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Best Walks In Cornwall – Plus 12 Reasons You’ll Love Them!

Best Walks In Cornwall: Pinterest collage: 12 Stunning Reasons You'll Love Hiking And Walking In Cornwall

Best Walks In Cornwall?

Get Some Top Tips And Fabulous Routes – From A Local!

So you want to know about the best walks in Cornwall? Of course you do! And you’ve come to the right place, because as you probably already know, Cornwall is my home.

And the best thing about that? Well, it means you’ll discover some of the routes I absolutely love and consider the best walks in Cornwall – that you won’t find anywhere else. So, delve in!

First though, let me tell you why I think you’ll love walking here as much as I do. And then I’ll share everything you need to know from what to expect in different seasons, amenities, travel, and much more. Need any more convincing?

12 Reasons You’ll Love Walking In The Far West Of The UK

Wheal Coates on the edge of the cliffs, one of the best walks in Cornwall for industrial heritage

Explore Cornwall’s industrial heritage

  1. Cornwall boasts 300 miles of breathtakingly beautiful coastline – half of The South West Coast Path, which is the UK’s longest national trail
  2. There are over 2,000 miles of footpaths to explore
  3. Cornwall has 370 square miles of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  4. Some of the best walks in Cornwall include the wild and rugged clifftops of the north coast – if you’re looking for a serious challenge then look no further!
  5. As well as challenging walks, there are beautiful, easy sections of the South West Coast Path that are perfect for beginners
  6. Discover abundant wildlife and flora in 47 nature reserves managed by Cornwall Wildlife Trust
  7. Explore our industrial heritage whether it’s teetering on the edge of magnificent cliffs or along quiet creeks. These 2 walks are some of my favourites in the west of the county: Wheal Coates, St Agnes and the coast to coast mineral tramways trails.
  8. Ancient history abounds including stone circles, barrows and standing stones. If that’s your bag then you need a day hike on the Tinners Way!
  9. Looking for something wild and windswept? Bodmin Moor and West Penwith are the places to go – why not try bagging some Marilyns.
  10. Love geology? We’ve got loads of fascinating places to explore. Did you know Millook Haven on the north coast was voted one of The Royal Geographical Society’s top 10 geological sites in Britain!
  11. No doubt you’ll have noticed our beautiful Cornish hedges weaving all around the county. But did you know there are 30,000 miles them and some of them go back as far as the Bronze Age! They’re totally unique in the UK, providing rich habitats for all sorts of flora and fauna – and fascinating walks for you!
  12. Finally, Cornwall has a subtropical climate (considerably milder than the rest of the UK), which makes walking an absolute pleasure at any time of year. Find out what you can see throughout the seasons in my guide, coming up next.

The Tinners Way: 8 of the best ancient sites in Cornwall

 

Bag a Maryln: hill bagging in Cornwall for the Geographically Challenged!

 

Coast to Coast: Cornwall's Mineral Tramway Trail

 

St Agnes Heritage Coast: Cornwall's North Coast Gem

Your Guide To Planning And Enjoying The Best Walks In Cornwall Throughout The Year

Best Walks In Cornwall - pinterest collage

 

Contents

The Best Walks In Cornwall For Beginners

Best Walks in Cornwall: Padstow Harbour on a sunny day

Most beginners want great views, easy-to-follow routes on some fairly level terrain. Well, the good news is that Cornwall has plenty to inspire you! absolute beginners I recommend creek-side walks around the River Fal (Falmouth/Truro area) or level walks from beautiful towns and villages like Padstow.

Coming soon is my updated easy 8-mile walk from Veryan on the Roseland Peninsular, which should fit the bill perfectly (sign up to my fortnightly update The Extra Mile to find out when it goes live). This walk has so much variety from a wooded valley, beautiful countryside, a level stretch of cliffs, plus a gorgeous sandy beach. I can’t wait to share it with you. But if 8 miles seems a bit daunting, or you just can’t wait, check out my friend Penny’s website The Great Cornish Outdoors for her guide to the Roseland Peninsula. She also shares this beautiful 3-mile walk from Kiberick Cove.

Walking In Cornwall For Experienced Walkers and Hikers

Gurnards Head stretching into the deep blue sea, seen from the rocky cliff tops

Don’t be fooled! A photograph doesn’t always capture how challenging the Cornish cliffs can be. Expect challenging walking at places like Gurnards Head in the far west of the county.

