Porthleven To Church Cove: Hiking The South West Coast Path
Porthleven to Church Cove is a 6-mile section of the South West Coast Path that you’ll absolutely love, whether you’re a long-distance hiker passing through or looking for a short point to point walk.
Long-distance walkers or thru-hikers can incorporate this beautiful part of the coast into a 14, 18.5 or 25 mile day, all of which end at Lizard Point
(More details for this are at the end of each section and the end of the page)
The village of Porthleven is on the Lizard Peninsula in south Cornwall – and Lizard Point, well that’s the most southerly point in Britain.
Porthleven To Church Cove On The Lizard Peninsula
The Last Time I Was Here…
The last time I walked between Porthleven and Church Cove – was last week! It was part of a 15-mile circular walk from Helston (Britain’s most southerly town).
I was blown off my feet twice (literally) in 30+ mile an hour winds and fell arse-over-tit in ankle-deep mud, and loved every minute of it!
(Helped, no doubt, by filling my face in Porthleven.)
So these gorgeous photos were taken last week then? Yep, Cornwall looks amazing even in mid-February! (And the info was researched last week too, and is accurate to the best of my knowledge.)
So, let’s start with Porthleven.
Is Porthleven Worth Visiting For Hikers?
Definitely! Porthleven is worth visiting for resupply, cafes, pubs and nearby campsites (see the end of this section for details). But it’s not just the amenities that make Porthleven worth visiting…
Talk about having it all – this section of the Cornwall coastal path not only boasts the Loe, Cornwall’s largest freshwater lake, and being on Mount’s Bay, Cornwall’s largest bay, it’s also famous for being Britain’s most southerly port. It’s a picturesque harbour and I love spending a bit of time down by the clock tower when I’m hiking through here.
I don’t think I’ve ever been here at dusk and not seen a good sunset (assuming the sun deigned to show itself) – and the waves. Always good waves! And in 30-mph winds, they’re pretty impressive even at low tide. (Those people at the end of the pier in the photo above? I enjoyed watching them get a good soaking – just one reason to sit by the clock tower!) And look at that light – you can’t beat it.
Notes For Backpackers And Long-distance Walkers
- Resupply and cafes: there’s a large convenience store at the back of the harbour (Pengelly’s) where there’s also a free cash machine. There are plenty of cafes and pubs to choose from too, but some cafes may have seasonal opening hours.
- A mobile post office operates in the town, but with infrequent hours (use the post office branch finder for times).
- Regular bus services run to the nearby towns of Helston and Penzance (bus stops are on the main road at the back of the harbour, see the bottom of the page for timetables).
- Several public toilets are also available.
- Camping: If you’re camping try Penrose Campsite on the Penrose Estate (not tested). It’s on the western side of Loe Bar and isn’t too far off the path, and it’s reasonably close to Porthleven. See below if you’re planning to wild camp along this section.
Loe Bar And The Loe
When you leave Porthleven and its cluster of pretty cottages along the coastal path (mostly holiday lets), you shortly come to Loe Bar. The Bar is a shingle beach, about 1/2 a mile long, that separates the sea from The Loe, Cornwall’s largest freshwater lake, which the river Cober flows into.
If you’ve got a bit of time and you fancy some exploring you can actually walk around The Loe, right up to Helston (which is what I did on my 15-mile walk). On the western side of the Loe is a tarmac bridleway with views of the Penrose Estate parkland (where there’s a National Trust cafe), and the eastern side is often a mud-fest between the lake and woodland.
(In fact, the eastern side is precisely where I slipped over in ankle-deep mud – I blame worn-out shoes with no grip. If you’re going here after heavy rain I highly recommend walking poles to test how deep the mud is!)
More From The South West Coast Path In Cornwall
- Newquay To Perranporth And On To St Agnes – A Stunning Coastal Hike
- Porthtowan, South West Coast Path – Hiking In 70mph Winds!
- Why The Cornwall Coast Path Blew Me Away
- West Penwith: My Favourite Hike On The South West Coast Path In Cornwall! (St Ives to Penzance)
Gunwalloe Fishing Cove
The next notable beach after Loe Bar is Gunwalloe Fishing Cove (aka Halzephron Cove.) Keep your swimming costume in your rucksack though – the currents are treacherous.
