the Museum of Witchcraft and Magic can start off the historical part of the route. This five-and-a-half mile route offers all the views that you’d expect, such as Ladies’ Window (and the Trevalga Cliffs), Rocky Valley and Bossiney Cove.

After crossing the Willapark and Barras Nose headlands, you’ll soon come to Tintagel Island and Tintagel Castle – said to be where the legendary King Arthur was conceived.

Where to stay

The Camelot Castle Hotel takes full advantage of the legend but undoubtedly offers accommodation – and views – fit for a king. The hotel even features a replica of the legendary round table, but the real selling points are the coastal views, proximity to Tintagel Castle (0.2 miles) and the elegant decor.

Be prepared for wet weather with our guide to Cornwall in the rain

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