Living in Cornwall for almost 5 years has enabled me to explore a great deal of this incredible county on foot, by bicycle and paddle-powered. I’ve covered around 130 miles of the 330 mile coast path in Cornwall, as well as lots of inland routes that explore Cornwall’s unique and rich mining heritage. As a result, it’s been one heck of a struggle to whittle down my list of the best walks in Cornwall to something that isn’t 10,000 words long!
- Circular walks in Cornwall
- Woodland walks in Cornwall
- Coastal walks in Cornwall
- Other epic walks in Cornwall
Circular walks in Cornwall
Loop walks are my favourite type of walking route. I like the variety of the view and the terrain and I just feel like I get more bang for my buck compared with a there and back route. Some of my favourite circular walks in Cornwall include:
01Chapel Porth Circular Via Porthtowan
The route starts at the National Trust carpark at Chapel Porth and takes you south along the beach at the base of some stunning cliffs complete with caves and rock pools galore. There are loads of little streams that flow across the sand out to sea, so wellies or waterproof hiking boots are useful in winter. But if you’re visiting in warmer weather then the sand is wonderfully soft for those who prefer to get their toes wet!
Once you’ve explored all that this unusual stretch of beach has to offer, your walk south will take you to Porthtowan where a stop at the Moomaid of Zennor ice cream parlour or lunch at the Bluebar is a must.
After a quick rest at Porthtowan, turn back to the north, up the steep cliff path and follow the coast back to Chapel Porth. Enjoy superb views of the coast below and of Wheal Coates up ahead.
TOP TIP: The beach section can only be done when it’s a low spring tide. Be sure to check the tides and times before you attempt it as you can easily get cut off by the tide.
02Mylor Bridge Circular Via Restronguet
Exploring the inlets and creeks of Carrick Roads is an ideal option when the wind is howling on the North coast of Cornwall. Two thirds of this circular route skirts the edge of the river and includes a delightful mix of woodland trails and waterside meadows. This section provides delightful views over the estuary and enables you to watch the comings and goings of boat life at Mylor Churchtown.
Once at Restronguet, the route turns away from the water, up a hill that’s partially on the road, and then down through rolling fields back to Mylor Bridge.If you’ve still got time to spare then an ice cream in the creekside park is a great way to finish the walk, especially if you’re walking with children.
TOP TIP: There’s a stunning spot for a picnic on a small quay opposite Mylor Churchtown (pictured). It’s 1 mile into the walk.
03Kynance Cove Circular Via Lizard Point
The Lizard Peninsula is one of the best places for walking in Cornwall during the peak season. The area is generally less busy than the rest of Cornwall, and those that do make the effort tend to gravitate towards the more popular hotspots, like Kynance and Lizard Point! With that in mind, if you decide to do this walk during the summer, get to Kynance early to bag a parking spot and avoid the crowds.
This really is a not-to-miss walk that boasts spectacular views of the iconic Kynance Cove and the most southerly point in the UK – Lizard Point. But I highly recommend doing it on a sunny day out of season to fully enjoy it.The walk to Lizard Point (where there’s a great cafe with epic views!) stays high up on the cliffs for most of the way. Once you’ve refuelled there, it’s worth continuing east to take in Lizard Lighthouse and Housel Bay Beach before heading north to Lizard village.
From Lizard, follow a gentle inland path over heathland back to Kynance.
TOP TIP: Visiting Kynance Cove is best done at mid-low tide.
04St Just-in-Roseland Circular Via St Mawes
Like the Lizard, the Roseland Peninsula is a delightful place to escape to when the rest of Cornwall is heaving with visitors. Yes, it can still get busy during mid-summer. But it’s nothing like the rest of Cornwall and it’s well worth making the effort to get to.
Though only 6.6 mile long, this varied route is benefits from the luxury of a whole day to do as there’s lots to see and do along the way, if you can spare the time. It starts with a wander round what John Betjeman described as ‘the most beautiful churchyard on earth’. The 13th century church sits on the edge of a tidal creek and boasts beautiful gardens that are nestled into the riverside.The route then continues through open meadows that skirt the waters of Carrick Roads and presents views of Falmouth across the estuary. There are lots of little secluded beaches to visit at low tide along this stretch, until the path reaches the coastal artillery fort of St Mawes Castle. Visit the castle or continue around the point to the sheltered village and harbour of St Mawes where you’ll be sure to find plenty of lunch options.
The latter half of the walk follows the edge of the Percuil Creek, where you can ogle at some incredible properties. It then cuts inland to take the higher side of the meadows back to St Just.
TOP TIP: There’s a delightful diversion on a small ferry across to Place, should you wish to make more of your day.
05The Cheesewring Circular
For something a bit different, a visit to Cheesewring on Bodmin Moor is sure to satisfy. This short circular route is steeped in history and legend, and could end up taking much longer than the recommended hour to complete, depending on how much exploring you do.
The grassy path across the moors first takes in the Hurlers: a bronze age monument consisting of three circles of standing stone. Legend has it that the stones are the remains of men who were petrified for playing hurling on a Sunday! And many people come from all over the world to feel their energy.Continue on up to Stowes Hill to view the incomprehensible Cheesewring: a stack of huge rocks which appear to completely defy the laws of physics! The 10 metre high monument is completely natural and is a result of weathering and erosion.
