29 Miles From Coast To Coast In The Footsteps Of Pilgrims
The Saints’ Way is one of several coast to coast walks in Cornwall, but this one is perfect if you want to get away for a night or two. It follows a route thought to have been taken by pilgrims and traders who sailed from Ireland and Wales to Spain, but walked across Cornwall to avoid the waters of Land’s End.
There are plenty of highlights en route, from Men Gurta, the ancient megalith on St Breock Downs, to Helman Tor for its stunning views over to Bodmin Moor.
There’s downland, woodland, riverside and farmland to explore, with a sense of freedom the whole way. So, if you want a mini adventure take a hike on The Saints’ Way.
The Saints’ Way officially starts at the church of St Petroc, just off the harbour, and then heads out of town along Little Petherick Creek, but don’t be in a rush to get going. Take some time to discover what bustling Padstow has to offer first, from attractive buildings and winding streets to intriguing shops and cream teas! (See Cherry Trees Coffee House under the Summary tab above – don’t miss it!). And if your legs are up to it it’s well worth heading towards the coast path (the opposite direction of the Way) for the spectacular views.
There’s lots of beautiful walking to come, alongside quiet creeks and across farmland, but keep your eye open for the obelisk on top of the hill – although you can’t really miss it! You can, however, miss Men Gurta if you don’t keep your eyes open, and that would be a shame.
Men Gurta, St Breock Downs
Men Gurta (Cornish for ‘stone of waiting’) presides over a landscape dotted with burial mounds and wind farms, just off the main track at the top of the downs (SW 967 683, about 7.5 miles from Padstow). It’s a huge standing stone (menhir) that’s thought to date from 1,500 to 2,000 BC, weights around 16.5 tons and is almost 5 metres long. Spend some time here and you’ll soon find yourself contemplating the meaning of life…
There are plenty of places like this along The Way, but the next one worth exploring is Helman Tor, where
The Saints' Way divides into two paths. You can take either a west path that goes through beautiful Luxulyan Woods down to Par on the coast, or the east path that passes through Lanlivery and Golant
I chose the east path because I wanted to revisit Helman Tor and Lanlivery (especially The Crown, one of Cornwall’s oldest pubs!) and visit Golant for the first time.
Read the tale of my solo hike on The Saints’ Way, just click the orange map below!
Views from the top of Helman Tor
It’s worth the short climb to the top of Helman Tor for the spectacular 360 degree views, especially towards Bodmin Moor, where you can clearly see Rough Tor and Brown Willy on the horizon. (Brown Willy is he highest point in Cornwall at 420m). Helman Tor (209m) is a scheduled ancient monument with a prehistoric hill fort and hut circles on the site. It’s great place for a pit stop, but it can be a very windy place – luckily there are plenty of boulders for shelter!
St Sampson Church, Golant-by-Fowey
You’ll find a beautiful medieval church in Golant, completed in 1509 with some much earlier parts. It’s built on a site that has been in use since the 6th century, before St Sampson arrived from Wales. The first thing I noticed was the breathtaking arched ceiling, studded with carved bosses (look out for the Celtic everlasting knot). And there are other treasures too, including some stained glass from the 13th/14th centuries, and carved medieval bench ends that have been incorporated into furniture such as the lectern.
Outside the church is St Sampson’s holy well, and a gate built in 2006 that’s dedicated to Tristan and Iseult. The 6th century love story begins near Golant, where Tristan is said to have lived – and who can resist a story that’s believed to have influenced the Arthurian legends!
Fowey, The Town At The End Of The Saints’ Way
The Way heads out of Golant through woodland to the ancient town of Fowey at the end of The Saints’ Way. Fowey is famous for its natural harbour and pretty narrow streets, as well as for being the home of author Daphne Du Maurier, who lived at Menabilly. It’s easy to spend a few hours or more in Fowey as there’s plenty to explore, from the River Fowey to interesting shops and galleries, and of course…some great places to eat and have a well earned drink!
Follow the Summary tab above for details of the route (time, distances, recommendations for food, etc) and the links below to help you plan your transport, maps and so on.
The Saints’ Way GPX File
Cick on the map above to go to the route on OS Maps where you can download my GPX file
All About The Route Of The Saints’ Way
Start: Padstow SW 915 753
Finish: Fowey SX 125 516
Distance: 29 miles • Difficulty: Easy • Time: 2 – 3 days
My Route: SE route at SX 057 618 via Helman Tor SX 062 615 over 2 days
Facilities: Full town facilities in Padstow and Fowey (see below)
Terrain: Very varied from quiet country lanes, footpaths, tracks, farmland and downs to woodland. Several main roads to cross including the A390, the A39 and the A389
Points of Interest: Helman Tor, Men Gurta, various churches and Celtic crosses, Cornwall’s oldest pub in Lanlivery…. plus the towns of Padstow and Fowey
Places to Stay: I walked the route over 2 days and wild camped near Withiel, but you can also stay at The Crown Inn or Eden Valley campsite at Powderham Castle (which looked very pleasant). You could also consider finding somewhere in Lanivet or Lostwithiel.
Places I visited and recommend for sustenance!
Cream tea at Cherry Trees
Cherry Trees Coffee House, Padstow Harbour. They bake their scones and cakes fresh every day. Nuff said. (The coffee’s fab too!)
Spar Shop Lanivet. Selection of sandwiches, pasties, cold drinks and general groceries
The Crown Inn Lanlivery. Good lunch menu and ales (and Rattler in bottles!), soft drinks and coffee
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