Hikers looking for a challenge should head to the northeast coast or further west between St Ives and Lands End. On the south coast the path around The Lizard or Polperro area will get your quads burning and your heart pumping. And there’s no better reward for the tough work-out than the stunning landscape beneath your feet. The dramatic coastal landscape of Cornwall draws visitors like bees to a honeypot, clustering around pretty fishing villages and small coastal towns. The drama and wildness of the cliff tops and the sweeping sands of long, pristine beaches take your breath away. But outside of the honeypots, the coastline is the preserve of serious hikers and walkers, which is due in large part to the challenging terrain.

Waterfall tumbling over the cliffs at Marsland Mouth, north Cornwall

Enjoy challenging walking in North East Cornwall, like here at Marsland Mouth

As well as the northeast section of the South West Coast Path, you’ll find Bodmin Moor and the moors of West Penwith offer the opportunity to find some remote wildness, with rocky tors and granite outcrops studding the ancient landscape. Bronze age field systems, megaliths, stone circles and burial chambers can be found in their 1000s across the 2 moors, often within easy walking distance of each other. Even on a sunny summer’s day, you can have the most impressive ones to yourself.

Solo Walking For Women

Walking the Tinners Way: Stephanie Boon standing on a rock (seen from behind,) looking out to sea on bright summer's day

Taking in the views to the north coast from Carn Downs

Solo walking and hiking is a joy, a chance to clear your head and take in the world at your own pace – without the guilt of pleasing anyone but yourself. You can stop wherever you want, whenever and how often you like.  And

I’ve always felt safe and completely at ease as a solo walker in Cornwall

Prepare yourself well: know the tide times; carry a personal first aid kit; plan ‘exit routes’ (places you can get off the trail if you need to); remember that mobile phone signal is sketchy (don’t forget to put your emergency details in your phone), etc, and you’ll feel the pleasure of solo walking deep in your bones. If it’s new to you I recommend you try out a well-marked trail like The St Michael’s Way, where the views are exceptional, transport is easy and there are great facilities at either end.

Season By Season In Cornwall

Spring

A carpet of bluebells in Cornish woodland

Woodlands in spring are not to be missed!

Spring brings mild (and probably wet!) weather along with early spring flowers. And you can’t beat the joy of a bluebell wood with its incredible colours and scent, whether you’re passing through on a coastal walk or meandering through woodland beside a quiet creek. Cornish hedges are beginning to come into bloom and the coast path is a fantastic place to see pink thrift snaking its way along the top of walls on the cliffs.

Summer

Looking across to the hills of Bodmin Moor on a summer's day

Looking across the fields towards Bodmin Moor

The South West Coast Path is an absolute must in the summer months because the colours will take your breath away. The intense and inviting ‘tropical’ turquoise of the sea is a joy, whether it’s from a sandy beach or towering cliffs swathed in deep purple bell heather.

Look out for the iconic Cornish chough with its distinctive curved red beak and red legs. Honestly, I can’t contain my excitement whenever I see one because it’s really beginning to thrive on the cliffs again (although still a pretty rare sight). It’s the bird you see on Cornwall’s coat of arms, but due to changes in farming practices, it died out in the late 1940s. But it was successfully re-introduced in the 80’s and 90’s down on Lizard Point, which is still a good place to see them today. Listen out for stonechats too and look up to see buzzards hanging on thermals high up above.

And summer is, of course, the season when our 30,000 miles of Cornish hedges fill the countryside with wildflowers, butterflies, hedgerow trees and shrubs that literally bring the landscape to life.

Autumn

Oak tree and bracken in autumn

Colour on a creek-side walk in autumn

Everyone loves woodland in the English autumn, but Cornwall is the least wooded county in the country so it can seem hard to find them. This just means it makes it all the more special when you do. There are lots of wooded sections on the coast path and small pockets of woodland inland, like Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s Kennal Vale or The National Trust’s Lanhydrock (both offering short walks, but worth it for the deciduous trees).

 

Winter

Looking across a rocky beach to the sun sinking below the horizon, catching the light on the waves.