Below the Cheesewring is a granite quarry which will delight explorers and rock hoppers before a final bit of historical discovery at the bronze age Rillaton Barrow.
TOP TIP: The base of the quarry can be a sheltered spot for a picnic on a sunny day.
Woodland walks in Cornwall
Cornwall isn’t renowned for its forests and woodland. The wind and wild weather on the North coast tends to dampen any attempts of tree growth, resulting in a patchwork of fields stitched together by small lanes and dense hedgerows. However, Cornwall is not completely devoid of trees. In fact there are some stunning woodland areas, made all the more special by the general lack of trees in the county. Here are some not-to-miss woodland walks in Cornwall:
This short walk is great for families and is a good option to do on the same day as the Cheesewring walk above, which is just a 10 minute drive away. It’s also one of the nicer routes to do in wet weather as the rain swells the river and the trees provide a degree of shelter for walkers. That said, the dappled light of a sunny afternoon is also rather special in the woods!
Follow the signs from the car park towards Golitha Falls and you’ll immediately find yourself under the cover of ancient trees and following the mesmerising flow of the River Fowey.It’s a there and back route, which plays in its favour so as to get the best out of the area. Enjoy the river and the falls one way and explore the magic of the mossy woodland and its breadth of wildlife on the way back.
TOP TIP: There are lots of exposed tree roots so wear good shoes!
Another excellent woodland walk in Cornwall for families is in Tehidy Country Park. Although there are over 9 miles of paths to explore in the 250 acres of woodland, this simple route is my favourite if you are walking with small children or less mobile people.
Firstly, the route is pretty flat and the path wide and even. Secondly, and most importantly, this section of the woods is full of very cheeky and inquisitive squirrels who won’t hesitate at approaching you if you have food on offer!There are toilets and a cafe, as well as a lake and stream. Plus, if you feel the need to walk a little further you can!
TOP TIP: Come prepared with a pocketful of squirrel-friendly seeds and nuts.
Though not strictly a woodland walk, two of the three miles of this gorgeous route is under the cover of trees. Start at the National Trust car park and stroll down the open meadows to the water’s edge, enjoying stunning views of Carrick Roads and the mouth of the Fal estuary.
The beach at Channals Creek makes for a rather picturesque spot for a picnic or some stone skimming before following the woodland path to the north, skirting the edge of the Fal River.There are views out over the river between the trees, and the path also passes the King Harry Ferry which takes cars and passengers over to the Roseland Peninsula.
TOP TIP: The National Trust cafe is really excellent and the art gallery there is well worth a visit, too.
09Idless Woods Circular
Much like Tehidy Woods, a walk in Idless Woods can be as long or as short as you like. There’s a varied network of trails in the woods to choose from, including wide logging tracks as well as narrow trails that take explorers deep into the woodland.
The woodland is located just two miles north of Truro with free parking and a cafe at the woodland entrance.The route I have chosen follows a meandering tributary of the River Allen before heading deeper into the forest where you can try to spot the remains of an iron age hill fort deep in the undergrowth. Continue along a logging track to the north end of the woods before heading back via small paths that edge the woods.
TOP TIP: The woodland is a sight to behold during the bluebell season.
Coastal walks in Cornwall
The Cornish coast is spectacular and varied in equal measure with each section offering something unique and fascinating. If I could, I’d describe in detail every single stretch of the coast that I’ve walked. However, there are guide books that do just that! As such, the walks I’ve chosen are not necessarily the best coastal walks in Cornwall, as everyone has their preferences. But they include walks in almost all areas of the Cornish coast as well as being my favourite options in each of those locations.
10Boscastle to Port Isaac
Serious hikers with a penchant for hills, hills and more hills will love this coastal route! The scenery is spectacular and varied and there’s also some stunning and secluded spots for picnicking / recovering after each hill.
If you’ve got the legs and fitness then it’s possible to take on all 13 miles of this cliffy coastal walk in one day. However, if you’d rather stop and see the sights along the way then I highly recommend taking two days over it, either staying in Tintagel or Trebarwith or the youth hostel between the two. This way, you’ll have time to potter around Boscastle at the start, visit Tintagel Castle and wander around the shops in the village nearby, and then enjoy a well deserved pint and pasty at the end on Port Isaac beach.Taking more time over the route will also allow for nature watching and give you time to take on the steep sections at your own pace.
TOP TIP: There’s a bus back to Boscastle from Port Isaac, via Camelford. Alternatively, I locked my bike in Port Isaac, drove to Boscastle and parked there, then cycled my bike back to Boscastle at the end (1 hour) to pick up the car.
11Perranporth to St Agnes
Further down the North coast from Port Isaac is one of my favourite hikes in Cornwall: Perranporth to St Agnes, although maybe I’m a little biassed! Considering it features such spectacular and dramatic scenery, it’s a relatively gentle route with only a couple of big hills to tackle.
