Stephanie Boon hiking on the South West Coast Smiling at the camera.

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Porthleven close to sunset. Looking out towards the sea from inside the harbour walls. A distinctive clock tower is on the left in the middle distance and the winter sun is shining on the water.

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)

A footpath on the Porthleven to Church Cove walk leading towards crumbling ochre-coloured cliffs near Dollar Cove. The green countryside of Gunwalloe is behind rising cliffs in the distance

The path to Dollar Cove (Jangye-ryn) between Porthleven and Chuch Cove

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…

I'm doing a star jump with walking poles in my hands and a bright green backpack on my back. The sea is in the background on this section of the coast path between Porthleven and Church Cove in Cornwall

Happy to be on the South West Coast Path! (Gunwalloe Fishing Cove)

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.

If you're walking from Porthleven to Church Cove, look back to see this beautiful view of the village clock tower and pier. In this photo the winter sun is low over the horizon and lights up the sea and a line of greyish fluffy clouds.

Porthleven’s iconic clock tower and pier (which you can see in the main photo at the top of the page too)

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.

Porthleven Pier is at the start of a walk on the South West Coast Path between Porthleven and Church Cove. In this photo the granite block pier stretches out towards the horizon with waves breaking on the rocks of Porthleven Beach.

Porthleven Pier

 

The Porthleven to Church Cove walk on the South West Coast Path starts with this stunning view of Porthleven Beach which stretches along the coast for miles

Porthleven Beach goes on for miles at low tide (looking towards Gunwalloe Fishing Cove)

Notes For Backpackers And Long-distance Walkers

Amenities

  • 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.

The Loe (Cornwall's largest freshwater lake) is separated from the sea by Loe Bar. This picture shows a view of the lake through overhanging winter trees and golden rushes growing in the still water.

The Loe from the eastern side

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!)

 

The Loe is a large freshwater lake just behind Loe Bar that you'll pass on a hike from Porthleven to Curch Cove. The Loe looks still and calm on this winter's day with the blue sky and white clouds reflecting in the ripples on the water.

The Loe is sometimes called Loe Pool, but Loe is Cornish for pool, so really?! This is the east side with Loe Bar in the distance and the sea beyond.

 

More From The South West Coast Path In Cornwall

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.

Watching big waves crash into the cliffs at low tide from the beach at Gunwalloe Fishing Cove on a walk from Porthleven to Church Cove

Gunwalloe Fishing Cove

 

Looking back along the coast on a walk from Porthleven (seen in the distance) to Church Cove. Waves are breaking on an empty beach in winter, but the sea is so turquoise it could be mid summer!

Waves breaking with a view of Porthleven

Amenities

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.

Looking down the cliffs to a rocky beach and breaking waves from Halzephron Cliff

Waves rolling in near Halzephron Cliff (just before Dollar Cove)

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!

When you walk from Porthleven to Church Cove the scenery is frequently laid out before you, just as it is here. In the foreground a granite pillar is covered in golden lichen beside rough grass blowing in the wind. In the distance you can see headland after headland under a bright winter sky

Walking towards Dollar and Chuch Cove, with Mullion Cove soon after (you can just see the large Mullion Cove Hotel on the headland)

 

Porthleven to Church Cove. Hiking along this short section of the South West Coast Path brings you to Dollar Cove, which is just seen on the left behind a striking finger of rock that stretches out to sea in the foreground.

Catching a glimpse of Dollar Cove (Jangye-ryn) beyond the finger of rock

 

This is the sandy part of the beach at Dollar Cove on the walk between Porthleven and Church Cove (which is just around the corner). Waves are breaking over rocks just off shore creating lots of white foam as it hits the sand

Dollar Cove (Jangye-ryn)

 

When you hike from Porthleven to Church Cove you come to Dollar Cove close to the end of the stretch. At low tide you can clamber over the rocks and large stones at the bottom of the cliffs that are shown is this photo

The rugged beach at Dollar Cove

 

Church Cove is the sandy beach at the end of the 6-mile stretch of the South West Coast Path from Porthleven. At low tide you can see big, turquoise waves crashing onto the rocks and cliffs and Mullion Cove Hotel on a nearby headland

Gunwalloe Church Cove looking towards Mullion Cove (St Winwaloe Church is just behind and that’s Mullion Cove Hotel on the headland)

NB If you’re a hiker that likes a swim, Church Cove is the first lifeguarded beach (in summer) after Porthleven.

Amenities

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

Church Cove

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.

 

Porthleven to Church Cove - a 6 mile walk that brings you to St Winwaloe, the only church on a beach in Cornwall. This is a view of the single-story stone church from the front. There's a path leading to a porch with an arched doorway and 4 leaded windows. Just to the right of the path is a raised bank with several grave stones on it

St Winwaloe, the only church on a beach in Cornwall

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!

Porthleven to Church Cove ends here at St Winwaloe Church at the back of the Cove. This photo shows part of an arched wooding door, with a large iron strap hinge and hanging over the door is a slate sign that says 'St Winwaloe The Church Of The Storms'

St Winwaloe, aka The Church of the Storms – for obvious reasons!

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

A stone statue in St Winwaloe churchyard (The Church of the Storms) is seen from behind with the church and gravestones in the background. St Winwaloe is on the beach at the end of the walk on the South West Coast Path from Porthleven to Church Cove

St Winwaloe church yard – worth a wander through

 

At the end of a walk from Porthleven to Church Cove on the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall you come to the Church of the Storms (St Winwaloe) on the beach at Church Cove. This is a path through the churchyard (beside gravestones) to a stile over a low wall down to the beach.

Views over Church Cove – hop over the stone stile down to the beach

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

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

A small, low green tent is in the foreground of a field with a tall navigational aid in the background, set against a golden sunset

Wild Camping somewhere on the Lizard

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.

I'm backpacking and looking up at the camera wearing sunglasses and a cap - it's really sunny! Behind me the sea is a deep clear blue and there are pointed rocks and islands down in the cove below

Kynance Cliffs, above Kynance Cove (in September sunshine!)

 

Tall islands form a dramatic backdrop to of the small harbour walls/breakwater at Mullion Cove (with a handful of people walking along the top and a couple of rowing boats moored in the harbour) on this sunny day.

Mullion Cove and harbour (also in September)

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

The old Lizard Lifeboat station from the cliffs above. The slipway drops down into a clear sea on concrete pillars from an old stone boathouse higher up a small pebbly beach

The old lifeboat station at Polpeor Cove near Lizard Point

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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Happy hiking!

Stephie x

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Where Next?

Why not have a look at my other trail guides, or find out about my latest adventures?

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