A winter sunset near Porthleven on the south coast

Winter walks in Cornwall might surprise you: it’s so much milder than the rest of the UK, with very little lasting snow and ice but plenty of gales and rain. Crisp, clear days on the coast are to be cherished, but so are wild and ferocious seas – as long as you stay safe. It’s the perfect time for seal watching from high cliffs and watching sea birds take to the wing. But if the winter gales make cliff walks too dangerous, you can wrap up warm and head to the creeks for a dose of tranquil rural beauty instead.

A Word About Weather In Cornwall

Mines on the edge of the cliff at Botallack, Cornwall.

Summer’s morning at Botallack

Winter Winds

For the best walks in Cornwall you’ll need to be prepared for some wild weather in winter – especially if you’re walking on the cliffs. The weather might be considerably milder than the rest of the UK most of the year, but…

We do get some exceptional winter gales. And rain. Lots and lots of rain!

The prevailing wind is south-westerly and we get the full brunt of it here in the far southwest, which can make walking on the cliffs extremely dangerous. I’ve literally been floored by it at Portreath and couldn’t get up – funny now, but bloody terrifying when you’re a few metres from the edge of high cliffs. I recommend you always check the weather and wind forecast before you head out and don’t hike on the cliffs in anything over 30 mile an hour gusts – especially in off-shore winds. There are often field paths that you can walk instead, just a way back from the cliff edge but still with fantastic views.

Tides

Beach walkers should always be aware of the tides at all times of the year. Check the tide tables for the times of high tides as it’s easy to get cut off very quickly. (You can buy a small, inexpensive tide table book for Cornwall at most stationers and bookshops, which is really useful because mobile phone service can be very sketchy in parts of Cornwall). Riptides are extremely dangerous and in stormy weather tides can be much higher than forecast, causing dangerous waves and flooding).

Summer Sun

Summer in Cornwall is stunning, with sparkling seas, soft sands, and golden sun that make you feel like you’re on a tropical island, but although other parts of the UK are much hotter, the intensity of the light here can cause serious sunburn. Always carry sunscreen and more water than you think you’ll need – it’s easy to get caught out on longer walks between villages and towns where there’s no water available.

Amenities For Walkers

Cafes

Most towns and small villages have at least one cafe for a coffee and lunch or a cream tea. They’re also good places to ask for tap water for your water bottle. Bear in mind though that a lot of places are seasonal, especially beach cafes, and are often only open between Easter and October.

Pubs

Interior of a quint Cornish pub with a granite fireplace, beamed ceiling and bar.

Discover quaint pubs in small villages, often serving local ales and food.
Tinners Arms in Zennor, just off the South West Coast Path

Pubs are usually open year-round but don’t generally open their doors until after 11am. You might need to book ahead if you want an evening meal. Pubs are often marked on OS 1:2500 maps with a pint glass symbol, but remember that pubs in small villages may well have permanently closed their doors since the map was published – so earmark an alternative!

Public Toilets

There are public toilets in most towns and larger villages as well as on main beaches throughout Cornwall. As usual though, some facilities may well be seasonal.

Cash

There are cash machines and banks in most towns as well as some larger villages and you can also get cash from Post Offices. Some convenience stores have cash machines or offer a ‘cash back’ service. In terms of actually needing cash, you probably won’t need much, if any. Most places offer card payments, even beach kiosks and ferries.

Travel

An acoustic band playing on a station platform in Cornwall

An impromptu concert on the Looe Valley Line between Liskeard and Looe

Bus

The main bus companies in Cornwall are First Kernow and Transport For Cornwall where you can find local timetables. Buses are much more frequent in the summer and sometimes disappear off the timetable altogether in winter months, so it’s worth checking out before you leave home.

Train

The mainline route between London Paddington and Penzance runs regular services and there are numerous branch lines that will take you from the mainline to places like Falmouth and St Ives. Use the Trainline journey planner or GWR website for services.

Ferries

There are a lot of ferries around the Cornish coast, some of which run throughout the year, but others are seasonal so check before you head out.

Car Parks

Looking For More Inspiration?

When I put together a fabulous new route or have an old favourite I think you’ll love, I’ll add it to the Day Walks section at the top of every page. Why not head over and see what’s new?!

But maybe you’ve got a longer walk in mind?

 

See you on the trail!

Stephie x

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