The South West Coast Path between the two villages closely follows the cliff edge providing views of impressive and colourful cliff formations as well as caves and old mining tunnels. You’ll also be treated to a network of paths that weave through ruins of mine buildings at Cligga Head and views all the way up to Trevose Head and down to St Ives on a clear day.Continue onto Trevellas Cove for a dip or a picnic with a backdrop of mining wheals in the valley behind before taking on the main hill up and over to the quaint village of St Agnes.
TOP TIP: Have lunch in St Agnes and turn this into a return trip, or get the bus back to Perranporth.
12Porthcurno to Newlyn
This 10 mile route makes for a really enjoyable day trip, complete with an open top bus ride from Newlyn to Porthcurno to start the hike! It’s a good 5-6 hours of walking, so to fully enjoy this section of the coast path, ensure that you start early.
The main event, that is well worth a visit, is the tropical-looking beach of Pedn Vounder. The views of the beach from the cliffs above might be enough to satisfy many. But if the tides are on your side (mid-low tide is best) then I highly recommend scrambling down the rocks to get the full experience of the turquoise waters, sand bars and nudists!
If the tides aren’t on your side then spend the time exploring Logan Rock, to the east of the beach, which offers yet more spectacular views of the coast including the Minack Theatre.The rest of the route follows a general up and down trend, though nothing quite as severe at the Boscastle coast. It also takes in Lamorna Cove and the quaint fishing harbour at Mousehole for well-earned snacks and drinks at the deli.
The last mile or so back from Mousehole is flat and mostly follows the road before it takes you through the welcoming and jolly working harbour at your destination of Newlyn.
TOP TIP: If you have time then the beach at Porthcurno is worth a visit at the start.
13Perranuthnoe to Poldhu
Hiking the section of coast between Perranuthnoe, near St. Michael’s Mount, and Poldhu Beach, near Mullion, is another excellent coastal walk in Cornwall that is best tackled over two days. For keen hikers, the 14 mile route can be done in a day. But, like most of the Cornish coast, there is far too much of interest to rush it! So, I recommend taking two days over it, staying somewhere near Porthleven.
As coastal walks go, this is one of the more varied that I’ve done in terms of terrain and places of interest. It’s also less hilly than many of the North coast routes.The walk covers two beach sections: a rocky one at the end of Perranuthnoe and a long and exposed sandy one at Loe Bar. There’s also the opportunity to wallow in the sun at Praa Sands, swim in turquoise water at Prussia Cove, build stone stacks at Dollar Cove and visit a mediaeval church at Gunwalloe Church Cove. All before tucking into the most decadent hot chocolate in Cornwall at Poldhu Beach Cafe.
As if all that isn’t enough, the main not-to-miss feature of this Cornish coastal walk is the ruins of Trewavas Mine (pictured), perched on the edge of the steep cliffs that drop vertically down to the sea. Quintessentially Cornish in every way.
TOP TIP: If you’ve parked at Perranuthnoe then you can get two buses back there from Poldhu, via Helston. Alternatively, park in Helston and get the bus to Perranuthnoe and then from Poldhu back to Helston at the end.
14Gorran Haven to Portholland
If deserted beaches and rolling countryside are your cup of tea then this day hike on the South coast of the Cornall is sure to serve up the goods.
Starting at Gorran Haven, whose beach at low tide is a delight to explore, follow the coast path west out of the village. The cliffs roll gently down to the sea below with a little less drama than North coast routes, and the path meanders its way through farmland and up and down beach-ended valleys.
A detour down to Vault Beach, which you’ll most likely have to yourself, is perfectly placed for elevenses. This is followed by a stop at the very pretty Hemmick Beach for lunch and then afternoon tea at Porthluney Beach with a stunning backdrop of Caerhays Castle! From there it’s only a hop, skip and a jump around to Portholland via an old coastguard lookout, where you might be able to fit in one more cuppa before descending to your end destination.TOP TIP: Timing this walk around mid-low tide will enable you to get the best of the beaches.
Other epic walks in Cornwall that I’ve done
As mentioned, I’ve done a good amount of walking in Cornwall in the 5 years I’ve lived here, though certainly nowhere near as much as many locals. With that in mind, here’s a list of other walks in Cornwall that I’ve done:
- Treyarnon to Trevose Head return
- Bedruthan Steps
- Porth to Mawgan Porth return
- Newquay to Perranporth
- Porthtowan to Portreath
- Basset’s Cove to Portreath
- Senen to Land’s End return
- Poldhu to Kynance circular
- Lizard to Gillan
- Bodmin Moor Tough Tor circular
- Flushing circular
- St Agnes to Chapel Porth circular
- Charlestown to Carlyon Bay return
- Cape Cornwall to Bottack Mine return
- Levant Mine to Portheras Cove return
- Godrevy to Basset’s Cove return
- Malpas to St Clement circular
- Carclaze circular
As you can see, there are still so many more amazing walks to be done in Cornwall. As a result, the above list of the best walks in Cornwall, for me, will continue to evolve and I’ll be sure to update this article as and when I complete more top walks.
Whichever one of the best walks in Cornwall you choose, may you walk it safely and respectfully with joy and bounce in every step!