Halzephron Inn is just up the lane off the beach into Gunwalloe village.
Dollar Cove And Church Cove
Cove after beautiful cove makes this next part of the walk from Porthleven to Church Cove really special. There are views over the cliffs down to inaccessible beaches where impressive waves crash into the rocks, and on a windy day, you take your life into your hands if you get too close to the edge.
It’s invigorating and the elements really make me feel alive here. Pedngwinian, as you come up from Halzephron Cliff to Dollar Cove, is probably my favourite part of this section for that reason. I’ll let the photos do the talking though!
NB If you’re a hiker that likes a swim, Church Cove is the first lifeguarded beach (in summer) after Porthleven.
National Trust public toilets at Dollar Cove, plus a small cafe – both seasonal. (The toilets were open in February!)
St Winwaloe, The Church Of The Storms
6 miles along from Porthleven you reach Church Cove. And St Winwaloe, aka The Church of the Storms, is right on the South West Coast Path. It sits at the back of the Cove and is famous for being the only church on a beach in Cornwall. It’s a lovely, low medieval building with a separate bell tower that pre-dates 1400. The church is notable for its 3 hall layout, rather than the usual cruciform style.
If you decide to go inside you’ll see the rood screen that legend has it came from the King of Portugal’s treasure ship which ran aground in Gunwallow in 1527
There’s no evidence to support this, but it’s more than possible the money came from wrecking!
Since you’re passing right by it, it’s worth a wander through the small churchyard, where you can nip over a stone stile onto the beach and back onto the trail
St Winwaloe and Church Cove bring us to the end of this small stretch of the South West Coast Path, but there’s more info below if you’re backpacking through. If you’re taking a short walk and need a bus back to Helston, I recommend walking on to Mullion village, where there are regular services.
Hiking And Backpacking – More Info
Porthleven To Church Cove
Wild camping isn’t permitted anywhere along the South West Coast Path without the landowner’s permission.
However, if you’re considerate to other path users and the environment, and hiking solo or as a couple, it is possible. Take note of any wildlife sensitive areas, livestock, stone walls, (don’t climb any boundary walls or fences), etc.
For more info read my guides to Leave No Trace and Wild Camping before you head off
There are some opportunities for wild camping along this short section, but not many. The path is often narrow and close to the edge of the cliffs with steep ground on the other side. There are numerous properties along this stretch too, which you’ll obviously want to avoid. It’s also very exposed. Having said that I have pitched up along here.
Make use of the public toilets at Porthleven and/or Dollar Cove
How To Include Porthleven To Church Cove Into A Longer Day’s Hike
Porthleven to Lizard Point – 14 Miles
This is a great hike with fairly easy terrain
After Church Cove you’ll pass through both Mullion Cove which has plenty of amenities, including a Co-op in the village off the path. Then there’s dramatic Kynance Cove with a fab seasonal cafe and incredible view before you get to Lizard Point.
From Lizard Point you can head up to Henry’s Campsite (open all year) in the village, where there are plenty of amenities and a bus service to Helston. Alternatively, you can walk round past the Lizard Lighthouse to Lizard Point YHA (no camping and it gets busy so plan and book ahead). (I’ve not stayed at either but I’ve heard good things about both!)
Starting Before Porthleven
Marazion To Lizard Point – 25 miles
Praa Sands To Lizard Point – 18.5 miles
Either of these start points makes a stunning, decent day’s hike along Mounts Bay, perfect for backpackers who want to pack in some miles
Marazion is just this side of Penzance and is famous for the causeway over to the iconic Mounts Bay castle. It’s a popular village and there are galleries, cafes, pubs, a hotel and public toilets.
Praa Sands has a long sandy beach and is home to a large holiday park so you can expect plenty of seasonal amenities. There’s also a convenience store and post office in the village centre.
Bus Services For Day Hikers (And Thru-Hikers Staying In B&Bs)
Both villages have regular bus services between Helston and Penzance (the mainline train station is in Penzance). (Some of these same services also stop at Porthleven.) And from Lizard village, there’s a service back up to Helston. (Check Go Cornwall and First for both out and return bus timetables.)
If you’ve got any experience of this part of the South West Coast Path why not share your tips below?
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