The Best Cornish Coastal Walks
The UK, it seems, is heading west this summer and if you can find a bed, Cornwall – and its magical coastline – is waiting for you. My all-time favourite Cornish coast walk is from Porthleven to Lizard Point – a good hike for which you’ll need your water bottle and sandwiches! All of these are definitely worth doing though, even if you only manage parts of them: crack on and take a camera!
1. Portreath to Hayle (north coast, approx 12 miles)
Start in Portreath, near Camborne, on the north coast of Cornwall and follow the coast path up the steep hill to the top of the cliffs. After a couple of steep inclines, the path levels out and concentration will soon switch to wildlife spotting and the dramatic cliffs and coastline, which stretches to St Ives in the south and Newquay in the north.
Once you reach Godrevy lighthouse, stop off at the relaxed Sandsifter bar for lunch.
Along the cliff tops, you’ll often come across free car parks and hidden paths to secluded beaches. After you’ve walked past the hair-raising Hell’s Mouth (the name becomes obvious after you’ve cautiously peered over the edge), there’s a steep path that leads to Fishing Cove (Fishies to the locals) which is not for the faint-hearted, but well worth it.
The rest of the walk is mellow and sandy. The Towans (Cornish for ‘sand dunes’) rise on either side and there is enough flora and fauna to delight everyone. If you’re not worn out, the path carries on to the quiet beach of Carbis Bay and into the hustle and bustle of St Ives.
2. Perranporth to St Agnes (north coast, approx 4 miles)
Before heading along the coastal path, make sure to explore Perranporth beach and its stand-alone cliffs with their craggy, weather-beaten holes that make for perfect photographic frames.
The Watering Hole, Perranporth’s famous beach bar, sells local ales and cheap food to enjoy while burying your feet in the sand.
Head to Droskyn Point on the west side of Perranporth and you’ll soon encounter relics of the mining industry, which once dominated this part of Cornwall. As you walk, take a look back down at the cliffs below – once popular with smugglers and pirates. Today, there are still caves and paths connected to each other inside the cliffs where you’ll see – and wonder how they got there – children running along ledges on the cliff face between them.
As you continue along the cliff and marvel at the golden sands of Perranporth, you’ll come across an old airfield which was used in the war – aircraft shelters and bunkers still dot this part of countryside.
The walk from here drops into Trevellas Cove, a pretty and rugged area where you’ll rarely see another soul, before a steep climb back up Blue Hills to St Agnes in all its Cornish charm.
3. Porthleven to Lizard Point (south coast Lizard Peninsula, approx 14 miles)
Start your walk in the sleepy fishing village of Porthleven and head past small Cornish cottages and a pebbly beach. After traversing along crumbling paths, you’ll find yourself at the Loe. This is the largest body of fresh water in Cornwall and is only separated from the sea by a small beach of fine gravel and sand; the Loe Bar. It is said that this is where Excalibur was thrown into the water. If you have the time, the walk around the Loe is shaded, quiet and nothing but beautiful.
Further along the coast path you’ll find yourself wandering through Gunwalloe at the foot of Church Cove Dunes and into Halzephron Cove (Halzephron meaning ‘Cliff of Hell’ in Cornish). Many ships have been wrecked along the battered cliffs, and local legend has it that every seven years, a freak wave from here claims the life of someone on Porthleven sands.
Carrying on, at Poldhu Point the remains of Marconi’s wireless station stand. Here, the first transatlantic radio signals were sent from Poldhu Point to Newfoundland in 1901.
On this walk to the southernmost point in Britain, Kynance Cove is, by far, the most beautiful spot. The cove and its large stacks and arches are tucked out of view by the towering cliffs either side, offering an unexpected gasp and dramatic view when approached.
Lizard Point, although not spectacularly attractive, is the end of this 14 mile hike through history, legend and stunning scenery.
4. Crackington Haven to Tintagel (north Cornwall, approx 11 miles)
Start at Crackington Haven and head along the coast path to Cornwall’s highest cliff, imaginatively called ‘High Cliff’; it rises 223m above the sea. There are many isolated beaches along this stretch to Boscastle – The Strangles being a particularly beautiful spot.
Just before reaching Boscastle, you’ll get a glimpse of the 120ft high Pentargon Waterfall crashing down the cliffs. Once in the village, the winding harbour, small Cornish cottages and quaint cobbled streets will force you take step back in time. Evidence of the village’s devastating floods in 2004 is now non-existent.
This walk is a haven for twitchers: falcons, buzzards, kestrels and puffins all inhabit this stretch of the Atlantic Coast. Seal spot from Willapark and its Bronze Age tumuli, which is thought to be over 3,000 years old.
Once Tintagel Head is reached, take a stroll through the old castle ruins where, allegedly, King Arthur was born. The small beach at the bottom of some rickety steps is surrounded by caves and waterfalls all steeped in English legend.
5. Sennen to Lamorna (near Land’s End, approx 12 miles)
This beautiful coastal walk starts at what feels like the end of the world, across high cliffs and exposed, windswept moors.
Once past the tacky tourist trap of Land’s End, enjoy the rugged coastline of the south coast. On a clear day, the Isles of Scilly and Bishop’s Rock Lighthouse can be seen from the cliff tops.
Keep an eye out for the rocky offshore islet known as The Irish Lady at the mercy of the crashing waves – the rock is named after the sole survivor of a wreck who was clinging onto the rock. The lady drowned, although fishermen today still report sightings of a lady perched on the top with a rose in her mouth.
Carry on around the headland, keeping an eye out for dolphins, seals and basking sharks in the sea below, before resting on the secluded, half-moon golden sands of Porthchapel Beach. The view from the shore includes the remains of an old chapel and a waterfall that cascades down flower-flecked cliffs.
The coast path soon leads you to the famous Minack Theatre – a theatre built into the granite of the cliff that hosts shows all summer. The beach below, Porthcurno, is worth the trek down a winding path if only for the sparkling turquoise waters.
Logan Rock is next on this route – an 80-ton granite boulder that sits on the edge of the cliffs south of Treen. After ambling through the lush woods around St Loy, you’ll find yourself in the hamlet of Lamorna – a perfect Cornish cove with a small granite harbour.
6. Par to Polperro (south coast, approx 14 miles)
The start of this coastal path follows part of the National Cycle Network around Par Sands and offers stunning views to Gribbin Head. After a fairly easy stretch from Polkerris to the daymark of Gribbin Head, follow the path along high cliffs passing coves and walking out to headlands with fantastic views.
You’ll soon come across Fowey; the harbour is guarded by the ruins of St Catherine’s Castle which was built in 1542 as part of Henry VIII’s chain of defences along the Cornish coast.
The town of Fowey was described by J.M. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, as a ‘toy town’. It’s easy to see why, with its picture perfect houses and little fishing boats.
Hop on the foot ferry to cross the estuary from Fowey and reward yourself with views from Pencarrow Head to the Lizard and Bolt Head to the east.
When you finally make it to Polperro, rest your feet at the Kitchen Tearoom & Restaurant for some fresh, local food.